Political activity, political impact of social problems and war effects in Ukraine (15.11.22-21.11.22)
The political activity of this period was determined by the attempts of the Ukrainian government to to get its US and EC embroiled in direct confrontation of Russia and explicit rejection of such a scenario by western leaders.
After the speech of President Zelensky on G20 summit in which he demanded the the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine’s territory as the preliminary condition for peace talks, the Ukrainian government tried to use the missile explosion in the polish border region as a lever to promote the immediate strengthening of their military assistance to Ukraine.
The demand to withdraw all the Russian troops from the internationally recognized territory of Ukraine makes the discussion of truce completely impossible. If the Russian government comply with this request it will run the risk of encountering the acute social crisis. The refusal of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to discuss Zelensky’s demands as “unrealistic and inadequate” displays non only the Kremlin’s approach to the peaceful negotiations but also the fears for the political impact of complying with the Ukrainian demands.
In such circumstances the Ukrainian political leaders feel compelled to put pressure on the western governments in order to raise the level of involvement of the US and the EU countries in the conflict with Russia. The missile strike on the territory of Poland near the border with Ukraine on November 15, was considered as the opportunity to reinforce an appeal for military assistance. The incident occurred during an attack on Ukrainian cities and energy facilities by Russia and it can be assumed that Kiev was convinced that the missile that hit polish territory had belonged to Russia.
In his nightly video address released by Zelensky soon after the incident he declared that the missile strike should be regarded as as an infringement upon “collective security” and as a sign of “significant escalation”. Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine Oleksiy Danilov stated that the explosion in Poland had “Russian trace”. Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak urged European countries to “close the sky” over Ukraine to guarantee their own security.
All these statement of Ukrainian state officials were denounced by western political leaders. NATO Secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, mentioned that an Ukrainian air defense missile was “most likely” to blame (1).
US President Joe Biden told reporters that there was no evidence that the missile that struck Poland had belonged to Russian troops (2)
Polish President Andrzej Duda said it was “highly probable” that the missile was launched by an Ukrainian air defense system.
Despite an international outcry caused by a missile blast on Poland’s territory the Uktanian government did not achieve the desired results. It did non reject completely its initial description of the event but stopped using as it an instrument of political pressure.
On 17 November, Zelensky declared that “the world does not know” what happened but nonetheless he expressed confidence in Russian origin of the missile, and confirmed that it had not been fired by Ukrainian air defense systems”.
The failure to obtain stronger military support from the West and desire to achieve peaceful talks on Ukrainian preliminary conditions force the Ukrainian government to seek the way out of the current situation. Now Ukrainian military has to fight fierce Russian attacks in the east forces while civilian population has to endure long-lasting blackouts throughout the country. Ukrainian authorities failed to restore power supply in most of the regions after intense Russian strikes on enegrgy infrastructure.
The Ukrainian society needs military achievements as a compensation for every day hardships and the government might take a risk to answer this public appeal despite the lack of resources needed for a successful offensive operation.
Ukrainian deputy minister of defense Vladimir Gavrilov predicted in hie interview to Sky News that Ukrainian military forces might enter the Crimea by the end of December, and by the end of the next spring the war would be won by Ukraine. This statement was disapproved even by the experts who can be regarded as strong supporters of Ukraine (3).
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley underscored that the probability of a successful Ukrainian offense into the Crimea “any time soon is not high”.
General Mark Milley also said that recent Russian losses made possible a “political solution” of the conflict and because of Ukrainian gains Moscow is bound “to agree to some sort of a political withdrawal” (4).
But a peaceful resolution of the conflict should be found as soon as possible because the continuing destruction of the Ukrainian energy infrastructure provokes a public outrage and the government will inevitably try to assuage it with the help of offensive operations despite the risk of their failure.
President Zelenskiy has admitted that about 10 million people cannot get electricity in their homes power now and described the situation in more than a dozen regions as “very difficult”. In an interview with the BBC, Maxim Timchenko, chief executive of the energy firm DTEK, urged Ukrainian citizens to leave the country because due to Russian attacks Ukraine’s electricity system keeps becoming less reliable (5).
Ruslan Martsinkiv, the mayor of Ivano-Frankivsk, called on residents of multi-story residential buildings to leave the city for the upcoming winter because he fears that the city will not be able to provide the energy supply. He warned that the power cuts could last for several days. According to Martsinkiv 53 multi storey buildings in Ivano-Frankivsk have no heating now because of the Russian attacks. The mayor recommended advised inhabitants of the city to move temporarily to the countryside. (6)
Such recommendations can be useful for improving the quality of private everyday life but their implementation can undermine Ukrainian economic system. Director of the Association of Cities of Ukraine Oleksandr Slobozhan stressed in his interview the need to maintain a functioning economy. So he encouraged Ukrainian citizens to stay in the country despite the imminent threat of a total blackout (7).
There is no hope that the destruction of Ukrainian energy infrastructure would come to an end because Russian troops would use up means of destruction as it had been expected.
The recent massive airstrikes has shown that Russia still has enough resources to continue destruction of infrastructure objects. Moreover it was reported that Moscow had reached an agreement with Tehran to begin manufacturing of unmanned weaponized aircraft on Russian soil (8).
The possible impacts of the social crisis caused by the destruction of energy infrastructure:
- The attempt to start a wide-ranging offense in current circumstances might result into a severe defeat that would diminish the political significance of previous gains and undermine the political stability. Nevertheless the Ukrainian government will fell compelled to commence offensive operations if the destruction of the infrastructure continues and the peaceful talks are considered preposterous by public opinion.
- The threat of threat of widespread civil unrest in Ukraine will be growing because long-lasting blackouts will give rise to unemployment upsurge and aggravation of everyday life. There was an attempt to block city roads in Odessa by residents enrage by power outages on November 18 (9). The further destruction of energy infrastructure can cause a social crisis in some regions and affect the ability of the Ukrainian society to wage war successfully.
- The mayors of Ukrainian cities and top managers of power companies are confident that the situation is going to deteriorate. It is remarkable that even the mayor of Ivano-Frankivsk, a city situated in the western part of the country, advised the residents to move to the countryside. It shows thet there is an actual danger of widespread humanitarian crisis after the Ukrainian cities are hit with plummeting winter temperatures.
- Energy infrastructure destruction affects the work of facilities for maintenance and repair of military equipment. It can cause the supply problems and reduce the military capabilities of Ukrainian forces.
Recommendation for the European institutions and organizations:
Due to the political reasons the Ukrainian government has to insist on preliminary conditions of peaceful talks that could be accepted by the Kremlin only in the case of complete military defeat. The European political structures remain the only force that can promote the idea of truce on conditions that should be regarded as difficult but not totally intolerable to Moscow. Ukrainian local authorities and industrial managers can be involved in in supporting the idea of such talks.