political tensions against a backdrop of crumbling Western support and Russian assaults in Donbass

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political tensions against a backdrop of crumbling Western support and Russian assaults in Donbass

In Ukraine, divisions are beginning to appear within the Ukrainian political class, but also between military and political leaders. Relations between President Volodymyr Zelensky and his commander-in-chief Valéri Zalouzhny are said to be strained. Meanwhile, the Russian army continues its assaults on the town of Avdiivka in Donbass and is on the verge of surrounding this industrial town near Donetsk. The Ukrainian armed forces are in a defensive position on almost the entire front. And uncertainties weigh on the continuation of Western support.

Published on: 06/12/2023 – 1:51 p.m.Edited: 06/12/2023 – 2:05 p.m.

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The sacred union observed since the start of the war begins to crack. The public debate, very discreet since February 24, 2022, is regaining vigor, at a time when the Ukrainian army is marking time in its counter-offensive. Even though President Zelensky has ruled out holding elections in the near future, the political games have resumed. The barbs come from both the opposition and those in power. “It is no longer with sadness, but with horror that I look at what is happening in our politics these days. This is a sort of epidemic of internal conflict that is only getting worse. »notes Ukrainian political scientist Volodymyr Fesenko, director of the Penta center.

kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko criticizes Ukrainian leader

One of the most virulent criticisms came from the mayor of kyiv, suspected of having presidential ambitions. In the German newspaper The SpiegelVitali Klitschko says Ukraine is moving toward authoritarianism and may cease to be different from Russia, where “ it all depends on the whims of one person “.

Late last week, the former president, Petro PoroshenkoToday, an opposition lawmaker was barred from leaving Ukraine to attend a series of meetings, including with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. The Ukrainian security services saw this as a risk » of exploitation by the Russians “. According to them, Moscow intended to take advantage of a meeting between Petro Poroshenko and Viktor Orban, accused of being “anti-Ukrainian”. “War weariness is felt and it translates into these questions within society: who is responsible for the situation? Why did the counter-offensive fail? Politicians felt that there was discontent in society, which led them to increasingly criticize the president. notes Volodymyr Fesenko.

Also listenUkraine: the counter-offensive put to the test

Zelensky-Zaluzhny disagreements

The question of responsibility for the failure of the counter-offensive has also revived the opposition between the two most popular men in the country, President Zelensky and General Valery Zalouzhny, commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian armed forces. Last week, The Economist quoting a highly placed Ukrainian source, confided that relations between the two men were “ execrable “. The online newspaper Ukrainian Pravda devotes an article to their quarrel. He claims that Volodymyr Zelensky created parallel lines of communication with the commanders of the ground forces Oleksandr Syrskyi and the air force Mykola Oleschuk, bypassing General Zaluzhny. The latter would not have been informed of the government’s decision to dismiss General Viktor Khorenko, head of the special forces, and would have learned of it through the press.

Rumors about a break between the head of state and the general have been circulating since spring 2022, but the crisis has reportedly intensified since the visit of Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin to kyiv two weeks ago. The presidential administration did not appreciate the statements of the senior officer You, where he recognized that the counteroffensive was at a stalemate and that the war could last for years. In an interview with the British tabloid The sunVolodymyr Zelensky warned the senior officer: “ with all respect to General Zaluzhny and to all commanders on the battlefield (…), according to the law there is only one hierarchy and in war it cannot even be discussed. »

Read alsoUkraine: the commander-in-chief of the armies fears that kyiv’s counter-offensive will get bogged down

A risky impeachment

In this context of tensions, could a dismissal of the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian army be on the agenda? This is undoubtedly not a desire that President Zelensky lacks, but it carries political risks. “If he were ousted, he would become the main alternative to Zelensky,” explains political scientist Volodymyr Fessenko. The soldier, today absent from the political game, “could then be pushed to enter politics and would be able to bring together opposition forces. In this situation, Zelensky would have a real and very powerful competitor.”.

According to a survey carried out in November by the Kyiv Rating Group, in the second round of the presidential election, Volodymyr Zelensky would collect 42% of the votes, against 40% for Valéri Zalouzhny. In the same poll, 82% of respondents said they trusted the army chief, with the president receiving only 72% of the vote.


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