By Dmitri Kovalevich – Nov 27, 2023
In November, the Ukrainian authorities once again extended martial law for three months. This means that the presidential election scheduled for March 31, 2024, will not happen because the election law requires 100 days for campaigning. Martial law restrictions and a “democratic election” are not mixing well in militarized Ukraine.
Volodymyr Zelensky himself affirmed on November 6 that “now is not the right time” to hold an election. The secretary of the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) of Ukraine, Oleksiy Danilov, predicts “great misfortune” for Ukraine if an election were held because of the widespread political discussion it would provoke. But there is a rub: President Zelenskyy’s term, according to the Constitution, ends on March 31, 2024. After that, he loses constitutional legitimacy and becomes a usurper of power.
Additionally, legislative elections in Ukraine should have been held in October 2023, meaning the legislature has actually lost its constitutional legitimacy, even if it continues to pass laws. These legal nuances do not receive any attention from the Western sponsors of the Kyiv regime or the regime itself. That is because, in their opinion, the abolition of democracy in Ukraine has taken place in the name of “democracy” and the fight against the “authoritarian regime” of the Russian Federation. In Russia, presidential and legislative elections will be held next year.
Meanwhile, The Economist magazine recently cited Western officials saying that the conflict in Ukraine may well last another five years. The Western military-industrial complexes like the sound of such a scenario predicting a drawn-out battle because a long war would be profitable for them. What’s more, in order to motivate Western governments to make room in their budgets to expand the military-industrial complex, the demand for more and more armaments must be good for years, if not permanently.
Ukraine cannot sustain its war machine
But here is the problem that concerns Ukraine: the country will soon exhaust its human resources, regardless of how many armaments are sent its way by the NATO countries.
The American satirical publication The Babylon Bee draws attention to this contradiction when it writes, jokingly, “Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is calling for the immediate suspension of presidential elections in his country, so that he may focus all his efforts on fighting to protect democracy in Ukraine. ‘We must suspend democracy to save democracy,’ said Zelensky during his weekly ‘telemarathon’ [situation report]. ‘If we allow democracy to get in the way of fighting for democracy, we might lose our democracy. And also lose our billions of sweet, sweet American dollars. What will happen to my superyacht in Dubai… Oh, sorry, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, it’s time to cancel elections so I may remain president indefinitely.’”
The Bee’s humor is not so humorous for the Ukrainian people because in order to maintain power, Zelensky could theoretically extend martial law endlessly, thereby forcing thousands and thousands more conscripted citizens into the slaughter along the front lines.
An MP from Zelensky’s party and his closest adviser, Mykola Tishchenko, recently responded rather frankly to a colleague, MP Heorhiy Mazurashu, about the state of democracy in Ukraine. “Democracy does not exist anywhere in the world,” he said. “It is a myth.”
Concern about 2024 US election
Nevertheless, Zelensky rather suspects the likelihood of a change of administration in the United States next year. In anticipation, his office has begun to examine the exact stances of the Republican Party, as it similarly studied four years ago where the Democratic Party stood on Kyiv’s conflict with Russia. In November, Zelensky invited Donald Trump to Ukraine, presumably expecting to hear from Trump there would be no overtures with Russia for a negotiated end to the war should Trump be elected. Wartime rule is all that Zelensky and his advisers and sycophants have left. Trump declined the invitation to visit.
Ukrainian authorities then came up with the idea of inviting former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to join the board of directors of Ukrainian operator Kyivstar, Ukraine’s largest mobile operator. Pompeo is reported to have accepted.
Under a similar scheme, Joe Biden’s son was earlier invited and accepted to work at the Ukrainian gas production company Burisma. This kind of work pays stratospheric salaries to selected board members who may not even show up to attend meetings or who merely stage rote appearances. It is called “sinecure” in English, defined as a position requiring little or no work but giving the holder status or financial benefit. It is a common form of bribery and corruption of high-ranking officials in capitalist countries, including in subordinate countries such as Ukraine. “This is how bribes are paid in the ‘enlightened’ West,” writes the Telegram channel Open Ukraine, commenting on Mike Pompeo’s new job. “Gone are the days of paying bribes with suitcases stuffed with cash.”
Rifts exposed between Ukraine’s political and military leaders
However, after the failed “counteroffensive” of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU), launched in June of this year to much fanfare but with little achieved many months later, and after recent delays in promised deliveries of more US military supplies to Ukraine (perhaps portending outright cuts to supplies by the US government), a rift has emerged within the Ukrainian power system. Since his election in 2019, Zelensky has already purged the near entirety of the political opposition in the country, accusing many of them of “working for the Kremlin.” So the only political conflicts that can now erupt are internal, pitting the governing regime against this or that clan of former associates. Odessa-based anarchist Vyacheslav Azarov writes that all of opposition politics in Ukraine is now reduced to “squabbles of factions within the ruling party.”
The main rift today is between the country’s political and military leadership. The real power in Ukraine sits with those who control the military, including its far-right paramilitary formations now fully integrated into the regular armed forces. Failures in the counteroffensive have deepened existing frictions and political divisions.
The Ukrainian military is now blaming the political leadership for throwing it to the slaughter for the purpose of providing Western benefactors with images and reports of military “successes,” which, in turn, act to sustain the flow of money and arms to Kyiv. Ukrainian soldiers are routinely labeling their commanders as “butchers” for sending them for the umpteenth time to storm Russian defense lines head-on, in many cases stepping over the bodies of their comrades who fell during previous assaults since June. For his part, Zelensky blames the generals for the failure of the counteroffensive.
According to Zelensky’s former adviser Oleksiy Arestovich (who has fled to the US), the president is in a “serious conflict” with high-ranking Ukrainian military officers over the failure of the AFU counteroffensive. As it turns out, Ukrainian military leaders are not satisfied with the misuse of Western military aid and the low level of competence of the government, as they see it. Zelensky’s policy is simply becoming ineffective, says Arestovich. He explained in a recent interview with Spain’s El Mundo that the position of AFU commander-in-chief Valeriy Zaluzhnyi “often radically diverges” from Zelensky’s position.
Valeriy Zaluzhnyi leads a group of disgruntled military men and is in a position to challenge Zelensky. All other rivals from the 2019 election find themselves either in jail or in exile. Some analysts believe that Zaluzhnyi may be chosen to replace Zelensky for the purpose of leading when the negotiations inevitably take place with Russia. One year ago, Zelensky banned all negotiations with the Russian president. It would be a very difficult sell for him to now turn around and conduct talks.
Zaluzhnyi told The Economist on November 1 that the conflict with Russia had entered a “stalemate.” Zelensky has responded with harsh words for his top general, telling him to “stay out of politics” (as though Zaluzhnyi’s claim of “stalemate” has nothing to do with military realities).
Sergei Markov, director of the Russian Institute for Political Studies, believes that the head of Zelensky’s Office, Andrei Yermak, flew to the United States in mid-November to meet with current Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and coordinate the dismissal of General Zaluzhnyi. “But not simply fire him. If Zelensky fires Zaluzhnyi… he will become a free man who will be able to run for president and win the election [in 2024] against Zelensky. The president suspects that the Americans want to replace him with Zaluzhnyi. Therefore, Zelensky must not just fire Zaluzhnyi, but repress him, accusing him of corruption or high treason. Zelensky can also appoint Zaluzhnyi to a position that prohibits him from participating in elections. This is the main problem that Zelensky is tackling.”
According to Markov, there is a popular belief in United States governing circles that leaders in countries subordinate to the West should be periodically changed so that they do not become too independent. That said, Markov believes that a change of leaders in Ukraine at this stage cannot affect the outcome of Russian military operations for the simple reason that one or the other leader is not the one directing the course of the country. That is being decided and directed in Washington.
An MP from Zelensky’s party, Yevhen Shevchenko, says that General Zaluzhnyi has very flawed perceptions of reality. He dreams and writes about robots replacing humans in combat. If you read his narrative in The Economist on November 1 [text here], his ideas for “winning” the war include acquiring “military-technological innovation,” going so far as to compare today’s situation to that of hundreds of years ago when China first invented and used gunpowder.
“He is referring to robot soldiers,” Shevchenko said. “He saw these robots somewhere at a military exhibition in New York, then came to Zelensky and said, ‘We need those.'”
Shevchenko writes that sooner or later, Ukraine’s supply of soldiers will run out. “Can you imagine the look on Zelensky’s face when he heard about ‘robot soldiers’ from Zaluzhnyi? Now do you understand the nature of their conflict?”
In an interview with Ukrainian political analyst Vadim Karasev, AFU Major General Dmytro Marchenko blames Zaluzhnyi for the failure of the counter-offensive. “Who forced us to attack right at the center of the enemy’s reinforced defenses instead of along the flanks? Who was deciding this? Where are the diversionary and deceptive maneuvers that are needed? Where are they? And we thought he was a brilliant commander,” Marchenko said.
As a Ukrainian saying goes, a victory always has many fathers while a failure or defeat is always an orphan.
There are further rifts within the Ukrainian military. In an interview with Ukraine’s Radio NV, Roman Kostenko, secretary of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on National Security, Defense, and Intelligence, said that Ukrainian military men in the trenches joke that there are two Ukrainian armies: the AFU led by Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, and the one led by Olexandr Syrsky (commander of Ukraine’s ground forces). Each military grouping has its own political ambitions and appetite for funds from the Western sponsors of the war. And the more that funding from the United States decreases, the more the internal strife and competition among American vassals in Ukraine will grow.
Zelensky regime reaching out to Trump and the Republicans for support
In addition to meeting with the Biden administration, Zelensky’s people in the United States are trying to establish contacts with Trump’s entourage, according to Ukrainian MP Oleksandr Dubinsky. Commenting on the recent visit of the head of the Office of President Andriy Yermak to Washington, he writes, “Now the real president of Ukraine, named Yermak, is in the United States trying to convince the American government that there is no corruption in Ukraine and to blame the theft committed by him and those from his circle on the scheming of “Kremlin agents.” He is also trying to arrange a telephone conversation between Zelensky and Trump in order to gain support in Congress for aid to Ukraine, which he and Zelensky are plundering.”
Dubinsky’s comment is written to right-wing US journalist Tucker Carlson in the form of an appeal to join forces in “exposing” the corrupt regime in Kyiv. “By joining our forces, we will be able to reveal to the world the truth about the gang of swindlers who captured Ukraine. Reveal the Ugly Truth that Yermak and Zelensky and their associates are trying to hide.”
Even Zelensky’s advisers are admitting to Western media that corruption is rampant. “People are stealing like there’s no tomorrow,” an unnamed advisor to Zelensky is quoted in TIME magazine on November 1.
Dubinsky was once elected on the ticket of Zelensky’s Servant of the People party, but then the paths of the two diverged as Dubinsky began to criticize the president. Recently, this former associate of Zelensky has been charged with high treason and has been sent to a pre-trial detention center for two months.
Similar procedures have been used in the past in Ukraine to purge any opposition, all in the name of “fighting for democracy.” Typically in Ukraine, the criminally accused do not receive a verdict in court. Instead, they can wallow in jail for years while awaiting a court’s verdict.
Pervasive corruption and the decisive role by Washington
The continuation by Kyiv of the war against Russia and refusal to negotiate to perpetuate not only a dictatorship in Ukraine but also the pervasive corruption in the country, making it a central part of the lives of all of the country’s citizens. Today, the opportunity to flee abroad (and thereby avoid military conscription) costs between US$7,000 and US$10,000 in bribes. Temporary deferment from conscription for six months costs from US$2,000 to US$5,000. For military service outside the combat zone: US$1,000 to US$2,000 for six months. It goes without saying that those employed in military administrations have formed into a parasitic caste with strong material interests in having the war last forever.
However, the duration of the war depends not only on the actions of Ukraine’s authorities. The decisive role is being played by the US government. Even Ukrainian military leaders and ultranationalists recognize Kiev’s complete dependence on the US Ruslan Onishchenko, ex-commander of the Tornado, ultranationalist (far right) battalion of the AFU, told journalist Volodymyr Panchakin in an interview that he believes Ukraine will be forced into negotiations when and only when it suits US interests. “I am leaning towards the fact that we will be dragged to the negotiating table by the scruff of the neck. By whom? By our allies, let’s call them so. I would not like to call them masters, although we are vassals and slaves” he says, acknowledging that the regime in Kyiv is merely a tool or a vassal of the United States.
We should recall who these self-declared US vassals are. In 2015, Ruslan Onischenko and many other members of the Tornado battalion were accused of torture, atrocities, rapes, and sadism which they practiced not only against Donbass residents but sometimes also against their own soldiers. They were sentenced to long prison terms but released in 2022 into the Ukrainian army, to be unleashed against Russian soldiers.
Some Russian political analysts are convinced that the West is merely seeking a temporary respite in the war, enough time to produce more shells and military equipment. Deindustrialization in the West has produced a shortfall in production capacity, unlike in Russia. Once the Western military-industrial complex succeeds in renewing and expanding its production capacity, a new Kyiv regime will once again be pushed into attempts at suicidal revenge against Russia.
Ukrainian voices opposing such a course will continue to be silenced and suppressed. But it is highly unlikely that after all the people of Donbass, Crimea, and the Russian Federation as a whole have been through since 2014, nothing less than Russia’s original goals will be on a negotiation table. The principal Russian conditions for peace remain as before: no NATO membership for Ukraine, and the demilitarization and denazification of the country.