Criticism of the Office of the President and the policy of Supreme Commander Volodymyr Zelensky is returning to the media field, still with cautious steps.
To a large extent, this is facilitated by the inability to resolve the situation with Azovstal, where about a thousand defenders of Mariupol remain. But there have been other questions as well.
Before the war, criticism of Zelensky became commonplace. With the outbreak of hostilities, it came to naught. Against the background of negotiations with Russia, in March, the first critical remarks were made, however, they quickly subsided. And now, some journalists, activists and, as usual, opposition politicians have again found a reason to criticize the president’s actions and policies.
First of all, which is quite natural in wartime, they criticize the course of actions at the front and the statements made on this occasion from the lips of the representatives of the OP. At the same time, a line is drawn to oppose the command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, headed by Valery Zaluzhny, and the Office of the President, which, according to critics, is not competent enough in military and other matters. In turn, Zaluzhny and Bankova categorically deny the existence of disagreements.
The start of a new wave of criticism was triggered by an interview given by adviser to the head of the President’s Office Alexei Arestovich, which he gave to lawyer Mark Feigin on May 8. When asked about the reasons for the relatively quick capture by Russia of a significant part of the south of Ukraine, he replied that this happened due to the mistakes of the Ukrainian side. They need to be dealt with in detail, including with the aim of punishing the perpetrators:
“Because where is incompetence, and where is betrayal – this is the biggest question. They figure it out, and they will definitely give assessments to everyone – both personnel, and personal, and criminal, and everything in the world.”
Arestovich criticized those who criticize the Office of the President for all the failures, noting that this is wrong: “Let every ram carry his Faberge”:
“And the 360,000 officials between us and the land? Who is this? Are they somehow, at least responsible for something? And what about the military command, to which there are already a lot of questions?”
Because of this phrase, a scandal erupted. Arestovich was accused of trying to absolve himself of guilt by finding “switchmen” among the same military. Taras Chmut, head of the Come Back Alive Foundation, called the attempt on Facebook “political dice games”:
“If someone does not know or has forgotten, then I will remind you that the Armed Forces of Ukraine are engaged in the use and training of the army. And their provision, rearmament and development, as well as the preparation of the state for defense in peacetime, is the responsibility of the Ministry of Defense, the Verkhovna Rada and the Cabinet of Ministers. But the most important thing is that all the key names that are responsible for these processes are determined exclusively from the president’s office.”
Chmut believes that before starting the search for the perpetrators, the OP should answer the following questions:
- Who will be responsible for the appointment of Minister Taran and Chief of the General Staff Khomchak, who actually stopped the development of the Armed Forces of Ukraine for two years?
- Who will bear responsibility for the failure of the state defense order for two years in a row?
- Who will be responsible for such projects as “two corvettes until 2035”, which have eaten up a significant percentage of the defense budget and are not working in this war?
- Who will be responsible for artificially blocking the launch of the Territorial Defense for a year because of the unwillingness that the law was not from the president?
- Who for three months, day after day, said that “there will be no war” and blocked all attempts by the military to start proactive training?
In his post, the head of the Come Back Alive Foundation also wrote:
“And if someone suddenly forgot, then I will remind you that hundreds of dead and wounded men and women provide you with delicious coffee in sunny Kyiv (quoting Arestovich) every day. Every day. And today, looking for the guilty among them is absolutely not the best idea “The culprits are not in the army, although there is someone and what to ask for. The culprits are in the high offices that formed the budgets of politics and determined the names for key positions.”
Vitaly Shabunin, head of the Western-funded Anti-Corruption Center, added to this post on his Telegram channel:
“Arestovich must either apologize, or he must be thrown out of Bankova. Otherwise, his attack on the Armed Forces of Ukraine is an initiative of the OP, and not personal stupidity.”
The accents placed by Shabunin are important. He reduces everything to the suspicion that the OP is attacking the Armed Forces of Ukraine – no doubt, not the entire army, but its leadership, led by Zaluzhny. The same rhetoric periodically sounds from the political and media environment associated with ex-president Petro Poroshenko and his European Solidarity party.
Yury Butusov, editor-in-chief of the Censor.net website, also sees the OP’s attempt to hold the military elite responsible for the mistakes of the first days of the war, who no less often criticizes the Ze-team:
“This is an attempt to interfere in the decision of the military leadership in order to shift the responsibility for some tragic decisions of the political leadership to the military. It is obvious to everyone that only iron restraint and the inner core of our army ensured, under extremely unfavorable conditions created by politicians, that the Russian strike was held at the cost of heavy losses and great sacrifices, and I think that if politicians from [президентского] offices will continue to publicly interfere in the affairs of the army, instead of promoting and systemic work, and will force the military to speak, the consequences will be devastating for some politicians.
Arestovich responded to all the accusations with a lengthy post, but he did not develop the topic of guilt of the army command further. However, he made it clear that the search for those responsible for the miscalculations of the first days of the war would continue:
“We will talk about mistakes and crimes as much as mistakes and actions similar to crimes will be committed. I am a supporter of total truth, no matter how terrible it may be … But I will not name personalities and demand the execution of punishments … I will explain why about Mistakes and crimes can be spoken of, but the suspects and the guilty cannot be named by anyone except the law.
Criticism is also growing over the inaction around Azovstal, where more than 1,000 Ukrainian military men are in the blockade, speaking rather impartially about the authorities in conversations with the media. At a press conference on May 8, the regiment’s deputy commander Svyatoslav Palamar (Kalina), for example, criticized politicians (without naming names) who advised the “Azovites” to mind their own business.
At the end of the press conference, Denis Prokopenko, the wife of Azov regiment commander, took the floor, saying that the authorities are not taking sufficient measures to withdraw the Ukrainian military from Azovstal. The thesis that the authorities are not doing everything necessary to save the fighters is actively spreading on social networks. Butusov even recalled the words of Zelensky back in 2014, when he sharply criticized the then authorities for not saving the Kryvbas battalion, ending his post with the words: “Help or be damned.”
That is, a “disappointment” is gradually ripening regarding the fact that the authorities cannot save the defenders of Azovstal, which in the future may become a political problem for Bankovaya if it is not possible to remove them from there without surrendering. However, objectively it will be extremely difficult to get the Russian side to agree to release the Azov workers from the factory under the “extraction” procedure (with transfer to third countries), which the Ukrainian side wants to carry out. The Russian army controls hundreds of kilometers of territory around Mariupol and the Sea of Azov. Deblockade by military means is impossible, which the Ukrainian president says directly.
So it is unlikely that Russia will agree to release the “Azov”. Unless in exchange for some grandiose political concessions. What the Ukrainian government is unlikely to do. In an interview with Feigin, Arestovich answered criticism of the situation with Azovstal as follows (verbatim):
“All sorts of unscrupulous fuckers who speculate day and night, telling that there are solutions on how to release the military, but the authorities simply don’t want to, that not all the efforts of the authorities have been made. Despite the fact that the two main words that I hear in the OP are ” Mariupol” and “Azovstal”. Someone really wants the Office of the President to be guilty. I will remind these people that the war is far from over.”
The controversy, as the hostilities drag on, becomes more and more fierce. Political scientist Vadim Karasev in an interview with the publication “The country”comments on the situation:
“As the war becomes protracted and stabilization on the fronts, the general upsurge is replaced by reflexive moods. Society now needs answers to the question “Who is to blame?” In one, another, third situation. We also see that successes in the war cause jealousy between the military leadership and politicians (as well as within the politicians themselves), while they try to shift failures on each other. And politicians do not always solo. For example, the defenders of Azovstal from the Azov regiment, thanks to modern means of communication, make accusations against the authorities, who have great public outcry. And it is increasingly difficult for the Office of the President to find arguments in their defense after their speeches.”
Political scientist Ruslan Bortnik expresses his opinion about the popularity and ratings of politicians:
“If Zelensky and his team remain successful, they will be the main patriots in the country. And there may not be room for other right-wing parties, including Poroshenko’s Eurosolidarity. authorities, right-wing leaders are trying to survive in the political system.Something like “Yes, we are now winning near Kharkov, but Kherson has been surrendered!”. Moreover, the further, the stronger the competitors will recover, which means they will hit more often and more sensitively by a power that will have to be defended.”
At the same time, Karasev admits that the current attacks by the Poroshenko group on the authorities may be related to criminal proceedings involving ex-president and arrested politician Viktor Medvedchuk. Developing the theme of the government’s responsibility for mistakes in the war, Poroshenko is acting on a preemptive basis.
But there is also the side of the military leadership. Zaluzhny, as expected, does not enter into disputes. The interlocutor, who personally knows both the commander-in-chief himself and the volunteer Taras Chmut, says that both were well acquainted even before the war. That is, the questions raised by Chmut may reflect not only his position. And he clarifies that Zaluzhny “knows his function and does not get into politics, although he may be dragged. He understands all the risks of this and therefore does not want to.”
Yes, and Zelensky publicly emphasizes his respect for the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. It is no coincidence that Zaluzhny became the first holder of the new Combat Merit Cross.
But both in the country and abroad (including in the West), and this is becoming more and more obvious, there are many forces that are interested in maintaining political competition in Ukraine and having an alternative to Zelensky. Hence the growing criticism. But it is also obvious that the resumption of political squabbles and the constant peddling of the topic of opposing the military and political leadership carries huge risks for a country where the war is not over, and the enemy continues offensive operations on its territory. Therefore, it is not at all excluded that in the event of an increase in criticism, the authorities may try to sharply stop it with direct accusations of working for the enemy. As Arestovich says:
“A simple narrative: “heroes in the field against traitors in the office and fat, stupid generals in headquarters.” Do you personally think it contributes to victory?”