The Ukrainian Civil War did not end with the 5 September Minsk Protocol, despite many in the mainstream media alleging that this is so. Besides the fact that the ‘ceasefire’ was a misnomer and never implemented in practice, the war has now evolved past an East-West Ukrainian struggle and into an intra-Western one, albeit in different form. Both pro– and anti-war protesters are marching against the government, and the militant Pravy Sektor is threatening Poroshenko and opposition parliamentary representatives with violence. All of this is occurring on the heels of early and controversial parliamentary elections, which will be held without the participation of the popular and banned Communist Party, nor that of the opposition Party of Regions, which is boycotting the charade. Although Poroshenko may have hoped that the ‘ceasefire’ would buy him time to consolidate his regime at home, what has in fact happened is that he miscalculated, and Western Ukraine’s societal divisions could now tear that portion of the country apart as well.
Ukraine is slated to have early parliamentary elections on 26 October due to the Rada’s dissolution in August. That event was at least a few weeks in the making, with Poroshenko having earlier accused its members of being a “fifth column” during a paranoid fit earlier that month. In essence, he dissolved the Rada precisely to root out any remaining vestiges of political opposition to him in an effort to consolidate his control over the country. It must be remembered that just as oligarchs run businesses, so too do they run countries. Coupled with the Communists’ banning and the Party of Regions’ boycott, the ‘elections’ are a simple charade that does nothing to advance real democracy. Adding insult to injury for those who legitimately believe in the myth of democracy, 16 ‘Darth Vaders’ and other Star Wars characters are ridiculously included on the ballot, making a complete mockery of the democratic process and highlighting just how broken the system is in Ukraine.
Poroshenko’s plan was centered around one major fallacy – that he can control the rampant nationalism he himself helped unleash. Such delusions of absolute control are expected of an oligarch but become disastrous when exercised by a ‘president’. Instead of working to balance against the nationalists, Poroshenko emboldened them, hoping that they would rally around him and his war against all things Russian-related, essentially becoming his own personal ‘brown shirts’ in purging all opposition figures and ideas from public view in the run-up to the new ‘elections’.
This nationalist bullet ricocheted, however, as Pravy Sektor took to the streets to protest Poroshenko for not being nationalist enough and even threatened him with Yanukovich’s fate. To understand why this apparently sudden reversal of loyalty occurred, one must only be reminded of the adage that ‘there is no honor among thieves’. So influential is this rivalry that Gilbert Doctorow, a leading Russian scholar, believes that it can even affect the implementation of Ukraine’s planned decentralization, which in turn could officially reignite the hot war in the east, whether Poroshenko plans it or not. Thus, from being a fringe and non-influential political clique last year, Pravy Sektor has rapidly grown into one of the most important factors in post-coup Ukraine, posing a substantial power threat to Poroshenko and threatening to keep the entire country mired in chaos.
A Third Color Revolution?
Pravy Sektor, as extreme and small in number as they may be relative to the rest of the population, are aided in their anti-Poroshenko efforts by a large and mobilized pro-war civil society. This grouping, most likely encouraged by their success during EuroMaidan, protested against Poroshenko and his military prior to the Minsk Protocol for not doing enough to squash the pro-Federalists. Although already one month in the past, this event is important for signifying how far and wide pro-war and anti-Russian sentiment runs among Ukraine’s post-coup civil society. It also shows that if motivated enough, they have no reservations about taking to the streets to threaten the government. As Color Revolutions are wont to do, a small and highly trained core group can corral the unbridled masses into an effective anti-government force that can topple a country’s authorities. With this in mind, Pravy Sektor could potentially fulfill the role of this core in harnessing the pro-war segments of society in overthrowing Poroshenko, should they not gain a commanding influence in the Rada after the ‘elections’. By this manner, a third Color Revolution could potentially rock Ukraine, one which would further radicalize the country’s leadership on a feverish anti-Russian crusade.
Give Peace a Chance
Aside from the warmongers and extreme nationalists, there still exists a vocal and active portion of Ukrainian society dedicated to peace and pragmatism. Sadly, however, they currently appear to have a minimal role in the New Ukraine and are being oppressed by the authorities and ignored by the Western media. As a case in point, calm nation-wide peace marches were held at the end of September in some of Ukraine’s largest cities, but alas, they were disrupted by the police and their Pravy Sektor henchmen. Not to be intimidated, however, some of the activists staged another demonstration this weekend in Kiev, marching around the city and protesting the war. This demonstrates that there still remain some people in Ukraine who are opposed to Poroshenko and his pet project of waging war in the East and against his own citizens. Although neglected by the mainstream media, they inarguably exist and have the capability of organizing protests across the country. Time will tell if they are able to mobilize themselves effectively enough in order to give peace a chance and moderate the extreme Russophobia of the ruling administration and its civil society and paramilitary supporters.
Voter Intimidation Returns
Recent Ukrainian history is once more repeating itself, with the voter intimidation of last spring returning this fall. Back then, presidential candidates were attacked and threatened, and Lenin statues were toppled across the country. This time, parliamentarians are being attacked and threatened, and Lenin statues still fall. Most recently, a fad has gripped Ukraine, whereby nationalists and their Pravy Sektor chiefs assault lawmakers and dump them into trash canisters, in what has been dubbed by supporters as the ‘#TrashBucketChallenge’. Most surely, if this was occurring to a pro-Western politician in Russia or any other Resistant and Defiant country, it would be globally lambasted as the intimidating and thuggish crime that it is, but since it’s happening to Poroshenko and the nationalists’ political opponents, it is lauded as a ‘cool’ social media phenomenon and implicitly encouraged.
On top of that, the destruction of a Lenin statue in Kharkov is yet another sign of growing militant Russophobia in Ukraine. Not only do the statues represent communism and the Soviet Union, but they also represent the Russian-speaking community. By violently destroying these landmarks, the nationalists are sending the signal that the Russian speakers are next. Also, considering the geographic proximity and importance of Kharkov Oblast to the Ukrainian Civil War, this could possibly lead to the formation of local resistance force similar to the ones seen in Novorossia and extend the hot conflict further west if/when it officially reignites. Anyhow, the combination of assaults on political figures and attacks on social landmarks definitely proves the intimidating atmosphere prevalent in Ukraine at the moment and negates any claims of a fair vote in the upcoming ‘elections’.
The artificial arrangement of ‘Ukraine’ (literally, ‘the frontier’) is finally beginning to unravel as the false hope of ‘democracy’ seeks to be its ultimate undoing. Besides the de-jure political separation of Crimea and the semi-de-facto independence of Novorossia, such ‘frontiers’ are importantly also of a social nature. It is here where Ukraine’s broken mirror-like fragmentation begins, creating a spider web of social frontiers between the main actors in the revanchist rump of the country. Accordingly, Poroshenko, who represents and pleases practically no one besides his Western patrons, finds himself exceptionally isolated, being opposed on all sides and to different degrees by Pravy Sektor, pro-war provocateurs, anti-war activists, and the remaining Russian speakers. With such tense societal fractures, Ukraine seems to be living up to its name as a ‘frontier’, albeit not only one between East and West, but now of one Ukrainian against the other.
Andrew Korybko is the American political correspondent of Voice of Russia who currently lives and studies in Moscow, exclusively for ORIENTAL REVIEW.