Rostislav Ishchenko: Nazi-Bureaucratic Unitarists vs Regional-Oligarchical Independentists – The New Format of Ukraine’s Civil War

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


The People’s Front (PF) party of Arseniy Yatsenyuk organized a pathetic event – a congress. Everyone was gathered. There were “People’s Front” party members occupying all top positions in the Ukrainian government except the President and Prime Minister. There was the owners and top managers of the leading media agencies, and not only those who serve “PF”, but also those who plan to be engaged in this profitable business. The acting Prime Minister Groisman, together with members of his government, also stopped by to testify his loyalty to the former Prime Minister Yatsenyuk. There was also the former “field commanders” of Maidan who became ministers and governors, law enforcement officers, and the chairman of the Rada and the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council.

Only Poroshenko was missing. The situation was such that it was as if the nazi blossom of the Third Reich gathered for the congress of the NSDAP without Hitler.

Thus, those who spoke didn’t hide that the event carries a pre-election character. There was lots of talk about the high mission of “People’s Front” and the personal nobility of Yatsenyuk, who “saved Ukraine” in 2014, “having sacrificed his rating”. Between the lines it read: Ukrainian society is obliged to pay tribute to these worthy people. And as soon as possible.

The problem, however, is that “People’s Front” doesn’t need parliamentary elections. It already possesses one of the two largest factions of parliament (and partially controls the second one), which is a part of a virtual governmental majority. The rating of the political force aspires to zero. It’s not only that they can’t strengthen their positions in elections, but it is already difficult for them to not lose the positions that they currently have in the conditions of an intense competition. Fatherland and the Opposition Bloc, referring to the moods of people in the Southeastern regions, hint that they are ready to conclude with each other a political alliance and to collect an absolute majority of deputy’s places in the event of early elections.

Meanwhile, however, early parliamentary elections aren’t the first priority of Ukrainian politicians. Poroshenko convincingly showed his inflexibility and refused to consider the option of early parliamentary elections as a means to delay his own resignation or even to exchange real powers for an opportunity to remain sitting for the rest of his presidential term. Thus, early presidential elections are put on the agenda in Ukraine.

Saakashvili, who shakes the situation in the interests of Tymoshenko, speaks about this (impeachment of the President). The mass collaboration of supporters of Poroshenko – who practically in full strength came to the congress of “People’s Front” in order to testify their loyalty to the ascending (as they think) political force – also testifies to this. And also the leader of “People’s Front” himself, Yatsenyuk, spoke as a presidential candidate, and not as a party leader leading his political force into parliamentary elections.

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There is nothing surprising in this. In order to make way for any political changes (including early parliamentary elections) it is necessary to, firstly, remove the President, who with his last bit of strength resists political changes. As his successor must be legalised, early presidential elections automatically appear as the first priority.

Even if the opposition will succeed to overthrow Poroshenko before January, it will be possible to hold elections purely technically no earlier than the end of March. Then the new President must also come to power, gather their team, strengthen their positions, and only then is it possible to hold early parliamentary elections. But there isn’t much time left before the next [presidentual – ed] elections – one doesn’t need to worry too much, there is simply a need to wait slightly longer.

I.e., regardless of whether “PF” is going to prospectively initiate early parliamentary elections or not, for this Congress this question couldn’t be actual. It was a demonstration to Poroshenko of the strength of “PF” members, which practically all the presidential team already switched over to. I don’t exclude that when Yatsenyuk in his speech longly and persistently described how “People’s Front” plans to diminish the President’s powers in favor of the Prime Minister, he was sending to Poroshenko a signal about the last opportunity to reach an agreement.

On the one hand, here is ready-for-everything Groisman, who, should Yatsenyuk become President, won’t ask about what happened to Poroshenko and won’t begin to offer a reminder about the intention to redistribute powers in his advantage. But, on the other hand, Poroshenko himself can correct an error and appoint as Prime Minister the “country’s saviour” Yatsenyuk instead of the traitor Groirsman, concede real power to Yatsenyuk, and silently see out the rest of his term – deciding nothing and interfering in anything. “People’s Front” showed force and hinted at two ways to exit the situation. Now, the decision belongs to Poroshenko.

But signals were sent not only to Poroshenko. As a reminder, the anti-Poroshenko putsch was organized by a political-oligarchical consensus, gathered by Kolomoisky, the face of which was the street artiste on tour Saakashvili, and the main contender to replace Poroshenko was Tymoshenko. The influential representatives of “People’s Front”, in particular Avakov, were offered to join the project in a personal quality, with the condition of preserving their current positions.

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We know that Avakov played for time, keeping a formal neutrality between mutineers (who he didn’t disperse) and Poroshenko, who he didn’t allow to be removed. Now it is clear what for all this time he was working on. “People’s Front” (discredited current politicians) managed to gather together, to organize themselves, to make the decision to sacrifice Poroshenko (if it is necessary), and to act as the third force. Now, besides the President – who tried to hold his ground, and mutineers – who intended to remove him as soon as possible, the bureaucracy of the regime, showing a readiness to fight for its positions and the preservation of the authority of the central power and the governance of the country, entered the political arena.

A peculiarity of the situation is that only Tymoshenko with her “Fatherland” party and the “Opposition Bloc” (small projects can receive some results, like Samopomoshch) can indeed win in the elections. The Presidential rating of Poroshenko and the rating of his bloc is lost somewhere around a statistical error. “People’s Front” and its leader Yatsenyuk are in a similar situation.

But “PF” possesses an unlimited administrative and power resource. Hence we can draw the conclusion that the political force that held a congress doesn’t intend to put its destiny in the hands of voters. Power and administrative resources must help people to make the right choice, and if this doesn’t happen, then to provide the correct counting of votes.

Poroshenko’s attempt to strengthen control over the army and to guarantee its intervention in a conflict on his side, by appointing as the ATO commander the young General Mikhail Zabrodsky, who owes Poroshenko for his career, also testifies that Poroshenko also understands the importance of the power resource, which trumps all possible ratings. It’s not a fact that the General will rush to save the President or won’t want to play his own game, but anyway Poroshenko has no other option.

So the two sides of the process (“People’s Front” – representing Nazi-bureaucratic consensus, and Poroshenko – represented only by Poroshenko himself) placed a stake on force. So far it’s only a threat to use force, but if the threat is effectless, there is a need to use force.

Tymoshenko and her supporters have no such considerable power resource at the central level (neither the National Guard – like Avakov has, nor the army – like Poroshenko has), but “Fatherland” – much like, by the way, the “Opposition Bloc”, has a good representation in regions and established connections with the local elite. Kernes in Kharkov loves Avakov no more than Kolomoisky in Dnepropetrovsk loves Poroshenko. And regional elites have their own militants. Besides this, it’s not yet known who the units of the National Guard and UAF billeted in regions will be subordinated to.

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In Kiev the Nazi-bureaucratic consensus headed by “People’s Front” and the regional-oligarchical consensus created round Kolomoisky, Tymoshenko, Sadovyi, Nalyvaichenko, and Saakashvili are going to fight for power after Poroshenko has gone. Thus, the threat or use of force must play the leading role in defining the winner.

Formally the positions of “PF” look more preferable. It’s more structured and more organised than the opposing-to-it eclectic concourse of Tymoshenko – which doesn’t trust each other – and the regional elites and oligarchs – who hate each other. But the regional-oligarchical bloc has two important advantages. Firstly, a real resource (the capital and the power vertical must be fed, while it is regions that provide food) is in their hands. Secondly, in conditions where Poland, Hungary, and Romania aim at the division of Ukraine, as well as their rigid opposition to the current authorities, external allies (the support of which can be bought in exchange for several western regions) appear for the regional-oligarchical bloc. Representatives of this political force also send signals to the Kremlin about their readiness to structurally consider the problem of Crimea and Donbass (if it is possible to abandon several western regions, then why it is impossible to do the same with two-three southeastern ones?).

In general the crisis in Ukraine moves to the finishing phase. Now civil war unfolds not in the format pro-West “patriots” against pro-Russian “separatists”, but as Nazi-bureaucratic unitarists against regional-oligarchical Independentists. And acting as an x-factor is the army, which so far is formally under the control of Poroshenko, who has no desire to leave.

The political landscape of Ukraine looked practically similar at the end of November-first half of December, 1918, when Petliura was preparing to kick out the hetman Skoropadsky from Kiev, and together with him the future fathers and atamans entered the political arena, who later will turn the Directorate of the UNR into nothing and, eventually, will also disappear themselves.

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