The new Ukrainian authorities seem to have underestimated the threat from the internal nationalist forces
Today, Volodymyr Zelensky is one of the most prominent post-Soviet leaders. The new president of Ukraine has already ruined many patterns about the image of a typical leader of an Eastern European country. This is the leader of a completely different formation, reflecting a huge public demand for peace and deliverance from the oligarchs.
Zelensky ascended to the heights of the Ukrainian government in many respects thanks to progressive slogans and ideas. However, they undergo daily different “strength tests” in Ukrainian circumstances. Even despite the actual monopolization of power under the flags of Servants of the People, the president is forced to regularly compromise. These include, for example, retain of the Interior Minister Arsen Avakov to ensure the loyalty of the Ukrainian law enforcement and security officials. Or the relationship between the presidential team and businessman Igor Kolomoisky, which largely cast a shadow on the ideas of deoligarchisation promoted by Kiev.
For Zelensky, the most challenging trouble is expected to be the unresolved conflict in the east of the country. Zelensky, who determined its settlement as the main goal of the presidency, sprang into action. The President initiated steps towards the population of the self-proclaimed republics, restarted the dialogue with Russia. Kiev even made certain concessions, agreeing to sign the Steinmeier Formula and begin the withdrawal of troops. But then the problems began: it seems like the authorities simply did not calculate all the risks of the forced Donbass settlement.
Of course, the existing request for peace in Ukrainian society is a reality, which largely led Zelensky to the presidency. However, it seems that Kiev made a mistake by underestimating the possible opposition from the Ukrainian nationalists without stopping it at the very beginning. Of course, radical forces make up only a small part of the population. But we must not forget that this is the most active part of society, often well-armed and experienced in military operations.
Relations between the new government and nationalists used to be tense. Earlier, Kiev had forcibly disarmed three volunteer battalions, and there were also rumours of clashes between the regular Ukrainian army and nationalist detachments, which interfered with the disengagement of forces in the Donbass. The signing of the Steinmeier Formula became the trigger for the “patriots” to protest under the slogan “No Surrender!”. These protest are not as large as six years ago, but no less dangerous. Yesterday, nationalists delivered a direct ultimatum to Zelensky: if their demands are not met in 10 days, the authorities will no longer meet peaceful resistance.
The situation is increasingly acquiring the features of the 2013-2014clashes. The Servant of the People party takes it as seriously as possible: the president tries to extinguish the “fire” by regularly giving interviews on Donbass and even arranging a record 14-hour press marathon.
If we analyse the prospects of the confrontation, at first glance, the position of the new government is quite strong. Zelensky still has a high level of support, despite a slight decrease in his personal rating. The positive achievements of the Ze-team, including the exchange of prisoners between Ukraine and Russia, public flogging, layoffs and criminal cases against officials, also play for the president, as well as his openness to dialogue with people.
But, despite all the levers of public control, the Servant of the People seems to be ready to “move backward”. At least, this is evidenced by the recent actions of Kiev in the Donbass negotiations. This week, representatives of Ukraine suddenly demanded to dissolve the self-proclaimed “DPR” and “LPR” as a condition for the implementation of the Minsk agreements. This not only completely negates the approach that was previously adopted by the negotiators of the parties, but also threatens to disrupt the planned meeting in the Norman format.
Obviously, the harsh reversal of Ukraine in the Donbass settlement is directly related to the threat of nationalist protests. Now, Kiev risks losing all the positive energy accumulated in recent months within the negotiations. Perhaps this is just a tactical “pause” in order to solve the problem with the radicals, and further the dialogue on the Donbass will continue. Otherwise, we are really talking about the surrender of the new government – but far cry to the Kremlin.
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