June, 23

Servant of the People and Donbass: "pigs in a poke" and "good intentions"…

07/10/2019 11:11:05 am
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The Servant of the People party appeared in Ukrainian politics quite recently, but according to all sociological polls, it already claims a majority in the future Verkhovna Rada. However, it is obvious that its high ratings (from 45 to 50%) are due to the popularity of Volodymyr Zelensky and are in no way connected with the party's actions, its ideology, or its electoral program…

"We will embody the course of President Zelensky in specific bills and political decisions, form a professional government that the people of Ukraine will trust, and introduce fundamental changes together that will help us make Ukraine a free, independent and successful Dream Country", - the party's electoral program says. In the opinion of ideologists of Servant of the People, it is needless to know for the public what these "fundamental changes" will be like and what the "course of President Zelensky" will be. Apparently, those whom Zelensky's party leads to the Rada under their banners do not know them either. At least, the election program of Servant of the People has no specifics – not a political party, but a one-actor support group…

In particular, this concerns the strategy of the party in relation to the war in the Donbass. The election program of Servant of the People refers to this most important problem for the country with only two general points:

1. We will provide legislative support for the initiatives of the President aimed at restoring the territorial integrity and state sovereignty of Ukraine.

2. We will create informational reintegration system for the residents of the occupied territories in Ukraine.

Candidates for deputies from Servant of the People do not know what the "initiatives of the President" will be, but they are going to "ensure their legislative support" in advance…

The thesis about the "informational reintegration system" of the occupied territory remains no less mysterious up to this day. Zelensky spoke about this even during his presidential campaign, but since then, there has been no more clarity regarding this "system"…

Separately, Servant of the People promises to set defense spending at least 5% of GDP, reform the armed forces according to the NATO standards, stop the outflow of valuable personnel from the army, introduce harsh penalties for corruption and theft in the Armed Forces and Ministry of Defence, decentralize and demonopolize military state procurements.

Based on the fact that the Servant of the People party and its members have never been to the parliament before, we cannot analyze how they fulfill their election promises. We will concentrate on the latest statements and steps of President Volodymyr Zelensky, whose course the party promises to embody. We will also talk about candidates from Servant of the People in single-mandate districts in the Donbass.

Informational reintegration of residents of the occupied territories

More than a month ago, on the day of the second round of the presidential election, Volodymyr Zelensky stated his intention to cease fire in the Donbass with the help of a powerful information war.

"Dear journalists, we invite you in the nearest time, this is our plan, preparation, I cannot say it on the air yet. We will make a very powerful information war to end the fire in the Donbass. We have a plan of action. We have creative ideas, and we need your help", - he stated.

It sounded fresh, innovative and promising. However, no details of this plan are known until today. One can only guess what Zelensky meant.

To be true, being a presidential candidate, Volodymyr Zelensky spoke about creating a powerful Russian-language news channel that would be international, would broadcast to the territory of Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk, to Europe, the USA and Israel, and would show "real news and real life in Ukraine pragmatically and correctly". Perhaps, this is the very weapon of information war? This question is still open.

Later, deputy head of the Office of the President Yuriy Kostiuk explained that it was planned to work out a specific mechanism together with journalists, which the state strategy of information policy should be built on, including on the Donbass issues.

"If we talk about people in the occupied territories, we should at least have a dialogue with them. Now there is dialogue only from one side, there are certain messages that are broadcast to them and that no one on this side denies", - he said in late April.

Zelensky himself explains that the residents of the occupied territories need to be told in what and how they were deceived. He uses "language issue" as the example.

"We should say them (residents of the occupied territories, - ed.) that they were deceived by conducting an information war, that the Russian language is being taken away from them. We understand that the language was not the cause of the escalation of Russia. To tell them that the only thing they were caught in, that they allegedly wanted to take this Russian language away. I would do it purposefully", - he said.

By the way, one of the leaders of Servant of the People Ruslan Stefanchuk allows amendments to the recently adopted law on the Ukrainian language. But he speaks about it quite carefully.

"If the implementation of this law will require some amendments, they will be introduced. But the conceptual thing for us is that the only state language in Ukraine is and will be Ukrainian", - he says.

Head of the Presidential Office Andriy Bohdan generally allows holding of the referendum to "allow" "Donetsk and Luhansk to speak in Russian".

"My own opinion: I would allow Donetsk and Luhansk Ukrainian language as state and Russian as regional, provided that they are the territory of Ukraine after that", - he said.

This statement caused a lot of criticism from the "patriotic forces" (as they call themselves). For example, director of the Institute of National Remembrance and concurrently deputy candidate of the Petro Poroshenko's European Solidarity party Volodymyr Viatrovych commented on it like this: "The speaker of the rematch, already at the top of lungs".

However, this statement is fully coordinated with the Minsk agreements signed by Petro Poroshenko and the law on the special status of Donbass ("On the special order of local self-government in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts"), which was also adopted by representatives of the previous government.

Article 4 of this law states: "In accordance with the Law of Ukraine "On the principles of the state language policy", the state guarantees the right of language self-determination of each resident in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts to a language that they consider to be their mother tongue, free use of Russian and any another language in public and private life, study and support of the Russian and any other language, their free development and equality".

By the way, Ruslan Stefanchuk has already stated that the interview with Andriy Bohdan regarding the language issue should be interpreted as his personal position.

Zelensky also believes that Ukraine should pay pensions to people who live in the occupied territories.

"It is clear that they come to the territory of Ukraine, receive and leave. But most of the people there are cut off from it. I would return it. Experts say that this can be a big loss for the budget of our country, but that is also our country. If we say that Luhansk and Donetsk are our country, then we must do it", - he said being in office of presidential candidate.

There is not a single word about it in the party's election program. However, the discussions on this issue have long been conducted among social activists who deal with the problems of displaced persons. According to them, it was the policy of the government (in particular, of the Ministry of Social Policy) that led to the fact that hundreds of thousands of pensioners from the Donbass cannot receive the payments. Therefore, in the case of the formation of a majority in the Rada and their Cabinet, Servant of the People and Volodymyr Zelensky will be able to fulfill this promise, if wished.

Volodymyr Zelensky separately noted that the proper development of the Ukrainian economy and its demonstration will create "a wave that will start from Donetsk and Luhansk and even go to Russia".

"When these people start to doubt, they themselves will help us to return these territories", - he believes.

Already being a president, Zelensky began to fulfill this promise. In particular, he held a meeting with the three largest Ukrainian oligarchs – Rinat Akhmetov, Viktor Pinchuk and Ihor Kolomoyskyi, as a result of which they would allegedly invest their money in the region's restoration.

So, Victor Pinchuk will deal with the problems of social assistance of Ukrainian soldiers, Rinat Akhmetov will invest in medicine, roads and infrastructure of Donbass, Ihor Kolomoyskyi will invest "quite big money" in the Donbass infrastructure.

Furthermore, Zelensky promised to bring foreign investments to the Donbass: "There will be investment inflows into the infrastructure of Donbass in the near future. I am talking about this with all foreign investors".

Restoration of territorial integrity

There are no such words as "Donbass" and "Crimea" in the election program of the Servant of the People party at all. The word "war" is never found there either. We are talking about the "restoration of territorial integrity" and "residents of the occupied territories" there. So we only have to guess how the party is going to restore territorial integrity.

During the presidential campaign, Volodymyr Zelensky was repeatedly accused that he was going to return the Donbass by surrendering the Crimea. In turn, leader of the Servant of the People party Dmytro Razumkov stated that Crimea and Donbass are Ukraine.

"We are not ready neither to change, sell and rent, nor to give our own territory, and more importantly, our citizens", - he assures.

As for the mechanisms of ceasefire and return of the Donbass, here Razumkov's thoughts are more vague.

"To do this, we need to use all those mechanisms of information policy that for all these years were actually in a frozen format. Nobody did this, we even did the opposite quite often, and that would give us the first opportunity to return people and territories. Because the territories without people are nothing, this is not a state, and the state is first and foremost, people and, naturally, our land, where many are actually in the status of hostages, because they do not even have the opportunity to go to the free territory of the state. I speak about the Donbass. If we are talking about the Crimea, the situation there is similar to a great extent", – D.Razumkov says.

We can conclude from the logic of these words that Razumkov considers the conflict in the Donbass not a war between Russia and Ukraine, but a civil conflict, since information influence cannot make the military of a foreign state and its mercenaries stop shooting. But frankly, no one from the Zelensky team says this.

At the same time, one of the first decisions of Volodymyr Zelensky as president was the actual reanimation of the Minsk process by returning Leonid Kuchma to it. On the basis of its text, Minsk implies just a civil conflict with the participation of the outer party, because the conflict between the two countries cannot be stopped by changes in the domestic legislation of one of them…

As of today, Leonid Kuchma has not achieved any evident breakthrough in the Minsk negotiations, except the disengagement of forces in Stanytsia Luhanska. This process was planned for 2017, but there has been no positive solution to the issue until today.

In truth, this did not stop fire on the front line and did not prevent the militants from shooting the ambulance, as a result of which two Ukrainian doctors were killed. It looked like the mockery of that party over the words of the Ukrainian president about the disengagement of forces in Stanytsia: "I think this is the first step towards a sustainable ceasefire along the entire line of demarcation, which took place thanks to the unblocking of the Minsk process… The fragile hope of beginning the end of the hot phase of the war appeared", - Zelensky said…

In addition, in Minsk, Kuchma made a scandalous statement about the possible lifting of economic blockade of the occupied Donbass. Later, press secretary of the president Zelensky Yulia Mendel explained that this could happen only after the cancellation of the ruble zone and "illegal decisions about pseudonationalization" of Ukrainian enterprises. This statement caused a lot of criticism from the "patriotic forces".

In general, the policy of Volodymyr Zelensky regarding the Donbass is not too different from the policy of Petro Poroshenko. Despite criticism of the Minsk agreements, Zelensky is not going to abandon them. He is not ready for direct negotiations with the leaders of the "republics" either.

"We want to fully implement the Minsk agreements - this is in our interests. We want to reintegrate the territories and I believe that we are ready for this", - new NSDC Secretary Oleksandr Danyliuk said this in his last interview.

Zelensky himself statedd the presence of "specific proposals" to resolve the conflict in the Donbass. Aaccording to press secretary of the president Yulia Mendel, the promulgation of the Donbass roadmap was to take place after June 19.

"We are not making the roadmap public yet. First of all, there have already been precedents in Ukraine when our initiatives were blocked knowing them in advance. Promulgating the "roadmap" too early is a security issue", – she said.

The map has not been made public since then. Perhaps, this secrecy of Zelensky is due to the parliamentary election campaign, and after the election, more specific statements and actions await us.

But the point of the Servant of the People party about providing legislative support to the initiatives of the President aimed at restoring territorial integrity remains "a pig in a poke". After all, we have not yet seen any specific initiatives by Volodymyr Zelensky on this issue.

Single-mandate districts of Donbass: Sivoho and the unknown

The Servant of the People party presented candidates to people's deputies in all single-mandate districts, including the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. There are questions to these candidates.

The most striking contender from Servant of the People is Donetsk-born Ukrainian actor, TV presenter, comic, ex-player of KVN and creative producer of OOO Kvartal 95 Serhiy Sivoho who goes on the 49-th single-mandate district (Kostiantynivka, Druzhkivka, Kostiantynivka and Krasnoarmiisk districts of the Donetsk oblast). Former vice-premier, one of the leaders of Opposition Bloc Borys Kolesnikov runs for the people's deputies in this district as well.

Sivoho says that he goes to the Rada to fight the "ancient power" and restore the Donbass.

"The unconditional priority is to restore the Donbass. I am also very interested in new technologies, and the "state in a smartphone" itself, a lot of interesting things for me, even the medicine", - he explained, what he goes to the parliament for.

He cannot be called far from the political life in Ukraine. Serhiy Sivoho was noticed at a rally in support of presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych in 2009. The comedian did not hesitate even to put on an agitation scarf and cap in support of Yanukovych.


It is difficult to say what it was: political convictions or political lack of principle…

Sivoho affectionately calls Borys Kolesnikov, his main rival in the district, who is running for the Opposition Bloc party (whose leaders call the war in Donbass a "civil conflict", "an excellent organizer and talented manager".

"I know Borys (Kolesnikov, - OstroV) personally. He is an excellent organizer and talented manager. But he is a representative of the old generation of politicians. Old politicians had enough time to show how they manage the country. They showed that they do not know how to work neither in power nor in opposition", - Sivoho said.

The list of representatives of single-mandate districts in the Donetsk oblast also includes director of the Elko private enterprise (surface transport service) and Bukovyna commercial and industrial company (letting of immovable property) Heorgiy Kurdzhyyev, expert in organizing the attraction of new business subscribers in Ukrtelecom Rodion Voshchanov, Vasyl Patlachuk,who ran from the Communist Party of Ukraine twice, migrant, businessman and owner of the Gossip Kyiv bar Yevhen Vasili, native of Donetsk and businessman Dmytro Radchenko, chief commercial officer of OOO TORG CITY Trading house Serhiy Huba, chairman of the Talakove village council Vyacheslav Salhalov, businessman Viktor Romaniuk, deputy director of OOO Ukrhimpromtorg Natalia Tsyban, Oleksandr Bezuhly, who worked as doctor in the central regional hospital of Volnovakha and Kyiv lawyer and head of the Altexa law firm Tetiana Romantsova.

Native of Luhansk and director of a rural farm Serhiy Kobzar, businessman Oleksiy Kuznetsov, doctor and head of the health care department of the Sievierodonetsk city council Oleksandr Sorokin, private businessman from Sievierodonetsk Yaroslav Misinkevych, chairman of the Svatove district council Vita Slepets and businessman from the Kyiv oblast Maksym Moiseyev represent the Luhansk oblast.

These candidates are united by the fact that all of them (with the exception of three people) graduated from a higher educational institution in the Donbass. It seems that the candidates were searched on the principle of at least some sort of binding or connection with Donetsk and Luhansk. Indeed, in most cases, these are unknown characters for the residents of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, many of whom live and conduct their business outside the Donbass.

Local residents were skeptical of this approach of the party in the formation of list of representatives of single-mandate districts.

"I have a simple question for Dmytro Razumkov! Please explain how the selection of candidates for the single-mandate districts from your party took place? Because there are a lot of rumors. We have a candidate in the 58th district, whom nobody in Mariupol knows at all and there is no information about him, in the 57th - a chairman of the Talakove village council, who has not so "good" reputation", - volunteer from Mariupol Halyna Odnoroh wrote on Facebook.

Or, for example, when it became known about the nomination of the Kyiv lawyer Tetiana Romantsova in single-mandate districts No. 48 (Kramatorsk), this caused a wave of outrage in social networks.

"And what will we get from you as a deputy, in fact, except for the blurred, "I am going to pass the laws"?", - public activist from Kramatorsk Marina Romantsova asked.

"The decision in the districts is made by the Servant of the People party. The answer to your question what you and other citizens of Ukraine will get - is contained in the Servant of the People party's program", - person bearing the same family name, who is going to the Verkhovna Rada, answered her.

It turned out during the corresponding that the lawyer would not name specific proposals for Kramatorsk. As a result, it was decided to nominate Tetiana Romantsova in another district - No. 50 (Dobropillia, Myrnohrad, Pokrovsk). That is, the candidate and the party itself, in fact, do not care where they go to the Parliament from, they have no attachment to the voter.

There is no Romantsova election program on the CEC website. Instead, the column "election program" (as of 01.07.2019) contains her autobiography. Whether this is a mistake of the Central Election Commission, or they were in such a hurry to file the documents that there was no time to draw up a program, so the autobiography was posted.

As for the topic of war in the Donbass, it is practically not raised by anyone in the election programs.

Representative of single-mandate district Serhiy Kobzar, for example, is limited to general terms and statement of the fact that the war continues in Ukraine.

"Our town and the East of Ukraine are in great trouble. The war continues in the country. We can make Ukraine a country of happy people. A country where everyone will live in peace, order, prosperity and justice. Being in peace, we will achieve success in economics, politics, management and reforms", - his election program says.

In fact, Servant of the People nominated no strong candidate in the Donbass, having ratted on this strategic region to the pro-Russian forces…

The election program of the Servant of the People party and program of the representatives of single-mandate districts from this political force is rather a set of good wishes. Especially with regard to the topic of war and de-occupation. All that the program relies on is the embodiment of the course of Volodymyr Zelensky, unknown to anyone yet. That is, the party and the candidates support in advance what they have no idea about. With all due respect to President Zelensky, this is more like not a political party, but an association of people who go into power only to support each other in it: without ideology, without being tied to a voter, without clear plans and strategies. I would like to be mistaken…

Vladyslav Bulatchik, OstroV