Political activity in Ukraine and political impact of war (25.07-01.08)
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On July 25 Zelensky issued a statement, in which “internal betrayal” was described as the major obstacle to achieving victory and a legitimate cause for rage public. The Parliament was criticized for its inability to adopt the laws that are “needed to strengthen the position of our soldiers” and start accession negotiations with the EU. It was declared that these laws must be passed as soon as possible, and the president made it clear that he is going to determine the content of the required laws and will not “hear any more denials”. https://www.president.gov.ua/news/koli-nashi-lyudi-roblyat-use-mozhlive-j-nemozhlive-dlya-pere-84509
This statement should be considered as an open subordination of the Parliament to the plans and desires of the president. The Parliament was officially deprived of acting independently from the presidential office, and any attempt to demonstrate disobedience was preventively denounced as an “internal betrayal”.
In spite of the lack of any military accomplishments Zelensky keeps on using the hostilities as a pretext for concentrating power in his hands. Even if the military success is not achieved this process will be continued, and it seems that the destruction of democratic institutions in Ukraine cannot be terminated without strong external influence.
Zelensky also demonstrated that his statements and actions cannot be publicly criticized without by any state official without severe consequences. Vadym Prystaiko, a former minister of foreign affairs who had been serving as Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK, was dismissed by a presidential order. Though no official reason of his firing was given, it was intimated by the media related to government that the dismissal of Prystaiko, who was also removed as Ukraine’s representative to the International Maritime Organization, was caused by his interview with Sky News in which he suggested that Zelenskiy’s mockery of Ben Wallace was not “healthy”. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jul/21/ukraine-ambassador-to-uk-out-of-a-job-criticising-zelenskiy-vadym-prystaiko
Prystaiko is a highly respected figure in Ukraine’s political circles, and he has been never considered to be an opponent or a probable rival of the incumbent president. So his dismissal should be regarded as a clear sign that any criticism, even unintentional, will not be tolerated.
Zelensky’ tendency to substitute a lack of military success with symbolic actions that draw media attention has been used by Russian regime as a pretext for retaliation attacks on Ukrainian seaports and port-related infrastructure with a devastating effect on Ukraine’s economy. It can hardly be doubted that Ukraine would have faced great infrastructure problems with the grain export even if the UN-brokered Black Sea Grain Initiative was restored.
At the same time other routes to into global market for Ukrainian grain cannot be expected to be found in the foreseeable future.
The neighboring countries of Ukraine, – Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, – on July 25 urged the European Commission to extend their ban on Ukrainian grain imports until the end of 2023. The current ban is due to expire in September, but the reasons of its imposition will only become more substantial, because after the new harvest Ukraine’s neighbors will be compelled to take appropriate measures to protect their domestic agricultural sector from the Ukrainian grain import. https://euobserver.com/ukraine/157302
Overland corridors set up to facilitate transporting grain from Ukraine to the global market by road, rail and inland waterway cannot operate without additional expenses, which transit countries are not going to bear. The functioning of the corridors cannot be economically efficient without investments in infrastructure, primarily needed to accommodate increased traffic and make consistent European and Ukrainian railway tracks. These required changes cannot be made in a short time, because according to European Commission officials the EU’s infrastructure budget is underfunded. https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-ukraine-russia-black-sea-grain-deal-food-security-war/
The Russian bombardment of Ukrainian ports on the Danube reduced the opportunities for using the river as a route of transportation. The EU has no practical options left to ensure delivery of Ukrainian grain to the global market at reasonable cost. https://www.reuters.com/markets/commodities/inside-eu-no-clear-financial-options-reduce-ukraine-grain-transport-cost-2023-07-27/
The attacks on the Kerch strait bridge, which motivated the Kremlin to pulled of the grain deal and launched a bombardment on the Ukrainian sea ports, did not have any military significance and were primarily aimed at getting media coverage.
In spite of grave repercussions of such symbolic actions, the Ukrainian government is planning to continue carrying out attacks on Kerch strait bridge, because they allow to convey the impression of increased military pressure on Russia.
Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov in his interview with the CNN stated that he wants the bridge to be permanently disabled. https://edition.cnn.com/2023/07/24/europe/ukraine-defense-minister-oleksii-reznikov-intl/index.html
Though Reznikov admitted that Ukraine’s counteroffensive is “behind schedule”, he and other military leaders keep on to rise expectations of an imminent victory.
Kyrylo Budanov, the chief of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, promised that the Crimea will be liberated soon.
In his address on July 30, Zelensky stated that “Russian aggression has gone bankrupt on the battlefield” and “the war is returning” to Russian symbolic “centers and military bases”. https://www.president.gov.ua/en/news/postupovo-vijna-povertayetsya-na-teritoriyu-rosiyi-i-ce-nemi-84621
It should be noted that in this speech, delivered after the visit to a military hospital, Zelensky made an insinuating remark about Klitschko’s activity without stating his name definitely. The president expressed confidence that “people” have become aware of those local leaders who are “paving the streets instead of helping soldiers” and “spending money on bot farms instead of drones for the front” (Klitschko has been regularly reported to so-called “bot farms”).
This is not the first attack on Zelensky’s opponents. Prior to this, the very first to be repressed and expelled from Ukraine was the opposition politician V. Medvedchuk. For its political views such as: Ukraine made a disastrous European choice, calling it “civilizational” and without alternatives. Results of the European choice: the last place in Europe in terms of wages and purchasing power. Debt hole for decades. Record drop in GDP, exports and deindustrialization. Devaluation and galloping inflation. Loss of part of the territories, mineral deposits, multi-million migration. As a result – a new political reality: half of the citizens of Ukraine are outside its borders.
Next, this week with the parliamentarian Rabinovych, the charges of treason were brought against Yevhen Muraiev, the former leader of the banned “Nashi” political party and the owner of the “Nash” TV-channel (also banned). https://lb.ua/pravo/2023/07/25/566832_sbu_povidomila_eksnardepu_muraievu.html
From that point of view, the arrest of Oleksandr Ponomariov (also this week), a member of parliament and a successful entrepreneur, who belonged to the “Opposition Platform – For Life” party can be regarded as an attempt to eliminate one more of the possible investors of the restoration of the opposition movement. https://ua.korrespondent.net/ukraine/4609867-pivroku-v-okupatsii-derzhzrada-nardepa-ponomarova
The forecast for potential development of current trends:
- On July 27, the Parliament passed through the first reading a bill that extends martial law and general mobilization in the country. The bill is based on Zelensky’s decree signed on July 26, and prolong martial law, which was due to expire on August 18, by another 90 days until November 15 https://www.rada.gov.ua/news/razom/239496.html. The parliamentary elections that should be held on the last Sunday of October are to be postponed and Zelensky will be able to maintain control over the Parliament. He should be expected to use use this opportunity to prevent the restoration of active political opposition.
- The President will continue to concentrate power in his hands, and the Parliament will not be able to act as an independent political institution or to make any decisions, which contradict economic policy of the President or his military plans.
- The public criticism of the President’s actions has become impossible for the state officials and thus the external influence should be regarded as the only way of improvement.
Recommendations for European institutions and organizations::
- The Ukrainian government does not consider the repercussions of the symbolic attacks on the Kerch strait bridge, which will be severely retaliated by the Kremlin. Zelensky and his associates need these symbolic actions to compensate for the lack of success on the battlefield. The only way to save the Ukrainian infrastructure from destruction is to establish ceasefire.
- The continuation of hostilities will lead to complete dependence on the EU and the US financial aid, which in the current situation cannot be reduced or terminated. At the same time Zelensky has been successfully using the hostilities as a pretext to suppress opposition and undermine democratic institutions. Thanks to the postponing of the parliamentary elections Zelensky has obtained the opportunity to actualize his authoritarian tendencies. If this is allowed to happen, the EU will be compelled to provide economic and military support for the state with a non-democratic government.
- The African countries, which can severely suffer from the termination of the “grain deal”, will continue to insist on establishing truce. Their demands cannot be ignored by Russia due to the geopolitical and propaganda reasons, and they should be actively supported by the EU. It will help to improve the relations with the Global South and demonstrate the willingness of the EU to prevent social crisis in several important African states.