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Political activity, political impact of social problems and war effects in Ukraine (05.15.22-12.12.22) 

The acknowledgement by the Ukrainian president of the critical condition of the Ukrainian energy infrastructure should be considered as the main political event of the last week. It should be pointed out that statement admitting that the infrastructure has been severely damaged was made in the period when Russian air strikes were remarkably less extensive than previously (https://t.me/V_Zelenskiy_official/4355).

According to official statements the most austere situation evolved in Odessa where the electricity was cut off for almost three days and widespread power outages are to continue this week. The municipal utility management service announced that due to the extremely poor state of the energy system it will take at least two months to restore its prewar condition.

Minister of Foreign affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba declared that Ukraine could be left completely without electricity. This forecast should be regarded as reliable. As a result of Russian attacks all thermal and hydroelectric power plants and 40% of high-voltage lines were damaged. However it appears to be impossible to assess the real state of the Ukrainian energy system because the government might exaggerate the level of destruction in order to have strong reason to insist on increasing Western military and economic support.

On December 12, Volodymyr Zelensky stated that he expects G7 countries to provide more tanks, artillery guns and rocket launchers as well as “maintain financial, energy and social stability” in Ukraine. (https://t.me/V_Zelenskiy_official/4383).

Difficult living conditions may be used as a ground for demands for enhancing foreign aid to Ukraine and exploited by the government in that sense. Because of that there can be well-founded doubts that the Ukrainian government would make a greater effort to improve living condition in the cities or to resettle part of the urban population in the countryside.

The Ukrainian government has currently no reason to anticipate any significant manifestations of social protest even if the living conditions seriously deteriorate. All civil disobedience actions not only will be officially denounced as inspired by the enemy, but also will be interpreted in this way by the vast majority of Ukrainian society. The government effectively controls Ukrainian political space thanks to the strong public support of the war efforts and successfully uses wartime censorship to regulate the public discourse.

The political situation will obviously change if the public expectations of military victories are not fulfilled in the near future. But the political domination of the incumbent government can be undermined only by lack of military achievements, and any social problems caused by energy infrastructure destruction will be tolerated by Ukrainian society until the hopes for forthcoming military success continue to exist.

Nonetheless the hardships of everyday life caused by widespread power outages make ground for the activity of political groups which oppose the transformation of the armed conflict with Russia into a total war. Yuriy Boyko who was a leading figure of the prewar opposition demanded to maintain Russian gas transit through Ukraine. Though such statements may help Boyko and other leaders of banned opposition parties to remain public figures their political influence in the current situation will be limited.

The possible impacts of the current tactics of the Ukrainian government:

  • · The demands of Ukrainian government for increasing of military and financial aid are going to become more insistent. The hardships of the everyday life in major caused by the destruction of the energy infrastructure might be be used as a means of pressure on public opinion in Western countries.
  • · The instigation of public expectations of imminent military victory has become the effective instrument of political control. The government needs to concentrate efforts on preparation and conduction of offensive operations to maintain social compliance. Due to such tactics its room for maneuver was dramatically suppressed and all the high-tanking Ukrainian officials have to promote the continuation of the war and demand a complete capitulation of Russia.
  • · The necessity of maintaining social unity was used by the incumbent government as a ground for establishing control over the Ukrainian political space. The parliamentary elections that require and demand political confrontation can reduce the political gains achieved by the government since the outbreak of the war. For that reason it should be expected that the parliamentary election that have to be held next year will be canceled or postponed.

Recommendation for the European institutions and organizations:

The Ukrainian government due to the current political situation inside the country cannot accept any proposition of truce or peace talks without obvious international pressure. The Prospects for peace in Ukraine strongly depend on the emergence of such instruments.

The Preservation of democracy in Ukraine demands the continuation of political process even in the period of war. Therefore it is necessary to make efforts to ensure the parliamentary elections due to be held next year will take place on time.