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Ihor Liski on the future of Donbas: "Justice. Security. Technology"

The government, legislators and society must develop a clear vision of the future of the temporarily occupied territories after liberation. In order to clearly understand what kind of recovery and justice will be achieved. This was stated by Ihor Liski, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of EFI Group, during the panel discussion "The Future of Ukrainian Donbas" as part of the joint project of and EFI Group "New Country".

At the same time, the businessman presented his vision of what processes should take place in the de-occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk Regions after their liberation. 

Ihor Liski on the future of Donbas: "Justice. Security. Technology"
Photo: Max Trebukhov

Law and justice

The first thing that should return to the liberated territories is the law, says Ihor Liski. "The law not punitive, but fair. All those who tortured Ukrainians, who mocked and killed people, should be punished fairly. Faith in the state and faith in the future returns when the law is applied," he adds. But at the same time, he noted, many people in the occupation are hostages and sometimes simply had no other choice.

"When justice comes, we must move into the future through forgiveness. This is a very complicated issue, but we must remember that we are a European civilisation and mercy is a value that is inherent in us," said Liski.

As he says, certainty in these matters gives us an understanding of the country we want to live in and offer to the people we will return.

"We have to show directly what we want. Justice is like this. The law is like this. Ukraine will be like this. With this, you will be Ukrainians. Then there will be no scary stories from the occupiers, saying that Ukrainians will come [to the de-occupied territories] and kill everyone, so take your weapons and go to the front. And in this new Ukraine, there will be a place for those who do not take up arms. Then the return will be easier. Less blood, less victims," the businessman believes.


"My vision is two large Ukrainian military corps (in Donetsk and Luhansk Regions). First, it is a factor of security and hope in the future. Secondly, the modern army is a major employer. If there are two corps of 20,000-50,000 people with our decentralisation reform, they will be big employers," says Ihor Liski, adding that he also sees a foreign military base in this area.

"I would not mind if there was also, for example, a British military base in Mariupol. On the one hand, it would ensure the security of the sea route through the Azov Sea, and on the other hand, it would also be a guarantor of future peace," the businessman says.

Restore or build new and where?

After law and order are restored, local businesses will return to Luhansk and Donetsk, says Igor Liski, who is originally from Luhansk.

"I think that large investments will not go immediately to Luhansk and Donetsk Regions. But if local businesses start their projects... I really believe that many patriots from Luhansk and Donetsk can return and invest. I have some sentiment, I would definitely build something," the businessman says.

Photo: Max Trebukhov

As for the economic profile of the region, the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of EFI Group does not think it is appropriate to rebuild the mines. He proposes to leave a dozen promising mines for the next 10-15 years to provide jobs for the remaining miners.

"Just to gather people and give them jobs. It is a very difficult process to retrain miners to sew, for example, in a workshop. This is a very specific story. However, there are concerns about how many miners remain in the temporarily occupied territories. One of the reasons why the occupiers are closing down mines is to force miners join their army," Liski said.

He is also against rebuilding inefficient enterprises.

"First of all, we need to create modern jobs so that people have a place to work. We should already be thinking about green metallurgy and modern energy. There is a lot of agriculture in the north of Luhansk and Donetsk Regions. It needs to be modernised, given new technologies and a new logistics outlet through the Ukrainian Black Sea ports. This will be the beginning," the businessman believes.

However, before developing plans to build new enterprises, Liski believes that three factors should be taken into account:

● People

"I won't tell you a big secret, but Ukrainians are now much more demanding of the quality of life. It is no longer possible to simply drive people to Donbas and bring them to Ukraine, as it used to be in the Soviet Union, where it was bad everywhere and they were paid slightly higher salaries, so everyone went to work in mines. Now it is much more difficult to bring people here, so you have to focus on the people who are already there. And if you do bring Ukrainians from other localities, it will mean much higher salaries and quality of life," said the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of EFI Group.

● Infrastructure and living conditions

In order to bring Ukrainians back from abroad and not to Lviv, it is necessary to have a kindergarten, a school, a park, and "a bunch of other things that are hard to believe now," says Ihor Liski. That is why the help of Western partners in restoring or building large-scale infrastructure is crucial.

● Competitive production

This is what ensures development. "The Ukrainian way is to compete at the European, American, and global level," the businessman is convinced. Therefore, we need to see what can be built in Donetsk and Luhansk Regions using new technologies, where people with higher education and engineering staff will work. It is desirable to have educational institutions nearby that would strengthen the business with personnel.

"This is an extremely complex process. But it all needs to be designed at the level of the state, business, and Western partners. Understanding what kind of Ukraine we want to build will unite us. Because we are often divided by enemy interference. The future of Ukraine - with the Ukrainian Donbas, with Crimea, as part of the European Union, NATO, with new projects, with a new quality of life, with new education - is what will inspire. And I am sure that those who have been under occupation for eight or nine years also want a different future for their children. Not the one we have now - with lawlessness, injustice and hopelessness. This story needs to be turned over," the businessman summarises. 

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