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Spring Cleaning in Kiev: Who Will Push Poroshenko Out?

Whatever power shift occurs in Kiev, it will likely not be a populist movement, but instead another orchestrated coup

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

The word 'March' comes from the Roman 'Martius', named after Mars, the god of war. As the sap just begins to rise in the trees, so do the levels of testosterone among all sorts of folk and this can and does lead to odd behavior like revolution, change and challenges like who can urinate the farthest, strongest and fastest from a standing start. The season looks like it has arrived in the Ukraine when again radical changes are to be expected fairly soon. While my interest is strictly business, this political situation will certainly affect the economic stability of this part of the world, hence my two cents worth of observations.

The current President of the Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, has just the other day “officially” cut economic ties with the Donbass regions. Ukrainian nationalists have also last week united somewhat and declared their crusade against the clans in control of Kiev’s authority. At the start of almost every spring, the country has engaged energetically in political turbulence: resignations, appointments, and a realignment of forces with interests.

<figcaption>The fact remains that today's Ukrainian government was born through a coup — and it will likely end with another one</figcaption>
The fact remains that today's Ukrainian government was born through a coup — and it will likely end with another one

With the notable exception of the Crimea, civil war has been ongoing inside the Ukraine since 2014, although few want to call it what it is. The blame game runs around the fact and term “civil war” with Buddhist concentration. Yet it is civil war, Ukrainians vs Ukrainians, some on the western part, some on the eastern. Few if any foreign entities will even approach financing one or another side in circumstances of a civil war, perhaps that is why this particular civil war is branded, labeled and marketed as “counter-terror operations”, “Russian aggression” or “democratically violent yearnings to integrate into the EU”. The door therefore stays open to officially finance whichever flavor the current regime in Kiev may be by the various interested parties in Western Europe and elsewhere. Interest however is fading fast as objective critical assessment will toss the achievements of this latest Kiev regime into the rubbish bin of credibility.

The fact remains that today's Ukrainian government was born through a coup. The players at the helm in Kiev and their opposition all came to power through a coup, and today (March) they acutely feel the threat of impending change and overthrow. The players in Kiev took power with the support of several rather extreme organizations. They helped install Poroshenko to power, yet were shunted aside from what they felt was their rightfully earned place at the feeding trough. One of the reasons for this coming season of discontent in Kiev is the constant stress and friction between poor and rich nationalists, the right wing have’s and have not’s…. A potent emotional cocktail.

The other seasonal dyspepsia was that the US and the European Union supported the current regime, financially and operationally. Several aspects of Ukraine's sovereignty was de facto transferred abroad, with decisions on domestic and foreign policy issues decided by the previous administration players in the US, and those aligned in Brussels. The new team in Washington has not yet decided what to do with this Ukrainian boondoggle; there are far more important matters on their plate. Without continued US/EU cash and other cheerleading, Poroshenko's position has become less tenable with visibly little to divvy up among his regime’s supporters at the trough.

One rather obvious example that Kiev doesn’t really control or wield authority in its claimed territories are the armed blockades. We have recently seen them becoming more frequent as on the Crimean border, and in areas along the borders with the Donbass region. When masked and armed groups of “persons unknown” can block roads, blockade regions, and blow up power lines unpunished, indicating Kiev’s authority is not recognized inside the Ukraine and policy is sidestepped.

For those who have read Jean-Paul Sartre's “No Exit” the situation is uncannily similar, today Ukraine has the following three mix and match components to shuffle with in their “hell”, let’s call them A, B and C.

Component A: Today, there are several possible democratic replacements with similar “values” as he has that can vie for Poroshenko’s place should early elections be possible, and if the new power grab does not descend into chaos:

  1. The leader of the "Fatherland", Yulia Tymoshenko.

  2. The mayor of Lvov, and the party “Self-Help”, Andrei Sadovy.

  3. The former president of Georgia, and former governor of the Odessa region Mikhail Saakashvili.

  4. The former Defense Minister Anatoly Gritsenko.

  5. The former head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) Valentin Nalyvaychenko.

All the above are “well connected” and seem oriented to the West, which is important if they are to remain viable to receive further loans or other expanded financial support from those sources.

Component B: Should matter in the Ukraine devolve into a cat-fight, then there is the possibility of an ultra-nationalist government: "Freedom" (banned in Russia), "Right Sector" and "National Corps" all of whom to my astonishment came together last week, signed a general manifesto, and declared a national crusade against the current Kiev regime. I do not seriously think they will be able to grab much less hold on to power as they are not attractive to sources of funding be it in the EU or the US. Nevertheless, be that as it may, they are players at this feast.

Component C: The classic troika model headed by today’s Minister of the Interior Arsen Avakov, the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Oleksandr Turchynov, and the former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. They have some support through the structures of the Ukrainian military, as well as the "Azov" regiment. This group will most likely play a role in all cases, as they can force some form of stabilization through the convincing use of arms.

My personal opinion is that whatever power shift occurs in Kiev, it will not be a populist movement, it will again be an orchestrated coup as the social and economic divides have become too wide to engender broad based unity. Sadly, the majority of the good people living in the Ukraine will again be marginalized, and join the flotsam and jetsam of fate. For their sake and the sake of all innocents, I hope not. Rumor has it that the current president has already furnished his alternative residence (just in case) in Spain, but that of course is simply hearsay. I have also heard speculative murmurings that if political values are not respected and chaos happens, the new no-visa regime with the EU will allow any and all citizens of the Ukraine to easily and legally flee to any number of European countries until matters get sorted. Meanwhile springtime is on its way, changes are afoot, and a country with four nuclear power plants in less than optimal working condition may soon be involved in a messy “spring cleaning” as new spaces at the trough are forced open and hurriedly filled.

At the end of the day, it may be Russia who will be asked by both the US and the European nations to urgently fix their mess. Not that Russia would be keen or willing to do so, after all they didn’t set the table nor were they invited to dine, all along they were ignored then accused and vilified, so why should they wash the dirty dishes?

Paul Goncharoff is Chairman, Disciplinary Committee, National Association of Corporate Directors, Russia.

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