Published April 17 at 1:14 pm
Collage: Poroshenko, Medvechuk, Tymoshenko, Stefanchuk, Kiva, Bereza, Shevchenko, Akhmetov, Klitshcko Liashko.
The war in Ukraine has shown the “true faces” of many Ukrainian politicians and public activists. Most of the country’s politicians who are for resisting Russia’s invasion, are now engaged on the diplomatic front and have joined the ranks of volunteers and territorial defense. Some have left the country.
So here are a few preliminary observations about what we’ve seen which do not pretend to be exhaustive.
Ukrainian people were galvanized by President Volodymyr Zelensky, who became the nation’s veritable leader by refusing to evacuate on the second day of the Russian offensive in Kyiv. The commander-in-chief’s determination and fearlessness motivated his nation’s Armed Forces, along with their civilian auxiliaries, and the Russian offensive was repulsed.
Many people in Ukraine and, of course, Russia, expected that Zelensky would simply flee, leaving Kyiv to be captured. But their hopes did not materialize. The unquestionable courage of the Ukrainian leader inspired the world to help Ukraine. He began appearing in all international media and became one of the most recognizable and influential figures globally.
From the first hours of the Russian invasion until today, Zelensky, as well as the Minister for Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine, Iryna Vereshchuk, and Interior Minister Denis Monastyrsky, have remained confident and optimistic. Likewise, Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, and other Cabinet members have constantly made public appearances.
Presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych has risen to greater prominence as a result of his detailed and optimistic assessments of the situation. The head of the Servant of the People faction in parliament, David Arahamiya, who plays a leading role in negotiations with the Russians, is also a public face. All of them are in Kyiv, doing their job and performing tasks to protect Ukraine.
The entire parliamentary leadership is in Kyiv. Speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk and lawmakers Oleksandr Kornienko and Olena Kondratyuk are available in the Verkhovna Rada at any moment. They regularly communicate with foreign colleagues, members of parliament, and representatives of international organizations.
The majority of lawmakers continue to carry out their duties in parliament and approve the necessary bills for the country. Members of the pro-presidential party are helping to obtain and transport humanitarian aid to the regions that experienced bombing and were under occupation.
The mayor of Kyiv Volodymyr Klitshcko and his brother Oleh have been active in providing leadership and boosting morale in the capital, especially during the days when it was threatened by an imminent Russian assault.
In general, throughout Ukraine most regional and city leaders have also remained at their post and set worthy examples. Very few officials in occupied areas are reported to have gone over to the enemy.
Meanwhile, ex-President Petro Poroshenko has announced that he is an ally in the joint struggle against the Russian invasion, although television station Channel 5, which he owns, stopped participating in the joint TV marathon organized by the authorities.
Many lawmakers from Poroshenko’s European Solidarity party joined the formation of the 206th Territorial Defense Battalion in Kyiv that played an active part in evacuation operations in Irpin, Kyiv region, which was under Russian occupation in March.
With the start of hostilities, the former head of the presidential office, Andriy Bohdan, returned to Ukraine from abroad. According to open sources, he joined the volunteer movement and helped the territorial defense and the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
On March 5, Yulia Tymoshenko, who has apparently remained in Kyiv, published a video on Facebook in which she asked NATO to close the sky over Ukraine and condemned the attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. But she and even other radical “patriotic” politicians usually seeking public attention, such as Oleh Liashko and Oleh Tiahnybok, have nevertheless remained in the background.
Former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk provides regular comments on the war in Ukraine with the Western media and reports on the provision of humanitarian supplies through his foundation.
Of course, there are also those who have shown their true faces. Such traitors in Ukraine include politicians of pro-Russian parties, some of whose local representatives have started collaborating with the enemy.
According to the secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Oleksiy Danilov, the legislature is “missing” 23 lawmakers. The media quickly established the party affiliations and names of these fugitives. The majority turned out to be members of the Opposition Platform for Life (OPFL). Ironically, the supporters of friendship with the Kremlin went exclusively to European countries: Germany, Italy and Spain.
When the invasion began on Feb. 24, Viktor Medvedchuk, the leader of OPF fled house arrest. However, he was detained on April 12 thanks to a special operation of the State Security Service of Ukraine (SBU).
The story of MP Yevhen Shevchenko, who tried to cross the border to Poland but was detained by the SBU, became widely known. According to the Security Service, the MP was found hiding in the trunk of a car. Shevchenko is known for his support of the self-proclaimed president of Belarus, Alyakdsandr Lukashenka.
Another outspoken lawmaker, formerly with the militant “Right Sector,” Boryslav Bereza, has been accused of evading military callup. According to the news outlet Zakhid.Net of April 11, he was discovered “hiding” in a convent in Western Ukraine and refused to accept a summons to appear before the military authorities.
Ilya Kiva, an MP of OPFL, did not hesitate to call the new Russian invasion of Ukraine a “liberation” on his Telegram channel. After such public statements, Parliament deprived Kiva of his mandate and Ukraine placed him on an international wanted list.
Another politician suspected of being Moscow choice to become its puppet in Kyiv had the Zelensky government been removed by them, Yevhen Murayev, also appears to have disappeared of the radar screen. Formerly a self-styled defender of Russian-speakers in Ukraine’s south and east, his voice, and that of his associates, has not been heard condemning the atrocities the Russian invaders have been committing n the these region.
According to an adviser to the interior minister, activists from another pro-Russian political party, the “Shariy Party,” were involved in the mass marking of buildings to set targets for invading Russian forces. It’s leader Anatoly Shariy has remained in his villa in Spain and his home is now frequently visited by Ukrainian demonstrators.
On March 20, the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (NSDC) decided to suspend activities in the country of a number of political parties that have connections to the Russian. A total of 11 political parties, including OPFL and the “Shariy Party”, are now effectively banned in Ukraine. According to the president, their activities have been suspended for the period of martial law.
OPFL called the ban and the suspension of activities of these parties illegal and said it was ready to challenge it. But on April 14, its parliamentary faction announced it was disbanding itself but that its core would reconstitute itself into a looser formation – a parliamentary “group.”
Movement of Oligarchs
Ukrainian oligarchs have behaved ambiguously. The day before the renewed invasion, on Feb. 23, Zelensky invited the richest and most influential businessmen in the country to his office and sought to persuade them to remain in the country despite the danger of an imminent Russian military invasion. Despite his appeal, the majority of oligarchs left the country within a few hours of the Russian invasion.
Only Ihor Kolomoisky, who is under U.S. sanctions, publicly confirmed his presence in Ukraine.
According to Bloomberg on March 31, Ukraine’s richest man, Rinat Akhmetov, said that he was back in Ukraine and commented on Russia’s invasion. His System Capital Management business has two large steel plants in Mariupol, the devastated city where relentless attacks by Russian troops have left some 170,000 civilians trapped without access to food and water.
In a written response to questions, Akhmetov said: “They are dying of thirst and cold –this is genocide.” He stated that he would not leave the country and would try to help.
According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, his $6 billion fortune is down by more than 45% since the war began.
Ukrainian oligarchs Akhmetov, Viktor Pinchuk, Konstantin Zhevaho, the Hereha family, Yuri Kostyuk, and Serhiy Tihipko have all told journalists that Russia is an aggressor and Putin is a war criminal. Kolomoisky, Gennadiy Boholyubov and Oleksandr Yaroslavsky have remained silent, while Vadim Novinsky and Dmytro Firtash have given evasive replies.
We will eventually know more about who was where and did what during Russia’s savage war against Ukraine. But already first impressions are available and certain things are clear.