Political activity, political impact of social problems and wareffects (28.03.-03.04 )
Ukraine’s political leadership seems to be highly concerned with the possible consequences of the war-weariness spreading now in the Ukrainian society. The rising fatigue might make the continuation of the war impossible. Moreover, it will endanger political future of Zelenskyy who will have to restore political competition after the hostilities are terminated. So the government is trying to persuade the society that the military victory is imminent and to prevent the emergence of political rivals by destroying organizations, associations and social movements that can participate in formation of the post-war political opposition.
Zelenskyy publicly admitted that Ukraine could be defeated if after the probable fall of Bakhmut the Ukrainian society would lose hope to win the war in the near future and cease to endure war hardships. The Ukrainian president anticipates that in such circumstances the Ukrainian society will force his government to make a compromise with Russia (1).
The government seems to be leaving off its attempts to spread believes in the decisive military victory which will make Russia withdraw from the occupied Ukrainian territories. President Zelenskyy declared in his interview to Associated press that Ukraine is going to prevail through a series of “small victories” and “small steps”. So it has become important to the government to make an impression that Ukraine will be able to take such “small steps” as long as it takes, because it strongly supported by the West. Meanwhile, Russia is going face serious unsolvable problems due to sanctions on the financial and high-tech sector.
Because of that Ukraine’s political leaders are trying to demonstrate that Kyiv can establish close relations with Beijing and persuade the Chinese government not to support Russia. Unfortunately, interactions between China and Ukraine are badly marred by the remarks and declarations of the Ukrainian high ranking officials (including president Zelenskyy), who tried to scold the Chinese government for its desire to retain cooperation with Russia.
Zelenskyy expressed willingness to meet Xi Jinping, but the Chinese government has not given any response to that proposal. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning replied that she had no information to give, when she was asked whether Xi Jinping would accept Ukraine’s invitation. General Mark Milley confirmed that Russia and China are “getting closer together (2).
Despite Zelenskyy’s efforts ti restore relations with China, his associates continue to make statements that may be regarded derogatory and highly inappropriate in Chinese political culture. Foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba claimed that China is interested in weakening Russia. He also told the Financial Times that Beijing had not yet decided whether to mediate in negotiating the peace agreement or to intensify its support for Moscow, including through the supply of weapons (3).
Thus the foreign minister publicly expressed doubts both in the sincerity of Beijing in its relations with Russia and willingness of Xi Jinping to achieve peace in Ukraine. Such statements might be apprehend as insulting by anyone who belongs to Chinese culture in which it is extremely impolite to distrust publicly someone’s honesty and intentions.
The attempts of the Ukrainian government to distract public opinion from the impossibility of the promised successful offensive and to avoid political crisis be suppressing the opponents seem to be as much dangerous and erroneous as its behavior towards Beijing.
The government keeps on demonizing the enemy the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) which is is depicted as an internal enemy by official statements and declarations. The UOC was ordered to leave Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, one of the most significant religious sites of Ukraine, which is to be entrusted to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), a religious organization supported by the government (4).
Though Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, Oleksiy Danilov, promised the there will be no use of force to carry out the eviction, it is obvious that representatives of the UOC, both clerics and churchgoers, who came to their assistance, will not vacate the historic site willingly (5).
The high-ranking representative of the UOC stressed that “nobody is planning to leave and though “there was no open call for the defense of the Lavra” a lot of Ukrainian citizens came to support its inhabitants (6).
Minister of Culture Tkachenko said that the monks will be able stay of they to transfer their allegiance to the OCU. Such demands should be regarded as an overt and brazen interference in the religious life and the activity of religious organizations which threatens the right to freedom of conscience and religion.
The banning of the UOC activity is being described by the government as the fight against collaborators, despite that the UOC condemned the Russian aggression and officially terminated all the relations and interactions with Moscow.
Zelenskyy declared that the eviction of the UOC from Lavra will help Ukraine “strengthen spiritual independence” and protect the Ukrainian society from the “cynical manipulation” performed bu Moscow (7).
Though Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council Danilov declared that the eviction of the UOC should be considered «God’s decision» (8).
Adviser to the head of Office of the President of Ukraine Mikhail Podolyak considers the current events around the UOC as a chance to “surgically solve this abscess. He regrets that Ukraine did not manage to use a “unique chance” to liquidate those who can be called “pro-Russian” in the first months of the war. But he is certain that this path should be taken now and the government should not stop until there is one canonical Ukrainian church in Ukraine (9).
But not all representatives of the Ukrainian political elite share this position, for example, V. Medvedchuk believes that Zelensky declared a holy war on himself by trying to destroy canonical Orthodoxy. After all, Kyiv is historically called the second Jerusalem, and the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra for the Orthodox is the same as the Vatican for Catholics or Mecca for Muslims. But for now, Zelensky is on the escalation of the conflict.
Metropolitan Pavel Lebed who runs the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra has been charged with the hate-crimes hate-crimes based on religion and ethnicity. Metropolitan Pavel has denied the allegations and argues that the Kyiv authorities have no legal grounds for evicting the monks and staff from the monastery. In a court appearance on Saturday he called it “a political case”, confirmed that he had never condoned the aggression and called Ukraine “his land”. He was sentenced to house arrest and will not be able to participate in further events (10).
The decision to remove Metropolitan Pavel using a court trial gives a reason to anticipate, that contrary to Danilov’s promises, the forceful eviction may be carried out if the government cannot peacefully solve the crisis it created in the near future.
The forecast for potential development of current trends:
- The Ukrainian government proved that it is not capable to hold effective communication and interaction with the countries of the Global South. Declarations of the Ukrainian high-ranking officials mostly aimed at the internal audience hamper Ukraine’s relations with the Global South countries that want to preserve good relations with Russia. The EU’s strong support of Ukraine puts certain responsibility on European leaders for the Ukrainian behavior on the international scene from the standpoint of the most of the Global South countries.
- The Ukrainian government, trying to strengthen its positions, launched a conflict that is going to have long term effects on the relations in the Ukrainian society. After the hostilities has been ended the tension between religion groups will start increasing. It will eventually lead to a political confrontation if the new political opposition is formed. If Zelenskyy’s manages to prevent the emergence of political opposition it will become one of the factors of social destabilization.
- The current Ukrainian political leadership does not recognize the necessity of the principle of respect for civil liberties and exact implementation of democracy procedures. If the EU political circles do not intervene the level of political democracy will be diminished and the human rights, including the right to freedom of religion, situation will deteriorate.
Recommendation for the European institutions and organizations:
- The political entities of the EU countries should assist Ukraine in establishing and keeping connections with the Global South countries. The expert and think-tanks interaction and cooperation can be used to introduce new patterns of the Ukrainian behavior on the international scene.
- The Ukrainian experts and political leaders should be informed on the necessity to human rights and civic liberties. It should be made clear that it is the one of the most important conditions of joining the EU and cannot be neglected even in the time of hostilities.
- It is important to make steps to stop the religious conflict in Ukraine before the actions of the government become irreversible. For that case the UOC supporters should be given a chance to express their concerns to the EU experts and public leaders.