The leaders of Ukraine’s two largest pro-Russian political parties, Yuriy Boyko of the Opposition Bloc and Vadim Rabinovich of the For Life party, signed an agreement on November 9 to merge into a new political party, the Opposition Platform For Life, local press reported on November 12.
While the pro-European parties are more than likely to win both the presidency and the parliamentary elections slated for March and October next year, respectively, analyst fret that the pro-Russian parties will create a large and effective opposition block in the Rada that will push Ukraine towards a compromise with Russia. bne IntelliNews detailed the leading players in the elections in its “Who’s who in Ukraine’s elections” last month.
Announcing their alliance in parliament, the two parties invited other opposition parties to join their political platform that includes: securing unconditional peace with Russia in the war in the east, ending the “economic genocide” of the Ukrainian people and establishing Ukraine as a “neutral” country, independent of Nato.
The pro-Russian parties are working to head off such an eventuality and muddy the water over the Nato issue. Rabinovich referred to the new political platform as “the Switzerland of Eastern Europe.”
The Kremlin would in particular welcome the third measure as Ukraine’s membership of Nato is a “red line” for Moscow. For his part, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is pushing Ukraine to join the international military alliance, despite the fact that Nato has not formally offered Ukraine even the chance to become a member. Other European leaders, realising that to offer Ukraine membership would provoke an escalation in the crisis with Russia, have been careful to avoid the topic. Poroshenko is planning to organise a referendum to make eventual Nato membership a constitutionally mandated policy.
One sticking point is the new party has yet to agree on a presidential candidate, Boyko said.
Boyko signed the merger agreement with Rabinovich without the support of the Opposition Bloc party billionaire backer MP Rinat Akhmetov, Vadim Novinsky told the pravda.com.ua news site on November 9.
Novinsky is also a businessman and controls numerous industrial assets jointly with Akhmetov, who is Ukraine’s richest man. In creating the new party, Boyko acted as a private individual, Novinsky claimed.
The party’s political council will convene on November 12 to sort out the situation, Novinsky said, adding that a party congress is also being planned.
Another Akhmetov ally, Boris Kolesnikov, echoed Novinsky’s views, adding that he supports consolidation but doesn’t support the new party’s likely presidential candidate.
The faction of Russian-oriented MPs led by Akhmetov withdrew itself from the merger between the Opposition Bloc and For Life parties, the pravda.com.ua news site reported on November 9, citing an anonymous source. “I don’t know what they decided without us,” the source said. “But we are self-reliant people and don’t believe it’s worth rushing on such a delicate topic.”
“Two scenarios are apparent in this reorganisation of Ukraine’s Russian-oriented forces. Either the Akhmetov group of the Opposition Bloc will succeed in rejecting this declared merger and take control of the party, or they will abandon this new project and launch their own political force. In, which case, there will be three major Russian-oriented political forces competing in the elections. Depending on how they conduct themselves, this alignment will either bring out the maximum results in favour of Russia, or they will end up cannibalising the Russian-oriented vote,” Zenon Zawada of Concorde Capital said in a note.