Medvedchuk as a Convenient Target for Cleansing

The SBU raided the building that contains the offices of deputies from the party of Medvedchuk/Boyko/RabinovichOpposition Platform – For Life“. The formal pretext: investigations against a private security company associated with Medvedchuk and his political partners.

It seems that in this case the SBU is well prepared and there will be no scandal. At least the initial statement, which read that the offices of the people’s deputies and their personally owned property may have been searched, somehow disappeared by morning. Let’s see, of course, how the events will develop, but so far it seems that the SBU carried out searches in the building where the offices of deputies from “Opposition Platform – For Life” are located, not in the offices of deputies.

At the same time, it is clear that the action was directed not against a private security company, but against “Opposition Platform – For Life” and Medvedchuk personally. It is unlikely to be a coincidence that these searches took place on the eve of the Normandy meeting. No, they weren’t aimed at disrupting it. And they had no purpose at all for Russia. Rather, it was a demonstration of Medvedchuk’s weakness in Ukrainian politics (despite his personal good relations with Vladimir Putin).

Medvedchuk is 65-years-old. The “Opposition Platform – For Life” project is his last attempt to enter big Ukrainian politics. Medvedchuk managed to be a European integrator (under Kravchuk and Kuchma), NATO opponent (under Yushchenko), and supporter of the Customs Union (under Yanukovych). Under Poroshenko he was called (and is now called) a pro-Russia politician, while Putin himself calls him a Ukrainian nationalist (in the good sense of the word, if there may be anything positive about nationalism at all).

I would call Medvedchuk a careerist-loser. A careerist in the good sense of the word. Medvedchuk is certainly one of the most experienced and competent Ukrainian politicians. Perhaps if he had been in power at the beginning of the naughties the country would’ve avoided subsequent shocks. But he always lacks something. He is disliked by the people, and disliked by politicians, including those with who he cooperated (and he really helped them). He would never be able to be elected president under any conditions (he would simply not be voted for), and the party list via which Medvedchuk goes to an election as minimum acquires nothing (it’s already a plus if he doesn’t lose).

He is very promiscuous in political ties (it is enough to look at the composition of “Opposition Platform – For Life”, and “Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (united)” before that). But that is not his exclusive characteristic. The rest of Ukrainian politicians are no better. Let me remind you that if now Zelensky is laughed at, as deputies to the “Servants of the People” faction were searched for among restaurateurs, criminals, and wedding photographers, then once upon a time they also laughed at Yanukovych, calling the “Party of Regions” faction a gathering of press secretaries, drivers, guards, and lovers of Donetsk (and the south-eastern oligarch who joined him). Technically Medvedchuk is no worse than the others, if not better – he’s smarter. But what is succeeded in by his less educated and intellectually undeveloped colleagues without problems (in their best years: more than 40% support for Tymoshenko, almost 50% for Yushchenko, more than 50% for Yanukovych, and now 73% for Zelensky), is not available to Medvedchuk. Dislike for him (perhaps) is irrational, but it has a systemic character and is an essential factor of Ukrainian politics.

Today Medvedchuk has one serious asset left: as the godfather of Putin’s children, he is trying to work as a communicator between Ukrainian elites and Russia. On the same base he managed to intercept from the former regionals (who did not want to unite with him into one political force) control over the votes of the part of the southeast that supports the idea of maintaining a sovereign Ukrainian state on the basis of a return to the situation “before Maidan, but without Yanukovych”.

Those votes are not enough to lay claim to an independent political game. There will be no government coalition around the “Opposition Platform – For Life” faction. But they are sufficient enough to participate in various kinds of formal and informal coalitions with other political forces. Especially since the “winners of Maidan” fight each other not for life, but for death, and they need allies.

However, so far “Opposition Platform – For Life” has to play alone (one-off situational votes with or against someone do not count). Here the legend of being pro-Russia plays against Medvedchuk. It is being pro-Russia that is currently the most terrible accusation in Ukrainian politics. By default, unconventional methods of combat are allowed against pro-Russia political forces. Therefore, Soros‘ group and the pro-West oligarchs that joined it cannot afford an alliance with Medvedchuk. They realise that this will immediately be used against them in an information and political war, and the losses will be more significant than acquisitions.

Kolomoisky (who is fighting against Soros’ group) was supposed to try to make contact with Medvedchuk as a communicator with the Russian leadership. Kolomoisky in recent years sent to Moscow such a number of messengers and through such different channels that he could not avoid Medvedchuk. But communication with Kolomoisky is unacceptable to the Kremlin, and I do not know how the stars in the skies have to align and how unfavourable circumstances should be for Moscow to see Kolomoisky as a possible partner. I.e., Medvedchuk could do nothing to help him. Any alliance of the “Opposition Platform – For Life” with Kolomoisky will undermine Medvedchuk’s position in Moscow, which, as was mentioned above, is his last political asset.

But Kolomoisky is not a good chess player for nothing. If you can’t play with Medvedchuk, you can use Medvedchuk to your advantage by playing against him. Zelensky has a difficult situation. He goes to Paris for a meeting in the Normandy format with no chance of any success. But he will have to say to his electorate that he has made every effort to achieve peace, as well as to try to sell the very fact of the meeting as a big step towards resolving the conflict in Donbass.

The right-wing radicals that Poroshenko is trying to lead have already launched a campaign to combat Zelensky’s “betrayal of Ukraine”. Any result of the meeting in the Normandy format besides a scandal and the tearing up of the Minsk Agreements will not suit them. They will certainly start rocking an already unstable government, Zelensky will have to concede something, and his approval rating will fall again, which is what the radicals seek.

It’s possible to try to mix the consequences of the Normandy format by redirecting the scandal in another direction. If the SBU manages to launch a campaign of “combatting Medvedchuk’s pro-Russia force”, it will be much more difficult for nationalist radicals to fight Zelensky. After all, they themselves can be accused of attacking the government – which is trying to limit the influence of “the godfather of Putin’s children” on Ukrainian politics – “in favour of the Kremlin”.

I.e., Kolomoisky and Zelensky make an attempt to throw Medvedchuk to the radicals like a bone, and by gnawing at it they will be distracted from Zelensky. And concerning Medvedchuk, manifestly searching the building where the key offices of his political force are located, on the eve of the meeting in the Normandy format, transparently hints that the role of a communicator with the Kremlin may not save him if he makes the wrong choice of a partner in Ukrainian domestic politics.

Why do I write that the provocation is carried out by Zelensky and Kolomoisky? Because unlike Avakov‘s Ministry of Internal Affairs, the SBU is controlled by Zelensky’s office through Ivan Bakanov. The SBU is in the hands of the president at least formally.

At the same time, Bakanov is unlikely to take steps not agreed with Kolomoisky. But Zelensky can inform, and can create a fait accompli. In any case, so far Kolomoisky’s actions are aimed at preserving Zelensky’s power – control over the president is the most powerful political asset of Kolomoisky.

In general, the forceful action against Medvedchuk (although not yet too harsh) is another indication that Ukrainian politicians have exhausted opportunities for compromise agreements, and the pressure of force becomes the only method of political relations. It’s going to get worse.

Rostislav Ishchenko

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