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Ukraine in 2021: Repressions against opposition and media, economic stagnation and energy crisis

Author : Skeptik Outlet

Source : 112 Ukraine

The year 2021 will be remembered not for loud victories and achievements, but for loud failures of power led by President Zelensky
10:06, 28 December 2021

112 Agency

In the past year, Zelensky repeatedly violated laws and the Constitution, used law enforcement agencies to suppress opposition, made no progress in Donbas, allowed tariffs and prices to rise, failed the vaccination campaign, and turned a blind eye to the alarming scale of corruption, becoming part of a corrupt system.

Related: Medvedchuk: Ukraine bypassed by gas pipelines from north and south - this is result of reckless activities of Ukrainian authorities

Repressions against the opposition and the closure of objectionable media

It seems that Zelenskiy's main goal in the outgoing year was to strengthen personal power. We saw Zelensky's decisive but failed attempts to remove Viktor Medvedchuk from politics - one of the most experienced and authoritative politicians in Ukraine, People's Deputy of Ukraine, head of the political council of the Opposition Platform - For Life, a party that is the only one offering a real alternative to the current political course. Medvedchuk has the second-largest faction in the Rada, and after the next elections, it will probably be the first. In the local elections, Opposition Platform - For Life won in six regions, becoming the most popular all-Ukrainian political force. Zelensky has emphatically shown that he does not need such competition.

Sensing a threat after Opposition Platform - For Life came out on top in party ratings, without a court decision and in violation of the law against Medvedchuk, the NSDC and Zelensky imposed illegal sanctions. Later, at the behest of Bankova, law enforcement agencies fabricated two criminal cases against the politician, as a result of which Medvedchuk ended up under house arrest. As in the case of the media, no concrete evidence was provided against Medvedchuk.

The National Security and Defense Council this year has become a body with unusual powers. In addition to the sanctions against the citizens of Ukraine, opposition to Zelensky media have come under attack, contrary to the Constitution. The NSDC illegally banned the broadcasting of the TV channels "112 Ukraine", NewsOne and ZIK, and the broadcasting of Pershy Nezalezhny channel, created by journalists, was terminated by a call from the SBU an hour after it went on the air. Unlawful sanctions were introduced against the publications Strana.uа and Shariy.net. There were no adequate reasons for this: only empty accusations and no evidence.

Over time, it became clear that the cases against the opposition leader in the courts were falling apart since there was no evidence against Medvedchuk. The defense of the politician smashed the arguments of the prosecution, the courts refuse to send Medvedchuk into custody, which Zelensky is seeking. Moreover, on October 18, 2021, the Pechersk District Court of the city of Kyiv even ordered the SBI to register criminal proceedings against three SBU experts who fabricated expert opinions against Medvedchuk.

“The fact that the judges are dragging out a decision is a signal to the president that they do not support him. Otherwise, one, maximum two meetings would be enough to make the decision the president needs," comments by lawyer Rostyslav Kravets.

However, Medvedchuk has only become stronger this year. First, the party's and his personal rating is steadily growing. Secondly, at the end of the year, three Ukrainian publications immediately put the leader of the HLE among the top ten most influential politicians in the country. Vesti and Telegraph - 5th place, Correspondent - in 7th. None of the leaders of the Ukrainian parties have been able to achieve such a result. Petro Poroshenko and Yulia Tymoshenko were in the second ten, and the leadership of the Sluha Narodu - even lower.

Third, the persecution of Medvedchuk has become the property of the entire world community. When more than 120 thousand publications wrote about Zelensky's illegal acts in the world media, even outside of Ukraine it became clear to everyone: anyone in our country can now fall under sanctions, under arrest of property, accounts, and no specific grounds are needed for this. Zelensky's power was not revealed in the best possible light.

Related: Medvedchuk: Main issue is peace in Ukraine which our citizens have been waiting for eight years

Now Medvedchuk wants to win the case against the authorities at the ECHR and show his innocence.

Another oppositionist, Petro Poroshenko, after the news of the opening of a criminal case against him, fled from Ukraine to Europe.

Unattainable peace in Donbas

Over the past year, Zelensky has shown complete incompetence and reluctance in resolving the issue of peace in Donbas. He did not release a single Ukrainian, and what is more, he obstructed the release of those whom the ORDLO wanted to transfer to Ukraine. Natalya Statsenko, Svitlana Dovgal, Natalya Savchenko, and Kateryna Kotenko could have been at home back in January, but they continue to rot in prisons in the uncontrolled territory since Zelensky did not want to see Medvedchuk in the negotiation process, to whom the occupied Donbas authorities intended to unilaterally transfer women. Later, three more women could return from the occupied Donbas but Zelensky left them there as well.

"Instead of responding to people's requests for peace... President Zelensky... fell, like the previous leaders, under the influence of radical elements, as the "Nazis" say in Ukraine... We want to build good-neighborly relations with Ukraine. We go to almost everything, but how can we build relationships with the current leadership? Given the fact that they are doing it is almost impossible, but we are ready to work with those forces that would like to build good relations with Russia. What is happening with these forces? Extrajudicial killings, sanctions against their citizens, that contradict the laws, the Constitution of Ukraine, or just murder in the street," Putin said.

By "these forces" Putin means Medvedchuk, who stands for the restoration of economic cooperation between Ukraine and Russia, in the interests of the citizens of our country, and this is recorded in the program of the Opposition Platform - For Life party. As a result of this difficult year, Medvedchuk remained the main channel for negotiations with the Russian Federation. Without it, there will be no dialogue between Kiev and Moscow. Putin directly demands from Zelensky to release Medvedchuk.

Instead of establishing diplomacy, Zelensky announced the construction of barriers on the border of Ukraine with Poland and Belarus. Billions of hryvnias can be scrapped because our country is officially not entitled to such actions. The procedures for the demarcation and delimitation of our border have not yet been completed.

Related: Medvedchuk: Biden's phone talks with Putin and Zelensky - another attempt to resolve Donbas conflict

Unfortunately, everything that we saw in 2021 regarding Donbas was loud patriotic slogans instead of real meanings.

Oblivion on the world stage

Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba recently said that the department's main achievement in 2021 was the creation of a coherent foreign policy strategy - the first in 30 years of independence.

"Thanks to her, Ukraine meets 2022 with the strongest positions in the years of independence," Kuleba said.

To say that this is an exaggeration is to say nothing. All year Zelensky scared Ukrainians that "Putin will attack." But Putin did not attack and is not going to, instead, he chose the path of economic strangulation of Ukraine in order to force the Ukrainian government to make concessions.

Zelensky boasted of reaching an understanding with the American president, but nothing good happened here either. The US behind Ukraine's back has agreed with Germany and Russia to launch Nord Stream 2, which will deprive Ukraine of $ 3 billion in gas transit revenues. Biden avoided meeting with Zelensky for a long time, and already at the event he was as restrained as possible. US military support to Ukraine looked simply like ridding America of unnecessary weapons.

Taking into account that Zelensky never reached an agreement with Russia on sufficient volumes of gas pumped through his GTS, we will soon have a headache regarding where to get gas, at least for our own needs. But if the president had not buried the idea of ​​the consortium, which Medvedchuk insisted on, everything could have been completely different.

Political scientist Ruslan Bortnik draws attention to the conciliatory messages from Biden and European leaders regarding the Russian Federation. In particular, the American president said that he would discuss with NATO partners Russian concerns about the expansion of the Alliance. The West is tired of the confrontation with Russia, which means that the agenda of the Ukrainian "hawks" will soon be unclaimed on the world stage. Within the country, it is also rapidly losing popularity.

The Crimean Platform cannot be called successful either. Although the event was attended by representatives of 46 states, if you look at the specific people who attended it, you can understand that world leaders ignored the event. Its results are purely declarative: a Declaration was signed, securing the status of the "Crimean Platform" as a consultative and coordinating format for the de-occupation of the peninsula.

Non-working restrictions and compulsory vaccinations

Zelensky systematically reports on the effective response to Covid, on the sufficient rates of vaccination, keeping silent about what actually achieves them due to the introduction of compulsory vaccination, prohibiting the unvaccinated from working in the civil service. Even with such coercion, the country is failing to meet the original plan of 8 million doses per month.

This is not to say that vaccination has really become truly affordable for all Ukrainians. Contrary to the statements about the availability of vaccinations, residents of villages in the region have to try pretty hard to get vaccinated. Zelensky refused the Russian vaccine, which Viktor Medvedchuk had agreed to produce in Kharkiv, and Ukraine failed to start the vaccination campaign because of this. While other countries vaccinated their citizens, many Ukrainians died from missing vaccines.

Related: Medvedchuk: Instead of establishing peace in Donbas, fulfilling Minsk agreements, authorities distract people by persecuting opposition

Due to the complete randomness of quarantine restrictions, people stopped taking them seriously, even in spite of the draconian fines. The burden on doctors is not decreasing, and given that payments are being delayed, many leave to work.

There is a real shortage of hospital beds. Throughout 2021, they were often created on paper, as many hospitals simply did not receive funds. Due to the lack of oxygen, Ukrainians had to breathe technical O2, which is dangerous to health, but Zelensky nobly sent our oxygen to help India.

There was practically no "quarantine" support for the population with limited rights for the entire 2021. The Ukrainian state has demonstrated in every possible way that it does not care at all about the welfare of its citizens. Zelensky’s decision to pay Ukrainians a thousand hryvnias for vaccinations, which cannot be spent on communal services or food, cannot be called effective.

Poor population

This year, the authorities are much more difficult to justify their failures in the economy with a pandemic. So, almost no recovery after a difficult 2020 is observed. According to the IMF, the GDP growth rate by the end of 2021 will amount to only 3.5%, but this is still only forecasts. That is, the policies of the Cabinet of Ministers and the Office of the President did not even help compensate for the fall of 2020.

According to YouControl, as of December 15, 38 thousand new companies were registered in Ukraine, which is 4% less than last year. Thus, measures to support Ukrainian business are not working. The "Available Credits 5-7-9" program, which was actively promoted by Zelensky's team, did not become widespread due to strict criteria that significantly limit the circle of its recipients.

Even a weak attempt to return the workers to their homeland thanks to loans of up to UAH 150 thousand for starting a business turned out to be so untenable that in the end the program was closed. The "mini-jobs" from the government did not work either. The Ukrainians did not rush to the construction of roads, to the post office, to social work for 7 thousand UAH per month.

At the same time, food prices rose in price in 2021. Eggs - by more than 54%, butter - by 35% and sugar - by 34%. "As a result, in the first quarter of 2021, the Ukrainians' own savings in total decreased by UAH 60 billion. According to a survey of the Sociological Group" Rating ", during 2021 the financial situation of 50% of Ukrainian families worsened, while it improved only for 9%, while for the rest it remained unchanged.

Social support of the population left much to be desired. Only the oldest Ukrainians, lonely and over 75 years old, could wait for a modest increase in pensions - and this is with an average life expectancy in Ukraine of 72 years. They have to go through the bureaucratic circles of hell: write statements, collect certificates of family composition, go through a medical advisory commission about health problems.

All other citizens did not wait for any significant increase in the quality of life. But on officials, contrary to all Zelensky's promises, they do not save money. The expenses for the maintenance of the President, the Verkhovna Rada, and the Cabinet of Ministers are growing from year to year.

The poverty of Ukrainians did not prevent in 2021 from continuing to bury money in the "Big Construction", which is fanned by so many scandals that they can only be fully described in a separate series of materials. The authorities spend hundreds of millions on airport repairs without a strategy, and for the sake of building the Kyiv ring road they are trying to "squeeze" land from Ukrainians through a simplified judicial procedure.

Related: EU leaders demand from Zelensky to release Medvedchuk from house arrest, lift sanctions against opposition media

Ukrainians can hardly afford growing utility bills, and in 2022 this problem will intensify significantly. In 2021, the authorities managed to bring the energy sector into a disastrous state. Until the end of the heating season, our country may lack 3.6 billion cubic meters of gas. Zelensky plans to make payments even more unbearable for citizens, as he continues to meet all creditors' claims. According to the published text of the Memorandum with the IMF, Ukraine must release gas prices to float freely in order to receive loans from the state. Moreover, the memorandum even includes the obligations of our country on the implementation of the "norms" for vaccination.

If in 2020 a dry winter and a cold spring caused a drop in yields, then in 2021 we were lucky with the weather. The farmers managed to carry out the sowing campaign in a timely manner and in full due to the fact that they had signed forward contracts in advance. However, the authorities managed to cut off the oxygen to the farmers: under the guise of an attack on the oligarchs, Law 5600 was adopted, which significantly increases taxes to farmers and other medium and large businesses, finishing them off into a pandemic.

The agricultural land market, which Zelensky's team adopted contrary to the Constitution, is not working. Due to the unpreparedness for the launch, which the opposition has trumpeted for several years, there are only isolated elements of its sale and purchase. Naturally, the reform failed to fill the treasury with taxes.

Ze-team weakens and falls apart

In 2022, Zelensky's team enters considerably weakened. The politicians who surround him get into the news reports not in connection with the real results of work, but only in connection with high-profile scandals. There are no significant results of the ministers' work. Multiple rotations have no effect, but only distract Ukrainians from failures in various areas.

During the year, the ministers of internal affairs and defense were replaced - they did not live up to the president's expectations. But the childhood friend of the president, the head of the SBU, Ivan Bakanov, has not lost his post. The SBU under Bakanov, instead of protecting national security, in practice, fabricates cases against Zelensky's opponents. The conflict between the SBU and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau has become public. It does not prevent Bakanov from occupying his post, and the fact that he "got a crust" because of an offshore company registered in his name, a scheme that was exposed by the authors of the Pandora Papers investigation.

Related: Russia repeatedly raised issue of illegal persecution of Medvedchuk in Ukraine to the West, - Lavrov

Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Oleksiy Danilov is not an independent figure, but only carries out Bankova's instructions regarding sanctions against the opposition and business. Danilov at such a pace may well earn a prison sentence. Moreover, an investigation was recently published stating that he covers up the illegal trade in tires with the "Luhansk People's Republic" "Servant of the people" member Ruslan Gorbenko.

Prime Minister Denys Shmygal, as expected, is a completely tame prime minister who has never shown his personality apart from Ze-team. The results of his government's work are in tariff payments and on price tags in stores.

As for Andriy Yermak, he took over all possible powers, recruiting people for key positions in the state and even coordinating the country's domestic and foreign policy. Some media outlets even recognize him as a more influential politician than the president.

"The situation when a person without legal powers is de facto the second person in the state, greatly alienates the political reality from the model of government provided by the Constitution," Anatoliy Oktisyuk, an expert at the House of Democracy, is convinced.

Related: Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech on demands of EU leaders to lift illegal sanctions from opposition media: Zelensky must correct his criminal mistakes – open media, stop prosecution of Medvedchuk

I must say that, despite the growing influence, the head of the President's Office in 2021 was unable to prove in practice the success of his appointment, because under him the President's Office, attacking the opposition, is forced to fend off a host of opponents, and the peace negotiations, which became the domain of Yermak, absolutely failed.

The mono-majority in parliament is losing its bayonets. The shaken positions of the president and his ambitions disproportionate to the law are forcing the deputies to abandon the sinking ship. In particular, this is what ex-speaker Dmytro Razumkov did, who declared his disagreement with the murderous course of the authorities and went into opposition.

Thus, Zelensky was unable to complete any of his goals. The outgoing year 2021 is simply wasted for him. And the promise to leave office if there is no peace in Donbas has become another unfulfilled in a long list of failed hopes.

Related: Putin about Medvedchuk: Out of court reprisals take place in Ukraine, sanctions imposed on citizens who advocate good neighborly relations with Russia

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