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Downed airliner may be tipping point for attention in Ukraine

| Saturday, July 19, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Maybe now the world will pay attention.

That seems to be the hope of average Ukrainians living in the capital city of Kiev, one day after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, said Tymofiy Mylovanov, a University of Pittsburgh economics professor visiting the region.

A native of Kiev, Mylovanov talked with the Tribune-Review on Friday from his hotel room 700 miles west of the fighting with separatists along the Russian border. The Ukrainian government invited him to the capital for a reform and policy retreat. He has been working on a proposal for the government's economic and political decentralization.

“One of the implications for Ukrainians, from what I hear, and the mood is that now the world will pay attention,” Mylovanov said. “Some people used the words, ‘The straw which broke the camel's back.'

“It might be the beginning of the change, in terms of how seriously the West takes the problem.”

Despite news reports about the fighting and stories among his family and friends about volunteers who went toward the eastern border to fight the pro-Russia separatists, Mylovanov said the capital remains eerily calm. Its streets are filled with traffic cops, rather than soldiers, and the only obvious sign of change at the airport was the arrival of foreign correspondents.

A theoretical economist, Mylovanov is among policy researchers, professors and business leaders that Ukraine's government — which took control in February — invited to the country to serve as advisers. Two main problems the government has, he said, are corruption and the centralization of power.

Only a few people at the top can make decisions, he said. The challenge is giving more power to lower-ranking officials without losing control.

“The worry is, you can set up all the institutions you want, but as long as the police, law enforcement agencies and judges continue to be corrupt, it won't do much,” Mylovanov said.

The retreat is expected to last through Sunday.

Andrew Conte is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7835 or andrewconte@tribweb.com.

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