Analytical review of the week No. 108 of 03/21/2021.

ANALYTICAL REVIEW OF THE MOST IMPORTANT DOMESTIC, FOREIGN POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC EVENTS OF THE WEEK

03.15. - 03.21.2021

 

CONTENT:

INTERNAL POLICY.

1. The people's deputies were presented with the draft law of 2010 on denunciation of the "Kharkiv agreements" with Russia for familiarization.

2. The Cabinet of Ministers has registered a new bill on the dismissal of A. Sytnik.

3. People's Deputy Alexander Dubinsky accused the Office of the President and David Arakhamia of promoting Derkach's tapes against Biden.

4. Aggravation in the Donbass. Statement by D. Kozak and L. Kravchuk.

5. Meeting of the NSDC and its decisions.

6. Sociology. Change in power ratings. The attitude of citizens to the main events in the country.

7. Supporters of Sergei Sternenko staged a pogrom at the President's Office.

FOREIGN POLICY.

1. The British government has presented an overview “Global Britain in the Age of Competition”, which defines the country's foreign policy priorities until 2030.

2. Report of the US National Intelligence Service on the interference of Russia and Iran in the 2020 presidential elections.

3. Results of the Moscow conference on resolving the situation in Afghanistan.

4. Visit of the Chinese delegation to the Crimea.

5. A bill on partnership with Ukraine in the field of security was submitted to the US Senate.

ECONOMY.

1. The risk of a sharp reduction in imports of Russian fuel due to pressure on the network of filling stations "Glusco".

2. Implementation of the Ukrainian ports concession policy in 2021.

3. The law "on the export of chernozems."

4. SBU suspects ArcelorMittal of financial fraud.

 

CONCLUSION.

INTERNAL POLICY.

Briefly:

This week continued the confrontation between the Office of the President and anti-corruption activists / Western partners in an effort to establish their control over the “anti-corruption vertical” and the judicial system. The Office of the President tries to minimize external influence, and does not abandon attempts to replace A. Sytnik as director of NABU. As part of this approach, the Cabinet of Ministers registered a new bill on the dismissal of A. Sytnik. The CPC sharply criticizes this bill.

The authorities continue their policy of “tightening the screws” - increasing pressure on political and economic opponents. In parallel, the authorities are actively promoting themselves in the patriotic electoral segment, updating the topic of Crimea on the eve of the organization of the "Crimean Platform".

The initiative to denounce the Kharkiv Agreements and prosecute those involved in their preparation and ratification, testifies to the desire of the President's Office to continue to form a new “patriotic” image, to play the role of a “strong hand” in order to maintain control over the power vertical, as well as the intention make representatives of rival political groups more accommodating by "hanging" them on the hook of potential criminal prosecution.

1. People's Deputies were presented with a draft law of 2010 on denunciation of the "Kharkiv agreements" with Russia for familiarization.
 

On March 16, parliamentarians were presented with bill No. 0095 "On denunciation of the Agreement between Ukraine and the Russian Federation on the stay of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine".

Earlier, on March 11, the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine instructed to check the ratification of the "Kharkiv agreements" by 236 MPs in 2010 for high treason. In this regard, the SBU launched a pre-trial investigation and on March 16 conducted searches in the structures that were involved in their preparation and ratification: the Verkhovna Rada, the NSDC, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Cabinet of Ministers. It is worth adding that the head of the Verkhovna Rada, Dmitry Razumkov, expressed doubts about bringing former people's deputies to responsibility for the Kharkiv agreements, thus in once again demonstrating the isolation of their position from the general line of power. Later, Prosecutor General Irina Venediktova also stated that it was impossible to prosecute the deputies for their decisions made within the walls of parliament.

It should be noted that the "Agreement on the status and conditions of the stay of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine" was signed by Russia and Ukraine on May 28, 1997, and its validity period expired in 2017. This means that the "Kharkov agreements" on the presence of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine, signed on April 21, 2010, did not fundamentally affect the capabilities of the Russian Federation to conduct military operations in Crimea, since as of 2014, Russian troops would have been there even under the old 1997 agreement.

In exchange for extending the basing of the fleet, the Russian side already in 2010 began to provide Kiev with a discount on gas.

At the end of March 2014, Russia unilaterally denounced the Kharkiv agreements. According to the Russian Federation, the agreement with Ukraine on the deployment of the fleet in the Ukrainian Sevastopol created the appearance that Russia would recognize the Ukrainian status of Crimea. Ukraine, for its part, has not yet canceled these agreements.

The raising of the issue of the "Kharkiv agreements" by the current Ukrainian authorities right now may have several reasons.

The first of them is an attempt to play the patriotic card and demonstrate to society how much the current government is more patriotic than the previous one, which did not raise this issue. It is also a blow to the reputation of the former President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, who actively supported the preservation of the "Kharkiv agreements" during his tenure.

The second reason is that by hanging all former and current politicians "on the hook" of potential suspicions of treason, the Office of the President and the NSDC under his control are trying to make them more accommodating in the domestic political situation. A special role here can be assigned to P. Poroshenko (who at one time supported their ratification), V. Lytvyn, S. Holovaty (acting Head of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine), S. Grinevetsky, L. Derkach and others. In addition, this is another reason to initiate criminal proceedings against V. Yanukovych's team and prevent at least some of them from returning to Ukraine - N. Azarov, S. Klimenko, D. Tabachnyk and other persons against whom international sanctions have been lifted.

The third reason is the need to continue demonstrating a "strong hand" in order to maintain control over the administrative vertical on the part of the president. In the present, there are few objects for such a demonstration (after the media defeat of the "anti-Western" part of the opposition), so the authorities set about looking for "zrada" in the past.

In addition, the "Kharkiv agreements" directly relate to the topic of Crimea and their discussion, according to the authorities, should create additional interest in the initiative of the "Crimean Platform".

2. The Cabinet of Ministers has registered a new bill on the dismissal of A. Sytnik.

 

This week, the Cabinet of Ministers registered a bill “On Amendments to Certain Laws of Ukraine Concerning Bringing the Status of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine in line with the requirements of the Constitution of Ukraine".

The document deals with the process of dismissal of the current director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, Artem Sytnik. According to the bill, his powers are terminated in accordance with the decision of the Constitutional Court.

The above draft law was criticized at the Anti-Corruption Center, closely connected with Ukraine's western partners from the US Democratic Party. The organization notes that the decision of the Constitutional Court cannot be the basis for the dismissal or termination of the powers of the director of NABU, and the new version of the bill "already directly provides for the political dismissal of Sytnik."

In addition, the CPC insists that the norms for the election of a new head, provided for in the draft law, create the basis for the appointment of a "manual" head of NABU, therefore, under no circumstances will they be adopted by international partners. According to the organization, if A. Sytnik is dismissed in this way, it means that any subsequent director can also be dismissed by a parliamentary majority.

The CPC added that the document contains risks of the bureau's independence from the government, whose members are under investigation by NABU. Since, according to the bill, NABU becomes an executive authority and is subordinate to the Cabinet of Ministers.

Moreover, the bill provides that the director of NABU will be elected by a competition committee of 6 people (3 members from the National Security and Defense Council and 3 from the government at the suggestion of international organizations) by a simple majority. Thus, the commission members delegated by international partners will not have a decisive role in the process of electing the head of NABU. It is also proposed to limit the work of protégés of international partners in the commission by the election of only one director of NABU. The election of all subsequent leaders of this structure, according to the bill, should take place without their participation.

Another attempt to replace the head of NABU A. Sytnik can be considered within the framework of the desire of the President's Office to establish its control over the maximum number of public administration structures and law enforcement agencies, minimizing the influence of international partners on them as much as possible, who seek to maintain control over the “anti-corruption vertical”.

Despite the fact that Volodymyr Zelenskyy wants to get a leader under his control at the head of NABU, this does not at all mean a change in the orientation of power to external management. Rather, it is about reformatting relations with Western partners after the change of the presidential administration in the United States. V. Zelensky seeks that the role of mediator between the President of Ukraine and Western partners, which was previously played by A. Sytnyk, is now performed by his people. But taking into account the sharp reaction to the draft law of the CPC (one of the main lobbying structures of the West in the Ukrainian public sector), it can be concluded that the actions of the OP in this regard have not yet met with approval from Western partners.

In the future, the struggle and bargaining for control over the "anti-corruption vertical" in the country will continue.

3. People's Deputy Alexander Dubinsky accused the Office of the President and David Arakhamia of promoting Derkach's tapes against Biden.

 

This week, MP Alexander Dubinsky, expelled from the Servant of the People faction, made a statement that it was the President's Office that asked him to take part in a press conference with MP Andrei Derkach, during which audio recordings of conversations between former President Petro Poroshenko and Joe Biden were published , as well as initiate the creation of a temporary investigative commission in the Verkhovna Rada. After A. Dubinsky refused to participate in this process, the head of the Servant of the People faction David Arahamia organized the registration of the commission of inquiry. In addition, Dubinsky said that he had nothing to do with the publication of the "Derkach tapes" and promised to expose those who were involved in this.

Andrey Derkach released his audio materials on May 19. In his opinion, they may indicate the influence of former US Vice President D. Biden on P. Poroshenko.

In turn, David Arakhamia called the accusations of A. Dubinsky in the involvement of the President's Office in the leak of the conversation between Poroshenko and Biden as conjectures.

After the United States imposed sanctions against Igor Kolomoisky, the balance of power within the Servant of the People faction began to shift sharply towards loss positions of the informal group "Privat" controlled by him.

A. Dubinsky's statement is a response to these actions and an attempt to discredit the OP in front of the new administration of D. Biden, the loyalty of which is so sought by the presidential team.

In addition, if the information disclosed by A. Dubinsky is true, it testifies that at a certain moment in V. Zelensky's office they tried to play along with the Republicans and Democrats, demonstrating their commitment to D. Trump, and, just in case, trying not to break off relations with D. Biden.

4. Aggravation in the Donbass. Statement by D. Kozak and L. Kravchuk.

 

This week, Dmitry Kozak, deputy head of the Russian presidential administration and representative at the Normandy format talks, said in an interview that there was no new peace plan, which was previously announced head of the office of the President of Ukraine Andriy Yermak, does not exist.

Earlier, the press secretary of the Russian President Dmitry Peskov said that the Kremlin had not seen a plan for a peaceful settlement of the situation in Donbass, and had not received any offers to meet. Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that he was ready to meet separately with each of the leaders of the Normandy Four. Leonid Kravchuk also announced that the next meeting of the leaders of the countries of the Normandy Four could take place in April, but it is too early to talk about it for sure. The last meeting of the leaders of the Normandy Four countries was held in December 2019.

In the opinion of the Russian side, this is another attempt to replace practical actions and real work to resolve the conflict with various kinds of information stuffing. Accordingly, Ukraine's policy is simply aimed at dragging out the conflict.

In turn, the head of the Ukrainian delegation to the Trilateral Contact Group, Leonid Kravchuk, said that Russia was responsible for the water situation in Crimea, and also did not rule out the invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops from the south, quote:

“I think that the issue of water for Crimea will be aggravated, I think that this will be one of the impetus for Russia to break the road from there to Ukraine. Kherson, Mariupol - they want to somehow break through to Crimea in order to provide Crimea with water”.

Let's remember, earlier L. Kravchuk allowed water supply to Crimea.

After a six-month truce, the situation in Donbass has escalated. The main factors influencing the aggravation of the situation are the deadlock in the Minsk and Normandy negotiation processes, as well as the uncertainty of US-Russian relations and the role of the "Ukrainian question" in these relations after the election of Joseph Biden as US President.

In view of the next deterioration in US-Russian relations, at the moment there are additional risks of an escalation of confrontation, including in the Ukrainian direction, in the absence of progress in the political part of a peaceful settlement. Nevertheless, despite local exacerbations, the likelihood of a full-scale armed conflict is not yet high, since none of the parties to the conflict wants to be guilty of the disruption of the Minsk agreements in the eyes of the world community.

5. Meeting of the NSDC and its decisions.

 

As a result of the meeting on March 19, the NSDC imposed sanctions against Viktor Yanukovych, Mykola Azarov, Viktor Pshonka, Dmitry Tabachnik, Sergei Kurchenko and 23 more persons. Also, 19 companies developing subsoil were included in the sanctions list: GeoConnect, Globalgeoinvest, Transsetgeo, Geopost, Geovertical, Geotarget, Nadrapride, Geofors, Geostens, Nadra West Group "," Best Oil Company "," Nadra Prostir "," Infogeotrend "," Agein Marka "," Ecogasalliance "," Epival Energy "," Yunolit Oil "," Profinnaft "," Bestgeotech ".

All these companies automatically lose licenses for the use of mineral resources in Ukraine. And this does not happen through the courts, which is a negative signal for business.

NSDC Secretary A. Danilov said that Ukrainian subsoil is mainly used not by Ukrainian citizens, but by companies registered in the Virgin Islands or in other offshores. The most severe type of sanctions that the NSDC can apply.

Two companies from Hong Kong, which own 49.9% of Donetskoblgaz JSC, fell under the sanctions. Also announced are checks of the monopolist of digital broadcasting - the Zeonbud company.

Most of the companies that fell under the sanctions were linked by the media with businessman Pavel Fuks. But P. Fuchs himself denied his involvement in them.

A. Danilov also announced that the NSDC is starting an audit of all licenses for the use of subsoil. In view of the rising prices for raw materials, assets related to the extraction of minerals are becoming more attractive, in connection with which the power begins to redistribute property. This may result in the redistribution of resources and minerals with the transition from one owner to another. It is possible that by taking away the resource base from domestic big capital, the authorities are preparing the ground for the arrival (including in the extractive industry) of transnational capital in its place.

Continuing the tendency to suppress political opponents, the government continues to restrict their sources of income with the help of the NSDC. At the same time, it is important to note that all the persons involved in the list of new sanctions against individuals have long been living in Russia or in uncontrolled territories, and are inaccessible to Ukrainian justice. Consequently, in this matter, the decision of the NSDC has no practical significance, but is exclusively a PR action.

6. Sociology. Change in power ratings. The attitude of citizens to the main events in the country.

 

March 16 "Razumkov Center" published a sociological study, according to which Vladimir Zelensky is in the lead in the presidential rating, 27% of respondents are ready to vote for him. Compared to the survey conducted in February 2021 - (23%), the rating increased by 4%. Recall that from December to February, according to the Razumkov Center, the president's rating dropped by 5%.

This is followed by: P. Poroshenko - 20% (in February 18%; + 2%); Yuri Boyko -17% (in February 20%; -3%); Yulia Tymoshenko - 11% (the rating has not changed significantly).

In the party rating, the Servant of the People party is in the lead - 26.5%. Compared to the poll conducted in early February (22%), the party's rating rose by 4.5%.

"European Solidarity" - 20% (in February 18%; + 2%)

"Opposition Platform - For Life" - 18% (in February 22%; -4%)

VO "Batkivshchyna" - 9%, (in February 10%; -1%)

In the event of an electoral rivalry in the second round with P. Poroshenko, Y. Boyko or D. Razumkov, V. Zelensky becomes the winner of the presidential election.

D. Razumkov wins P. Poroshenko and Y. Boyko, and P. Poroshenko wins in case of electoral rivalry in the second round with Y. Boyko.

In the rating of trust, the president failed to restore his leading position. Somewhat more often, citizens express confidence in D. Razumkov (38% of respondents trust him, 48% do not); V. Zelensky, respectively, 31% and 63%.

At the same time, D. Razumkov's trust rating demonstrates positive dynamics: in February 32% (+ 6%) trusted him, 53% did not trust him (distrust decreased by 5%). The president's positive dynamics is somewhat more modest: trust + 5% (it was 26, five%); distrust remained almost unchanged + 1.5% (it was 65.5%).

Interestingly, D. Razumkov's positive dynamics of trust (trust +3; distrust decreased by 3%) is also confirmed by the results of a survey by the Sociological Group "Rating" (dated February 24, 2021), where V. Zelensky is the leader of trust.

According to a survey by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology KIIS (published on March 17, 2021), V. Zelensky is in the lead in the trust rating. 44.5% trust him, 51% do not trust him, 6.5% do not trust him.

According to a poll conducted by KIIS from January 27 to February 1, 2021, the president's trust rating has grown significantly + 7%, while distrust has decreased by 8.6%.

At the same time, D. Razumkov and V. Klitschko are absent from the rating.

V. Klitschko in early February was ahead of the president in the rating of trust (KIIS). And D. Razumkov is ahead of the president in the trust rating, according to the latest research by the Razumkov Center.

Public opinion on the main events and phenomena in the country:

The overwhelming majority of Ukrainian citizens consider utility tariffs too high and the government and the president are mainly responsible for this - 92.6%.

Also, the vast majority of respondents are not ready to be vaccinated against COVID-19 - 60.7%

Ukrainian citizens are not inclined to take part in any type of protest.

Despite the fact that sanctions against TV channels are supported by a relative majority of respondents - 49%, 31% are against.

In fact, the attitude of citizens to either V. Zelensky or V. Medvedchuk has not changed.

Attitudes towards Viktor Medvedchuk after the imposition of sanctions: did not change - 63.5%; worsened - 20%; improved - 5%.

Attitude towards Vladimir Zelensky after the imposition of sanctions: did not change - 51.5%; improved - 21%; worsened - 17%

With regard to the "Sternenko case", positions were divided: 34% - consider the court's decision to be objective. 34% - that the court's decision is unfounded.

The results of the aforementioned studies indicate that the pro-government team managed to stabilize the party and parliamentary ratings. In contrast to the beginning of this year, now the rating of the president and his party is showing growth, not decline, while the rating of OPL is declining.

Since the ratings of the pro-government team have been stabilized, it is expected that the trend towards the realization of the public's demand for a “strong hand” will continue, namely, increased pressure from the authorities on political and economic opponents. These actions will primarily be directed against the “anti-Western” opposition, due to its political and “street” defenselessness, as well as the simplicity of accusations of “working for the enemy”.

7. Supporters of Sergei Sternenko staged a pogrom at the President's Office.

 

On the night of March 20-21, supporters of the Odessa radical Sergei Sternenko, convicted of kidnapping, held an action near the President's Office, which turned into acts of vandalism and a pogrom of the facade of the administrative building.

The radicals painted the facade of the OP with offensive slogans addressed to the president, smashed the windows of the front door and tried to set fire to the sign with the name of the institution. At the same time, the police behaved passively and, in fact, did not interfere with the pogrom.

The total damage from the actions of S. Sternenko's supporters in the OP was estimated at 2 million hryvnia.

The demands of the protesters were:

Satisfaction of the appeal against the sentence of S. Sternenko and his release.

• Dismissal of Prosecutor General Irina Venediktova and Interior Minister Arsen Avakov.

• The introduction of sanctions against the lawyer Andrey Portnov, who actively contributed to the advancement of the case in the courts.

The actions in support of Sternenko are backed by local lobbyists for the interests of the US Democratic Party, including the Golos party, national liberal structures funded by Viktor Pinchuk, organizations receiving Western grants (Anti-Corruption Center, etc.).

In their activities, they pursue two main goals: the promotion of Sergei Sternenko as a "new leader of the national liberals" (the Golos party has a crisis of popular figures in society, which is reflected in its rating, which is currently about 1%), and pressure to the Office of the President by all possible means to promote conditions of judicial reform favorable to the West.

FOREIGN POLICY.

Briefly:

Contradictions in world politics continue to escalate due to the emergence of a multipolar system of international relations.

Britain, which recently left the EU, asserts itself as a global player with the release of a strategic document titled "Global Britain in an Age of Competition", which outlines London's plans to build up its own military, political and technological influence on the international stage until 2030.

The United States is paving the way for blackmailing Russia and Iran with new sanctions through accusations of interference in elections. Washington's ultimate goal in this game is to make geopolitical opponents more accommodating and turn them away from cooperation with China.

The PRC, in turn, is more and more openly declaring its readiness to closely cooperate with the Russian Federation in political terms. The arrival of a Chinese business delegation to Crimea simultaneously signals to Ukraine that it should not impose sanctions against Chinese investors, and Russia - that Beijing is probing the ground for recognizing the annexation of Crimea in exchange for Moscow's recognition of the very likely annexation of Taiwan in the future.

1. The British government presented an overview “Global Britain in the Age of Competition”, which defines the country's foreign policy priorities until 2030.

On March 16, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson released a comprehensive overview of the country's security, defense and foreign policy for the period up to 2030, called "Global Britain in an era of competition", according to which the country's nuclear potential will increase to 260 warheads. Recall that at the moment London has 180 nuclear warheads.

Introducing the document, Boris Johnson stated, quote:

“The review describes how we will strengthen our alliances and our capabilities, seek new ways to solve problems and re-learn the art of competing with states with opposing values”.

In the last phrase, namely: "to re-learn the art of competition with states with opposite values", the British Prime Minister made a special emphasis.

The UK has led the international condemnation of China's "massive repression" against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang and its actions in Hong Kong, he said. Johnson also added, "There is no doubt that China will be a major challenge for an open society like ours."

The survey calls Russia the main threat to the United Kingdom in the Euro-Atlantic region. The document says that it is to combat it that Britain intends to strengthen its interaction with other NATO countries, which, according to the government in London, remains "the basis of collective security in the region, native to the United Kingdom."

The document confirms that the defense and economic partnership of the UK with the United States is the most important for London, but at the same time, it promises to expand the role of Great Britain throughout the world, and recognizes the tendency to shift the center of the global geopolitical confrontation to the Indo-Pacific region in the next decade.

In addition to the above, the UK government wants to increase its defense spending by £ 24 billion over the next four years, significantly more than the £ 42.2 billion spent in 2019-2020.

The government has also pledged to invest tens of billions of pounds in other areas, including 15 billion pounds for research and development in science and technology, over 17 billion pounds to combat climate change and promote biodiversity, and 13 billion pounds to fight with coronavirus.

Analyzing the above, it should be stated that the review presented by the British government is nothing more than a program for building up London's foreign policy influence in the coming years. As follows from the document, Britain plans to rely on this issue not on ephemeral "universal human democratic values", but on a very specific military force. For this, it is planned to significantly increase the military budget and increase the number of nuclear warheads.

At the same time, the British government's review clearly states that after Brexit, the United States will again become the main ally and partner for London. When the document talks about interaction with NATO allies, it is also clear from the context that it means, first of all, the United States.

Also noteworthy is the fact that the British leadership stated the need to "learn again to compete with states that have opposite values." In fact, this means that the British, unlike the officials of the Biden administration, admit that "American-style globalization" has not been implemented and the world remains multipolar. Competition with alternative poles, such as Russia and China, is seen in London as something inevitable, as a new reality.

In sum, all the above conclusions add up to a picture very similar to the one that took place shortly after the Second World War, in the early 1950s: the closest military alliance between Britain and the United States, fueled by economic interaction, increased attention to the former colonies (the same Indo -Pacific region), not too active interaction with Europe, conservatives in power, and the Cold War gaining momentum.

Whether the American Democrats, who have failed to accept the completion of the pax Americana and the need to build new configurations in relations with their allies, will agree with them is a question we will have to find out the answer to in the coming years.

2. Report of the US National Intelligence Service on the interference of Russia and Iran in the 2020 presidential election.

 

On March 16, a report from the Office of National Intelligence was published in the United States, which said the following, quote:

“We believe that Russian President Putin has given permission for Russian state structures to conduct operations aimed at denigrating President Biden's candidacy, supporting ex-President Trump, undermining confidence in the electoral process and exacerbating socio-political divisions in the United States".

The document also says that Iran and its proxies in the Middle East interfered in the American presidential elections.

Despite the seriousness of the accusations, American intelligence officers do not provide concrete evidence of interference, as in the aftermath of the 2016 elections.

The publication of the said report indicates that the US authorities are actively preparing the informational basis for the introduction of new sanctions against their geopolitical opponents.

As part of the same preparation, in a recent interview with ABC News, Joe Biden called Vladimir Putin a murderer. To a journalist's question: “So you know Vladimir Putin. Do you think he's a killer? ”The US President replied:“ Mmm, I do".

It is obvious that the accusations of interference in elections and sanctions in Washington intend to use to blackmail Russia and Iran and try to get from them a more accommodating position on key issues of international politics. However, it is unlikely that anything will come of it. As practice shows, Moscow and Tehran tend to respond to sweeping accusations with tougher rhetoric and actions.

This thesis is perfectly confirmed by the recall of the Russian ambassador from Washington for consultations immediately after Biden's scandalous statement, as well as by Putin's response in the spirit of ridiculing his American colleague and making him look in an unattractive light.

3. Results of the Moscow conference on resolving the situation in Afghanistan.

 

On March 18-19, a conference was held in Moscow dedicated to the problem of resolving the situation in Afghanistan. And if earlier such events were held without the participation of the United States, this time almost all representatives of external forces influencing the situation in the region, as well as representatives of the Afghan government and the opposing Islamist Taliban movement, gathered in the Russian capital.

For the first time, the "Moscow format" of discussing the settlement of the Afghan conflict started working in February 2019. Against the background of the apparent inability of the United States to end the bloody civil conflict that continued for almost 20 years, the Kremlin saw opportunities to increase its influence and stabilize the situation in the region. According to an agreement between the Taliban and the United States, the latter were to withdraw their troops and allies by May 1 of this year, which in the long term threatened an exacerbation of the armed conflict between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Naturally, this would endanger the entire security system in the region.

In addition to the Afghan government itself and the Taliban, Russia, the United States, China and Pakistan took part in the conference. At the same time, the final resolution was adopted only by external forces, without the approval of representatives of the warring forces of Afghanistan. In addition to general language about the need to "reduce the level of violence" and "ensure the rights of all residents are respected," the resolution called for the Taliban to abandon the traditional spring offensive and not support the restoration of the Islamic Emirate.

And if the first point depends, among other things, on the willingness of the United States to withdraw its troops from the country, then the second point requires serious political concessions from the Taliban, since before the American invasion of 2001, the Taliban ruled the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. It is not surprising that this very point became an obstacle to the approval of the final resolution by all conference participants.

It is also interesting that Russia did not involve India, which is a significant force in the region, in the work of the conference. Delhi has been supporting the government in Kabul with more than $ 3 billion in funding since the beginning of the conflict in 2001 for infrastructure reconstruction, rehabilitation and economic development. Taking this into account, Moscow's ignorance of Delhi's position was perceived by India as an open challenge and forced the expert community to talk about revising Russian-Indian relations, which were previously perceived as strategic. Judging by the information published in open sources, this is due to Russia's stake on China as the basis for a further settlement of the situation in Afghanistan, as well as India's drift towards supporting the United States in its confrontation with China.

The next conference on a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan will be held in Istanbul in April this year. Although both the great powers and the parties to the Afghan conflict declare their readiness for a peaceful settlement, there is very little chance that the country, torn apart by a bloody civil war for decades, can finally find peace.

4. Visit of the Chinese delegation to the Crimea.

 

At the end of last week, a delegation of Chinese entrepreneurs visited Crimea. Previously, the Chinese authorities took a rather cautious position on the peninsula, however, it seems that the recent actions of the Ukrainian authorities against the Chinese investors of the Motor Sich plant caused the PRC to revise its policy towards Crimea.

With the de facto authorities of the peninsula annexed by Russia, businessmen discussed cooperation in the field of tourism and export of goods. The published information about the trip of entrepreneurs to the peninsula is rather general, no specific agreements were concluded as a result of the visit, but the very fact of such a visit is indicative.

Previously, the PRC took an extremely cautious position regarding the peninsula, refraining from voting on the "Crimean" resolutions at the UN and preferring to build partnerships with both Ukraine and Russia. The changes came after Kiev decided to nationalize the Motor Sich plant, 56% of which had previously been bought by Chinese investors, and to impose sanctions against these investors. The openly unfriendly gesture of Ukraine, apparently carried out with the approval and in the interests of the American partners, clearly changed the position of the PRC in relation to Crimea.

In the Chinese diplomatic tradition, it is customary to avoid harsh language. It became all the more characteristic that the PRC Foreign Ministry demanded that Ukraine not politicize the commercial relations between the Celestial Empire and Crimea. The Chinese position is that the country “historically” cooperates with the peninsula and does so in accordance with market principles.

It is obvious that China is interested in developing new economic relations and, after Ukraine's unfriendly actions, it has fewer obstacles to building a business in Crimea. Likewise, the Russian authorities are interested in maximum external recognition of their control over the peninsula.

However, the history of the visit of the Chinese delegation to Crimea has another dimension, more important for the PRC. Over the next 15 years, Beijing is likely planning to return to its control of the island of Taiwan. Recently, an officially approved project was even published for the construction of a tunnel from the mainland to the island.

In this regard, some analysts note that the Chinese authorities are exploring the possibility of an "exchange of confessions" with Russia. We are talking about a situation in which Beijing can recognize Crimea as Russian, so that Moscow recognizes Taiwan as a legal part of China, if it is captured or returned in some other way.

Given the growing global geopolitical confrontation, in which Russia and China oppose the "collective West", such a scenario cannot be ruled out. And if you add to this Kiev's methodical attempts to spoil relations with Beijing, ordered by Washington, the situation for Ukraine becomes even more complicated.

The story of the visit of the Chinese delegation to Crimea had a continuation in absentia. During a two-hour meeting of the Ministers of Defense of Ukraine and Japan on March 17 in a video format, Ukraine expressed support for Japan on the situation in the East China and South China Seas (meaning, first of all, the disputed Diaoyu / Senkaku archipelago), as well as in connection with the adopted China "Law on Maritime Police".

New PRC responses expected.

5. A bill on partnership with Ukraine in the field of security was submitted to the US Senate.

 

On March 17, a bipartisan group of US Senators introduced the Ukraine Security Partnership Act, which provides for the provision of security assistance and strategic support. Senators Bob Menendez, Jim Risch, Rob Portman, Chris Murphy, John Barrasso and Gene Shaheen contributed to the project.

The document contains the following proposals:

• Declare US diplomatic support for Ukraine for the next 5 years;

Calls on the State Department to create a working group on Ukraine together with the European allies;

Appoint a US special envoy for Ukraine, who would, among other things, mediate the negotiations in the Normandy format and facilitate dialogue between the countries of the Black Sea region;

Annually allocate up to $ 300 million for military support to Ukraine, including the ability to provide lethal weapons;

• To ask the State Department and the Ministry of Defense to report on the urgent needs of the Ukrainian armed forces, plan security support and provide appropriate recommendations;

Provide up to $ 4 million annually for the training of the Ukrainian military.

In addition to the above practical steps, the document presupposes the development of a number of strategies for interaction with US partners on the Ukrainian issue.

So, it is proposed to develop strategies:

• Using the positions of the United States and its allies in the UN, OSCE, Council of Europe, NATO and other international organizations to "support Ukraine in implementing reforms."

Assisting the United States in building diplomatic, economic, energy, and maritime relations between Ukraine and the countries of the Black Sea region.

• Together with US allies in promoting democratic, economic, and anti-corruption reforms in Ukraine.

Also, American lawmakers propose to establish the post of a special envoy for Ukraine, accountable to the assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia.

From the foregoing, it follows that the United States intends to significantly intensify its policy in the Ukrainian direction during the Biden reign. At the same time, its key elements are defined:

- pushing the Ukrainian authorities to continue reforms in the economy, as well as reforms in public administration, allowing foreign actors to gain greater control over its structures and access to markets;

- building some new geopolitical structures from the US allies in the Black Sea region in order to confront Russia (presumably, within the framework of these structures, the topic of Crimea will be revived and here the initiative of the Ukrainian authorities with the "Crimean platform" may come in handy);

- continuation of the supply of lethal weapons and other support to Ukraine in the military sphere.

The seriousness of the US intentions to become more active in the Ukrainian direction is evidenced by the proposal to create the post of a special envoy for Ukraine. Moreover, given that the document spells out his direct accountability to the Deputy Secretary of State, it should be noted that the powers of this official will be much more formalized than those of Kurt Volcker, who previously held the purely decorative post of "US special representative for Ukraine" without formal powers.

ECONOMY.

Briefly:

The main trend in the Ukrainian economy remains unchanged - the search for funds to cover the budget deficit and repay debts to external creditors.

It fits into the implementation by the current government of the policy of handing over Ukrainian ports to concessions to foreign companies, as well as the liberalization of land legislation in order to bypass restrictions on the purchase of Ukrainian agricultural land by foreign citizens.

At the same time, the authorities continue to use methods of economic (sanctions) pressure to deprive their political opponents of the resource base.

1. The risk of a sharp reduction in imports of Russian fuel due to pressure on the Glusco filling station network.

On February 19, the NSDC decided to impose sanctions against Viktor Medvedchuk and his wife Oksana Marchenko. On February 23, the Supreme Anti-Corruption Court (VAKS) arrested PrikarpatZapadtrans LLC, which owns the pipeline.

On March 15, oil products trader Proton Energy announced the termination of diesel fuel supplies to Ukraine from April 1, 2021. This trader provided diesel and autogas to a number of gas station networks in Ukraine, such as Glusco, WOG, KLO, OKKO, Avantage, and others. In total, Proton Energy satisfied 23% of the demand for diesel fuel in Ukraine and 22.3% of the demand for liquefied gas.

In response to the sanctions against V. Medvedchuk and the deadlock in the Minsk negotiation process on the Donbass, Russia may agree to a complete or partial cessation of all supplies of diesel fuel and liquefied gas to Ukraine. If this termination coincides with the beginning of the sowing season, a shortage of diesel fuel and a sharp rise in prices for it is inevitable. It will overlap with the projected increase in fuel prices in 2021. Diesel fuel can rise in price by 2-3 hryvnia. Proton Energy's decision to cut off supplies coincided with searches and pressure on the Glusko gas station network, which is linked to Medvedchuk. NABU has already authorized the arrest of 130 thousand tons of Proton Energy fuel.

Russia can also artificially slow down the flow of oil products across its border to Ukraine. Taking into account the seasonal increase in diesel fuel consumption by farmers every spring, the Russian Federation may well provoke an increase in prices and a shortage of diesel fuel on the Ukrainian market, at least in the short term. In total, 40% of the fuel in Ukraine is of Russian origin. It is important to understand that another 35% of the gasoline and diesel market in Ukraine is occupied by Belarusian fuel, and if Russia and Belarus simultaneously stop supplying diesel, the supply on the diesel fuel market in Ukraine may fall by 75% at the same time.

It is important to understand that according to market logic, it is not profitable for Russia to leave the Ukrainian market forever, even to “avenge” the sanctions against V. Medvedchuk or unwillingness to comply with the Minsk agreements, but to arrange short-term shortages of diesel fuel, especially on the eve of the start of the sowing season, in order to destabilize the situation in the country and lower the rating of the Ukrainian government, it may well.

2. Development of the policy of concessions for Ukrainian ports in 2021.

 

On March 18, Deputy Minister of Economic Development Irina Novikova announced during the Ukraine 30 forum that Ukraine will be able to attract $ 5 billion in foreign investment in 2021 through concessions, large investment projects and industrial parks.

In 2020, the government signed concession agreements worth $ 3.7 billion for seaports, and the implementation of these agreements will begin in 2021. The port of Chernomorsk (formerly Ilyichevsk) is of particular interest to the concessionaires.

It is important to note that the ports are the points of shipment of Ukrainian grain for export. Given the wide presence of TNCs in the Ukrainian agro-industrial complex (AIC), it is TNCs that should be interested in the concession of Ukrainian ports. Large importing countries of Ukrainian grain can also apply for concessions to Ukrainian ports, such as the United Arab Emirates, which are already planning to invest $ 2 billion in the Ukrainian agro-industrial complex.

It is important to understand that a concession is the first step towards the complete privatization of ports, first indirectly and then directly. At one time, European states were actively signing concession agreements with China, and Hong Kong was leased by Britain for 99 years.

The very fact that the Ukrainian government views the concession as a source of income indicates that there is no strategy on how to generate more income on its own.

3. The law "on the export of black soil."

 

On March 16, the Verkhovna Rada began to consider in the second reading the bill No. 2194 on the transfer of land to local communities, and after him the deputies should take up another draft from the land package No. 2195 on land electronic auctions. More than 3 thousand amendments have been submitted to the bill.

The bill №2194 implies the transfer of 2 million hectares of land from state ownership to the ownership of territorial communities, which will be able to sell the land on their own. The World Bank is allocating $ 700 million for this initiative.

Uncertainty with IMF loans is forcing the Ukrainian authorities to speed up the process of introducing the land market in the absence of other sources of funding the budget. Ultimately, new laws may allow land transfers to bypass United Territorial Communities (UTOs). A hectare of land will be sold at a price of 3 tons of wheat (about $ 1,000).

Bill # 2194 has a clause on permission to transfer soil cover without special permission. Also, the bill does not establish any barriers for foreigners. The initiative to legalize dual citizenship could help circumvent the ban on the sale of land to foreigners, fulfilling the wishes of the World Bank.

Thus, the “export of black soil in trains”, as it was during the Second World War, may become a reality in Ukraine in the coming years in the form of “transfer of ground cover”. The World Bank is giving clear signals in which direction the land reform should develop in Ukraine.

4. SBU suspects ArcelorMittal of financial fraud.

 

On March 17, the head of the SBU Ivan Bakanov said that ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih receives more from the state budget than it pays taxes to the budget. The company denies this.

According to Bakanov, in the course of the initiated criminal case, it was established that ArcelorMittal had understated payments for the use of mineral resources by more than UAH 2 billion. He also said that the company's activities negatively affect the health of the residents of Krivoy Rog.

The sudden attention of the SBU to the ArcelorMittal enterprise may be a form of pressure on the owner of the enterprise, the Indian tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, in order to obtain additional benefits in one form or another. Accusations of financial fraud and increased carcinogenicity in Kryvyi Rih indicate that Lakshmi Mittal is “hanging all the dogs” in order to make him more compliant. ArcelorMittal, in turn, reproaches the state that enterprises often overpay taxes to the budget, expecting VAT refunds.

The attacks on the ArcelorMittal enterprise can be one of the elements of the fiscalization policy aimed at finding additional sources of filling the Ukrainian budget and covering the budget deficit.

 

CONCLUSION.

Summarizing the main events of the week, we note the following:

First, disagreements between the Office of the President and Ukraine's Western partner-creditors are developing and growing on a number of issues, including judicial reform and control over various elements of the “anti-corruption vertical”. As part of this confrontation, the Cabinet of Ministers submitted to parliament another bill on the dismissal of Artem Sytnik from the post of director of NABU. The pressure of the radicals collaborating with Western grantees on the President's Office under the pretext of actions in support of Sergei Sternenko is also an element of this crisis, which opponents of the authorities are also trying to use. The protesters are pushing the Western version of its reform.

Secondly, the president continues to use the NSDC to put pressure on political opponents and to demonstrate a "strong hand" to the bureaucratic apparatus. The rise of the topic of "treason" of everyone who prepared the "Kharkov agreements" in 2010 and was involved in their ratification, fully fits into the framework of this trend. On the one hand, these decisions of the NSDC are designed to make the political opponents of the ruling team more accommodating, and on the other hand, to demonstrate that the regime of "rule by a strong hand" in the OP has not yet been turned off.

Third, contradictions in world politics continue to escalate due to the emergence of a multipolar system of international relations. Britain, which recently left the EU, asserts itself as a global player with the release of a strategic document titled "Global Britain in an Age of Competition", describing London's plans to build up its own military, political and technological influence on the international stage until 2030. The United States is setting the stage for information to blackmail Russia and Iran with new sanctions through accusations of interference in the elections. Washington's ultimate goal in this game is to make geopolitical opponents more accommodating and turn them away from cooperation with China. The arrival of a Chinese business delegation to Crimea simultaneously signals to Ukraine that it should not impose sanctions against Chinese investors, and Russia - that Beijing is probing the ground for recognizing the annexation of Crimea in exchange for Moscow's recognition of the very likely annexation of Taiwan in the future.

Fourthly, the main trend in the Ukrainian economy remains unchanged - the search for funds to cover the budget deficit and repay debts to external creditors. It fits into the implementation by the current government of the policy of handing over Ukrainian ports to concessions to foreign companies, as well as the liberalization of land legislation in order to bypass restrictions on the purchase of Ukrainian agricultural land by foreign citizens. At the same time, the authorities continue to use methods of economic (sanctions) pressure to deprive their political opponents of the resource base.

Edited by:

Ruslan Bortnik,

Daniil Bogatyrev.

The authors:

Daniil Bogatyrev,

Maxim Semyonov,

Oksana Krasovskaya,

Andrey Timchenko.