Politics

Servants of Solidarity

Zelenskyy's and Poroshenko's political parties have reached a dialectical coexistence, and so have they, too.
Will Volodymyr Zelenskyy become Petro Poroshenko's 'sentence', just as he promised back in April 2019? If one tried to go out on a limb, the answer would be: Zelenskyy is doing his best, but to little avail.

Officially, nearly two dozen criminal charges have been brought against Poroshenko; his defence says of more than fifty. Media, however, has focused on two cases where Ukraine's fifth president has been placed under criminal investigation.

The first case relates to Serhii Semochko, alleged to have been illegally appointed deputy Director of Foreign Intelligence Service. According to an investigation by Bihus.Info, an independent group of journalists, Semochko's wife is a Russian national, and the real estate that his family have is of questionable provenance.

More recently, Poroshenko has been charged with treason and abetting terrorism because of coal trading with the occupied territories in eastern Ukraine, which dates back to 2014 and 2015.

While the 'Semochko case' sparked a brief media attention in 2020, when Poroshenko was subpoenaed, and has receded from public view since, the treason charges will hardly follow suit—mostly because they involve Victor Medvedckuk, the chair of the political council of Opposition Platform — For Life, a pro-Russian party, and father of Vladimir Putin's godchild.
It is because of this nexus between Poroshenko—who claims the role of leader of opposition and patriotic forces—and the pro-Russian and 'toxic' Medvedchuk that the political confrontation between the current and former presidents of Ukraine has reached a new point.

It started to transpire as far back as February 2021, when the Council of National Security and Defence of Ukraine, in a first, introduced sanctions against Ukrainian nationals on suspicion of financing terrorism. The said nationals were Victor Medvedchuk and Taras Kozak, his political ally, believed to be hiding from prosecution abroad. As a result, three TV channels associated with Medvedchuk—112 Ukraine, NewsOne, and ZIK—were taken off air.

The legally murky sanctions were generally welcomed by Ukrainian society, including in the patriotic circles. They were a booster injection into Volodymyr Zelenskyy's ratings, which were falling at the time against the backdrop of numerous scandals—take, for instance, the appointment of Oleh Tatarov, accused of involvement in crackdown on Euromaidan, as deputy Head of the Presidential Office. The ban on Medvedchuk's TV channels and, later, his house arrest did not lead to mass protests.

Enter Poroshenko's terrorism charges—which, importantly, are related to those of Medvedchuk and make for imposing personal sanctions. Ukrainians are supposed to believe that the two were at least associates, if not 'partners', during the fifth president's term.
Hence, what gives Poroshenko the right to call himself the leader of patriotic forces? Moreover, how come Poroshenko the opposition leader could be associated with Medvedchuk?

It is the second time that the war of words between Zelenskyy and Poroshenko has become the war of politics. Before that, there was the so-called anti-oligarch law, with the sixth president apparently seeking to claim his predecessor the oligarch. This, in turn, means being in incessant spotlight and having no media power—which Zelenskyy currently does not have either but might gain before long, given how Ukrainian state-owned TV channels Rada and DOM are being reorganised. The 2019 elections proved that the media does have a say in voters' choice. And it is better to have one of your own than try and set up a temporary alliance with media tycoons.

That having been said, the terrorism charges brought against Petro Poroshenko seem to have ground to a halt. Both sides are in an improvised impasse.

On the one hand, the Zelenskyy administration looks upon Poroshenko's pre-trial restriction as proof of his involvement in dubious coal trade with militants in the occupied Donbass. That the prosecutor's office asked for arrest on a billion-hryvnia bail and the court approved largely symbolic personal recognizance is being turned a blind eye to.

Poroshenko, on the other hand, has yet again saw for himself that he has a group of supporters and political allies (i.e., Voice, a political party) that will stand by him no matter what, and has been handed proof of 'political persecution' and 'the sole opposition leader'.

It took Poroshenko and Zelenskyy just more than two years to find the perfect form of co-existence—dialectics, unity of opposition. They set themselves against one another—and yet are unlikely to survive politically on their own for long. Their parties have armed themselves with similar rhetoric: The Servant of the People party, whose members have been embroiled in several corruption scandals, claims to be open to prosecution, while some 'opposition leader' was away for a month and did not receive a subpoena.

Theoretically, the only way out of this vicious circle is the convergence of the Servant of the People and the European Solidarity on a national level—if not their dissolution. Since both parties are now competing for the same voter, political pundits close to the Zelenskyy administration have tentatively raised such a possibility.
The reservation is that such convergence is unlikely to happen until the 2024 parliamentary (and presidential) election. Both Poroshenko and Zelenskyy call for unity, but their calls still lack unanimity. On a regional level, though, opportunism is an opportunity: 'servants of the people' will coalesce with European Solidarity and even Opposition Platform – For Live, if need be.

What the dialectics of Poroshenko and Zelenskyy will turn out to be is hard to say.

Will the fifth president's treason be proven in court—seeing as similar charges against Medvedchuk have yet to be?

How will it affect Zelenskyy's reputation in the West, which Ukraine is critically reliant upon now?

What will European Solidarity and Servant of the People be like before the 2024 election, given that the latter is rumoured to be reshuffled and perhaps even rebranded?
The answers are only beginning to come up. They will, eventually, be written in history books—as is the case in Ukrainian politics.
The positions of the Platform SD Digest may not always coincide with the opinions of the authors
09.03.2022
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