Week’s milestones. Avdiyivka test, tango with Trump, and Gontareva’s media campaign
The escalation in Avdiyivka has become a serious challenge, not only for the military, but also for the Kyiv authorities and the general Ukrainian public. Petro Poroshenko sparked a lively discussion by mentioning an idea of holding a referendum on the country's accession to NATO. Leaders of Ukraine’s presidential ratings have sought to see favors from Donald Trump. Governor of the National Bank Valeria Gontareva significantly increased her media presence against the background of hryvnia stabilization.
The escalation of aggression of the Russian-separatist forces around Avdiyivka has caused global outrage and also seen a coordinated response by the Ukrainian authorities and public. Ukrainian troops managed to repel the attacks, inflicting heavy losses upon militants. At the same time, the executive branch headed by Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman with its substantive actions and personal presence showed concern over the situation and proved that it was able to restore power supplies to this shelled town in Donbas. Meanwhile, the president and diplomatic corps tried to convince the world community, that there was no reason to talk about a humanitarian catastrophe in Avdiyivka, the town so closely tied to the local coke plant. It remains to recall the coordinated efforts of law enforcers, primarily the SBU’s counterintelligence, and a traditionally active role of volunteers, in order to realize that in its confrontation with Russia, Ukraine is gradually improving the efficiency of crisis response delivered by authorities. It is worth recalling that the state governance component is perhaps one of the key factors for a successful response to aggression.
We can only regret that lawmakers failed to live up to a general initiative of the authorities and did not cut short their winter vacation over the Avdiyivka escalation. While Parliament Speaker Andriy Parubiy appeals with an open letter to his fellow legislators across the world, few of his colleagues, along with a group of veterans from volunteer battalions are mimicking a blockade of temporarily uncontrolled territories in Donbas, reveling in the expected PR effect and even letting their fists go loose on some occasions. Unfortunately, the Verkhovna Rada has not yet demonstrated any willingness to become a center of consolidation in these difficult conditions.
It is no wonder that a statement by the Head of State made in an interview with a German newspaper about the possibility of holding a referendum on Ukraine's accession to NATO has become the subject of hot debate. Poroshenko was accused of using an opportunistic issue in the context of the presidential campaign. The appropriateness of putting this issue on the agenda today can be argued but there are several factors that can affect the will of the Ukrainian people. Firstly, it is the quality of the law "On a National Referendum," which was pushed through the Rada back in the Viktor Yanukovych days. Secondly, some traditional Ukrainian nuances are unlikely to let the country become a serious applicant for joining the Alliance without a popular confirmation of this path. Thirdly, the official start of the referendum will make Russia throw tantrums, there is no doubt about that.
Leaders of the presidential rating, with varying degrees of success, sought to secure at least some favors of the leader of the world’s leading power. Tymoshenko flew to attend at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, seizing an opportunity to have a couple of words with Donald Trump – the moment still shrouded in a mystery fog. The president could not afford to ignore this method of attracting political attention, so Poroshenko held a telephone conversation with Trump, having discussed, among other things, the situation in Donbas. At the same time, Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin was deployed in Washington to work on the preparation of Poroshenko’s visit scheduled for late February.
It is interesting that the resumption of the Rada sessions will be accompanied by a joint rally of a group of political parties outside parliament walls. However, the nature of cooperation is still unclear between Hvylia (a political project, which has not been formally registered yet) with the Rukh Novyh Syl (Movement of New Forces) led by Mikheil Saakashvili, who is not so enthusiastic anymore about his former allies. The positions of Andriy Sadoviy (Samopomich) after yet another round of Lviv’s landfills row are unlikely to look convincing, just as the rating of the Democratic Alliance, whose leaders are challenged with the housing problem. An attempt to create a "Mighty Handful" of different-sized parties is a technique far from new. It should be recalled that changing the electoral law in a referendum or an extended party congress is impossible, as the decision is only to be adopted by the lawmakers.
NBU Governor Valeria Gontareva responded to the stabilization of the hryvnia with a noticeable boost of her own media activity. The country's chief banker chose to analyze the state of affairs in various banks, argue with a major landowner Oleh Bakhmatiuk and assess the impact of raising the minimum wage on the unemployment rates. At the same time, she has remained very low-key in terms of the hryvnia exchange rate forecasts.