Political activity, political impact of social problems and war effects in Ukraine (01.11.22-07.11.22)
The political process of this period was mainly influenced by the intentions of Russian political leadership to coerce the Ukrainian society to accept the idea of the peaceful settlement on Russian terms.
To achieve this goal the Russian military continued attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure and the Russian government made an attempt to leave the “grain deal”. Thereby the Kremlin wanted to obtain an opportunity to block the Ukrainian grain export, which has become significantly important as a source of Ukrainian budget earnings.
On the one hand, Russia did not get the opportunity to use its military might for impeding Ukrainian export and destroying port infrastructure. Due to external pressure, Russia had to resume participation in the “grain deal” and will have to refrain from attacks on Ukrainian ports.
On the other hand, thanks to the cumulative effect of Russian strikes on Ukrainian energy infrastructure, the most populated Ukrainian cities were affected by severe power cuts, despite a decrease in number of Russian attacks. The heaviest airstrikes occurred on Monday and Tuesday, but the most extensive blackouts took place at the end of the week. It shows that operational repairs do not allow to overcome accumulating difficulties caused by Russian strikes.
According to the data presently available, 40% of Ukraine’s energy system had been damaged or destroyed by Russian attacks on power plants and lines by the middle of October (1). Since then the situation has seriously deteriorated. However it is hard to estimate the current extents of destruction and the president keeps on using the old figures in his political statements (2).
The regional governments throughout country has started to organize large warming centers using mainly appropriate sport facilities for this purpose. Mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko promised to open 1000 such centers in the Ukrainian capital (3). The scale of these preparations can be considered as the clear sign that the regional leader, including the Kyiv mayor do not believe that the central government will be able to prevent the further destruction of energy infrastructure in the upcoming months.
In present situation even the Ukrainian capital, frequently visited by western state officials and political leaders appears to be defenseless and unprotected. This sentiment spreading on all social levels seems to be arising from the distrust in the capability of government to maintain a functioning energy system and obtain from the US and the EU countries air defense systems needed to prevent Russian attacks.
On Saturday the New York Times published an article in in which it was announced that Kyiv municipal authorities intended to start total evacuation of the city population if the electricity was completely lost in the capital (4).
Later Vitali Klitschko stated that he does not believe that there is a real danger of the total blackout in the capital. So the total evacuation should not be considered as a likely scenario (5)
Klitschko wants to be perceived by city inhabitants as the most reliable and trustworthy politicians who can defend the city population from the most severe hardships of war. He is not interested in spreading panic and trepidation in the city but he anticipates the full-scale blackouts in the capital as the article in the NY Times shows. It is almost impossible to predict the social impact of constant and long-lasting power shortage in the Ukrainian capital and other significant cities. But there is no doubt that the situation can ultimately spin out of control.
Prospects of the development of current situation:
Russia’s resumption of participation in the Ukraine Black Sea grain deal is regarded as an important political achievement of Ukrainian government both by the Ukrainian public opinion and by the political actors. But it should be noticed that the Ukrainian authorities tried to conceal from the public that the Ukrainian government had to promise not to use the “safe zone” of a grain corridor for military purposes to accomplish the grain-deal continuation. (6)
The Ukrainian authorities tried to avoid any mention of the compromise and the used belligerent rhetoric in order to show that there cannot be any concessions to Russia from Ukrainian site. The the office of the president of Ukraine appears to be trapped by its own propaganda messages and cannot show even slight inclination to reach compromise on any issue except the exchange of prisoners of war.
The first official comment concerning the resumption of grain deal was given by an adviser to the president of Ukraine Mykhailo Podolyak who said nothing about the compromise with Russia but stressed that the blackmail policy pursued by Russia for many years had been finally thwarted. Later Podolyak stated that the Iranian enterprises producing drones that are supplied to Russia should be bombed by “international community” (7).
It should be expected that the Ukrainian state officials and political leaders will keep on making extremely hostile statements about Russia and the states that maintain relations with it. The can not reject such rhetoric without risk of weakening their political positions. Consequently they can make any steps to peaceful reconciliation of the conflict only under public external pressure.
The Ukrainian authorities has already demanded financial support and equipment needed to maintain Ukrainian energy infrastructure (8). It can be foreseen that soon the Ukrainian government will start pushing for delivery of equipment for power generation and the direct import of electrical energy as a humanitarian assistance.
Recommendation for the European institutions and organizations:
The resumption of grain deal proves that the external pressure can become an important factor in achieving truce or even peaceful resolution of the conflict. However the conditions of reconciliation should be worked out till the grain deal remains valid and the Ukrainian energy system continues functioning.