Political activity, political impact of social problems and war effects (01.05-08.05 )
The attempt to place Odesa Mayor Gennadiy Trukhanov under arrest should be considered as the sign of exacerbating discord between the popular city leaders and the government, which has been trying to ensure the political domination of the president throughout the country.
This activity seems to be aimed at preventing the emergence of the local authorities disloyal to Zelensky, when he starts to lose public support due to his inability to achieve decisive military victory and make an end of aggravating economic decline. Such mayors as Trukhanov, who is considered to be pro-Russian, have no chances to become serious rivals of the incumbent president on the national level. But they can support his future adversaries of the president or strengthen their grip on the political activity in the cities they govern.
It should be noted that Klitschko, who can become the most dangerous opponent of Zelensky is not only a mayor of Kyiv, but also the chairman of the Association of Cities of Ukraine (AMU), which make a great effort to release Trukhanov from custody.
The Odesa Mayor has been accused of embezzling 92 million UAH (2.5 million USD) of state funds during the privatization of bankrupt industrial enterprise Kraian in 2016. He was taken into custody in the courtroom, because the prosecution suspected that he would try flee the country.
The AMU and Klitschko condemned this decision of the court, which Trukhanov was politically motivated. Klitschko declared that as the head of the AMU, he would defend the rights and interests of local government and fight against all injustices done to mayors and local authorities. He stressed that city leaders perform “a difficult and important function” and “deal with the livelihoods of the communities. https://news.yahoo.com/klitschko-pleads-odesa-mayor-released-125000800.html
This statement of Klitschko should be regarded as an indirect criticism of the government, which could not prevent the destruction of critical infrastructure by Russian attacks and cannot achieve its full-scale restoration. Trukhanov, who remains very popular in Odesa, is thought to be a successful manager, who accomplished the quick repairing of city infrastructure after it had been heavily damaged by Russian bombardment.
After the appeal the previous court decision was changed and on May 5 Trukhanov was released from custody on bail. https://english.nv.ua/nation/odesa-mayor-released-on-bail-ukraine-news-50322563.html
The end of hostilities would inevitably increase the importance of social issues to the Ukrainian public opinion. And in that case the president might start to lose ground, if he doesn’t prevent the appearance of adversaries, who will be able to demand the change of social policy in order to gain public support.
But instead, he continues to pursue a completely contradictory humanitarian policy that further splits society. For example, he canceled the celebration of Victory Day, still a favorite holiday in the country, and a day off on May 9. According to pre-war polls, 30% of Ukrainian citizens considered it important and significant, because in every family there were ancestors who fought in World War 2. Moreover, this was done absolutely without any consultations or polls, but purely “in the political style” of the president, who is used to ignoring the mood in society. Opposition politician. V. Medvedchuk believes that with such actions, today the celebration of Victory Day is a bright political and ideological marker for many people in Ukraine. After all, those who ban this holiday make it clear to the world that the defeated Nazism is reborn and rears its head.
Meanwhile, the president has to put more restrictions on social spending, increasing the political risks, which might be inflicted on him by truce.
The government is planning to reform the current model of social support, making it harder for vulnerable people get state assistance, which in the long term is going to be severely reduced. The recent $15.6bn loan agreement which Ukraine concluded with the International Monetary Fund, is aimed to ensure the country’s financial stability. In accordance with it the government will have to be make reduction on social expenditure. But the consequences of the war are going to demand increase in social spending, because survivors of the Russian invasion are likely to have complex needs. The Ukrainian government estimates that, by the end of the war, veterans could make up more than 10 per cent of the population. After the reform all these people will face significant problems in obtaining social assistance. The changes that are planned by the government, will include a ‘more scrupulous’ assessment of incomes when dealing with applications for assistance. https://www.socialeurope.eu/ukraine-reforms-welfare-system-as-cost-of-war-rises
It should be noted that such plans are determined not only the conditions of the agreement with the IMF, but also the social strategy of the government. As minister of Social Policy of Ukraine Oksana Zholnovych has put it “We want our people to stop living with the feeling that someone owes them something”.
The government is trying to find the way out if the situation by increasing its pr-efforts in order to sustain the public believes that the social situation will soon become better thanks to the international support and military victory over Russia.
The visits of the Ukrainian president arrives to Netherlands and Finland can be regarded as the manifestation of this trend. The Ukrainian government is trying to making an impression on the public mood in the country. That’s why Zelensky has been seeking the manifestations of support from the Western leaders, even if they are not followed by the economic or military assistance. The main events of president’s visits to Netherlands and Finland were his public speeches. https://www.france24.com/en/europe/20230503-%F0%9F%94%B4-live-zelensky-says-kyiv-not-warned-of-us-secret-docs-leak
The Ukrainian high-ranking officials and military commanders have put into practice making statements targeted on domestic audience in order to demonstrate their decisiveness to use every means possible to achieve victory. But such statements, which are purposed to stimulate Ukrainian people to endure hardships of war, can have undesirable consequences due to their disregard for the international law and threatening effect.
Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence agency, told Yahoo News that his organization has been “killing Russians and we will keep killing Russians anywhere on the face of this world until the complete victory of Ukraine.” https://au.news.yahoo.com/we-will-keep-killing-russians-ukraines-military-intelligence-chief-vows-232156674.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAACdwlZs_xOIIHzgFq2wWqCJ94aXaFzZ0fRpcl1FvOtLqYyKP8ckWut6B8hJXv9-DYtAKxd4ME1oT_Et2Tx29_ix0xhUEjqEBU014SvSosqeHaZqlOxSgh8ajSox_HYH4YcGBEW0gexi5YWSJp2uosPC_tX4Ukc2r89fTo3oo5H1g
It can be little doubt that such declarations are diminishing the number of Ukraine’s supporters both inside Russia and on the post-soviet space and can be used by Russian propaganda machine in order to justify the aggression.
The forecast for potential development of current trends:
- Zelensky will be trying to prevent the appearance of any political leaders, both on national and regional leaders, who might gain public support using social issues. It will inevitably increase tension between the government and the regional political leaders, especially the mayors of big cities.
- The president will have to put more pressure on probable political opponents and media connected in order to retain his political domination even after the decrease of public support .
- The Ukrainian government will constantly demand the confirmation of long and practically unconditional support from the Western leaders. It will also use media messages that should prove the upcoming defeat of Russia. This activity is going to target the Ukrainian public, but may have unpredictable international repercussions.
Recommendation for the European institutions and organizations:
- The Ukrainian mayors and regional politics should get involved in the activity of the European organizations and institutions. It will help them to avoid pressure from the government.
- The EU should start working out the measures that will allow to prevent social crisis in Ukraine caused by dramatic decline in social expenditure.