2020 started out as a rough year for Ukraine, with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran shooting down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 over Teheran on 8 January, causing the death of all 176 passengers and crew, including nine Ukrainians. That event preoccupied Ukrainian diplomacy and will be still be prominent on the agenda next year.
Over and above this regrettable tragedy, the year was rich in events for Ukraine. Two interesting moments, perhaps, merit particular attention – one purely political, the other defence related – both occurring towards the end of the year. Within Ukrainian society, there are two words that dominate political discussion: ‘zrada,’ which translates as treason, and the other ‘peremoha’ – victory.
Let’s start with 'zrada.’ A constitutional crisis erupted in the country at the end of October, caused by the decision to cancel the requirement for government officials to file e-declarations of their assets. This decision came just a couple of days after the local elections, in which incumbent President Volodymyr Zelenskyy suffered a non-negligible setback with his party – ‘Servant of the People’ – exhibiting a poor performance.
The Constitutional Court’s ruling endangered the ongoing anti-corruption process and has already resulted in a tussle between the Court and the President of Ukraine. The local elections confirmed what had been rumoured and widely anticipated within political circles: Zelensky’s public support has drastically declined, as has his weight and influence in Ukrainian politics. We will see its repercussions as the new political season opens up next year, perhaps leading to extraordinary moves to settle the dispute, while the power struggle within Ukrainian institutions is most likely to increase.
At the same time, 'peremoha’ can be observed in the defence domain, with Ukraine securing what can be considered as a victory. In early October, President Zelenskyy made a state visit to the United Kingdom and noted “a new page for Ukrainian–British cooperation and an unprecedented event for Ukraine.»
The ‘new page’ Zelenskyy was referring to was the signature of several important agreements with Great Britain, including the Strategic Partnership Agreement that provides for £1.25 billion (€1.4 billion) in funding for the reinforcement of Ukraine’s Navy, which suffered a huge blow during the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. These funds are enveloped in a 10-year loan for the construction of 8 BARZAN-class fast attack craft, two of which will be produced in Britain and six in Ukraine in partnership with BAE Systems Surface Ships.
In addition, we should consider the recently signed defence-related agreements between Turkey and Ukraine, which have already been maturing for several years. They provide for technology transfer and the production of corvettes and combat UAS to meet the requirements of the Ukrainian armed forces.
Thus, these major defence-related issues may lead to the lifting of the de facto arms embargo against Ukraine, despite the possibility of a major political crisis leaving continued uncertainty regarding the overall situation in the nation.
Denys Kolesnyk reporting from Paris for MON