(De)Centralization of Ukraine and Military-Political Situation On the Eve of the Vladimir Putin’s Speech at the 70th UN General Assembly Session

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What should we expect from the 70th anniversary session of the UN General Assembly  and the Putin’s speech in it?

(De)Centralization of Ukraine and Military-Political Situation On the Eve of the Vladimir Putin's Speech at the 70th UN General Assembly Session

Originally appeared at Eurasian-defence; Translated by Olga Seletskaia for SouthFront

The law on decentralization has caused a strong reaction among Ukrainian radicals, and it turned into clashes with police near the Verkhovna Rada of August 31. This fact, and the overall situation around Minsk agreements have led to a further split within the Ukrainian politicians. Thus, in accordance with the constitutional reform, the state of Ukraine must undergo constitutional changes; namely, to become a DE-centralized state with special status for the regions which are now called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. Thus, it is important to look at the essence of the decentralization, which caused clashes and resulted in three dead security forces men and hundreds more wounded.

In accordance with the decision of №2217a / P1, the Constitution Amendment bill on the decentralization of power (№2217a), “stipulates that the territory of Ukraine is divided into “gromadas”. Gromada is the primary unit in the administrative and territorial structure of Ukraine. It also proposes to exclude local state administrations from the constitutional regulation and, accordingly, to abolish the institution of heads of local state administrations (governors of regions – O.S.). It provides for the creation of executive bodies of local self-government, which are to report to the Gromada Council. It is suggested to establish the institution of prefects to monitor the observance of the Constitution and laws of Ukraine by local authorities. The draft stipulates that President of Ukraine appoints and dismisses the prefects whose candidatures are submitted by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine. The prefect shall suspend the acts of local self-government on the grounds of their inconsistency with the Constitution or laws of Ukraine with a simultaneous appeal to the court”. Prefects themselves are responsible to the President, but they are controlled by the government and they report to the government. The amended Article 119 of the Constitution says that the prefect, “on the ground and in the manner prescribed by law, shall issue acts, binding on the respective territory.” It emphasizes that the “acts of the prefects, issued on the exercise of the powers specified in paragraphs 1 and 4 of the first part of this article may be revoked by the President of Ukraine, and issued on the exercise of the powers specified in paragraphs 2 and 3 of this Article, by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine “. If the chairman of the community, or of the community council, or of the district, or of the area acts in a way, non-compliant with the Constitution of Ukraine, the President of Ukraine suspends the act and “At the same time appeals to the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, temporarily stops the powers of the head of the community, the board of the community, district, regional council and appoints a temporary state commissioner.” Despite the fact that the prefect has less authority than the governor, the institute of which is abolished in accordance with the new changes, the prefect’s authority is very significant. In fact, the President may suspend every act of local government, which will be interpreted as not in compliance to the Constitution, and he can suspend the authority of those who implemented the act. Then follows the appeal to the Constitutional Court, which in practice is an independent institution on the territory of Ukraine. As a result, it is clear that the bill itself does not lead to decentralization, but rather enhances it and strengthens the presidential vertical of power.

This Poroshenko’s move looks logical, because it helps him to solve several problems at once, and immediate supervisors of the current neo-Nazi regime in Kiev actually managed to enhance the manageability of the process. It is obvious that there are forces among the American and, to a lesser extent, the European establishment, who lobby other Ukrainian politicians, but so far those who brought Poroshenko to power gain the advantage. An important point should be emphasized: there should be no illusions about the ultimate goals of the curators of the Kiev regime, as the meaning of their action is not to build a strong country, but to make it more manageable, which is not the same thing. Manageability in the scheme is needed to make better use of its border states in a new Cold War between the West and Russia. At the same time Poroshenko, receiving a strong support from the outside, is trying by all means to weaken his rivals, for example, oligarch Kolomoisky and many radicals, including O. Lyashko and outright Nazis like Tyagnybok or Mosiychuk. “The Prosecutor General of Ukraine opened a case” on Kolomoisky and Lyashko on suspicion of kidnapping, unlawful deprivation of liberty and torture, “O. Tyagnybok, the leader of “Svoboda”, along with his accomplices, was summoned to the Central Investigation Department of the Ministry of Interior with regards to the events of August 31 near the Parliament. In all cases, there is a clear line of weakening the most notorious and radical elements. It also solved two problems, the first of which is to punish those who interfere Poroshenko building the vertical of power. The second lies in the elimination of political opponents through the use of repressive measures. The Minister of Interior A. Avakov plays not the last role in this process, so it is possible that a grenade explosion during the riots on August 31 could be a planned provocation aimed against the radicals. The goal is clear – the most active supporters of the continuation of hostilities are preventing implementation of the Minsk Agreement by Poroshenko for whom in the short-term their implementation is a priority. Of course, we are talking about the implementation of agreements in the interpretation and on the terms of P. Poroshenko, as it will be discussed below. The radicals, the neo-Nazis are able to thwart the plans of the Ukrainian regime and to weaken its position in the country, which is the main cause of attacks on their representatives.

Finally, the situation with the Ukrainian domestic political opposition in the context of military, political and geopolitical situation in the region should be mentioned. Undoubtedly, the phony process of decentralization will be beneficial for Poroshenko because he can report about the Minsk Agreements’ implementation, knowing that the West will support him in this. Obviously, imitation of the Minsk Agreements’ implementation has nothing to do with their actual implementation, since the constitutional reform took place without taking into account paragraph 11 of the Second Minsk Agreement, according to which “a new Constitution that will be in effect from the end of 2015, and its key element is decentralization (taking into account the characteristics of individual regions of Donetsk and Lugansk regions, consistent with the representatives of those areas) “. Poroshenko will take credit for such “implementation” and he will enjoy political dividends. However, Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics announced their elections not on the same day as local elections in Ukraine (October 25), but on 18 October and 1 November, respectively. As a result there is quite a difficult situation. Poroshenko himself realizes that he benefits from the Minsk Agreement in the favourable to him interpretation, because in the case of reintegration of the DPR and the LPR on his conditions, he will be able to credit himself for this.

READ MORE: Donbass Update February 5, 2017

Poroshenko and his curators’ purpose is obvious: the two republics must be part of the Republic of the Ukraine, but maintaining them at a certain decent level must be Russia’s responsibility. Poroshenko put forward the condition under which the Minsk Agreements’ implementation should be carried out precisely in 2015, as he said at the 12th annual meeting of Yalta European Strategy (YES) in Kiev: “I ask Leonid Kuchma, my Representative in the Tripartite Liaison Group, to cancel a statement that it is possible to continue the Minsk process in 2016. No, it must fulfill its commitments in 2015, because Ukraine has already paid a heavy price for the failure of the Minsk agreements”. According to what has been said, the transfer of the border should be completed before 2016, which automatically increases pressure on Russia, including the threat of use of force against the two republics, if Moscow refuses to act on Kiev’s terms. Apparently, unawareness about the Kremlin’s position on the supporting DPR and LPR is a major factor, that does not yet allow Kiev to expand its offensive.

For Moscow the goal is by returning the Republics back to the Ukraine, to have the opportunity to influence them, and ultimately, to influence Kiev. It is unlikely that Russia’s political leadership has entirely given up on the opportunity to influence the situation in the region, because such a move would lead to political defeat in this key direction. Accordingly, the question is: how will the Kremlin combine its influence on the uncontrolled areas with the transfer of control over the whole border to Kiev? Therefore, such a configuration of mutually exclusive interests will increase the risk of a new military escalation between Donbas and Kiev regime. Potential deterioration of the military and political situation may happen because the local elections in the Republics and the Ukraine will be held on different dates, as well as because of Kiev’s reluctance to hold direct talks with their current leadership. Another reason is mentioned by the ex-minister of DPR Igor Strelkov. According to his estimates, military actions can resume as early as late September to early autumn slush. The purpose of the offensive can be to put pressure on Putin, who will be visiting New York, the 70th anniversary session of the UN General Assembly, as head the Russian delegation. The session opens on September 15 and it will end on October 6. Putin will deliver his speech on September 28, and that’s when if not a full-scale invasion (about which Strelkov warns), but at least serious provocations can be expected. In addition, from a recent interview with Putin, we can conclude that Moscow’s position remains the same.

The Kremlin demands that “amendments to the Constitution should be agreed with the Donbass”, and “the law on elections to local government bodies should be coordinated with the Donbas”. According to Putin, these are the most important and basic things that lay the foundation for a peaceful settlement, but they are not honoured by Kiev. Then, it is a dead end with no other choice but war. However, the risk of transferring Donbass under the full control of Kiev (which implies control over the border) exists, and the threat of new sanctions against Russia plays a significant role here. Actually, Poroshenko’s tactic is clear: if Moscow would not comply with his requirements, Kiev will ask for additional sanctions of the West against Russia. West reads the situation well and has already agreed to the new sanctions, “if the authorities of self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk do not hold local elections on October 25 – on the same day as the rest of the Ukraine”. As of now, elections in the DPR are scheduled for October 18, and in LPR – for November 1. The West believes that Russia has unlimited influence on the leadership of the republics in the Donbass, and the West takes the refusal to hold elections on the same day as in the rest of the Ukraine as “demonstrative” violation of the Minsk Agreement “. Hence, it is possible that the top political leadership of Russia identified some red line for itself, crossing which would be equivalent to a complete defeat. In this case, new sanctions will not change Moscow’s position and the likelihood of the resumption of full-scale hostilities or acts of provocation in the next two months will grow by leaps and bounds. This scenario is not predetermined, but it is very real, and perhaps Vladimir Putin’s speech at the UN General Assembly will shine more light on the upcoming events.

In the next two-month time period the situation will reach a bifurcation point and the further development of military-political situation in the region, as well as between Russia and the West in general, will depend on which phase it will go into.

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