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THE END OF THE “HONEYMOON” | Vitaliy Portnykov

You also can read this article in Ukrainian by following the link |


February 2020 ends with forecasts of a quick change of the head of the Ukrainian government. The successor of Oleksiy Honcharuk, who made a rapid and unwarranted career takeoff shortly after the election of President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, is called Sergei Tihipko - businessman and politician of the times of Viktor Yanukovych. Tihipko headed Yanukovych's election headquarters during the 2004 campaign, and after leader of the Donetsk criminal clan won the 2010 election, became deputy of prime minister Mykola Azarov's government and continued to support Yanukovych until almost the last days of Maidan 2013-2014. Other contenders for the post of prime minister include businessman Valery Khoroshkovsky, who during the reign of Yanukovych headed the Security Service of Ukraine, and now actively communicates with Zelensky and Interior Minister Arsen Avakov. None of the contenders clearly fits into the definition of a "new face" – contrary to the slogans of the renewal of power that Zelensky won. But now the new president is thinking of returning to power a Yanukovych-era team that once led the country to political and economic disaster. Why does Zelensky want to make such a sharp leap into the past?


Perhaps because the "honeymoon" of the government and its voters ended in February - all recent sociological polls testify. Although the credibility of Zelensky himself remains high enough, it is declining at a record pace and it can be stated that by the end of the spring, only memory of it will remain. And the presidential virtual party "Servant of the People", the parliament, the government are losing this trust much faster. And Zelensky's personal popularity, based primarily on his artistic past and not on the political present, will not save the situation.


And for this there are both objective and subjective reasons. Electoral hopes on Zelensky were first and foremost related to the end of the war, improvement of the well-being of the population and the fight against corruption. Zelensky's voter does not see any concrete results in any of these directions.


Zelensky has already taken a number of concrete steps to end the war, but they are completely pointless and ineffective. They are pointless and ineffective because both the voters of Zelensky and Zelensky himself and his team erroneously assuming that Putin is interested in ending the war in the Donbas and, what is even more dangerous, the fact that previous Ukrainian government was interested in continuing the war. In fact, Zelensky appeared to be a hostage of Russian propaganda, which for five years spoke about the existence of a "war party" in Ukraine that would not negotiate. However, when Zelensky became President of Ukraine, it turned out that the requirements put forward by the Kremlin were no different from those made for Zelensky's predecessor, Petro Poroshenko. And the most important of these requirements - direct negotiations of the Ukrainian government with the puppet administrations of the "People's Republics", discussion with the Russian mercenaries of the constitutional status of Donbass. And since Zelensky disagrees with these demands, the war continues.


February has become one of the most serious exacerbations at the dividing line. Moreover, Russia staged firings at Ukrainian positions just one day before Zelensky's speech at the Munich Conference, where Ukrainian leader's peaceful initiatives were to be presented. In Munich they were also planning to discuss the prospects of holding a new summit of the leaders of the "Norman Four" in April. However, discussions of foreign ministers did not take place. Moscow has again begun to say that there is no point in holding a new meeting in a situation where there is no progress in fulfilling the Paris Summit arrangements. At the same time, the implementation of these agreements is hindered in Russia. Russia still does not want to take measures to cease firing at the demarcation line, does not approve new sections of troops pullout, does not create conditions for round-the-clock patrolling of OSCE mission, does not agree on new exchanges of prisoners. And at the same time Russia accuses Zelensky of not giving the opportunity to prepare a new summit!


But Zelensky can be blamed only for not understand Putin's motives, and not because he does not want to end the war. And Putin's motives were exactly portrayed by his former assistant, Vladislav Surkov, who, before his dismissal from the Kremlin, was in charge of the Donbas war. "Forcing brotherly relations is the only method that has historically proven effective in the Ukrainian direction," Surkov said in his first post-dismisal interview. And this is exactly what Putin is doing - forcing Ukraine back into the Russian sphere of influence, to give up Ukraine’s own political choices, and perhaps own statehood. That is why the Russian president will not end the war until he reaches his goals or is convinced that he cannot achieve them. That is why any attempt to negotiate for Putin is proof of his opponent's weakness and his invitation to continue military hostilities.


With the increase of living standards everything is also not as good - once again, there are both objective and subjective circumstances. The industrial production has been going down for months on a now, and the government is failing to ensure that the budget is meet. And the president has to threaten ministers with witholding of their salaries if the government does not close on the debts to the miners. However, Ukraine has not yet felt the consequences of the global economic collapse due to the coronavirus.


And on top of the objective circumstances are imposed the incompetence of new executives, many of whom have literally turned out to be people from the street. It is possible to say fashionable words for a long time and to promise the citizens "country in smartphone", but when it comes to real problems - for example, elementary evacuation of it’s citizens from China and placing them in a safe place for quarantine - we see that government structures are literally couldn’t cope with the challenge, and provoke a crisis out of nothing.


And finally, corruption, the absence of which is proudly stated in government offices. They can, of course, say that it is gone. They can, also, not show the corruption on TV. But it will not go anywhere as long as the oligarchs in charge of country's economy. And the oligarchs remain the main pillar of the government of Vladimir Zelensky - however, in February they started to say that Rinat Akhmetov, who ousted Igor Kolomoyskyi, came to the forefront in securing the power. This is also not big news - a few months after the election, Akhmetov has been a major ally of every Ukrainian president for the past couple of decades. But then what kind of fight against corruption can we talk about? And about what trust?


In search of this trust, Zelensky, of course, tries to abandon the amateurs and turn to the services of professionals - rather those whom he considers professionals, people of the Yanukovych era. And those who will provide him with further co-existence with oligarchic clans and their support.


But the support of the oligarchs and the support of the people in Ukraine is not one and the same, even when oligarchs control TV channels. In order for the people to believe in television, it is necessary to ensure a better standard of living and to end the war. And it is not a closed circle. It is simply a statement of the fact that the trust in the government and personally in Zelensky will fall and no change of personnel in government offices will change this trend.