The main achievements of Ukraine’s foreign and domestic policy last year in Kiev are the introduction of a visa-free regime with the European Union and the release of Ukrainian prisoners of war from the zone of armed conflict in the Donbass. As for the moods within the Ukrainian society, the president and the government showed that, despite the growing discontent of the masses, they are quite capable of controlling the situation, tacking between early elections and popular protests that could develop into a new Maidan.
The autumn protests organized in Kiev by Mikhail Saakashvili, who received the citizenship of Ukraine from Piotr Poroshenko just two years ago , were seen by many as a sign of the fatal political weakness of the government of the Ukrainian EuroMaidan. He was predicted to suffer an early collapse under the weight of his own contradictions. It would seem that there were many reasons for such forecasts. The very story of Saakashvili, who was deprived of Ukrainian citizenship, but managed to break through the border on the shoulders of supporters and organize protests at the walls of the Verkhovna Rada (Supreme Rad — Parliament in Ukraine), seems to allow talking about the incapacity of the Ukrainian authorities. In addition, the adventure of the ex-president of Georgia was clearly supported in the West, thus linking Peter Poroshenko hands, with which he would strangle the former political ally.
This collective community of interests is channeled into the mainstream of anti-Russian politics, which is the common denominator for all representatives of the Ukrainian political landscape – from Poroshenko to the opposing front. Moreover, accusing each other of “working for the Kremlin”, they are pushing the entire system to further radicalize the conflict. The war – including the war of decrees and declarations – has become the eternal engine of the “Ukrainian world”. Watching the endless fall of their ratings, the “frontline soldiers” and Poroshenko strengthen patriotic and nationalist rhetoric in controlled media outlets and put forward rather insane initiatives at first glance.
On the one hand, in this way they shield themselves from attacks by opponents and right-wing right-wing fighters, on the other, preventively defend themselves against the threat of social protests. After all, in the summer of 2014, then-Prime Minister Yatseniuk derived a formula according to which riots against increasing prices and tariffs play into the hands of external enemies. And since then, the authorities have every time grabbed for it, like a saving straw.
The coming year 2018 will continue this trend. Surely we will hear a lot of things that would seem strange at least a few years ago – like a story with a ban on the supply of coal mined on the uncontrolled territories of Donbass, which was lobbied by the ultra-right-backed Avakov. After all, not so long ago the idea of buying coal overseas – in the US – from patriotic considerations could seem not just strange, but insane.
The year has just begun, and the director of the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory, Vladimir Vyatrovich, has already stated on the Fifth Channel that Ukraine should officially announce the period of its occupation as part of the USSR. While few people know that this ridiculous and even dangerous from the point of view of inexperienced inhabitants of the initiative has long been supported by a group of deputies from different factions and may well be accepted by the Rada – following the example of the Baltic countries.
Exactly the same is the real prospect of an early rupture of the railway communication between Russia and Ukraine, as insisted by the country’s Minister of Infrastructure Vladimir Omelyan. It’s not just the trains, which are now mostly driven by Ukrainian labor migrants. In the new year, it is quite possible to wait for the introduction of a full visa regime between the Russian Federation and Ukraine, especially since from January this year, Russians can get to Ukraine only with the help of biometric passports.
Finally, a group of influential radicals, among whom Parliament Speaker Andrei Parubiy, lobbies the complete cessation of diplomatic and business relations with the “aggressor country”. And then, it’s terrible to think, not long before the declaration of war with the introduction of martial law in Ukraine.
Many foreign observers consider this scenario unlikely, including because the US and the European Union may not support it. Despite the fact that the US increasingly interferes in the dismantling of Ukrainian elites, they have never demonstrated their intention to support a conditional “party of peace.” And the statement of the special representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker that the Donbass is waiting for another year without peace, against the backdrop of the State Department’s decision to sell lethal weapons to Kiev shows that Washington intends to consistently support the military rhetoric of Ukraine.
There is a nightmare in the genre of statistics. The situation is aggravated by the fact that political confrontation occurs against the backdrop of the social crisis that engulfed Ukraine. According to the data of the company “Public Audit”, since 2014 the real GDP of Ukraine has decreased 14 times, and inflation has increased by 126% with devaluation of the hryvnia 3.3 times. Industrial production fell by 20 percent, prices for agricultural products increased by 175 percent, industrial goods prices increased by 157 percent, the average salary dropped from 385 to 279 dollars, and the pension – from 128 to 90 dollars. Almost seven million people went to work, but transfers from abroad at the same time decreased by 36 percent, because people at the slightest opportunity are exporting relatives from Ukraine, and there is simply nobody to send money to.
According to the study of the “24” channel, the tariffs for electricity after EuroMaidan increased by at least 246 percent, for natural gas by 647 percent, for hot and cold water by 396 and 425 percent, for heating by 1030 percent. Medical reform deprives people of the opportunity to get medical aid, and pension – threatens in the long term to leave them without means of subsistence. Many already today say that they have nothing to carry into the pawnshops opened at every step.
Do not forget about the growing factor of crime – the consequence of the war and the failed reform of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, when the place of ideologically cleared operatives came radical nationalists and untrained patrols. They can not resist systemic crime, which solves any problems through money, controls entire branches of the shadow economy like smuggling cigarettes, timber and amber mining and constantly attacking businessmen who did not have time to acquire a “krisha” (means «roof» – criminal protecion).
In Russia, many compare the current situation in Ukraine with the memorable 90’s, but Ukrainians who remember those times, increasingly agree that today the situation in the country is much worse. After all, in the 90s, people survived at the expense of the Soviet social security system, and the bandits did not have a tenth of the opportunities that people got today with certificates from all sorts of law enforcement and paramilitary units. Therefore, today we often hear from the Ukrainians that they yearn for the 90th – no matter how wild it may sound for Russians.
It is quite logical that in the crisis conditions, which will only worsen in the coming year, including due to the entry into force of the new “anti-popular” Labor Code and the next increase in tariffs, mass discontent can reach critical values. This means that the Ukrainian authorities will continue to press the pedagogy of confrontation, intensifying the struggle against internal and external enemies, including an increasingly vivid and aggressive patriotic vocabulary. It remains to be wondered whether this outset will find a way out, and if so, in what form.