IISWU expert group
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Political activity, political impact of social problems and war effects in Ukraine  (08.11.22-15.11.22) 

The political activity of this period was determiner by the retreat of Russian troops from Kherson and the liberation of the city by Ukrainian army.

This victory has a great political significance as further and most decisive confirmation that the course of war has been changing. The Kremlin facing the threat of total military defeat in the conflict and has to make strong efforts to change the dynamic on the battlefield and the spread of public disappointment inside Russia. And there are reasonable doubts to believe that the Russian government has at its disposal the resources required for these tasks. Since July 3, when Russian army captured Lisichansk, the last comparatively large Ukrainian town occupied by Russia, the Russian military forces has been constantly losing ground. It has inspired confidence both in the Ukrainian political leadership and the Ukrainian society that the decisive victory over Russia should be achieved on the battlefield.

The most recent sociological survey conducted by Kyiv International Institute of Sociology has shown that 88 percent of Ukrainian citizens expect that Ukraine would become “a prosperous member of EU” in ten years in 10 years (1).

Therefore the vast majority of the Ukrainian society is prepared to endure economic hardships and deterioration of living conditions in order achieve the military victory over Russia. It is widely believed that such victory would pave the way to the EU for Ukraine.

From this point of view the liberation of Kherson has a strategic political significance because it has created opportunities for Ukrainian troops to cut communications between Kherson Region and Crimea or even break into the peninsula and thus an end to the war.

It should be mentioned that the Ukrainian society does not expect that these scenarios would take place in the immediate future. But even the sheer possibility of such events is enough to increase the resilience of Ukrainian society and its readiness to make sacrifices for the final victory. It should not be forgotten that after the retreat from Kherson Russian army lost the ability to launch an offensive against the cities of the Black Sea coast. So the Ukrainian government doesn’t need to be afraid of any territorial losses of great political significance.

It allows the Ukrainian military commandment a relative freedom to choose the direction for the most effective use of resources at its disposal. And the Russian military in its turn will try to prepare the positions held by the Russian army for the successful defense. The Russian government could have made a political decision to defend Kherson against the Ukrainian offensive but it would have demanded extensive efforts and resources that are required in other places. Besides by leaving Kherson Russia has relieved itself of the obligation to maintain a large city during the hostilities in the winter period.

Ukraine in the nearest future will have to interrupt offensive actions due to the weather conditions and the necessity to accumulate resources. There can be little doubt that the Russian military commandment will use this winter pause to make preparations for the future Ukrainian offense, especially on those direction that are associated with major Russian political achievements of the previous stages of the war: establishing the land corridor to Crimea, turning Sea of Azov into Russian inland sea and gaining control over the Zaporizhzhia NPP.

These directions are also symbolically important to Ukraine and therefore there is a strong possibility of violent confrontations between Russian and Ukrainian forces after the winter pause. It can be foreseen that if the truce has not been reached by that time the upcoming offensive operations of the Ukrainian army will be opposed with well-organized resistance.

Ukrainian society anticipates further military achievements, and the willingness of the Ukrainian government to meet these public desires might lead to daring and risky offensive activities. The opposition leaders have already been trying to use the demand for increasing their own popularity.

Poroshenko declared that Russian troops should be made to flee from Crimea in the same way as they were running away from Kherson. The long interruption of the offensive actions would be used by Poroshenko and his supporters as the pretext for the attacks on the government.

In in that connection it is rather remarkable that Boyko, who can be considered as the most influential supporter of the peaceful reconciliation with Russia, keeps silence.

Both President Zelensky and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Zaluzhny have stressed that there will be no discussion of the compromise solutions until Russia withdraws its troops from all territories of Ukraine and restore Ukraine’s borders. In his speech at the G20 Summit Zelensky pointed up the necessity of the withdrawal “of all Russian troops and armed formations from the territory of Ukraine” for the “cessation of hostilities”. He underscored that “it is not up to negotiations”. (2)

Such statements should be considered as refuse to discuss the conditions of truce. First, the Russian government cannot not withdraw draw from Donbass and Crimea without preceding adjustment of public opinion to the new situation. So even in case of severe military defeat Russian army would have to keep on fighting if preliminary conditions of peace talks include the withdrawal from all territories of Ukraine, including Donbass and Crimea.

Furthermore the Russian regime which invaded Ukraine on the pretext of protection of Russian-speaking Ukrainian citizens can face wide-spread public disappointment if inhabitants of Donbass and Crimea would be prosecuted for their activity during the Russian occupation according to Ukrainian law.

More than 95 percent of Crimean inhabitants have obtained Russian citizenship which is regarded as a felony in Ukraine. And the Russian government to refuse form control over peninsula without the guarantees of safety for its inhabitants. Otherwise it can be exposed to danger of deep social crisis.

Recommendation for the European institutions and organizations:

The liberation of Kherson has created an opportunity for achieving the sustainable ceasefire on the conditions of withdrawal of Russian troops behind the demarcation lines before the invasion on February 24.

There can mentioned following factors in favor of achieving ceasefire in current circumstances:

  • The liberation of Kherson has been acknowledged as an important military victory by Ukrainian society. It allows the Ukrainian government to make its preliminary conditions for peace talks less severe without real risk of increasing political tension.
  • There is a strong necessity to preserve the remaining energy structure which is clearly apprehended both by regional elites and industrial entrepreneurs.
  • Russia is hesitating to declare the state of war and full-scale mobilization, because it will put a heavy burden on economy and cause social disturbance in industrial areas. However if the Russian regime has not been offered the conditions of ceasefire it can accept it will have to continue hostilities to ensure its survival.
  • The withdrawal of the troops to the demarcation lines preceded the invasion will become the strong blow to the regime and decrease its public support. It will provide an opportunity for the development of the Russian anti-war movement.