"Tightening the Screws" and Foreign Policy Isolation: Trends of the

Outgoing Political Cycle

 

 

1) The trend of "tightening the screws"

If in 2019 and the first half of 2020 everyone was talking about a trend called "turbo mode", meaning the speed of adoption and the number of laws adopted, now experts clearly state that a new internal political trend "to tighten the screws " has formed. It means Zelensky's struggle with the opposition, the promotion of laws that increase the powers of the president, the appointment of "their" people to key positions. The beginning of the trend can be considered the beginning of the criminal prosecution of the former president and the main political rival of Zelensky at the beginning of his tenure, Petro Poroshenko, then one can recall the promotion of the “anti-Kolomoisky law”, numerous searches and criminal proceedings against Vitali Klitschko, who prevented the «Servant of the people» (Слуга народу) from establishing themselves in the capital, and the end of the blocking of such opposition channels as "112", "NewsOne" and "Zik" simultaneously with the imposition of personal sanctions on deputies Viktor Medvedchuk and Taras Kozak.

 

Within the framework of the “tightening the screws” trend, it is worth considering the reshuffle in the cabinet. Of course, the main opponent of Zelensky was already the ex-Minister of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov. It was risky to start a war with the "eternal minister" directly; therefore, the Minister of Infrastructure Krikliy and the Minister of Economic Development Petrashko, loyal to him, were first dismissed, then the head of Naftogaz, Kobolyev, who was friendly to Avakov, was dismissed. By putting his own people to these positions, Zelensky significantly hit Avakov's resources. The resignation of Arsen Borisovich and the appointment of Monastyrsky are an important victory for the president. If Denis Monastyrsky does not show unexpected independence, as Avakov did in his time, the president will have another weighty tool for “tightening the screws” in his hands. This trend manifests itself at the legislative level as well. The law "on de-oligarchization" will allow selectively cutting off the oxygen to such politicians and oligarchs as Poroshenko, Medvedchuk, Kolomoisky, and in the future and others who will be in conflict with the Office of the President. The law "on national resistance" will allow the head of state to control the new military department of the Territorial Defense forces and, at the same time, the governors who will manage the TD forces at the regional level. This trend can be considered the main trend of this political cycle, because it manifests itself in the all spheres of political life in Ukraine.

2) The trend towards liberal reforms

At the same time as the “tightening the screws” trend, which cannot be called liberal, one can see a trend toward liberal reforms. The most important decision was the opening of the land market. While it still remains closed to foreigners, Ukrainian citizens will soon be able to sell and buy land for agricultural purposes. The reform on the decentralization of power, which is already at the second stage of implementation, also fits into this trend. It is obvious that the implementation of liberal reforms pursues two goals: 1) To refresh the economy and find new sources for replenishing state and local budgets; 2) To become more attractive for Western partners, primarily for the EU and the IMF.

3) The trend to unfreeze the conflict in Donbass

On July 27 last year, an indefinite comprehensive ceasefire was signed, which included a complete ceasefire along the entire front line. What happened during the year of the truce? The Ukrainian side immediately after the ceasefire began to record its violation by the militants. Already familiar to us positional shelling of Ukrainian territories is carried out every day. Then, in the spring of 2021, Russia pulled a record number of troops to the Ukrainian borders, about 100 thousand troops. Moscow said that this is a routine exercise and that they themselves have the right to decide where and how many troops to deploy on their territory. Of course, pulling troops to the Ukrainian borders is a muscle game, an instrument of psychological pressure. Our Western partners supported us and condemned Russia for destabilizing the situation, after which part of the aggressor's troops were withdrawn.

At the moment, the JFO headquarters continues to record violations of the Minsk agreements and the armistice by the militants. If in June of this year the number of killed and wounded Ukrainian soldiers did not exceed 1 person per day, then already this month the number of killed and wounded reached 6 servicemen per day and from 2 to 24 shelling per day. The intensity of the situation is also noted by the OSCE, said Special Representative Heidi Grau, calling for a ceasefire. Thus, we can state negative dynamics, which slowly but surely leads to a hot phase of the conflict.

4) Economic trends in Ukraine

The past year, which was accompanied by a pandemic and quarantine, hit small businesses. Up to 80% of its representatives considered the current environment to be unfavorable for business, according to research by the European Business Association. A little more than 20% of entrepreneurs are satisfied with the current state of their business, last year there were 42%. Against the background of the legislative initiative on the mandatory introduction of cash registers for small businesses and protests of «Save FOP», «Servant of the People» ( Слуга Народу) risks losing support from both small business owners and those who work for them.

As for the GDP, at the moment we see a slow drop. The real indicator of Ukraine's GDP for the 1st quarter of 2021 decreased by 2.2%, in the last 2020 the decline was twice as high: 4% after four years of growth before that. That is, we can observe a tendency for a slowdown in the decline in GDP compared to last year. Denis Shmygal announced an improvement in the economy in the second quarter of 2021 in case of anti-crisis programs, soft loans, as well as "quarantine" payments to small businesses in the amount of 8 thousand hryvnia.

5) The tendency of Ukraine's isolationism in international relationships

Over the past cycle, the Foreign Ministry has nothing to boast about. On the positive side, we organized the supply of vaccines from China, India and other countries. However, during this period, relations with official Minsk deteriorated, after Ukraine did not recognize the legitimacy of Lukashenko as president of the Republic of Belarus, we also managed to start a new conflict with Hungary, after the Ministry of Internal Affairs conducted searches in Hungarian communities and parties in Transcarpathia for actions that violate sovereignty of Ukraine. In relations with Russia, another painful point has appeared in addition to Donbass and Crimea, namely the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline, the launch of which could hit the Ukrainian economy and the geopolitical significance of the transit country. Ukraine's advancement into NATO and the EU remains at the same stage as a year ago: we will be accepted, but later. Ultimately, we run into a state of very slow European integration, freezing of relations with Belarus and Hungary, and a new conflict political with Russia.

Domestic policy

1) CCU against Zelensky or a blow to the "turbo mode"

In October - November last year, the CCU considered at once 10 bills initiated by the president regarding amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine, 5 of them were approved by the CCU, namely: No. 1013 (on the abolition of the lawyer's monopoly); No. 1015. "Draft Law on Amendments to Article 93 of the Constitution of Ukraine (on the Legislative Initiative of the People)"; No. 1017 (regarding the reduction of the constitutional composition of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and the consolidation of a proportional electoral system), No. 1028 (on advisory, consultative and other subsidiary bodies of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine).

The rest of the President's initiatives, such as :: No. 1016: "Draft Law on Amendments to Articles 85 and 101 of the Constitution of Ukraine (regarding the authorized representatives of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine)"; No. 1027: "Draft Law on Amendments to Article 81 of the Constitution of Ukraine (regarding additional grounds for early termination of the powers of a People's Deputy of Ukraine)"; Law No. 1008 "On Amendments to Certain Laws of Ukraine on the Activities of Judicial Management Bodies" did not receive permission from the Constitutional Court for consideration in parliament. These bills were, in one way or another, initiated with the aim of expanding the powers of the president and strengthening his power. But the fact that the CCU did not approve the most important initiatives for Zelensky gives reason to believe that the KSU remains independent from the president. The essence of this event lies in the fact that, despite the mono-majority of the "Servant of the People", there are some organizations in Ukraine that are capable of resisting the advancement of pro-government laws.

2) Blocking of opposition TV channels by Zelensky

The main event at the beginning of February of this year can certainly be considered the blocking of the opposition TV channels 112, NewsOne and Zik after the president signed the NSDC decision on imposing personal sanctions against Taras Kozak, whose holding includes the aforementioned TV channels. As a result, both Volodymyr Zelenskyy and “Servant of the People” were criticized by members of the “PLO”, who wanted to initiate the impeachment of the president, by the International and European Federations of Journalists, who pointed to the political motives of this ban. This event vividly underlines the “tightening the screwes ” trend. The NSDC interprets its decision as a measure to protect national security. Several key conclusions can be drawn: 1) Zelensky's main opponent is now not Poroshenko, but Medvedchuk; 2) "Servant of the People" departs from an initially centrist image to a pronounced anti-Russian position, which will entail changes in the electoral circles of the party.

3) The split in the "Voice" party

The first half of June was remembered for the continuation of the conflict in the “Voice” party. After the departure of S. Vakarchuk and S. Pritula, the internal situation in the party continued to heat up, 10 deputies (half of the entire fraction), namely: Solomiya Bobrovskaya, Galina Vasilchenko, Yulia Klimenko, Roman Lozinsky, Natalia Pipa, Olga Stefanishina, Alexandra Ustinova, Vladimir Tsabal, Andrey Sharaskin and Yaroslav Yurchishin announced the creation of a new association "Justice". The deputies accuse the party leaders of violating the principles of democracy and laws, "agreements". The head of the faction, Igor Zheleznyak, was accused of ignoring the meetings of the fraction, and the head of the party, Kira Rudik, had more than 50% of absenteeism.

Ideological differences, conflicts and the withdrawal of leaders from the party had an extremely negative impact on the ratings and future potential of “Voice”. If the party leadership fails to reach a compromise with the breakaway wing, the preconditions for which have not yet been established, “Voice” Golos will finally disintegrate.

4) Avakov resigned

According to the first part of Article 18 of the Law of Ukraine "On the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine" Arsen Avakov submitted his resignation from the post of Minister of the Ministry of Internal Affairs after 6 years of work on this position. Some sources claim that the "eternal minister" agreed his resignation with President Zelensky during a private conversation, while others inform that this is a purely personal desire of Avakov. In any case, recently, Zelensky's confrontation with the already ex-minister of the Ministry of Internal Affairs has been obvious. It all came down to the fact that the President did not have the desired control over the Ministry of Internal Affairs and even initiated the creation of the Territorial Defense Forces, which would be subordinate to him.

5) Appointment of Denis Monastyrsky as the new Minister of the Ministry of Internal Affairs

Soon after the resignation of Arsen Avakov, the Verkhovna Rada voted for the appointment of Denis Monastyrsky to the post of Minister of Internal Affairs, 271 deputies voted in favor. Before the parliamentary elections in 2019, Monastyrsky was an expert of the "Servant of the People" on the reform of the law enforcement system, after being elected as a deputy he became the head of the committee on law enforcement, which indicates that he has experience in this area. After the election, from the parliamentary rostrum, he announced that he would focus on the fight against organized crime and drugs, bringing police officials to justice for violating laws, digital transformation of all spheres of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Whether Denis Monastyrsky will be able to solve the existing problems in the ministry and restore public confidence in the police is a matter of time. Now we can state two facts: 1) The Avakov era is over; 2) The new Interior Minister is a man from Zelensky's team.

6) Changes in the composition of the Cabinet of Ministers

Now, the government of Prime Minister Denis Shmygal is undergoing dismissals and appointments. In addition to Avakov's resignation, there were three more high-profile dismissals over the past political cycle. We are talking about the resignation of the head of the Ministry of Infrastructure Vladislav Krikliy, Minister of Economic Development Igor Petrashko and Minister of Health Maxim Stepanov. Krikliy in the OP was accused of deterioration of the affairs of the “Ukrainian railway”, Petrashko, according to the president, turned out to be lacking of initiative, and Stepanov was blamed for the failed vaccination and low efficiency in the fight against the pandemic. The first two wrote statements "of their own free will", while Stepanov refused to resign voluntarily, since he did not admit his sole guilt in the failure of vaccination, he had to be fired by the deputies. Oleksey Lyubchenko became the new minister of economic development, Alexander Kubrakov became the minister of infrastructure, and the chief sanitary doctor Viktor Lyashko, who had rapidly gained popularity during the pandemic, was appointed Minister of Health. These personnel reshuffles in the ministries are also part of the plan to "tighten the screws", since people loyal to the OP have become the new ministers.

7) Rumors about the dismissal of Razumkov from the post of chairman of the Verkhovna Rada

In May of this year, rumors resumed about the dismissal of Dmitry Razumkov from the post of speaker, but Razumkov quickly denied any possibility of his resignation, at least he was not going to leave at his own request. The conflict between the OP, the president on the one hand and the speaker of the Verkhovna Rada on the other, has been going on for a long time, but recently supporters of the president's office, in particular Sergei Leshchenko, accused Razumkov of belonging to Akhmetov's group of influence and, due to his fault, "Environmental" law was not admitted in the Verkhovna Rada, which is not beneficial for Akhmetov's business.

If Akhmetov`s control over Razumkov is difficult to consider as a fact, then the constant deterioration of relations between the president and the speaker is an obvious fact. There are several reasons for this, Razumkov has repeatedly shown his independence, his readiness not to follow the general party line. In addition, according to studies of public confidence in the politicians of the sociological group "Rating" dated April 6-7, Razumkov, with his 32% confidence, is on the second place and is already breathing in Zelensky's back, who has 45%. This position of the speaker threatens the second election of Vladimir Zelensky, so the tension in their relationship is likely to increase.

8) "Sluga Narodu" will not become monolithic again or how the mono-majority divided into groups of influence

Everyone remembers how quickly and harmoniously the ruling fraction passed laws in the first year of the work of the Verkhovna Rada. However, already in 2019, many experts predicted a split of the "Servants" into groups of influence. The most obvious reason was the lack of a unified party line and ideology; future deputies were united by the desire to become deputies and involvement in a common brand. Still, one should not talk about the complete collapse of the party, usually Zelensky succeeds in mobilizing his deputies to vote for the projects he needs. However, there were also cases when the president's calls turned out to be weaker than the shadow influence of individual oligarchs and politicians. A striking example can be called the twice failed vote for the appointment of Yu. Vitrenko to the post of Minister of Energy and First Deputy Prime Minister. In January 2021, 204 deputies voted for the appointment of Vitrenko in the second vote, with the required 225 + 1 votes and the number of presidential factions in the amount of 246 deputies. Most often, Kolomoisky's groups of influence are distinguished (20-30 people and up to 40 if absolutely necessary); Akhmetov (up to 20 deputies), Dmitry Razumkov (about 10 "servants"), as well as small groups of support for Bogdan, Avakov, Pavlyuk. At the moment, Zelensky completely controls just over 50% of the fraction, and if this percent begins to decrease, then the fragmentation of the party will begin to grow, which will inevitably lead to new conflicts in the the party like some stories with Leros and Dubinsky.

9) Huge losses of Naftogaz for 2020 and the resignation of Kobalev

On April 28, 2021, Andriy Kobolev, who served as head of Naftogaz for 7 years, was dismissed by the decision of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine. As Zelensky later confirmed, the reason for the termination of the contract with the head of the state-owned enterprise was huge losses in 2020. Last year, Naftogaz received a net loss of 19 billion hryvnia with a planned profit of 11.5 billion hryvnia. Even taking into account the general crisis, the difference in planned profits and actual losses is too great to leave Koboloev and his top management at the helm of the country's leading gas production company. Kobolyev was replaced by Yuri Vitrenko, who had not been elected as a minister of energy twice . The task for the new head of Naftogaz is to ensure systemic growth in gas production and form a fair gas market in Ukraine. It will be possible to draw conclusions about Vitrenko's work in a year, based on the results, but some experts believe that without a complete replacement of top management and development strategy, Naftogaz will remain unprofitable.

10) Coronavirus vaccine

At the moment, it can be argued that vaccination against COVID-19 in Ukraine has actually failed, figures and statistics speak about this, positive dynamics appeared only now, after Viktor Lyashko became the head of the Ministry of Health. In 2020, the total covid fund was 80.9 billion hryvnia, which, if properly distributed and used, would be enough for both vaccination and the fight against the virus. However, the Ministry of Health received only UAH 21.8 billion, the rest of the money went to other ministries and departments. To date, only 1,712,791 Ukrainians have been fully vaccinated, which is 4.14% of the total population of the country. For comparison, in Germany 34.8% of the population is fully vaccinated, while in the UK this it`s 48.4%. It is obvious that the parliament should pay attention to the result of the work of the Ministry of Health.

Important laws passed

1) Changes in the Land Code regarding the Land market

On April 28, Parliament adopted Law No. 2194 "On Amendments to the Land Code of Ukraine and Other Legislative Acts to Improve the Management and Deregulation System in the Sphere of Land Relations." The law provides for the transfer of state-owned lands outside settlements to the ownership of local governments, except for lands necessary for the functioning of the state. Key aspects of the law include the following provisions: previous and next land users can sign an agreement without the owner's participation; local self-government bodies acquire the right to change the purpose of land plots; owners can combine land plots; it is allowed to sell, inherit, donate land, contribute to the authorized capital of an enterprise; expansion of the land market at the expense of land near water bodies; limitation of land for gardening to 0.6 hectares; limitation of 20 hectares when selling land to one person. Control over the implementation of operations for the sale of land, as well as its exploitation, is transferred to local authorities. In fact, the law is intended to restrict the access of small-scale private farming and truck farming to land, prepare land and documentation for it for large entrepreneurs and in the future for foreign investors.

 

2) The Law on the List of Objects of State Property wich can`t be privatized

Law No. 4020, which BP adopted on March 30 in the first reading thanks to 289 votes, contains a list of 74 state-owned enterprises that are not subject to privatization (for example, NNEGC Energoatom, NEC Ukrenergo, SE Vostochny GOK, GP Garpok ", GSP" Chernobyl NPP "and" Design Bureau "Yuzhnoye".), 9 joint-stock enterprises, where the state's share must be at least 50% + 1 share, 102 state-owned enterprises that can become economic companies with a share of Ukraine 50% + 1 stock.

However, the most important thing in the bill is to open the way for the partial privatization of Naftogaz and Ukrzaliznytsia, and Ukrposhta as the most significant and attractive enterprises. The share of Ukraine in these enterprises must remain at least half of the shares.

3) Law about de-oligarchization

The beginning of July 2021 was remembered by the adoption of the bill No. 5599 "On the prevention of threats to national security associated with the excessive influence of persons with significant economic or political weight in public life (oligarchs)" in the Verkhovna Rada in the first reading. This bill was promoted personally by President Zelensky, was submitted by him to parliament and registered as urgent.

Supporters of the adoption of the law "about oligarchs" believe that it will help limit the influence of large businessmens on Ukrainian politics, the media, as well as reduce the level of corruption. The law says about the creation of a register of oligarchs, which will be dealt with by the NSDC with the participation of the Cabinet of Ministers, the Security Service of Ukraine, the Antimonopoly Committee and the National Bank. To add a certain person to the register, he must meet 3 of 4 criteria, namely: 1) Political involvement; 2) Influence on the media; 3) occupies a monopoly position in the national commodity market and for one year in a row supports or strengthens this position; 4) The person's assets exceed 1 million subsistence minimum (2.27 billion hryvnia). Persons included in the register will be prohibited from financing political parties, privatizing large enterprises, and they will also be required to declare all their income and expenses. Moreover, the law provides for an article on "contacts with oligarchs", in this way all top officials and officials will have to declare their contacts with persons from the register.

Experts disagree on the political implications of the law: while some consider it a real step towards the destruction of the oligarchic system, others are confident that this is an instrument of Zelensky's political struggle against politicians such as Poroshenko and Medvedchuk, that the law will work selectively, and corruption will remain. since not only oligarchs participate in it, but also officials of all levels, owners of small / medium-sized businesses.

4) Return of criminal liability for tax evasion

In February 2021, People's Deputies in the first reading adopted draft law No. 3959-1 "On Amendments to Administrative and Criminal Legislation on the Implementation of the Activities of the Bureau of Economic Security of Ukraine." The bill is conditionally divided into two parts: the first creates a legislative basis for the activities of the Bureau of Economic Security (BEB), while the second strengthens the existing punishment for tax evasion, inaccurate declaration, and VAT fraud. As for the BEB, the director of this department receives the right to seize property, block the accounts and assets of the suspect for a period of 48 hours, this procedure must be accompanied by a petition from the prosecutor to seize property and assets in court. The BEB detectives, with the permission of the judge, have the right to monitor bank accounts and other assets. In terms of its powers and structure, the new body is very similar to the NABU already known to us.

It is still too early to draw unambiguous conclusions about the future of BEB, the body can both meet the expectations of the public, and be used to "criminalize" political rivals of the government or additional pressure on small businesses in Ukraine.

5) Reform on decentralization of power continues

In Ukraine, the first steps towards decentralization were made back in 2014, the first stage of the 2014-2019 reform has already been completed and the second stage of 2020-2021 is underway. The new government adopted a number of laws that somewhat changed the nature of decentralization; the expansion of the powers of local self-government bodies, among other things, caused considerable excitement around the last local elections. It is worth noting that over the past political cycle, a new system of districts was introduced, powers were divided between districts and communities, which now have significant power. According to the president, the real benefits of the reform are already noticeable, he noted a significant increase in local budgets. However, one should not forget about the potential danger: the heads of the Regional State Administration, and soon the new prefects will look for loopholes in the laws in order to abuse new opportunities, the unitary structure of Ukraine should be reliably protected so as not to suffer from the reform, the mechanism of checks and balances should be developed in as much detail as possible so that local authorities would not be simultaneously under the full control of the authorities, but also could not sabotage the general laws of the Verkhovna Rada and the decisions of the Cabinet.

 

6) Indigenous nations Act

On July 21 of this year, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed the law “On the Indigenous Peoples of Ukraine” adopted earlier in the VR. The law is aimed at protecting the cultural and other rights of indigenous peoples, and also provides them with a procedure for working with the state and appropriate mechanisms. But the most significant passage of the law says that Crimean Tatars, Krymchaks and Karaites are recognized as indigenous peoples of Crimea. But nothing is said about the Russians, therefore, they are not recognized by the indigenous people and the privileges of the law do not apply to them. It can be concluded that the main purpose of the law is to remind Russia of the non-recognition of Crimea as Russian territory.

 

7) New norms of the language law

In accordance with the decision of the parliament, since January 16, 2021, the Ukrainian language has become the main language in the service sector in the country, and since July 16, all entertainment, cultural, artistic and entertainment events must be held in the state language. Exceptions are allowed if the client asks to use a different language, as well as if the artistic intent involves the use of other languages. All these norms are related to the protection of the state language, aiming to raise the patriotic mood in society. Earlier, within the framework of the law, all government services and departments were transferred to the Ukrainian language. The position of Zelensky team does not differ from the position of the team of the previous President Poroshenko, the Ukrainian language is the only state language in Ukraine.

8) National Resistance Act

Closer to the end of the current session of the Verkhovna Rada, the deputies in the first reading adopted the bill No. 5557 "On the foundations of national resistance", initiated by the president. The law implies the creation of a new type of troops - the Territorial Defense Forces, which will be subordinate to the commander-in-chief of the AFU, namely the president, as well as the procedure for preparing and mobilizing the population of Ukraine for national resistance in the event of external aggression, in fact, the legalization of the partisan movement. Of course, an initiative designed to raise the country's overall defensive potential in the current conditions is needed, but there are also dubious moments. Firstly, individual articles of the law are written inaccurately, which can cause a number of collisions and confusion, secondly, a significant part of the powers fall on local authorities, which actually means the creation of the post of governor-general, and thirdly, there have already been similar legislative initiatives: one from a deputy Sharaskin, the second from ex-deputy Dmitry Yarosh, but for some reason the first one was overwhelmed by committees, and the second one did not even get into parliament.

Foreign policy

1) OSCE announced a record number of problems and violations in local elections

The OSCE published a report on the results of the local elections held on October 25th. It mentioned: a poll of Zelensky on election day, which potentially created an advantage for candidates from the Servant of the People, politicization of local election commissions, cases of abuse of state resources by regional and city state administrations, changes in the electoral system before elections, reporting incidents voter bribery. Do not underestimate the impact of such reports from organizations such as the OSCE on Ukraine's international image. It is quite possible that because of them, in addition to the usual “defeat corruption, and then we will listen to you”, a new one will come “normalize the elections , and then we will listen to you”.

2) Nord Stream-2

The building process of Nord Stream 2, the largest gas pipeline between Russia and Europe, is going to the end. If its launch takes place in the near future, then Russia will be able to deliver its gas to Europe without transit through Ukraine. This threatens Ukraine with at least three consequences: 1) without money for gas transit, Ukraine will lose about $ 3 billion a year, which will be quite tangible for the country's budget; 2) Nord Stream 2 can be used by Russia as an instrument of manipulation in politics with Ukraine, including the Donbas and Crimea; 3) Relations between the Russian Federation and the European Union can significantly warm up, which is extremely disadvantageous for Ukraine.

Ukraine's position on the ND-2 at this stage is clear. Both in the Office of the President and in the Foreign Ministry there is no longer any doubts that ND-2 will be launched and Ukraine will incur economic and political losses. In this situation, Zelensky expects at least to receive guarantees from the United States and Germany regarding the preservation of Ukraine's status as a transit country, the continuation of gas transit through Ukraine, and the imposition of sanctions on the Russian Federation in the event that the ND-2 is used as an instrument of political pressure on Ukraine. However, the results of the recent negotiations between Biden and Merkel as part of the discussion of the ND-2 indicate that the positions of the countries regarding Ukraine differ and there was no clear specifics that our president so wanted to hear. The next event that could affect the fate of Ukraine as part of the launch of ND-2 will be Zelensky's visit to Washington, scheduled for August.

3) Worsening of relations between Ukraine and Belarus

Active conversations about the deterioration and even the groove of relations between Kiev and Minsk began after the elections in Belarus. On September 23, 2020, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmitry Kuleba tweeted that the “inauguration” of O. Lukashenko does not mean recognition of him as the legitimate president of the Republic of Belarus. In turn, Lukashenko accused Ukraine of interfering in their internal politics, as well as "organizing riots". It is worth noting that Ukraine's hints of non-recognition of Lukashenko as president, a policy dictated by partnership with Europe and the United States, which at all possible levels did not recognize the result of the elections in Belarus.

Over the entire year, Zelensky and Lukashenko have not met . In March 2021, Belarus announced the identification of the Ukrainian spy, and Ukraine, the identification of the Belarusian spy. Such statements testify to the extreme distrust between the countries, as well as the work of the special services on both sides. Taking into account the military exercises of the Russian army on the territory of Belarus, the strengthening of relations between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus, there are no prerequisites for improving diplomatic relations between Kiev and Minsk in the near future.

4) Ukraine and NATO

Zelensky continued Ukraine's course of joining NATO, but nothing has changed over the year, except of meetings, conversations and mutual obligations. More than a year has passed since Ukraine received the Enhanced Opportunities Partner (EOP) status, the Ukrainian side regularly reminds the alliance of itself, wishing to receive the so-called NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP), which would be a serious step towards accession.

At the last summit of the North Atlantic Alliance, which took place on June 14, 2021, according to Kuleba, the consensus of the participating countries was confirmed that Ukraine would join NATO. But at the same time, no consensus was reached on a specific date or even a year of accession. The Foreign Minister believes that we will join NATO earlier than the EU. Considering that Ukraine has been on the way to membership for 13 years, since the Bucharest summit in 2008, there is a reason to think that we will have to wait for years.

Conclusions

We remember the outgoing political period by the change in the main internal trend from "turbo mode" to "tightening the screws", by the implementation of liberal reforms on the Western model, as well as by the lack of significant results in the peaceful settlement of the conflict in Donbass and new delays regarding integration with NATO and the EU. The government actively improved its position, as well as expanded its rights at the legislative level, the forces opposing the Servant of the People received a strong blow and are preparing for revenge, the pandemic has made its own adjustments to the economic and political development of Ukraine, forming a vector of total digital transformation of all key state processes.

By Denis Yarush