Ukraine: Turbo regime without visible breakthroughs and fails

Sergiy Gerasimchuk, Foreign Policy Council "Ukrainian Prism"

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As expected, electing president Zelensky, forming a monomajority in the parliament of Ukraine and keeping a turbo regime of taking decisions – all of the above set a high bar. Ukrainian citizens count on success. Yet October brought some unconventional and in some way even controversial developments. Some of them, in particular political ones, may have a long-lasting and not necessarily positive impact on the country. As for the country’s economy, October went by without any turmoil. The state also did not achieve any significant breakthroughs in foreign policy. 

Domestic Policy

“Steinmeir formula” – a step towards peace or surrender to Russia? 

At the very beginning of October the work of the trilateral contact group in Minsk became more active. Its representatives reviewed and signed the “document” that became known as “Steinmeir formula”. It was named after the German president (at the time foreign minister) Steinmeir who defined the main components for the “formula”. The document describes the procedure of holding elections in so called “republics” and adopting a law on special status for some areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The Ukrainian society, and the country in general, reacted in different ways. There has been a wave of rallies under the motto: “No to Capitulation!”. Protests took place on several occasions in different Ukrainian cities. Moreover, some regional and local councils (with their number growing) adopted addresses to president Zelensky calling on him not to allow the implementation of some points of the document and therefore, not to betray the Ukrainian national interests. However, to be fair, it is important to mention that there were those who supported the “formula” as well: for instance, Kharkiv City Council

The very fact of signing the so-called “Steinmeir formula” was especially difficult to accept for those patriots of the country who are very sensitive to such sentiments (volunteers, veterans of war between Russia and Ukraine, families who lost their loved ones during the war and other people, simply not indifferent to the future of the country). 

There has been certain progress in another crucial sphere, namely fighting the corruption. The Supreme Anti-Corruption Court (SACC) of Ukraine passed its first sentence on corruption. The verdict was delivered to the former judge of the Dnipropetrovsk regional Court of Appeal. The judge will have to pay a fine and is restricted from holding specific positions for a year. It is worth noting that another figure that came under SACC scrutiny was a former top employee of the fifth president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko Oleg Gladkovsky, who is suspected of abusing his authority. The SACC obliged the former state employee to pay a bail equivalent to 10.6 ml UAH (approximately $424 000).


Calm and quiet, and hoping for a warm winter 

Ukraine’s economy, unlike its domestic policy, has been in relatively “quiet waters” in October. For the first time in almost 10 years the country entered its heating season with record natural gas supplies in its underground gas storage facilities. As of October 25, gas supplies made up 21.6 bn cubic meters  that allows for a smooth heating season. However, these optimistic numbers were tainted by trilateral (Ukraine-EU-Russia) gas consultations regarding gas transit via the territory of Ukraine, which have not produced any specific results as of yet.

As for the financial market, it can be noted that the National Bank of Ukraine, a government body that exercises financial regulations, made a decision to reduce the interest rate to 15.5% starting from October 25, while inflation, according to the National Bank, will reach 6.3% by the end of the year. Such steps and forecasts made by the Central Bank will to some extent facilitate cheaper loans and better investment climate in the country, however, tangible results of such an approach are yet to be seen. 

Foreign Policy

NATO – ally, partner or foreign observer? 

As for the foreign policy (except for the attempts to determine the date for the first Normandy format summit for president Zelensky), there has not been much going on. Another exception was the visit of the NATO delegation – representatives of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The last days of October saw the ambassadors of all Alliance member states arriving in Ukraine headed by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. The delegations visited Odessa and Kyiv. There were some top-level meetings including the meeting with the Ukraine’s minister of defense, President, MPs and civil society representatives. Among other things, NATO Secretary General pledged constant support to Ukrainian vis-à-vis when it came to Ukraine’s territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders and also expressed his support for Ukrainian reforms and economic transformations. In their turn NATO member states highly appreciated peaceful and fair elections of 2019, the results of which reflect the will of Ukrainian people.

It is worth noting that prior to these events a discussion had unraveled in Ukraine on its future relations with the Alliance. Some politicians insist on forced integration. Others believe it is important to concentrate on “homework”. Whichever approach becomes mainstream will determine if Ukraine sees NATO as an ally, a partner or there is no definite answer to this question so far.