Political activity, political impact of social problems and war effects (17.10-26.10)
This During this period the political activity in Ukraine was mainly affected by the destruction of Ukrainian energy infrastructure by Russian military.
Due to the ongoing attacks on power stations at least one third of the country’s electrical capacity had been destroyed by October 20. Since the situation the situation has become more serious because Ukrainian air defense systems have proved ineffective in protecting the energy infrastructure against Russian massive strikes targeting electrical grid. Ukrainian consumers including industry and healthcare system have not be able to obtain energy supply for the last eight days. If the Ukrainian air defense forces cannot prevent the further damaging of power plants the difficulties will escalate. Energy cuts and rolling blackouts have already become a part of everyday life in all Ukrainian regions. It will inevitably increase social strain and might even cause shifts in the Ukrainian power structure.
The reaction of the central government shows that it is trying to make the regional and local authorities accountable for overcoming the consequences of the energy infrastructure destruction. Therefore despite the fact that the Ukrainian electricity transmission grid system is unified, there have been different reaction to the energy shortages in various regions and cities:
- In Kyiv, the blackouts has started since October 20, when the entire Left Bank, highly populated urban area, was cut off from energy supply for several hours.
- · In Krivoy Rog, the local administration organized civilian patrol to ensure the lack of illumination in public spaces, pharmacies, shops and gas stations. But DTEK the company which controls electricity generation in the region has started coordinated power cuts to stabilize the consumption.
- · In the Kyiv region, citizens were urged to turn off the lights and avoid using refrigerators and electrical appliances, but no enforcement measures have been taken so far.
- · In the Dnieper and Odessa the illumination in the center of the cities have remained despite the comparatively short power cuts that were instigated by energy producers.
- · In Lviv, the Aquapark and most of the gyms in center of the city has kept on working but since October 25 the local energy supplier has started the rolling blackouts.
It can be noticed that the local authorities of some cities tried to maintain the everyday social activity as long as it was possible and do not try to enforce measures necessary in the conditions of energy supply crisis.
The cause of such behaviour seems to be the lack of resources needed to compensate the deterioration of living conditions and maintenance of social infrastructure.
The main political players besides the president and his close allies refrained from public reaction to the energy infrastructure destruction.
It is remarkable that Poroshenko, who is considered to be the main political rival of Zelensky, has not used an opportunity to criticize the inability of the central government to protect the energy infrastructure and disinclination to fight the consequences of the energy supply disruptions.
In last ten days Poroshenko public and commentaries have very nearly matched the narrative of the president’s office. He made sarcastic remarks on Elon Musk’s suggestion and insisted on the breaking off diplomatic relations with with Iran.
The avoiding of the most important subject shows that Poroshenko is afraid to engage in any political activity which can lead to conflict with the president and make the president’s office counteract.
The continuation of this tactic will bring Poroshenko in danger of losing his own political identity and significant part of his supporters. In that case Poroshenko would not be able to restore his positions in the post-war period.
Zelensky who now has no serious rivals can act now more or less at liberty, not fearing that the real goals of his actions would be disclosed. The central government made regional authorities responsible for dealing with problems caused by the Russian attacks because it tried to avoid the conflict with industrial groups. All industrial sectors throughout the country suffered from power blackouts. But the relevant decisions were made by regional authorities, and the central government had nothing to do with the financial losses caused by the power outages.
The shutdowns of plants and factories caused by power-cuts in many cases have become permanent. As a result such important enterprises as the Nikopol Ferroalloy Plant, ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih, Zaporizhzhia Ferroalloy Plant, Poltava mining and processing plant were closed indefinitely. In such circumstances the industrial groups can count only on the support from the regional authorities.
In exchange the industrial groups are starting to assist regional authorities and defend their interests at the national level. Yuriy Boyko who was one of the most influential political players under Yanukovych and controls a huge part of the chemical and refinery industry urge the central government to allocate funds for organizing warming centers for those who have to face power cuts in the cold weather. According to Boyko the money should grant to regional authorities.
Furthermore Zelensky is trying to transfer responsibility for the overcoming the consequences of the air strikes to the regional authorities in order to avoid questions about the low effectiveness of the Ukrainian air defense system, for which he is accountable as the commander in chief.
There can be two main reasons for the inefficacy of the Ukrainian air defense system:
- Air defense was deployed to regions where Ukrainian troops are conducting offensive operations.
- · Ukrainian air defense is fundamentally unable to repel mass attacks by kamikaze drones. These reasons are not mutually opposed and can have joint influence. Despite the official position that rolling blackouts will remain temporary and local, the preparation of the presidential office has started to prepare public opinion for systemic and long-lasting blackouts that will continue throughout the upcoming winter.
The possible impacts of the damaging of the Ukrainian energy infrastructure: ·
The shutdown of large industrial enterprises will have a delayed effect. The industrial enterprises that export industrial raw materials are major suppliers of foreign currency and budget earnings. Social tension caused by mass unemployment will be rising and neither the central government nor regional authorities have resources to prevent it. ·
Ukraine will turn into an electrical energy importer critically dependent on the supply from the European Union. Ukraine due to the immense financial problems will insist that the supply of electrical energy by the EU countries should be granted as humanitarian aid. ·
Office of the president of Ukraine will increase pressure on all EU countries demanding from them either the air defense and missile systems or financial support. ·
In the regions where the regional authorities and the industrial groups can join efforts in overcoming the consequences of energy infrastructure destruction the positions of regional leaders will be significantly strengthened. Therefore it can be expected that in the post-war period some of the successful regional leaders (as well as the some of popular military commanders) will try to launch political careers at the national level.
Recommendation for the European institutions and organizations: ·
In the current circumstances, it appears to be necessary to work out programs for the employment of Ukrainian industrial workers outside Ukraine. There seems to be no other way to prevent the increase of social tension in industrial areas. ·
Humanitarian aid needed to mitigate the consequences of the energy infrastructure destruction is better to be delivered directly to regional and local authorities.