When it comes to the Opposition Bloc, not everyone understands who it is. After the opposing business groups of the former Party of Regions, which passed into parliament under this "trademark", split, people distinguish two political forces by the names of their leaders rather than by titles.
Since Medvedchuk and Firtash have 4 TV channels, while Akhmetov and Murayev have only two, electoral ratings of Boyko-Rabinovich-Medvedchuk are higher, according to the opinion polls, than of their former colleagues in the faction. In Ukraine. But in the Donetsk oblast, the position of the so-called "Akhmetov's wing" of the Opposition Bloc is quite high. Mainly due to Mariupol, where Akhmetov owns two city-forming metallurgical enterprises and the mayor of which is included in the top ten of the electoral list of the Opposition Bloc.
After unsuccessful reunification talks, where the Opposition Bloc and the Opposition Platform - For Life, failed to agree, the Opposition Bloc united with four parties: Nashi, Revival, Trust to the Doings and Party for Peace and Development. These five parties signed a Memorandum on the creation of unified opposition force, and they will go to the Rada according to a general list, under the brand Opposition Bloc.
During the forum of the Trust to the Doings united opposition forces, which was held in Kyiv on June 10 (and finally confused everyone with the name of the united political force), the first ten of the list of the Opposition Bloc was presented:
Yevheniy Murayev – people's deputy, leader of the Nashi party;
Oleksandr Vilkul – people's deputy, member of the Opposition Bloc;
Hennadiy Kernes – Mayor of Kharkiv;
Gennadiy Trukhanov – mayor of Odessa;
Vadym Novynskyi – chairman of the Opposition Bloc faction in the Rada;
Vadym Boychenko – mayor of Mariupol;
Volodymyr Buriak – mayor of Zaporizhia;
Bohdan Andrieyev – mayor of Uzhhorod;
Uliana Tkachenko – deputy of the Khmelnitskyi regional council;
Volodymyr Pylypenko – lawyer.
However, the final electoral list, which was registered by the CEC, is different from what was approved on the forum.
Thus, the top ten included: Yevheniy Murayev, Oleksandr Vilkul, Hennadiy Kernes, Gennadiy Trukhanov, Vadym Boychenko, Volodymyr Buriak, Bohdan Andrieyev, as well as Director General of Zaporizhstal Rostyslav Shurma, mayor of Pavlohrad Anatoliy Vershyna and people's deputy from Revival Vitaliy Homutynnyk.
As we see, Vadym Novynskyi, who made the decision to run in a single-mandate district, Uliana Tkachenko and Volodymyr Pylypenko disappeared from the list. One of the party leaders, Borys Kolesnikov, decided to run in a single-mandate district.
To emphasize its difference from its breakaway former party members, the Opposition Bloc does not position itself as a pro-Russian force, but rather as a party of the bourgeoisie and officials of the Southeast. However, their vision of the end of war in the Donbass coincides in many ways.
Peace in the Donbass from the Opposition Bloc
"We are supporters of peace in Ukraine. And the only possible way to achieve peace is the phased implementation of the Minsk agreements, the path of direct negotiations", - the election program of the Opposition Bloc party says.
The formula of peace from the Opposition Bloc is as follows:
- early restoration of peace in the Donbas;
- full implementation of the Minsk agreements;
- exchange of prisoners of war according to the principle of "all for all";
- lifting the food and economic blockade of the Donbass and Crimea;
- restoration of the passenger railway communication with Donetsk, Luhansk and Simferopol;
- holding elections of deputies of the Donetsk and Luhansk regional councils simultaneously with local elections in Ukraine;
- restoration of direct passenger (first of all - aviation) communication between Ukraine and Russia;
Plus, the adoption by referendum and capturing in the Constitution of the status of Ukraine as non-aligned, neutral state.
At the same time, the election program does not indicate how they are going to implement each of these points. This is more like common phrases and slogans. For example, the full implementation of the Minsk agreements and the exchange of prisoners of war at least depend on the Russian party. And the leaders of the Opposition Bloc openly call the war in the Donbass a civil conflict.
"I believe that a civil war is going on in the country. The United States helps the Ukrainian authorities, and Russia helps the unrecognized Donbass republics… If 50 thousand people fight on both sides with Ukrainian passports, if the war goes solely on the territory of Ukraine, then this is a civil war. The current coalition in the Verkhovna Rada and specifically commander-in-chief Oleksandr Turchynov handed the Crimea over", - Murayev stated in 2016.
"It is very important to stop this civil conflict, I emphasize, the civil conflict in the southeast", - Vadym Novynskyi said in June 2019.
This is despite the fact that the world community recognized the fact of the Russian aggression in the Donbass. For example, the latest EU statement, released in May 2019 at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna, refers to the continuation of Russia's aggression against Ukraine. The statement says that the past week was marked by an unstable security situation in the conflict zone in Donbass, what is a consequence of acts of aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine.
As for the "full implementation of the Minsk Agreements", the first point there is a complete ceasefire. At the same time, only in May 2019, 8 Ukrainian soldiers were killed in the Donbass, and illegal armed formations shell the Ukrainian positions daily. Thus, a logical question arises: how does the Opposition Bloc see this full implementation of the Minsk agreements? What are they going to start with? What or whom to sacrifice with? After all, if the ceasefire point is not fulfilled, then how can you proceed?
"The establishment of a reliable and lasting peace in Ukraine, the organization of the negotiation process in the east of Ukraine within the framework of achieving reasonable compromises", - the Memorandum of Unity of the Opposition Forces, which was signed by the Opposition Bloc, Nashi, Revival, Trust to the Doings and Party for Peace and Development, says.
Neither the program nor memorandum explains what kind of "reasonable compromises" there are. That is, "selling" peace to the voters, the sellers do not name the price that Ukraine will have to pay for it…
At the same time, the topic of Crimea in the party program is not raised at all, except for the lifting of the blockade and restoration of the railway communication. Perhaps, the removal of the Crimean topic from the agenda is this reasonable compromise? Or is it about the autonomy of Donbass? One can only guess, since the party program is limited to common words and slogans.
Inclusion of the point on the exchange of prisoners of war in the pre-election program also looks strange, because Ukraine has repeatedly declared its readiness for such an exchange, but the process is being hampered by the Russian party. Besides, it is not clear how a parliamentary party can influence this process…
But the point about holding the election of deputies of the Donetsk and Luhansk regional councils alongside with the local election in Ukraine raises questions most of all. What does this mean? Holding election solely in the controlled territory of Donbass? Or does the Opposition Bloc wants election throughout the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts together with the occupied part? Under what legislation should this election be held? And why is Crimea not mentioned here (as part of the Ukrainian territory)? We see another point that raises more questions than answers.
The Opposition Bloc party has been and remains an ardent opponent of the blockade of Donbass and Crimea, so it is not surprising that they included the clause to repeal this decision in their electoral program.
"Crimea is Ukraine. There cannot be two opinions. So why does the current government repel two million Crimeans? It turns off water, electricity, stops railway communication. I introduced a bill to lift the blockade from Donbass, including the humanitarian one. It is also a toolkit for the return of the Crimea. The process is not fast, and it needs to be started now. I will give water and restore all economic relations. Crimea is not only the land, it is, first of all, people. The main thing is to return the hearts and minds of the Crimean people", - Oleksandr Vilkul stated.
Indeed, Oleksandr Vilkul registered a bill to lift the blockade from the Donbass in February 2019. However, firstly, there is no mention of Crimea, and secondly, it is "not a bill to lift the blockade", as the people's deputy says, but the appeal of the Verkhovna Rada to the president regarding lifting the blockade. Thus, albeit indirectly, the Opposition Bloc admits that the issue of lifting the blockade is within the competence of the president, not the parliament. And to promise to do what you cannot do is populism.
"The earliest possible restoration of peace in the Donbass" (as one of the points of the election program), apparently, is seen by the Opposition Bloc through direct negotiations with the Russian Federation and militants in the Donbass. The party leaders say openly about this.
"If direct negotiations with Donetsk, Luhansk or Moscow are needed for this, this should be done without thinking about political consequences. Do not think about your careers", - Vadym Novynskyi stated during the last Opposition Bloc's congress.
By the way, if you recall the 2014 election program of the Opposition Bloc, a strategy for achieving peace was painted there even more specifically. To be true, little of those promises has been accomplished.
For example, the party promised to develop and implement the National Reconciliation Plan, involving the creation of a platform for dialogue of representatives of local councils from all regions of Ukraine, investigation into the mass death of civilians during the events on Maidan in Kyiv, Odessa and eastern Ukraine, as well as amnesty for citizens who committed no grave crimes. Of course, no plan was ever developed.
Neutrality and non-aligned status "migrated" to the new election program. Although the Opposition Bloc did not vote for the consolidation of the desire for membership in the EU and NATO in the Constitution of Ukraine, the Opposition Bloc failed in defending the non-aligned status of the deputies.
In 2014, the Opposition Bloc intended to intensify negotiations with Russia through the mediation of the EU, USA and other countries in order to create sustainable conditions for peace in eastern Ukraine. As of today, the Opposition Bloc wants to have direct negotiations without intermediaries…
5 years ago, the Opposition Bloc also wanted to "disarm all illegal paramilitary forces". This happened from the Ukrainian party: all volunteer units were either disarmed and withdrawn from the ATO zone, or legalized. President Poroshenko fulfilled this part of the Opposition Bloc's program. As for the militants in the occupied Donbass, the Opposition Bloc took no steps to disarm them.
In 2014, the Opposition Bloc promised to ensure the implementation of the constitutional right of residents of eastern Ukraine, internally displaced persons and citizens of Ukraine living in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea to participate in the election to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. As of today, IDPs cannot choose deputies to the Verkhovna Rada by single-mandate districts. A bill that could resolve this issue has been under consideration in the parliament for already two years.
The election program of the Opposition Bloc is filled only with general phrases about achieving peace in the Donbass and almost does not touch the topic of the occupied Crimea. But the list of the Opposition Bloc party, or rather its first ten, and how it was formed, causes much more questions and inconsistencies.
Initially, Volodymyr Pylypenko, who is chairman of the political council of the Revival party (believed to be supported by oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi), was represented in the top ten of the Opposition Bloc. However, after a small "scandal" in the media, where he was accused of anti-Russian publications, it was decided to "replace" Pylypenko, as a result of what he disappeared from the list.
Indeed, you can find on his Facebook quite a few publications that are at variance with the ideology of the Opposition Bloc party.
"The Kremlin will not free our sailors at the request of the UN International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea… Well, to be honest, I am no longer surprised by this behavior of Putin's gaggle… Unfortunately, the only effective way to somehow pressure Moscow today is powerful economic sanctions", - Pylypenko wrote on Facebook on May 27, 2019.
"We are all talking about memory, reconciliation and forgiveness these days. No, not all. Our northern neighbor uses the topic of war and deaths of millions of people in world wars to "let us repeat" and "the battle is ours". At that time, exactly five years ago, in May, these victors seized Oleg Sentsov and threw him into prison for 20 years… What is happening now in the Donbass, in Russian prisons, in the Crimea - is the same war", - he wrote in social network on May 27, 2019.
In 2014, Volodymyr Pylypenko participated in the work of the Ukrainian delegation in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), where he criticized Russia's actions and called it aggressor.
A few days after such a media attack, Yevheniy Murayev stated that Volodymyr Pylypenko on the list would be replaced… by former member of the Party of Regions Oleksandr Yefremov, who was in the pre-trial detention center.
"Volodymyr Pylypenko is honored lawyer of Ukraine. I know him as a very qualified lawyer who showed his professionalism. When the scandal began, he himself initiated the meeting. We talked for a very long time, and I think he made quite balanced and sober political decision – not to participate in the election campaign, but to focus on his professional career as lawyer", - Murayev said.
Judging by these words, Volodymyr Pylypenko "left" the Opposition Bloc's list solely on his own initiative. Mr. Murayev was absolutely not embarrassed by the ideological differences in the views of Pylypenko and the party.
Instead of Pylypenko, according to Murayev, the list of the Opposition Bloc party was to be supplemented by Oleksandr Yefremov. Let us note that former head of the Party of Regions faction Oleksandr Yefremov has been in jail for more than two years. He is accused of treason, encroachment on territorial integrity and creation of terrorist organization.
The news that Oleksandr Yefremov will enter the top ten of the Opposition Bloc party even appeared on the Opposition Bloc's website on June 14, 2019. However, it already disappeared after a few days and has not yet been restored.
The CEC, in turn, refused to register Oleksandr Yefremov as candidate for deputy. They noted that any changes in the electoral list, adopted by the congresses of the parties after the deadline, namely on June 10, are impossible and do not comply with the law "On election of people's deputies of Ukraine". In particular, the law allows excluding someone from the list approved by the congress, but not including new candidates.
Blogger and journalist Denis Kazansky believes that the Opposition Bloc knew that congress it was impossible to include new members in the electoral list after the congress, and decided to simply "cynically use their former ally".
"Could the Opposition Block not know that June 10 was a deadline? Of course, no. They knew it perfectly. They simply cynically used their former comrade in arms. Akhmetov's people hate and despise Yefremov and his team already for a long time, there is a long history of relationships that goes back in Kuchma's time. Even now they did not miss the opportunity to kick the old man. I already foresee how they will now pretend to complain on the airs. Allegedly they wanted to help Oleksandr Yefremov, but nothing can be done, the enemies do not give, etc.", - he wrote on Facebook.
As a result, the news that Oleksandr Yefremov will be included in the top ten of the Opposition Bloc's list turned out to be fake and common informational occasion for self-promotion.
Mayors with disrepute
One of the schtick of the Opposition Bloc's electoral list is presence of mayors of large Ukrainian cities there. In particular, these are mayors of Kharkiv, Odessa, Uzhhorod, Mariupol and Zaporizhia. The calculation was apparently made to convert the popularity of these officials into the bloc's electoral ratings. However, their popularity as business executives does not necessarily equal political popularity. Moreover, if they are really such good mayors, then why should citizens give them to the parliament?
Hennadiy Kernes was at one time appointed by the Party of Regions to the mayors of Kharkiv. And he was loyal to it to the last. In 2013-2014, he openly spoke out against Euromaidan and supported President Viktor Yanukovych.
"We are not thugs. But there are sweeping on the Maidan that are infected with the Maidan bacillus and prevent us from creating and building. But our patience is not unlimited. We support Viktor Yanukovych and we are patient for the time being", - Kernes stated on February 1, 2014 at the congress of leaders of the primary organizations of the Party of Regions.
Kernes was also one of the organizers of the congress of deputies at all levels of the South-East of Ukraine and Crimea, where it was announced that before the restoration of order and legality in Kyiv, local administrations of the Russian-speaking part of the country took "full power in their hands". He left Ukraine in a hurry immediately after the congress.
A few days later, the mayor of Kharkiv returned to the city and stated that he was ready to cooperate with the new Kyiv authorities.
"We should cooperate for the benefit of citizens. I believe that what concerns President Yanukovych is already history. Let us move on, letus look ahead… I have never had any separatism or federalism in my thoughts!" - Hennadiy Kernes assured on the day of his return to Kharkiv.
To be true, on March 1, 2014, Hennadiy Kernes has already spoken at a pro-Russian rally in Kharkiv.
Later, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov acknowledged that at first, Kernes was "part of the Russian Spring".
"Another thing is that circumstances and our position forced him to take the Ukrainian side. I think, in the end, he realized for himself that this was beneficial and good. By that time, Kharkiv saw what was happening in Donetsk. A calm, merchant and intelligent Kharkiv decided that we do not need it. When started what started, Kharkiv was trifle embarrassed. Thank God that there were representatives of the elite in Kharkiv, who decided to get rid of this evil", - Avakov told in 2019.
Hennadiy Kernes was re-elected mayor of Kharkiv in 2015 not without the support of the authorities. He stated in 2018 that he will support Petro Poroshenko at the presidential election.
"Which president would Kernes vote for? I can say: for Poroshenko. Why? Because he put so much effort into financing the Kharkiv subway and in matters related to the decentralization of intergovernmental relations", - he explained.
This is despite the fact that Petro Poroshenko came to power thanks to Euromaidan, which Kernes so vehemently criticized.
But after Poroshenko's loss in the presidential election, Kernes instantly changed the colour and publicly congratulated Volodymyr Zelensky on his victory. At the same time, he expressed the hope that Zelensky would not repeat the mistakes of the previous team. In short, Hennadiy Kernes can negotiate and work with any authority.
Today, Hennadiy Kernes advocates direct negotiations with Russia and calls to repent before it.
"Why is anyone shy of direct negotiations with Russia? Why are we ashamed of direct negotiations with Russia? Because it is an aggressor, not a neighbor country? And I think that everything must be solved wisely and we must first of all repent that we blame each other, and then we find punchbags and do not ask for forgiveness", - he believes.
By the way, Kernes has already stated that if he goes to the Rada, he will refuse the mandate and remain the mayor of Kharkiv…
Mayor of Mariupol Vadym Boychenko, who is the fifth on the electoral list, is called the man of Rinat Akhmetov. Most of his work activity is associated with the Azovstal metallurgical plant and Metinvest holding, which are owned by Akhmetov.
He always differed by his cautious statements regarding the war in the Donbass with an emphasis on resolving economic issues in Mariupol. Although, in response to a direct question from journalists about the involvement of the Russian Federation in the events in Donbass, he stated: "Russia's involvement is indisputable. When the Vostochny microdistrict was fired at, many people said where the shells came from. But they clearly flew from the east, from the occupied territory. But we can also definitely say that we are all tired of war: the people of Mariupol want peace".
And once again, how it relates to the position of the party, whose leaders claim that there is a civil war in Ukraine, remains a mystery.
At the same time, Boychenko stated that despite the fifth number on the electoral list of the Opposition Bloc, he would not go to the Verkhovna Rada, but remain the mayor of Mariupol. He explained that he did not join the party, but is only its locomotive.
Mayor of Zaporizhia Volodymyr Buriak, No.8 in the Opposition Bloc's list, is linked with oligarch Rinat Akhmetov as well. He worked at the Zaporizhstal metallurgical plant, which is part of Metinvest holding, for 28 years. According to the local media reports, it was Rinat Akhmetov who sponsored the election campaign of chief engineering officer of Zaporizhstal V.Buriak.
He "became famous" for being the opponent of renaming the streets of Zaporozhia in honor of soldiers killed in ATO.
Mayor of Uzhgorod Bohdan Andrieyev (No.7 on the list) began his political career in the Party of Regions, and became head of the city already from the Revival party. According to the local media reports, he was activist of the Uzhhorod Anti-Maidan and was coordinating the actions of the thugs, who attacked the participants of Euromaidan in Uzhhorod.
In August 2018, Bohdan Andrieyev was accused of embezzlement and misappropriation of $250 thousand during the reconstruction of the Owl's Nest cultural and historical center. He was detained, but released on bail a month later and even remained at his post.
Former people's deputy from the Party of Regions, mayor of Odessa Gennadiy Trukhanov, who is the fourth on the Opposition Bloc's list, expressed the support for Petro Poroshenko, praised him and stated his readiness to give him a vote on the eve of the 2019 presidential election.
"Everything that we say today that we are respected, that we are supported, that we have high ratings on various… To be honest, Petro Poroshenko, this is thanks to you. Thanks to the fact that you gave us the opportunity to show our attitude", - Trukhanov stated in March 2019 during Poroshenko's visit to Odessa.
Given the negative rhetoric of the Opposition Bloc party in relation to Petro Poroshenko, it is unclear how Trukhanov was in the top ten of the electoral list. That is, - it is clear! But they would be ashamed…
Currently, the mayor of Odessa is under investigation. He is accused of organizing a corruption scheme for acquiring the premises of the former Krayan factory for $7 million from the city budget. Prosecutors of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office are asking 12 years in prison for Gennadiy Trukhanov with confiscation of property and prohibition to hold office for 3 years.
According to Kharkiv mayor Hennadiy Kernes, Gennadiy Trukhanov also does not intend to go to the Verkhovna Rada, if the party wins.
It is worth adding to all this that the newly created Trust to the Doings party, which Kernes and Trukhanov represent, is associated with oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi. As well as the Revival party, which is represented in the list of the Opposition Bloc by business partner of Kolomoyskyi Vitaliy Khomutynnik…
So it is difficult to talk about the ideology of this party. Most likely, the Opposition Bloc is simply a springboard for representatives of the business groups of the south-eastern region of Ukraine to pass to the parliament.
Vladyslav Bulatchik, OstroV