The Assault on Cherkassy: Avakov’s Toulon

If Bonaparte did not take Toulon in front of the commissioners of the Convention, one of whom was Augustin Robespierre, Maximilian Robespierre’s all-powerful at that time brother, he, most likely, would have remained an unknown artillery officer.

The pleiad of generals of the Republic by that time (the end of December, 1793) had already been created. The coup of 9 Thermidor III (July 27th, 1794) was just over six months away. After the coup, the promotion of lower-ranking officers who did not have influential patrons was difficult. All the more difficult was the promotion of radical Jacobins, and Bonaparte proved to be a supporter of the radicals at that time. Generally, he managed to “jump in the last carriage” of the departing career train.

Is it possible to compare an ordinary artillery captain who just emerged and fought convulsively for the life of the First French Republic with a seasoned Interior Minister (de facto dictator) of a Ukraine that is heading into oblivion? After all, Avakov’s career is at its zenith, while Bonaparte’s at Toulon was just beginning.

I think that it is possible. So far, Avakov has not faced the need to prove his right to power in an open clash. Poroshenko, dissatisfied with him after a series of undercover intrigues, did not dare to aggravate things and reconciled with the non-controlled minister. Zelensky’s team in its desire to get rid of Avakov did not go further than ranting. The Minister was calmly re-approved amidst cries for a “probation period”. After a while it became clear that the Rada and Zelensky had a “probation period”, and nobody dares to challenge Avakov’s authority.

Avakov personally decided how strict a quarantine should be established in Ukraine in the event of a coronavirus epidemic and how strictly it should be observed. He negated some of the measures that had been introduced, having only said that the police will not monitor their implementation. Generally, when the mayor of Cherkassy Anatoly Bondarenko made the decision to soften quarantine in the city, Avakov for the first time faced a challenge — someone dared to encroach on his prerogative to dictate the rules of life to the country.

The mayor Bondarenko issued an easing of the quarantine decision of the Executive Committee of the City Council, and the authority to take a decision on easing of the quarantine was previously transferred to the Executive Committee of the Commission on Technogenic Safety and Emergency Situations approved by the Cabinet of Ministers with the participation of Avakov. So under the law it is not so simple to hold him accountable — he only executes the decision of a collegial body whose members cannot be held accountable too. Firstly, it is not stipulated by legislation. Secondly, as was already said, the executive committee acted under the decision of the competent commission approved by the government. The cycle became complete. There is a decision, but there are no culprits.

It would seem, in this situation, that it would be better for Kiev to pretend that nothing happened and to silently settle the issue, having made a compromise with the local authorities. But Zelensky and Avakov reacted extremely painfully and started to threaten the mayor of Cherkassy. In reply they received a statement that the city is ready to fight and will call on other regions to support it. This is already a classic mutiny.

Based on the mayor’s phrase that he stands for the equality of small construction stores and “Epitsentr” supermarkets, experts try to calculate who stands behind the mayor and whom was warned by the owners of “Epitsentr”. But the mayor spoke also about the restaurants belonging to “Servants of the People” violating quarantine, about “ghost voting” (voting on behalf of absent deputies), and about the non-fulfilment of other election pledges by Zelensky. He only did not mention peace in Donbass, speaking from the classic positions of supporters of the Maidan putsch. So it is extremely difficult to even accuse him of being “pro-Russia”.

Perhaps, the actions of the mayor of Cherkassy are indeed caused by some “dispute between economic entities”, but this is not a conflict between “small shops” and “Epitsentr”. This is even much more than hitting the owners of “Epitsentr”. It doesn’t take much intelligence to threaten to resist the helpless Zelensky. The president is all the same not capable of carrying out his threats. But to ignore Avakov’s threats you need either a completely atrophied sense of self-preservation, or powerful support.

The Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine is not used to bothering with such trifles as the requirements of the law. He decides what is lawful and what isn’t. At the same time, he relies on serious force — about 300,000 “bayonets” as a part of the National Police, National Guard, and Nazi illegal armed groups controlled by Avakov. If he gives the order to arrest the mayor Cherkassy, there will be someone to implement it.

It is another matter if Avakov knows that a forceful operation will be met by a forceful rebuff. Even if it will be possible to quickly suppress resistance in Cherkassy, it will be the first instance of civil war being transferred from “pro-Russian” to “pro-Ukrainian” regions, the first armed conflict between Maidan forces, the first open conflict between the Maidan centre and the Maidan local government.

A separate danger is constituted by the threat of the mayor to ask for help from other regions. If he is not bluffing and can count on the support of at least several regional centres, an attack on Cherkassy can lead to Kiev losing control over several regions at the same time and to the beginning of a “domino effect”.

Now it is not Zelensky, who solves nothing and can do nothing, but Avakov who is facing a dilemma:

1. Pretend that nothing special happened and the Ministry of Internal Affairs has nothing to do with it. This will allow to drop the Cherkassy conflict, but will show other regions that if Kiev does not have the strength to bring even one mayor of a small regional center to heel, it a priori will not be be able to counter the collective coordinated actions of regions. Power will start to flow to the regional level, and access to power in Ukraine means also access to already exhausted resources. Having lost the opportunity to redistribute the country’s resources in its own favour, Kiev will lose everything, including the IMF’s loans (the Fund does not see sense in financing those who solve nothing).

2. Try to suppress the Cherkassy mutiny by force, under the real danger of running into a forceful response. Even if successful, the domestic and international consequences for Kiev will be serious. Another disloyal (yet completely loyal yesterday) region will appear inside the country. As the history of Dnepropetrovsk, Kharkov, and Odessa show, when faced with resistance from elites loyal to Maidan, the center has so far been forced to make compromises. But the Cherkassy elite is too small in the scale of Ukraine. A compromise with them reduces the Kiev authorities to the level of the ordinary subsidised region. Oligarchs who control territorial principalities of two or three regions are much more influential than the formal government in Kiev. The end result is the same as in the first option.

I do not think that such a fork for Zelensky/Avakov arose accidentally. Recently, the central Kiev government has done too much to look after the interests of Rinat Akhmetov. The strengthening of one oligarch (whether it be Firtash/Levochkin, Pinchuk, Poroshenko, Kolomoisky or Akhmetov) always causes other oligarchical families and regional elite to rally against them. At the best of times, Kuchma and Yanukovych could still afford to fight against such an alliance. Although neither of them won, they both lasted long enough, and defeat was not forecasted in advance. But since the time of Poroshenko’s presidency, it has become clear that the concentration of all state power in the hands of one oligarch is no longer sufficient enough to put up successful resistance to the oligarchic alliance.

Poroshenko managed to last until the end of his presidential term only because the Democrats, who were in power in the United States, believed that it was not profitable for them to abandon the legitimate President of Ukraine in favour of another putsch (like saying: it’s possible to endure it and be re-elected at the right time). Trump, whom the Democrats tried to dismiss during three of the four years of his first term, simply did not reach Ukraine and Poroshenko.

Only lazy people in Kiev don’t speak about Zelensky’s early resignation. I don’t know why they do it. This will only make it worse for everyone, including every single oligarchic family, but let them play in their sandbox if they want to.

The Cherkassy mutiny, whatever its outcome, weakens the position of the President, weakens the position of the central Kiev authorities, and challenges Avakov. A dictator who is unable to quell resistance and enforce his demands is no longer a dictator, but a clown like his President, only not a professional one, and therefore not even funny. If he can’t rein in the mayor of Cherkassy, how will he be able to protect Akhmetov interests? And if it is not able to protect Akhmetov’s interests, he can’t be useful to any other oligarch. So why is he needed then?

The most important thing is that if Kiev passes through the Cherkassy crisis without major consequences, those who organised it will still not feel dejected but will arrange something similar in another place, and then in a third place. Avakov’s last resource is de-oligarchisation and an open Nazi-police dictatorship. I do not know if he will opt to take such step, but if he does, then the hypothetical stabilisation of the situation will be very short-lived. There are still no resources. And then it will become even worse than it was. The Kiev regime simply does not have a good way out, and the longer it can hold on, the more terrible its end will be.

Well, Bonaparte, starting in Toulon, came to Waterloo — and it [Waterloo – ed] alone was worth more than the whole of Ukraine, with all its oligarchs and dictators (former, present, and future).

Rostislav Ishchenko

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