Current situation in Ukraine and predictive domestic political scenarios

Project Manager -
Andrii Yermolaiev, philosopher, SG SOFIA

This analytical material does not contain any projects or suggestions. January 2021
First «predicted scenarios», the matrix of which has been used as a basis for this material, were prepared in 2017. More than 3 years have passed. A number of quality characteristics and assessments remained unchanged. Nevertheless, it should be recognised that life brought its adjustments to then proposed scenarios («linear», «reboot», «internal coup», «Ukrainian Novo-Ogarevo process»). The anti-military and anti-corruption protest potential of the society was compensated by the election campaign in 2019. Petro Poroshenko's regime did not dare to take emergency measures. Regional elites have taken advantage of the radical changes in the Centre for the sake of strengthening their own personnel and political positions before the local elections campaign to the self-government bodies.
Social and territorial losses ( the transfer of AR Crimea to the Russian Federation, separatism and «hybrid» war in Donbass) were not a tragic accident or a coincidence of geopolitical circumstances, but are part of the unfolding internal transformations closely related to the crisis of the entire post-Soviet space. The "Second Transformation" (First Transformation - the crisis and collapse of the FSU) is primarily due to the weaknesses of the social system of Ukraine itself, the inefficiency of the predatory corporate state that has developed over the years of independence, the failed modernisation changes in the institutions and in the economy of the country, and as a consequence - the beginning of processes of internal localisation and fragmentation. But in post-Maidan Ukraine, the Second Transformation was understood and perceived by the Ukrainian political and economic elite as a chance for an internal redistribution of power, the state and its assets, spheres of influence, and capital. And it is natural that the post-Maidan government, which was formed in Ukraine in 2014, failed and could not cope with the main task of its time - a new consolidation of society based on strengthening self-government and the general civil peace.

The substitution of self-government by elite-corporate "decentralization", dismantling of the institutions of the social state (reforms in healthcare, education, science and the cultural sphere), strengthening of the power bloc (army, special services, law enforcement agencies and most of the paramilitary formations) and the dominance of a primitive entrepreneurial model of economic development escalated increased the social tension, a new flow of human capital abroad, the level of criminalisation of society, tolerance. the already low level of internal social Ukraine is going through the Second Transformation as through crisis of statehood itself, which threatens with new conflicts and new fragmentation.
Traditionally a lot of expectations are laid on a political force in power in Ukraine (the president and his entourage, the "party of power" in the parliament and government). Perhaps, therefore, as a panacea for the unfolding destructive processes of 2014-2018 the path of broad support for political forces, which were perceived in society as a "new generation" that replaced the «old» was chosen.

The 2019 election campaign (presidential and early parliamentary elections) received a widespread assessment as the "electoral revolution" (and even the "electoral Maidan"). In the presidential and parliamentary elections of 2019, Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his very young «Servant of the People» party received an unconditional victory with an agenda of peace and frank dialogue with Russia (Donbass, Crimea), justice (wages, tariffs and prices for socially sensitive goods, privileges of " political class ", tolerance in national and linguistic issues), responsible non-corrupt politics (rejection of the privileges of the" political class ", the fight against corruption), moving away from cooperation with the oligarchy. His opponent Petro Poroshenko lost largely because by the time of the elections he was associated by the majority of voters with the "party of war" and with high-profile corruption scandals.
2020 will go down in history as the year of the Global Pandemic (COVID-19). The danger of a deadly disease affects the deepest motives of a person. This is a vital challenge that pushes into the background all other everyday problems and adversities. And in this sense, Ukrainian 2020, as the year of the Catastrophes (pandemic, fires, floods, plane crashes), revealed a rather strong potential for patience and compassion in the Ukrainian society. As in the first year and a half of the war in Donbass (2014-2016), the "deep society" turned out to be stronger and more resilient than the "weak state". The volunteer movement, humanitarian aid of the population, local programs through self-government bodies, business charity - all this shows the ability of the Ukrainian society to survive and act together. But - such social qualities and abilities were perceived in society itself as "action contrary to" the policy of the authorities themselves.

For Ukraine, overcoming the pandemic (COVID-19) has become the very "test of maturity", the failure of which makes the crisis of national power irreversible. (Worth noting that in many countries with a high incidence, the pandemic has become a trigger for political crises).

In turn, the irresponsibility and ineffectiveness of the Ukrainian authorities in the vital issues of combating the pandemic were easily transferred (extrapolated) to other controversial and socially painful issues: land reform, gambling business permission, loan policy (foreign loans, government bonds), restrictions and pressure on small and medium- sized businesses, growth of tariffs for housing and communal services, etc.
A year and a half after coming to power, the young "Ze regime" (Zelensky and his Office team, the mono-majority of the "Servant of the People" in parliament) not only lost the reputation of a "national winner", but also lost the moral right to such an important "party of power" characterisation as "national power". The policy of the new "Ze regime" began to be perceived as "dependent", dependent "on external control", "colonial". Those who were supported as the "savior of Ukraine" in 2019 became the embodiment of a new enslavement and dependence in 2020.

It should also be borne in mind that for the overwhelming majority of voters and supporters of Zelensky, the new President in 2019 became the hope for a sustainable peace and the return of Donbass.Zelensky's peacekeeping position, his first steps to restore dialogue with the Russian Federation and members of the Normandy Group, a successful exchange of prisoners, a productive meeting of the Normandy Group in Paris (December 2019) - all of this supported positive expectations. Local elections in Donbass in October 2020 seemed quite real. Zelenskiy's activity and his 2019 peacekeeping initiatives clearly contrasted with the military image and belligerent patriotism of ex-President Poroshenko. The launch of the National Platform for Reconciliation and Unity project (S. Sivokho) looked like the beginning of a large-scale presidential project, which could become the second successful socio-political project, along with the newly-minted Servant of the People party of power.

But the peacekeeping spurt of 2019 was first paused, and by spring the actions and statements of the Ze regime were not much different from the statements of ex-President Poroshenko. In the media, expert-political environment and mass consciousness, Zelensky's indecision and passivity in 2020 was perceived as a "return" to the "war party" (a common stereotype is "a return to Poroshenko's politics"). And even Zelensky's undoubted diplomatic success in ensuring a fairly stable ceasefire (August 2020 - ...) did not rehabilitate the President. Many supporters of peaceful solutions perceived this ceasefire as a "freeze of the conflict." Against the background of pandemic fears and economic downturn, the "frozen" conflict also began to be perceived as a new norm, and the public demand for more decisive action began to fade away.

Intrigues in the TCG and the change of the Ukrainian delegation's head (the departure of L. Kuchma, the arrival of L. Kravchuk) only made the situation worse. In the fall of 2020, two uncoordinated plans for the implementation of the "Minsk agreements" were presented (proposals from the self-proclaimed Lugansk and Donetsk People's Republics and the so-called "Kravchuk plan"). But the Ukrainian side was clearly not ready for dialogue and did not agree to a number of advantageous proposals that were contained in an alternative plan (in particular, the readiness of the separatists for the status of "autonomous regions", which corresponds to the provisions of the "Minsk Agreements"). As a result, the negotiation process reached a dead end.

The National Platform for Reconciliation and Unity, which was now backed by several single activists, without the support of the President and his Office, and without active participation of the President's «Servant of the People party» activists, has also found itself in the periphery of events.

In general, Zelenskiy's peacekeeping line was unsuccessful, and he actually lost his reputation as the "president of the peace" (the most important feature of the presidential race winner in 2019, which ensured high mobilization of voters and great trust). In this regard, no "large construction projects" and "electronic services" will replace the failed reconciliation and restoration of unity with Donbass. And this already is both a sociological and obvious fact.
Unsuccessful anti-pandemic measures in 2020, poor budgeting and the deplorable state of national health care, extremely controversial information policy set in motion all structures of society: certain social strata (doctors, entrepreneurs, pensioners), elite groups (regional elites that opposed the decisions of the central government) , civil and media community, political opposition. In turn, the rise in utility tariffs, job losses, falling incomes and public discontent with the size of quarantine fines have activated more layers of the population. And if by the spring of 2020, positive public expectations were replaced by disappointments, then by the fall of 2020, the growth of civil protest actions began again. The "Vradievsky syndrome" - that is, the readiness for a quick and self- organizing active civil protest - has already become a vivid social phenomenon in the fall of 2020-winter 2021.

Patience and the ability to collectively survive vital challenges, on the one hand, and the "reflexes of revolution", on the other, have created a situation of delicate equilibrium that can last long enough, but at the same time quickly collapse ("crumble") due to a large and a resonant general shock (- the problem of the "common agenda").
In the local elections (October 2020), the regional elites became the main winner. They have strengthened their positions due to the decentralisation policy of 2014-2020. And for the first time after the distant 1994-1998, regional elites acted as independent, albeit scattered players. Not a single political force (party, bloc) of the Center, from the rulling «Servant of the People» party to strong and financially secure opponents of the regime - Eurosolidarity (ex-President P. Poroshenko) and Oposition Platform «For Life»(V. Medvedchuk), coude unite regional elites around themselves, even on a limited scale.

The regions "left" the Center dominance, using the image of «friendly faces». And they are preparing for a big auction, and even for the "capture" of the Center.
By early 2021, «Ze's» regime had become a common anti-hero. Zelensky is now perceived as a traitor to his television prototype - «Goloborodko" (The character of V.Zelensky in the TV series «Servant of the People»). And his disappointed and angry voters need new "heroes." With each new failure of Zelensky, this desire will only intensify.

In the new, vital conditions of fears and catastrophes, the alternative may look like either a new "miracle", a true "folk hero", or else - masculine authority and disciplining force, which brings order and puts everything in its place.

People's Hero or Tyrant. There will be little space for the third.
General characteristics
1. Crisis / disintegration of the social system (localisation and "provincialisation" of life, a high level of labor, business and "educational" migration, ageing of the population, an increase in the proportion of the precariat among the working population).

2. A "weak state" with a crisis political system, with half-destroyed institutions of a "social state" and hypertrophied security institutions and new mechanisms for regulating freedoms (quarantine regimes, the digital platform "Diya", financial and banking control, etc.) ...

3. De-industrialisation and fragmentation of the national economy (falling level of internal division of labor, raw materials orientation, high import dependence, a large share of the "shadow sector" of the economy).

4. New regionalisation, based on the economic and political opportunities created by decentralisation in the context of the collapse of intra-economic ties and economic downturn.

5. Geopolitical and geoeconomic impasse. The transformation of Ukraine into a non-subject territory - a part of a "global province" located outside of large geo-projects.

6. Establishment of prerequisites for further political and economic fragmentation of Ukraine.
Detailed characteristics and assessment
destruction of the "structures of everyday life" and the prevailing lifestyles (work, everyday life and personal life, leisure). Localisation of daily life. The collapse of intra-national horizontal ties. Decrease in activity and level of public communications outside production and professional sphere of activity;
accelerated growth of unemployment. An increase in the number of a new growing social stratum - the precariat (the social stratum of employees with temporary jobs and without adequate social guarantees from the employer and the state). A high level of external labor migration, an increase in the share of "non-return" migration of highly qualified labor force (complex professions - doctors, engineers, industrial workers, scientists);
a significant decrease in the level of income and living standards of all strata of society without exception. "New poverty" of the Ukrainian middle class;
"Impoverished paternalism" - the growing dependence of society on the state-employer (the armed forces, law enforcement agencies and special services, health care, education, science, social services) and the state -"patternus" (pensions, unemployment benefits, social compensation at tariffs, health services ) in conditions of chronic underfunding, huge state budget indebtedness and direct dependence of the Pension Fund on state subsidies;
Competition between the state and local government for paternalistic services (anti-pandemic quarantine measures, assistance to entrepreneurship, social assistance, medical institutions support, etc.);
further increase in the level of criminality. Strengthening of the organised crime, strengthening of criminals influence on the political system, especially on local self-government bodies. The high level of "street crime" and the growth of the so-called "domestic crimes";
falling "level of trust" in the new government (formed following the 2019 elections). Relatively high "level of patience" motivated by internal and external threats (COVID-19 pandemic, war in Donbass, economic instability);
localised growth of social tension and spontaneous civil activity associated with the reaction of society to the restriction of entrepreneurial freedoms, falling incomes, rising tariffs, corrupt actions of the authorities regarding redistribution of land and communal assets, etc. Local riots and demonstrations indicate the restart of the so-called "Reflexes of revolution" (P. Sorokin's term), which has been typical for Ukraine since the second half of 2012. and throughout 2013. on the eve of the events on the Maidan ("vradievsky syndrome");
passion of sub-proletarians involved in hostilities in the Donbass. Politicisation and high ideological mobilisation of "national-patriotism" and «national-statism» supporters;
the passivity of the humanitarian class, which over the past two decades has lost its social status and capabilities of the "middle class" and found itself in the position of the "humanitarian proletariat". The disunity of humanitarian workers, low civil engagement and social pessimism lead to its "erosion". Some of the humanitarians have joined the masses of labor migration. The deficit of public "moral authorities" capable of expressing the common interests of the "humanitarian proletariat" is also obvious.
Some generalisations. In the context of a pandemic, war and a general decline in living standards, the "precarisation" of the general population (industrial sector, small business, humanitarian sphere) is dynamically unfolding due to the high availability of hired labor and a drop in the level of self-employment, a sharp decrease in the level of income to a critical minimum. There is also a risk of the lumpen proletarians emergence (an impoverished and unemployed part of the urban population who lost their jobs and does not have a permanent income, including the lack of state and local support). The lumpen proletariat can become a new hired "street force" for radical actions in large cities (capital Kiev, regional centers).

A significant part of the more than 12 million pensioners receiving pensions from the Pension Fund (excluding pensioners on the territory of the self-proclaimed LDPR) is on the verge of "pauperisation" ("urban poverty"). At the same time, according to observers, the population in the uncontrolled part of Donbass (especially the socially unprotected layers) faces a real humanitarian catastrophe (income, living conditions, food, medical assistance, etc.)

The 2020-21 quarantine measures have collapsed the already low level of interregional communications (civil, business, cultural and humanitarian), which is especially noticeable in the East of Ukraine (areas bordering the territory of hostilities and places of deployment of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in Donbas).

A decrease in the level of internal communications and restrictions on movement in the East of Ukraine stimulate "localisation" of life and orientation of people towards local opportunities and methods of survival, increase the dependence and loyalty of residents to local elites (authorities of the United Territorial Communities, district, city and region). This played an important role in electoral behaviour and motivation for voters to vote in the 2020 local elections.

Protest activity, which during 2020 was restrained by the risks of a pandemic and the depressive state of society as a whole, began to grow again by the end of 2020 and early 2021. It is also important to take into account that the growth of protest sentiments and actions (so far) of a local nature finds support among the new local authorities (based on the results of the 2020 local elections), where local elites and local political investors play a key role. Protest potential can be dramatically increased in the event of major infrastructural shocks (gas and energy supply), resonant elite scandals (new facts of corruption), high-profile political events of a tragic nature (resonant political crimes against civil rights).

The weakness of the humanitarian "proletarised" class and the lack of moral authority reinforce the radical populist sentiments of the active part of the protesting citizens. A rapid rise in the influence of local and national radical populist forces is quite likely.
Spiritual life, culture
the media space of Ukraine is extremely politicised and subordinated to the interests of party-political groups and individual political investors. The media space has a vivid propaganda and agitation orientation;
marginalisation of everyday spiritual life, formation of stable media addiction (TV and the Internet). Utilitisation of consumption and limitation to mass-cult products;
archaic forms of mass consciousness, a high level of hypnotisability (susceptibility to propagandistic attitudes), the dominance of political myths as system-forming in the idea of what is happening;
a new vacuum of a "positive image of the future", de-motivation of common goals and the dominance of attitudes towards personal survival;
destruction of communications in the field of science and education. Degradation and aging of the structures of academic science. The withering of the humanities scientific sphere and the transnationalisation of scientific research and development in the field of natural sciences, new technologies, engineering,
"Elitisation" of products of "high culture" (art), lack of effective and targeted cultural policy in the media by the state (television, educational Internet platforms, video and text content), the actual inaccessibility of "high culture" for the mass consumer, decline of traditional cultural institutions (theatres, museums, etc.).
the crisis of public education, technocratism in education (skills, profession). Higher education has been turned into an export industry for the production of professionalized human capital, which requires "further education" and inclusion in the external economic circuit ("educational migration" from Ukraine to universities in Central and Western Europe, Great Britain, the USA and the Russian Federation).
Additional comment. The past models (2010-2019) of the power monopoly on the information agenda through control over the leading media (TV, influential Internet publications, news has been replaced by mediacracy as an established political and economic force

that uses media resources as a tool in the struggle for power. Firstly, communication networks and "network channels" (Telegram channel, etc.) have pushed aside traditional Internet resources; editorial policies have been replaced by anonymous information policy of influence, interpretations and speculations. Secondly, TV channels have become an integral part of party-corporate politics and a way of "growing" TV politicians - a new phenomenon in Ukrainian politics. Thirdly, the information and political agenda has completely subordinated the social (everyday), economic and cultural agenda. The overwhelming majority of information media resources assign non-political topics a secondary, or even a tertiary role.

The propaganda and kitsch products of the "information war", as well as the systematic isolation of the national information space, create the effect of a closed "steam boiler": the susceptibility of mass consciousness to sensational facts, the expectation of the "truth." The low cultural level of the environment makes it easy to manipulate mass sentiments (for example, information manipulation with the topic of a pandemic).

The politicisation of self-government that took place during the last election campaign (2020) significantly capitalises the media resources of the regional and interregional levels. The "media matryoshka effect" is quite likely, when the information and propaganda policy at the national level and the political struggle waged there will be transferred to regional platforms, with the participation of regional elites and their media resources. The new information-political and semantic "media-map" in the next year or two may become another catalyst for deeper regionalisation and fragmentation of the entire national media space.

The very sphere of politics, in which mediacracy and media management are playing an increasing role, is being de-intellectualised (in essence, the elite is experiencing an "intellectual default"). The gap between knowledge, control technologies and real social interests is reaching a critically dangerous limit. It is no coincidence that the political myth about "external management" as a manifestation of dependence and incompetence has become one of the most perceived and widespread political myths in Ukraine over the past two years (2019-2020).

The crisis of domestic science and its institutions, judging by what has been happening in recent years, is becoming irreversible. Evidence of this is the "ageing" of the academic world, lack of continuity, deplorable material and personnel position of the overwhelming majority of academic structures, a decline in the level of education in leading university centres, and a large outflow of young students abroad ("educational migration").

In fact, Ukraine is turning into a consumer country of external education and external knowledge, which, along with technological and financial dependence, threatens a rapid decrease in the quality of human capital and an increase in the export of educated labor abroad for "further education" and redistribution to other economies.
• Crisis of the political system:
- "upper contour" - the conflict state of relations between the Constitutional Court and the President of Ukraine (autumn-winter 2020-21), in fact - a full-fledged constitutional crisis, expressed in the opposition of the branches of government;

- "middle contour" - the inefficiency of the parliamentary-presidential model, with the actual preservation of the real center of power of the President, his Office and the intelligence services subordinate to him;

- "lower contour" - a conflict between the competences of the government and self-government, which has already become a reason for non- compliance with laws and decisions of the executive branch (for example, a boycott of the "war of quarantine decisions"), etc. There was an actual "regionalisation" of state competences, with the exception of the security, law enforcement and judicial functions.

The crisis of the political system will inevitably lead to a systemic political crisis, the way out of which can be either a full-fledged reform of the political system, or an early change in the composition of power (elections), or a "hybrid" combination of these two options. The question of the controllability or conflict nature of the events accompanying this crisis (different experiences in 2000,2004 and 2014 in Ukraine) also remains open.
The presidential party «Servant of the People», which has a nominal majority in parliament, is not independent in its initiatives and decisions, is composed of "influence groups" with different centres of illegal financing, and de facto is under the "manual control" of the Office of the President (OP).

Opposition parties and groups represented in parliament gain access to power resources and decisions through the mechanism of "political corruption" - both through "influence groups" in the "Servant of the People" faction, and through corruption of the presidential apparatus (OP). Thus, a unique mechanism of "invisible" corporate governance of legislative and executive power has developed, which is very reminiscent of the "wheel of power": the OP is influenced by political investors of opposition or allied political forces outside the Servant of the People, implements initiatives and decisions through the mechanism of party disciplines of the mono-majority and its partial tacit funding, and in the parliament itself, a part of the "influence groups" of the "SOP" receives additional incentives from opposition or neutral fractions and groups. The benefits of such a "wheel of power" are obvious: only the "Servant of the People" (or rather, its statistic deputies) bears image losses, and the real benefits from budget decisions and political initiatives go to the presidential entourage and external political investors (oligarchic groups, sponsors and leaders of the parliamentary parties and groups).

This "wheel" practically does not take into account the interests of the strengthened regional elites, which also creates an additional hotbed of tension and is a reason for criticism of the Center from the local government (the size of subventions, budgeting of local government projects through the Regional Development Fund, taxes and fees, quarantine measures, etc.)
institutional crisis of large parliamentary parties (the fa£ade of the "coalition" and "opposition" in parliament, the lack of capable national party structures among parliamentary parties). Local elections in 2020 based on open party lists have mobilised tens of thousands of new nominee members into the ranks of parliamentary parties in a short time. But in the overwhelming majority of cases, the local party deputies are closely connected and dependent on local regional centers of power, subordinated to local party and bloc projects that determine the face and ideology of each region, regardless of the nominal party composition of the regional, city or district council. Local elites, using the (2020) electoral legislation based on parties, formed a new political architecture due to the success of small-town party-political projects ( Trust Deeds, Proposition, Kernes Bloc, Vadim Boychenko Bloc, etc. about 3 hundred local parties and blocs of various sizes participated in the local elections),mastered political technologies, created their own media infrastructure of influence and are gradually turning into a new subject of the national political process, along with the old centres - President and his Office, parliamentary parties, government and security bodies. Thus, the chances of the parliamentary parties (Servant of the People Opposition Platform For Life, Euroslidarity, Batkivshchyna, Voice, For Future) to develop an efficient and politically consolidated structure based on the local deputies are minimal (expensive, a lot of «random» people and delegates from local elites, parliamentary parties have practically no infrastructure to ensure daily internal party work);
in 2020, the architecture of local government changed significantly due to the consolidation of administrative districts. Instead of 490 districts, 136 new districts were formed, each of which gains the potential and capabilities of a micro-region. Some administrative regions of Ukraine received 3-4 districts (for example, Ternopil, Khmelnytsky - 3 districts, Poltava and Cherkassy - 4, etc.). The new structure of self-government (district councils) and administrative (heads of state administrations / prefects) significantly strengthens the position of local elites, providing a new level of concentration of power and resources;
strengthening of the organised nationalist movement: "street nationalism" based on radical national-patriotic parties and associations ("Patriot of Ukraine", "National Corps" - "Azov", "Svoboda", "Right Sector", C14, etc.) and political patriotic opposition ("Eurosolidarity", "Golos", etc.). Most of these organisations have low levels of public support. But they are distinguished by a high level of organisation, a trained corps of youth activists (including special training), actively recruit members of the volunteer movement into their ranks, and hold regular mass actions (rallies, demonstrations, torchlight processions, picketing, etc.). As the electoral positions of the former President Poroshenko's "Eurosolidarity" party strengthen, the latter, having a large fraction in parliament and a solid parliamentary quantity in self- government bodies, claims to be the leading national-patriotic force in this wing.
"Feudalisation" of regional politics: localisation of the activities of regional elites (local authorities and business), the growth of "economic separatism" sentiments, which intensifies after the 2020 elections - with special powers and statuses for individual regions. Preconditions are being formed for the Ukrainian «Novo-Ogarevo process» (< the current composition of the central government and the ruling regional elites on the basis of new decentralisation in the economy and powers at all levels, formalised as a "political reform")',
the growth of ethnocultural separatism - as a reaction to the national- statist policy of the state (Hungarians and Rusyns in Transcarpathia, Crimean Tatars, in the future - Polish and Russians in areas of dense residence and in regions of "geopolitical tension);
erosion of the common civil space. In addition to the passportisation of Ukrainian citizens living in Crimea and Donbass, passports of Hungary, Romania and other EU countries, offshore states, etc. are common. In recent years, the number of Ukrainian citizens applying for a residence permit to Poland and the Baltic countries has increased. Taking into account the registration of such surrogate documents with the prospect of acquiring citizenship as a "card of a Pole", we are talking about 500-700 thousand Ukrainian citizens (and even more). The unresolved issue of dual citizenship and the absence of a single register of citizens with two or more passports create the basis for direct and indirect pressure on citizens, restricting their freedoms.
Additional comment. The inefficiency and crisis of the political system became the main reason for the further degradation of Ukrainian statehood. Imbalances in the relationship between the presidency, the judiciary, legislative and executive branches, and the growing ambitions of local self-government create the basis for the next, third in a row in the last decade, rebellious and protest situation.

Ukrainian politics became smaller and more fragmented than before. None of the parliamentary forces can cope with the role of the national one.

We will also feel the deficit of politicians-leaders on a national scale.

The influence and authority of regional leaders (level - regional and city councils, city halls of large cities) have increased.

In this situation, the power of only one ruling group can be ensured either by establishing a temporary personal dictatorship (which is unlikely), or by collusion of the ruling elites, where the price for stability and loyalty will be primarily the actual strengthening of the powers and independence of the ruling regional groups.

"Federalisation without a federal treaty" is one of the scenarios for a compromise between the elites in the event of a further deepening of the political crisis in 2021.
War in Donbass
war in Donbass is no longer an effective tool for internal economic and social mobilisation in the country (as it was in 2014-2017), and does not "restrain" internal social tension in Ukraine;
failure of the peacekeeping initiatives and commitments of 2019 (Normandy meeting, December 2019) led to the collapse of hopes and confidence in a possible peaceful outcome in 2020. The return of Donbass to Ukraine has ceased to be a common idea. Peace is more and more perceived as a cessation of hostilities and a solution to several of the most resonant problems for the residents of Donbass (legal regime of movement, freedom and easiness of communication, social obligations of the state, rehabilitation of territories after hostilities). In essence, the social legitimisation of "Ukraine without Donbass" has begun. In 2020, the threat of a coronavirus pandemic, and the costs arising from the policy of lockdowns and restrictions, threw the peace problems to 2-3 place;
after reaching a stable ceasefire (August 2020), hostilities are of a localised positional nature, associated with stalling and "consolidation" of the positions ("borders") of the parties to the conflict;
internationalisation of the conflict and professionalisation of direct participants: presence in the conflict of hundreds of citizens of other states on a voluntary basis , contracts with military personnel, attracting professional military personnel from other countries on a contract basis, re-motivation of participants (war as a source of income), creation of international mechanisms to support the belligerents ( weapons and special equipment, training of military personnel, intelligence, coordination military and diplomatic centers, etc.);
economic blockade of Donbass and the rupture of the common national economic space. This decision of the Ukrainian authorities (2017) was seen as an effective way to isolate the region and push to accelerate the internal crisis in Donbass. But in three years the blockade led to irreparable consequences: the loss of dozens of enterprises in the coal, metallurgical, industrial and agro-industrial sectors; the destruction of the internal division of labor that has been developing for more than 20 years, the huge outflow of professional labor from Donbass outside Ukraine; degradation of the socio-economic system of Donbass and the destruction of the "infrastructure of life" (housing, trade and financial networks, etc.). Ukraine's GDP fell by more than 17% from 2013 to 2020, and a good half of the losses, directly or indirectly, are associated with the war in Donbass and the economic blockade of the region;
an increase of an environmental catastrophe threat in Donbass (primarily due to flooding of the region, destruction of geological structures affecting the state of the surface), which in its scale and consequences can cause irreparable outcomes for the population of Donbass, including the controlled territories of Ukraine and the Russian Federation (Rostov region). Ecologists and geologists estimate the prospect of this threat at 5-10 years, depending on natural and anthropogenic factors, and predict the emergence of a new social phenomenon - "environmental refugees" (some similarity with "Chernobyl displaced persons").
Additional comment. The "smoldering" conflict strengthens the separation of Ukraine from Donbass, motivates the warring parties to the final political, social and economic "divorce".

At the same time, the security and defense-related Ukrainian Armed Forces and the National Guard, intelligence officers, as well as former combatants are turning into a self-sufficient and politicised social force that makes up an essential part of the social base of power. Patriotic sentiment and the position of the "military workforce" are two important characteristics of this force. The loyalty of a military army of many thousands (mobilised, contract soldiers, volunteers) is associated with the stability of their financial situation (funding the army and maintaining the mobilisation regime) and the preservation of the national-statist agenda of state policy. Potentially, this social force forms the basis for further strengthening of the so-called "Parties of war", or it can become the basis for radical opposition in the event of radical shifts in the negotiation and peacekeeping process.

In Donbass, the "smoldering conflict" and the economic blockade can lead to internal shocks and changes in the composition of the current "military regimes" of the self-proclaimed LDPR. But autonomist (separatist) sentiments will be stable, regardless of the change in the composition, which is associated with the "trauma of war" and the rejection of the national-statist ideology of the Ukrainian authorities.
International relations
decline in the authority of international structures as effective institutions in solving national problems of war and peace (UN, OSCE). The Ukrainian government relies primarily on geopolitical instruments - interstate platforms and alliances, military-political cooperation, diplomacy, coordinated sanctions policy;
A "crisis of confidence" with the EU leader countries due to the ineffectiveness of the negotiation process to end the war in Donbass, undermining the reputation of the participants in the Normandy negotiation process (Germany, France, Ukraine, Russia) due to the unfulfilled obligations of the last Normandy meeting (December 2019);
after a geopolitical vacuum that has arisen along the perimeter of Ukraine since 2014 (a "hybrid war" with the Russian Federation, growing tensions with Hungary and Poland, strategic uncertainty with Turkey and Romania), Ukraine in 2020 actively joined two "perimeter" projects - "Lublin triangle "(between Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine) and" Great Turan "(through strategic partnership with Turkey, involving the Crimean Tatar factor in the project). These steps have given quick dividends: a significant rapprochement between Ukraine and Poland and Turkey, including aspects such as military- industrial cooperation and cooperation in the field of regional security.

At the same time, both projects are associated with new lines of division and demarcation on the continent (Central Europe, the Caucasus and the Black Sea-Caspian Asia). It can be assumed that these projects will become technological addition to the Brit America geoproject (a new strategic alliance between the USA and Great Britain, with the prospect of forming a new transcontinental economic community known as the Indo-Pacific Project, or Indo-Pacific). In the case of Ukraine, we are talking about new "lines of containment" of the processes of intracontinental rapprochement, and about the establishment of new «buffer zones" with a vivid geocultural component (Great Turan and the new role of Turkey in the south of the continent; "Lublin Triangle" and the restart of the historical ties of the participants Rzecz Pospolita - in Central Europe);
stake on active involvement of the diplomacy of Great Britain and the United States in overcoming the "hybrid war" between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. Returning to the topic of responsibility of the parties to the Budapest Memorandum. Invitation of the USA and Great Britain to the Normandy Group. Creation of a new political and diplomatic platform - the "Crimean Platform" (summer 2021), where it is planned to combine the issues of Crimea and Donbass into a "common case";
The process in the Hague court can become not only a pretext for aggravating the political and information campaign against the Russian Federation, but also a factor in exacerbating the internal political process in Ukraine itself (the problem of war crimes, observance of human rights, the rights of national minorities in Ukraine, etc.).
Additional comment:

Failure to fulfil the obligations of the parties according to the latest agreements at the meeting of the Normandy Group (December 2019) and the selfishness of the new Ukrainian government created additional reputation risks for the leadership of France and Germany.

The geopolitical conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation, which turned into the inclusion of Crimea into the Russian Federation and into an armed conflict ("hybrid war") in Donbass, dramatically changed the security regime in the EU, and created a threat of destruction of the European order (borders, deployment of armed forces, aggravation in "points of tension "Along the eastern European border of the EU)

At the same time, Ukraine's unwillingness to compromise and to establish a bilateral dialogue with the Russian Federation, the losses of the European economy from sanctions against the Russian Federation create the basis for the pragmatization of the policy of the EU leaders (implementation of gas transportation projects, cooperation to overcome the coronavirus pandemic, possible cooperation on the European "hydrogen strategy", and - which is very painful for Ukraine - the revision of the sanctions regime).

It is possible that by 2022, after overcoming the pandemic and European election campaigns, the position of the EU and its leaders will be significantly toughened. In particular, on the issue of Crimea - "freezing" the situation; on the Donbass issue - coercion into an internal dialogue on the reorganisation of Ukraine (autonomous regions or even federalisation) and to a bilateral negotiation process between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. This, in turn, will increase the tension between the EU, the US and the UK, weaken the authority and importance of the emerging "Crimean Platform".

Any attempts by the Ukrainian authorities to strengthen their positions by escalating the conflict will be blocked by all possible means.

The option of a "new border" is also unacceptable, which will be viewed as an attempt to revise the entire European order. This means that the scenario of "freezing the conflict", even if possible, will be executed as temporary and transitional, with clearly defined conditions and terms.

The situation may be critical and so far unpredictable if the Ukrainian side continues the economic blockade and postpones the new negotiation process on the "Minsk agreements", and the Russian Federation, in turn, increases the amount of aid to the self-proclaimed republics and agrees to (partial) recognition of LDPR as their legitimate partners.

The new US administration (J. Biden, Democrats) will actively promote the policy of "pressure on Russia", the consolidation of BritAmerica and the EU in the «containment of Russia» issues: strengthening Euro-Atlantic cooperation, strengthening the "buffer" Central European and South Asian "belts". But there is a high probability of a significant divergence in the strategies of the EU and BritAmerica on these issues.
a critical accumulation of external state debt, a pre-default state (Ukraine's public debt is $ 90 billion, which is 62.5% of GDP. State debt payments in 2021 - $ 20.65 billion);
a critical imbalance in the structure of the 2021 state budget (one third of the budget expenditure is the payment of public debts, about a fifth of the budget is spent on defence and law enforcement agencies, and a sixth part is spent on compensation of Pension Fund deficit. The general drop in income from the real (productive) sector of the economy - and direct dependence on external loans from the IMF and external financial aid (EU));
de-capitalization of the assets of large national FIGs, the risks of bankruptcy and the seizure of the activities of "oligarchic holdings", the collapse of financial and construction "pyramids";
strengthening the military-industrial and agricultural sectors as relatively stable. The continuing destruction of clusters of the old industrial sector (mining and metallurgical complex, chemical complex, heavy engineering), the localisation of industrial complexes in territories focused on the production of agricultural raw materials and products. Accelerated de-industrialisation, curtailment and / or shutdown of complex industries that are not associated with defence orders or with participation in the "Big Construction" (large capital investments of the state in road construction);
dominance of the state financial capital in the banking and financial market (about 50%), dependence of the financial and credit policy of state banks on the onerous debt policy of the government and the NBU (the " pyramid" of government bonds);
Shrinking the capacity of the domestic market due to the decline in the purchasing power of the population, the crisis and the loss of small and medium-sized businesses (trade, services, transportation, local small- scale production);
Imbalance in the internal labor market. Growth in unemployment (in 2021 - about 10%, while in 2019 it was 8.6%).Growth in the share of temporarily employed. A high level of emigration of skilled labor abroad, an increase in the supply of low-skilled labor in the domestic market and a shortage of a highly educated, skilled labor force (especially in the fields of health care and education).
The launch of the land market (July 2021) may become a trigger for a new socio-economic destabilisation due to threats of redistribution of land resources, speculation, raids, risks of bankruptcy of agricultural enterprises and farms.
Additional comment: The economic crisis in Ukraine has a pronounced geoeconomic and structural nature. First of all, those economic complexes that were linked to the division of labor with the post-Soviet space (RF, EEC countries, etc.) are subject to destruction and / or transformation.

Radical changes are taking place in the mining and metallurgical complex, the chemical industry, the military-industrial complex, transport: breaking ties, losing or changing markets, stopping enterprises, forming new local ties. As a result, the positions of the leading financial and industrial groups (the "old oligarchy"), which actually or potentially competed with the ruling forces, were undermined.

The dominant in the power of commercial, financial and agro-industrial capital groups significantly affects economic policy: the economic model is radically re-profiled (agrarian-raw material orientation), the social situation changes abruptly (unemployment and impoverishment of the population - as a result of de-industrialisation and a general drop in income) High dependence on external financing and the beginning of "domino effect" in industry (disruptions in the fuel and energy complex, a drop in production in civil engineering) create a situation of permanent instability, direct dependence on the situation on the global agricultural market, vulnerability of the national currency, deflationary overproduction due to the fall of the purchasing power of the population.

Localisation of economies within agro-regions stimulates the economic selfishness of local elites. The struggle for additional income is gradually shifting to the competition for local natural resources (land resources and the participation of regional authorities in natural rent), which will become the basis for economic separatism of the regions. The risk of new crises (non-payments, rising prices, energy supplies) will only strengthen the local autonomist sentiments, further bringing together the interests of the population and regional elites.

The beginning of the land market functioning and the associated socio-economic consequences can only intensify the economic separatism and selfishness of local self-government, which, most likely, will act from the standpoint of protecting the interests of shareholders and local tenants. Thus, land reform can become catalysts for a new regional pragmatism and economic separatism, intensify the split and conflict between the Center and the regions, and strengthen the intra-regional verticals of the elites (UTC-district-region).
Predicted domestic political scenarios
The stated characteristics and assessments indicate the inertia of the processes, the "inertia of attenuation" of development, and the prerequisites for a new fragmentation of the country.

Four hypothetical internal political scenarios are proposed, with varying degrees of probability.

Scenario 1.

"Stagnation and corporate reboot"

In essence, we are talking about an inertial scenario, taking into account the already accumulated problems and conflicts among the political elites. The social aggravation of the situation associated with the economic consequences of "lockdowns" due to COVID-19 pandemic and the growth of tariffs in housing and communal services is compensated by minor concessions on the part of authorities. Rebooting the composition of the government ("corporate coalition"), which will include representatives of all major political investors.

The peace process in Donbas will be frozen, the ceasefire will be maintained.

The key topics of summer 2021 - the land market and the "Crimean Platform" in foreign policy - can sharply raise the degree of social and political tension. There is a real risk of a new deterioration in relations with the Russian Federation, up to mutual sanctions (as a consequence of the decisions and statements of the "Crimean Platform").

Consolidation of the population, business and regional elites around the "protection of the land."

The critical period is the second half of summer and early autumn (large external payments, problems with the state budget). The growth of political protests, pushing the President to decide on early parliamentary elections (the radical option is the 4th quarter of 2021, the best option is the first quarter of 2022).

Elections to parliament on a party basis (closed party lists), which stimulates temporary coalitions of regional elites with "oligarchic" parties.

New oligarchic coalition with the President in the spring of 2022, with guarantees of his power until 2024.

The scenario solves the problems of self-defence of big political business (the main oligarchic groups), in fact it means "farewell to Donbass".

Circumstances. The weakness of the «Servant of the People party» is already pushing Zelenskiy to play "over the party." The option of a full term in exchange for corporate compromises may be considered quite acceptable.

External players, the United States and Great Britain, can use this scenario to ensure maximum loyalty of the political and economic elites (legalisation of capital, guarantees against sanctions) and use the unresolved problems of Donbass within the framework of the policy of the Russian Federation and the European Union's disengagement.

The European Union will take a neutral position, freezing or even abandoning the Normandy format as ineffective, building its interests with the Russian Federation and its allies "above" the Ukrainian problem.

The script fits well into the framework of the so-called "Little Ukraine",

The probability is above average.
Scenario 2.

"Authoritarian transition"

The social aggravation of the situation associated with the economic consequences of "lockdowns" due to COVID-19 pandemic and the growth of tariffs in housing and communal services is compensated by minor concessions on the part of authorities. But rebooting the composition of the government will be radical and will be presented as the establishment of a "strong anti-crisis government."

Involvement of a significant figure-leader for the post of prime minister, reshuffle in the power bloc (Security Service of Ukraine , Ministry of Internal Affairs, anti-corruption bodies), a new "cleanup" of the heads of regional administrations. The policy of "tightening the screws" in relation to the largest political opponents {business, media, compromising evidence).

The coalition is being reset in parliament. One or two new factions join the 'Servant of the People' party as coalitions, and a new anti-crisis ( catastrophic) coalition plan is adopted.

The peace process in Donbass can be continued as a new round of discussion of "plans for the implementation of the Minsk agreements." Change in the composition of the Ukrainian delegation to the TCG. Possible shifts in Ukrainian-Russian relations {up to negotiations). A plan for a "transition period" until 2024 {the year of parliamentary elections) is possible.

The land issue is procedurally frozen ( example, by complicating the procedures and rules for buying and selling land), a compromise is reached with the regional elites.

The «Crimean Platform» is limited to an expert-diplomatic forum.

The topic of early elections is removed from the agenda. A possible alternative is the preparation of a deep reform of the political system {perhaps broader - constitutional reform) with a focus on elections-2024 (parliament, president).

Circumstances. Zelenskiy will have to accept the fact of "two leaders", one of whom will play the role of a power ruler. Most of the oligarchic

groups will go into the opposition. Ukraine will find itself in the conditions of a tough informational and ideological war and even repression.

In this scenario, the EU will behave more interested than the US and UK. Much will depend on the position and policy of the Russian Federation.

The probability is medium.
Scenario 3.

"Federalization without federalism"

The social aggravation of the situation associated with the economic consequences of "lockdowns" due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the growth of tariffs in housing and communal services is compensated by minor concessions on the part of the authorities. Restarting the composition of the government and attracting new "technical figures" will buy time until the summer of 2021. The peace process in Donbass will most likely be frozen and the ceasefire will be maintained.

The key themes of summer 2021 - the land market and the "Crimean Platform" in foreign policy - can abruptly raise the degree of social and political tension. There is a real risk of a new deterioration in relations with the Russian Federation, up to mutual sanctions (as a consequence of the decisions and statements of the "Crimean Platform").

Consolidation of the population, business and regional elites around the "protection of the land."

The critical period is the second half of summer and early autumn (large external payments, problems with the state budget). The growth of political protests. Blocking the authorities. Promotion of the initiative on accelerated reform of the political system with the obligatory creation of the upper chamber of parliament - the chamber of regions, and the development of the institution of regional economic autonomy ( broad and active support of local elites). A referendum and early parliamentary elections are possible (There is a high probability that "soft federalism" will take shape with the development of the institution of autonomy. The Russian Federation gets the opportunity to increase its influence on the elites of the southeastern and southern regions. A new round of negotiations on Donbass, borders and Ukrainian-Russian relations will be possible no earlier than 2023/2024. In the future composition of the central Ukrainian government, new groups of influence will emerge, "grown" from the composition of regional elites.

Circumstances. After the 2020 elections, regional elites were given the opportunity to open political "fronting" with the Center, relying on the new political and party structure of local councils. Most of the deputies from other parties in the near future will be dragged / re-bought into their own associations and blocs. In the event that a new "corporate deal" does not take place in the center and the changes are limited only to technical rearrangements, the regional elites will be able to increase the pressure. Most likely, all major Western partners (USA, UK, EU) will take a neutral position in this situation, limiting themselves only to the framework of preventing disintegration and new separatism. The countries "along the perimeter" will behave more actively, striving to increase their influence on the regions of their priority interests (Romania, Moldova, Hungary, Poland, Turkey).

The script fits into the framework of the so-called "Little Ukraine",

The probability is below average.
Scenario 4.

" Fragmentation "

The social aggravation of the situation associated with the economic consequences of "lockdowns" due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the growth of tariffs in housing and communal services is compensated by minor concessions on the part of the authorities.

Restarting the composition of the government will be limited to "technical figures" and will buy time until the summer of 2021. The peace process in Donbas will be frozen, the ceasefire will be maintained.

The oligarchic political opposition, dissatisfied with the changes in power, will stake on "rocking the boat." Scenarios of destabilisation in the currency exchange and food markets are not excluded.

The next peak of exacerbation is the summer of 2021 ( opening of the land market). Further destabilisation of the situation in the country is possible, in which the regional elites will stake on political and electoral consolidation in their regions.

The economic situation in the country, given the volume of external payments in 2021 (especially in the third quarter), may in such conditions get out of the control of the government.

The risk of new Maidans is real in the fall of 2021, with the participation of motivated, organised and armed national-patriotic forces. If the Maidan is inspired, the probability of the collapse of the "Zelensky regime" is high. The situation will become chaotic.

Large opposition forces ("Eurosolidarity" by P. Poroshenko and Opposition Platform «For Life» of V. Medvedchuk) will be focused on their basic regions - West / Center and East / South of Ukraine. A new confrontation can turn into an wave of self-proclamation of autonomies, holding interregional congresses ("Severodonetsk syndrome"), failure to comply with the decisions of the Center, etc.

The threat of a new disintegration of Ukraine will become real.

Circumstances. Considering that this is the "shortest" scenario, it is extremely difficult to predict its likely outcome. Especially if in the fall of 2021 in Kiev and in regional centres mass riots with the participation of paramilitary organisations will begin. This scenario has no external allies, since the risks of crisis and disintegration are higher than any rational calculation.

Probability is unlikely.
Translated by Iryna Khariv
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