Week’s milestones. Gryzlov’s role, Poroshenko’s tranquility, and politics on lower levels
Boris Gryzlov was used as a foreign policy ram. Petro Poroshenko intends to broadcast his calmness into the minds of millions of citizens. This winter, political issues and everyday problems of the households tend to be closely intertwined.
Russia does not intend to change its policy towards Ukraine and the conflict settlement in Donbas. This is evidenced not only by Vladimir Putin’s rollicking interview with the German Bild, but also by deploying Boris Gryzlov in Kyiv for talks with the Ukrainian leaders. The Kremlin does not intend to make serious concessions, instead planning to draw a “Putin is up for compromise” image for the West. But both the outcome of the Minsk talks, as well as Gryzlov’s fresh interview with the Kommersant show that Russia is nowhere close to changing its stance significantly. So, the rapid decline of oil price should not give grounds for any illusions. Russia still has the means to continue its expansion, and not only within the area of the former Soviet Union. Meanwhile the ideas of surrender are far from top trends in the Kremlin.
Although Petro Poroshenko was not asked directly whether he met with Boris Gryzlov, the Head of State actually confirmed communication with Putin’s envoy. His explanation was perfectly logical: there is the need to engage in dialogue about the fate of Ukrainian prisoners. It should be reminded that Nadia Savchenko is awaiting her verdict, continuing a hunger strike, while Russia tend not to recall the other two Ukrainian prisoners - Oleg Kolchenko and Oleksandr Sentsov. Interestingly enough, the president chose not to mention during his press conference the prospects of a vote for constitutional changes in part of decentralization expected to be held late January. I doubt that Poroshenko is afraid to jinx it, rather it’s just that a final position on this issue has not yet been formed amid accelerating changes in the situation in Russia. Hardly anyone can ensure Russia’s adequate response in case the amendments are adopted, as the Kremlin perceives Donbas as a lever of Ukraine’s destabilization.
For the rest of the presser, Poroshenko highlighted his decisiveness (exaggerated at times) and acted in a rather traditional way. The president praised NBU Governor Valeriya Gontareva, although her success is not reflected too much in the exchange rate of the Ukrainian hryvnia. Petro Poroshenko also made it clear he did not intend to dismiss Ukraine’s PGO Viktor Shokin, and signed the law on the creation of the State Bureau of Investigation. The president said he expected from Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s Government some major personnel reshuffles, allowing the executive branch to enhance its performance. It seems that the Cabinet is playing staff solitaire without prying eyes and ears...
An interesting season feature was big politics penetrating the lower levels of social life. For example, Health Minister Alexander Kvitashvili, who proved unable to reform the industry, assured that there is actually no flu epidemic, while local authorities in the regional centers and in the capital closed municipal institutions for quarantine. Adverse weather conditions have tested the effectiveness of local government, and not every head of the regional state administration or mayor of a large city got a moral right to show off in front of TV cameras in emergency service uniform.
It is worth noting that the New Year and Christmas holidays have become a litmus test proving how distant the lawmakers are from the voters. Besides not rushing to renew the work in the winter session, the MPs even fail to perform their duties as members of the relevant parliamentary committees. It is therefore logical that the issue of early parliamentary elections is getting more popular in Ukraine’s information space.