The military parade in Kiev on the occasion of the 25th Independence Anniversary of Ukraine launched a new political season that appears to be very eventful. To forecast the developments in the autumn-winter period, it is necessary to consider key factors influencing the social and political life in Ukraine.
· The social and economic situation;
- the fight between oligarchic clans for access to public assets and financial flows;
- the presidential election in U.S.;
- the war in Donbass and the Minsk Process.
Social and economic situation
The 2016/2017 heating season will become a serious testing for the pockets of Ukraine’s citizens, as the average utility bills will exceed 1.5-fold the minimum wage. Besides, it remains doubtful if the government is able to ensure an uninterrupted heat supply to the population, since the accounts of 104 of the total 122 thermal power generating plants were blocked yet in May and the preparations for the winter have been failed.
Deindustrialization continues amid dramatic growth of unemployment that is, in fact, 25% of the employable population (10.3% by official data). Cooperation with the IMF is frozen, though the country planned to cover the budget deficit with a regular tranche from the fund. The IMF issued its last tranche of $1.7billion a year ago, in August 2015.
Although sociologists record a growth of protest sentiments and dramatic decline of the approval ratings of the president and prime minister (70% of the population do not trust Petro Poroshenko and Volodymyr Groysman), the historical experience shows that there is no direct correlation between shrinking living standards and readiness of the people to take the streets, as the overwhelming majority of the population is busy surviving.
The social organism is able to function even in a decomposing country and economic collapse by adapting to extreme conditions for life.
Confrontation of oligarchic groups
At present, there are two processes unfolding in differing ways: weakening government institutions and increasing personal power of Poroshenko.
However, the ex-prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s team and the People’s Front Party with its key figures, odious oligarch Igor Kolomoisky and interior minister Arsen Avakov, are still posing threat to Poroshenko’s power. One of the brightest evidences of the Poroshenko-Yatsenyuk confrontation is the criminal cases initiated during the recent months against Arseniy Yatsenyuk and his team, high-ranking officials and MPs (including Igor Kolomoisky, Naftogaz CEO Andriy Kobolev and MP Mykola Martynenko).
Poroshenko seeks to eliminate Yatsenyuk’s team:
- To have more chances to feed at the public trough.
- To face off the threat by the battalions of “volunteers” mostly oriented at Avakov and Kolomoisky.
- To lay the responsibility for the failed reforms, high crime rate and heavy social and economic situation in the country on Yatsenyuk’s team, to reanimate his own rating and certainly defuse social tensions.
From all appearances, Poroshenko’s strategy is to blackmail Yatsenyuk with criminal cases and demand big concessions, in particular, the control over certain financial flows, refusal from supporting the national battalions, and voting of the People’s Front for his own bills in the parliament etc.
The conflict of the Poroshenko-Yatsenyuk teams may have a number of solutions: starting from mutually advantageous arrangements up to Poroshenko’s overthrow by the battalions of “volunteers.” In particular, Serhiy Leshchenko, the people’s deputy and journalist close to the U.S. Embassy, has recently voiced such possibility. Another parliamentarian Igor Lutsenko from Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna Party, shares his views: “It would be no exaggeration to say that preparations for a military coup are underway in Kiev. Simply, a final date has not been determined yet. The participants have been nominated already. At once several armed units almost openly declare their aspirations to come to power through a military coup.”
Factor of U.S. election
The probability of a military coup in Ukraine in the autumn-winter period is growing also because of the reshuffles in the White House that will certainly reduce Washington’s control over Ukraine’s elites. In addition, the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine has been replaced: Ambassador Marie L. Yovanovitch having much less levers of influence on the Ukrainian establishment has replaced Geoffrey R. Pyatt, one of the “Maidan” organizers.
It is worth mentioning that in case Donald Trump wins the presidential election, a range of representatives of the Kiev regime will face an end of their public life (as the U.S.-Russia relations will improve). This will happen not just because the Ukrainian authorities slam the Republican candidate, but also because Kiev made a scandal around the resignation of Trump’s outspoken campaign chairman, political strategist Paul Manafort, whose name turned out to be in the so-called “black ledgers” of the “Party of Regions.”
Donbass and Minsk Process
There are two important factors to mention. First, at his July meeting with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Poroshenko said Ukraine has implemented the political commitments (under the Minsk Agreements) by 95% and the commitments in the security field by 100%.
Second, to keep the situation under control, the Kiev authorities will have to toughen the inflammatory rhetoric inside the country, up to martial law and a flare-up of the hostilities in Donbass.
The most probable options are continuation of the “neither war nor peace” situation or escalation of the situation up to a large-scale conflict like the one of the summer of 2014.
Scenarios of developments for autumn and winter
- Further relative stability of central and local governments.
- Formation of a new political balance between the government and the parliamentary coalition by involving more opposition forces and financial and industrial groups (of Yulia Tymoshenko, Dmytro Firtash, Opposition Bloc).
- A large-scale war in Donbass, martial law to overshadow acute economic and social problems.
- Dissolution of the Supreme Rada and snap elections to the parliament to defuse social tensions. However, the falling rating of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc, unfavorable results of the midterm elections of July 17 for Poroshenko (2 seats instead of anticipated 5), zero rating of the People’s Front Party make such scenario unfavorable for the authorities.
- Large-scale local protests led by the battalions of “volunteers,” veterans of the so-called ATO, system and non-system political forces, trade unions or regional elites. Such scenario may result in a “spontaneous federalization” and snap elections to the parliament.
- A military coup attempt by battalions of volunteers orientated at the “Party of War” (Yatsenyuk, Turchinov, Avakov, Parubiy). The major question is whether the coup will be legitimized by foreign centers of power (U.S. and EU) as well as by Ukraine’s financial and industrial groups and local elites. The restraining factor for the plotters is the risk of expansion of the territory of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics and activation of the forces in the Russia-oriented Southeastern regions.
Denis Gayevsky, Kiev