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Change of power in Ukraine: Who will come to replace pro-European authorities?

Formally, the governmental and parliamentary crisis is over in Ukraine. The Cabinet of Ministers headed by Volodymyr Groysman was approved, and a new ruling coalition was formed in the Supreme Rada. Yet, another wave of ‘intraspecific competition’ in Kiev’s nest of vipers is a matter of time. This may eventually result in overthrowing Maidan activists from office. Something of the kind happened in 2005-2006, when the counter-revolutionary forces such as the Party of Regions and Communists recouped due to the disagreements of the participants in the Orange Revolution.

Admittedly, the Kiev regime has demonstrated ‘wonders of survival’ during the last two years, therefore it is impossible to predict the date of its overthrow. Nevertheless, there are political forces opposing the incumbent authorities and able to take the power levers after the “team of European professionals” fails finally. First, these are representatives of the former political elite, members of the Party of Regions, the activity of which has been ‘frozen’ since June 2014.

The organizational and human resources of the Party of Regions, the largest party in Europe comprising 1.5 million members, proved enough for implementing at once several projects. The most famous ones are the Committee for Saving Ukraine (CSU) headed by former prime minister Mykola Azarov and former parliamentarian Vladimir Oleynik who are in Russia as political emigrants, as well as the Opposition Bloc (OB) represented by 44 members in the parliament. 

CSU’s possibilities are strictly limited today, as its leaders have faced criminal proceedings and there is acute deficit of organizational structures in the territory of Ukraine. Meantime, OB can be considered as a full-fledged participant in the political fight. The Bloc has made certain success in the field – at the local elections in October it took the first place in six southeastern regions and several big cities (Mariupol, Dnepropetrovsk).

Generally, the concerns of the Maidan politicians regularly warning against revenge of the former members of the Party of Regions are not groundless. In addition, some former members of the Party of Regions who lost their positions after the so-called lustration are now returning to the high posts by the decisions of the Courts of Appeal. Further, Andrey Portnov, the key lawyer of Viktor Yanukovych’s team, still has enough influence on these courts.

The second group of the “non-Maidan” opposition are the leftwing parties. The most promising of them is Vasily Volga’s Union of the Left Forces (ULF). Unlike the old leftists that have discredited themselves, particularly the Communist Party of Ukraine, ULF appears to be a breath of fresh air in the left flank.

The Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine probably has what to tell to the public. The party has been rather active recently both in media and in the streets.

Public opinion polls show that the leftwing forces have always enlisted at least 30% of the public support in Ukraine. Consequently, the leftists have enough area for electoral maneuvering.

The third group of the opposition is Viktor Medvedchuk’s all-Ukrainian left-centrist organization Ukrainian Choice. Ukrainian media say Putin is the godfather of Medvedchuk’s daughter. It is noteworthy that advocating for the Eurasian integration and federalization of Ukraine (the incumbent authorities treat this as separatism) the Ukrainian Choice has maintained its organizational structure and human resources. In addition, Medvedchuk, the “Grey Cardinal” of Kuchma, has increased its assets during the last two years by exchanging captives within the Minsk Contact Group.

Although the power seized by force during elections is rarely yielded, there is still chance for a peaceful change of power. Besides the ‘non-Maidan’ opposition, there are at least two forces seeking a peaceful scenario.

The first are the financial and industrial groups suffering big losses from the government’s pro-European course. Among them are the companies of Rinat Akhmetov, so far the richest oligarch of the country, and Dmytro Firtash, who is under house arrest in Austria.  The second are the U.S. curators of Ukraine who appear to be extremely discontented – according to the U.S. mainstream media – at the idling and extremely corrupt top leadership of the country. In such case, the Opposition Bloc will get the green light. One of the Bloc’s leaders Sergey Levochkin, the former head of the president Yanukovych’s administration, has close ties with Victoria Nuland.

On the other hand, much more radical ultra-nationalist forces may come to replace the incumbent authorities. Although the political structures of the nationalists are amorphous and their formal leaders – Dmytro Yarosh, Oleh Tyahnybok, Andrei Biletsky – lack credibility, these forces may rely on the defense and law-enforcement agencies where the staffs have been replaced with ultra-right and various marginal elements during the last two years. Kiev’s even insignificant concessions on Donbass may spark riots of the right-wing radicals. These riots may easily spiral into a coup with new victims and loss of territories.

The Ukraine crisis is far from ending. The change of power will become a bifurcation point. Afterwards the country will face either reload of the state institutions, fundamental changes in the relations of the center and the regions, the public and the authorities, or final defragmentation and disintegration.

Igor Federovsky, Kiev

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