Written by Pietro Pinter, a Doctor in International Relations, author of italian-language geopolitics blog inimicizie.com
When propaganda becomes hopelessly irreconcilable with reality, a reckoning has to come sooner or later. Someone’s head – be it the real culprit or a scapegoat – has to roll in front of public opinion, to allow for a ‘fresh start’ with a cleaned-up image.
Punishing key people, however, also means undermining the political balance, which is particularly dangerous in a country at war.
This is happening now in Ukraine.
The epic of a Ukraine that was destined to win in a short time after absorbing the initial shock of the invasion – in a triumphant march towards the Sea of Azov and the 1991 borders – has finally been shattered with the recently concluded summer offensive. The Ukrainian armed forces consumed months of (hardly replaceable) NATO supplies to advance 10 kilometres into the Zhaporozhye fields, barely reaching the Russian first line of defence and without capturing any strategic objectives. The Ukrainian leadership had made clear promises to the country and the allies. At the beginning of November – despite limited Ukrainian successes in a separate front, the Dnepr- the Ukrainian armed forces found themselves with the Avdeevka stronghold partially surrounded, and the reconquered villages south of Bakhmut (Klischeevka, Andreevka) once again contested by the Russians.
Questions begin to be asked.
In Ukraine – in addition to finding a scapegoat for the summer offensive – the establishment must also concretely decide how (or whether) to continue the war. Heterodox proposals in this regard are beginning to emerge, such as that of presidential candidate Oleksey Arestovich, a former military advisor to Zelensky who resigned after coming under heavy criticism for his controversial reading of the bombing of an apartment building in Dnipropetrovsk. Arestovich, who also enjoys contacts in Europe – in these very days he is a guest at the Limes festival in Genoa, Italy – proposes to give up the military reconquest of the lost territories and to freeze the conflict thanks to (supposed) NATO guarantees on the remaining territory.
Even among those who support the continuation of the war in one way or another, differences emerge: the most important one between Zelensky and the Chief of Staff, Valery Zaluzhny. The latter speaks of a ‘stalemate’ in an interview with the Economist, only to be immediately and publicly contradicted by Zelensky. A few days later, a parcel bomb delivered to Zaluzhny’s office kills one of his subordinates. The head of the special forces, Viktor Korenko, according to some sources a man loyal to Zaluzhny, is fired.
But the biggest torpedo against the chief of staff comes from the USA: an investigation by the Washington Post – together with the Germans of the Bild – “exposes” the name and surname of an alleged planner of the sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipeline: Roman Chervinsky, an obvious “fall guy” of all the operations gone wrong of the Ukrainian secret services (therefore, according to praxis, “unauthorised”) such as the failed attempt to recruit a Russian bomber pilot, or to kidnap Wagner men in Belarus, now on trial in Ukraine. According to the investigation, Chervinsky acted on direct orders from Zaluzhny, unbeknownst to Zelensky (but not to the intelligence of the US and half of Europe, apparently) in planning the destruction of the pipeline.
In general, the Zelensky administration is characterised by an increasing centralisation of power. Past and potential rivals of the president generally do not fare well.
The oligarch who launched Zelensky mediatically and financially – Igor Kolomoisky – is behind bars and on trial, deprived of his Ukrainian citizenship. Predecessor Petro Poroshenko – who was raided by the SBU in 2019, and is on trial for ‘high treason’ – was banned from leaving Ukraine to confer with NATO leaders at the Vilnius summit. The leader of the second party in the 2020 local elections – Viktor Medvedchuk, linked to Russia and Putin personally – was arrested in 2022 and deported to Russia in a prisoner exchange. Pro-German rival Wladimir Klitschko was publicly humiliated by Zelensky, who accused him of negligence in maintaining the air-raid shelters in the Kiev of which he is mayor, and almost forced to resign.
The same applies to those who have been able to accumulate power since the beginning of the war given their apex positions in sectors of the state linked to the war effort: Defence Minister Reznikov was sacked and replaced with ‘Mr Nobody’ Umerov, Interior Minister Monastirsky died in a suspect crash of his helicopter near the capital.
If and when elections are held in Ukraine, all of Zelensky’s rivals will start at a heavy disadvantage, with a media (single state channel) and police/judicial apparatus that seems to be siding wholly with the president.
There is no shortage of those advocating more radical solutions, such as Major General Dmitry Marchenko who – breaking the military’s vow of political ‘neutrality’ – argues the need for Zaluzhny (who by the way has never publicly shown political ambitions) to become president, ‘like Charles de Gaulle’, to fight corruption. Does anyone remember how Charles de Gaulle came to power?
A lengthy Time Magazine investigation – according to some Ukrainian sources, informed by Arestovich himself – portrays Zelensky as a lonely president, disconnected from reality, incensed and angry with his subordinates.
More interesting than the veracity of the report (however plausible) is that it was published by Time. A relentless wave of negative pieces on Ukraine by major Anglo-Saxon media organizations – in a tone unthinkable even as recently as last spring – makes us notice, along with the turmoil in Europe and the US (where contacts with Russia are being attempted) over funding for Ukraine, that also abroad questions are being asked about Ukraine’s future. Questions with very serious consequences.
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- ‘Counteroffensive Was PSYOP’: Kiev Tries To Justify Its Defeat
- What To Expect From Ukrainian “Counter-offensive”: Can AFU Build On Its Success On Frontline Again?
- New Russian Offensive Begins In Southern Donetsk Direction – Reports