Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Foreign Policy Research Institute

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The revenge of pro-Russian and opposition forces in Ukraine is aimed at overthrowing President V. Zelensky

The first year of the presidency of Volodymyr Zelensky was full of unforeseen events and difficult challenges that required appropriate comprehensive solutions. From the very beginning, Mr. Zelensky managed to unfreeze the Normandy format, to reach an agreement on the exchanges of detainees and on further ways of reaching a peaceful settlement in Eastern Ukraine. «The Verkhovna Rada of the 9th convocation immediately passed laws that were not adopted by previous convocations. With the introduction of a strict liability – up to the penalty – the facts of «button-pushing» (non-personal voting) and MPs truancy were minimized. The parliamentary immunity, which turned the mandate into a kind of indulgence in any acts and crimes, was abolished. A new Electoral Code was adopted, according to which the next Ukrainian parliament will be elected through the proportional system with open lists. Finally, legislation has been adopted to launch a land market in Ukraine. Yes, in Ukraine there are many politicians, business structures, ordinary people who do not like this decision. But this is exactly the case when it was necessary to start - Ukraine could no longer remain in the list of 6 (!) almost the most backward countries in the world, where the sale of land is prohibited»[1]. Also, an important law on impeachment was adopted.

However, almost every step towards state reforming and peaceful settlement, is met with resistance from opposition forces and various groups of influence seeking return to the power. At the same time Volodymyr Zelensky was in negotiations in Paris, his ideological opponents were on the Maidan. According to BBC, the leader of the party «European Solidarity» Petro Poroshenko and the leader of the party «Voice» Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, urged citizens to participate in the rally. Earlier, Yulia Tymoshenko also called on the president not to cross the «red lines». The organizers of this so-called «Council» stated that it was not directed against Zelensky, but was intended to help him. These actions provided some dividends to the opposition forces, but such a counter-revolution under the guise of "assistance" undermined the position of the President of Ukraine in the negotiations.

Despite the fact the presidential party has a majority in a parliament, some important laws required huge efforts in order to be passed. For example, at first, the so-called «Anti-Kolomoisky law» was blocked by making almost 16.5 thousand amendments. Such legislative spam was a blatant attempt to prevent the adoption of the law which Ukraine needed to receive a tranche from IMF during the crisis caused by the pandemic COVID-19. The coronavirus pandemic, as expected has become an additional factor for putting pressure on Zelensky. According to «Interfax», in October the International Monetary Fund (IMF) improved its estimate of Ukraine's GDP decline in 2020 to 7.2% from 8.2% in the June forecast. On the other hand, it is expected the eurozone economy will fall by 8.3% this year. However, the opposition during the pandemic found any reasons for criticism. Former President Petro Poroshenko even urged Ukrainians not to listen to the head of the Ministry of Health Maxim Stepanov, because Stepanov, according to Poroshenko, is Zelensky.[2]

After good enough results in local elections, Medvedchuk's party, «OPFL», has stated in an official appeal to voters that it intends to change Ukraine's state course, «Interfax» reported, citing the party's official website. «Opposition Platform - For Life ("OPFL") advocates a complete change of «bankrupt government» in Ukraine. The «Opposition Platform - For Life» will seek a complete change of state course. Ukraine needs to regain its sovereignty, break the vicious circle of debt and external dependence», the party stated on its official Facebook page. [3] The question remains – in what way Medvedchuk's party is going to change the course enshrined in Ukraine's constitution. Whether there is a risk that pro-Russian forces will have the capacity and sufficient support of the population to change the Euro-Atlantic course in the future? 

Andriy Bychenko, director of the Razumkov Center's sociological department, says that «with an extremely high probability» we can say that the popularity of pro-Russian forces has either not increased or has not increased significantly. And he explains his conclusions on election results by technical reasons, namely, the extremely low turnout. «We need to understand that this is a critically low turnout throughout Ukraine. 37% is a very law rate. We can assume that only most motivated citizens went to vote. These factors have led to a shift in results. The picture could be different if more people voted», Andriy Bychenko told BBC News Ukraine. «Yes, the political weight of these parties at the local level will increase. But it would be either wrong to say their ideas have become more popular among Ukrainians and public opinion has returned to pre-war figures», he added. [4]

In the foreign policy sphere, pro-Russian political forces, following the interests of the Kremlin, again tried to involve Ukraine in the scandalous process during the next US presidential election and thus deprive Ukraine of international support from Washington and discredit the country in the eyes of American society. So, at the end of this summer, non-partisan People's Deputy of the Verkhovna Rada Andriy Derkach released a series of films on which Poroshenko's talks with Joe Biden were recorded. Oleksandr Lytvynenko, director of the National Institute for Strategic Studies (NISS), said the release of the so-called «Derkach`s records» was politically advantageous for Russia to increase instability in Ukraine. According to him, the main problem here is the following: there is a possibility of unauthorized leakage of records of the President of Ukraine talks. «The fact that closed negotiations of the head of state, which should be the most secure, can be published without approval, threatens the state.» [5]

In addition, external influence of Russian Federation impacts Ukrainian internal affairs. The changes in the east of the country, the longest-lasting truce during the period of war, could easily come to an end at the behest of the Kremlin. Today, Russia is using the armed conflict in the East as an instrument of foreign policy influence on Ukraine and on Zelensky personally, intensifying hostilities to put pressure. Exacerbations in the area of the Joint Forces Operation are rapidly picked up by opposition and pro-Russian forces. The first side criticizes the president for not taking decisive actions, while the second side speculates on promises to bring peace quickly.

The actions of Zelensky, who continues to seek the optimal solution to constitutional crisis, caused a wave of loud statements from his opponents. In particular, MPs from «Fatherland» party, «European Solidarity», and «OPFL» accused Zelensky of trying to usurp power. The «Opposition Platform - For Life» and European Solidarity, in general, use the same methods. Both parties polarize society, inciting enmity between different groups of population. The «European Solidarity» and the «OPFL» are speculating on the language issue, exerting a powerful informational influence on the population with their own media and thus splitting the country. Moreover, the first side positions itself as a «defender» of the Ukrainian language, and the second side positions itself as a «defender» of Russian language.

The creation of artificial problems within the state by opposition political parties and influence groups, attempts to undermine the authority of the central government by local officials, as well as efforts to destroy constitutional foundations, and possible concomitant political crises are factors that Volodymyr Zelensky will face in the nearest future. It is extremely important for the Ukrainian government to resolve the situation, carry out judicial reform, and continue to maintain the support of Western countries. The stability of the state and the preservation of Ukraine's strategic course will depend on how President Zelensky copes with internal challenges.