Середа, 18 Липня 2018

Populists steamrolling over Donbas

Monitoring of the government communication policy toward Donbas (May-June, 2018)
Populists steamrolling over Donbas
Populists steamrolling over Donbas

During May-June 2018, monitoring of the government communication policy toward Donbas has detected such trends:

  • President and his party “Solidarnist” are losing ground to the Opposition Bloc which promotes peace resolution through direct negotiations with the separatists and condemns Joint Forces Operation in Donbas for increasing hostilities.
  • Presidential hopefuls Yulia Tymoshenko and Oleh Liashko are using Donbas topics to boost personal charisma and demonstrate their extraordinary attention to the interests of the common people.

President continued charm offensive on peacekeepers

In May-April President Poroshenko actively communicated idea of the UN peacekeeping mission in Donbas (17 news). He mentioned it in every meeting with the foreign policy makers. His main point was that only UN mission can bring stable peace to Donbas. In fact, he brought up his idea even during telephone call to Vladimir Putin.

While pushing UN mission project Poroshenko insisted on release of hostages taken by Russia and separatists (16 times), reminded about Russian aggression in Donbas (14 times) and necessity to keep sanctions against Russia (11 times).

At the same time Poroshenko paid much attention to the army (the number of news doubled to 12, comparing with March-April period). It can be explained by transformation of the Anti-Terrorist Operation in the Joint Forces Operation (JFO). However, these strong messages were targeted mostly at Poroshenko’s supporters than at Donbas local population. Poroshenko did not use opportunity during his trip to Donbas and inauguration of the new Donetsk governor Kuts for explaining his policies and impact of JFO.

Meanwhile, Detector Media revealed that the Russian media increased their propaganda activity to blame Ukrainian army for growing number of casualties and skirmishes in Donbas. President’s reaction to this challenge was irrelevant and slow.

Only on May 31 during his visit to Ivano-Frankivsk in the western Ukraine he gave clear answer about non-starters in his policy toward Donbas: “I will never support hurray-partiotic idea of adventurous offensive, causing massive casualties, and I will not accept total surrender on Russian conditions”. However, his message was overwhelmed by media hype around Arkadiy Babchenko “staged assassination”.

Prime Minister Hroisman positioned himself as independent player

Since January prime minister Volodymyr Hroisman has started to address Donbas issues to demonstrate his political maturity and capability of the top state manager. Although he had troubles with achieving this goal he did not stop trying.

For instance on May 29 while speaking with the foreign journalists, Mr. Hroisman pointed out that “Ukraine has been defending democratic values on her eastern frontiers”. To illustrate the price of such efforts, Hroisman decided to express his views on the occasion of death of the girl teenager from Toretsk (Donetsk oblast): 

Yesterday in the suburbs of Toretsk teenager Daria was killed by the Russian artillery fire. She just celebrated her 15 birthday three days before and graduated from the 9th school class.

Daria visited her grandparents when the house yard was hit by Russian shell. It landed just three meters beside her, leaving no chances for survival. She was badly injured and died at the place.

What kind and what quantity of evidence, deaths of children and their parents are required to make the world understand that Russia is a wild beast, which must be contained in the cage? This state-murderer has no mercy toward its own and foreign people, killing them by thousands

I express my sincere sorrow to the (Daria’s) family. Can’t imagine deeper grief.

It is natural that Hroisman wanted to show he is personally moved by the tragedy. However, it seems that he unintentionally used plain bureaucratic style to mention the passed girl and emotional words to describe his outrage with Russia. As a result it looked like prime minister just used death of the girl to make his point about Russia. However, that is how Russian anti-Ukrainian propaganda works when uses civil casualties to portray Ukrainian government as “junta”, “punishers” and “Nazis”. Therefore, prime minister Hroisman should have been more careful and cautious when spoke about situation in Donbas.

Minister Avakov continued to advertise his plan of Donbas de-occupation

In May-June Minister of Interior Arsen Avakov was focused on delivering his messages about peace plan to the wider audience and targeting concerns of the common people. He highlighted his commitment to interests of the citizens during his visit to Stanitsa Luhanska (Luhansk region, line of contact) and said that the main task of his ministry “to guarantee law and order and welfare” on the territories that “suffered during last years”.

Also, on May 10, minister Avakov showed that his peace plan was developed with the help of the well-educated and well-trained professionals. He called for “engaging civil society to discussion of the plan and inform our population on every stage” and confirmed that “we have sufficient experience of working with such issues in the conflict areas…our experts are able to cope not only with security issues but also with everyday business together with the local communities”.

On May 23 minister Avakov informed that his de-occupation plan was endorsed by John Herbst, American ex-Ambassador to Ukraine and Director of the Atlantic Council think tank. Again, Avakov underlined that “every our step should show our citizens, who live in Donbas, that Ukraine is better than occupation regime”.

In June, in his speech in the panel of IX National Expert Forum and in his article for “Ukrainska Pravda” minister Avakov repeated key points of his peace plan, emphasizing on legislation about amnesty and collaborators. Still, there were nothing new for citizens from Donbas if Avakov’s word are compared with his statements in March-April.

Ministry of the Temporary Occupied Territories and IDP Affairs (MinTOT) communicated in the virtual reality 

In May-June we did not see changes in the communication of the MinTOT. Five our of nine news, which touched upon Donbas issues were mere reproduction of the minister Chernysh’s interviews to different media outlets (such as Radio NV, Cenzor.net, TV “Priamyi”). In these news we found nothing relevant for the people living in Donbas.

Other 4 news covered very different topics:

  • On June 4 MinTOT informed about presentation of the assessment of the ecology situation in Donetsk and Luhansk oblast. However, the document did not include specific recommendations for the ministry;
  • On June 5 MinTOT released statement about meeting between minister and director of the regional office of the International Migration Organization. No conclusions were reported.
  • On June 16 MinTOT described how minister Chernysh participated in the “4th anniversary of liberation of Mariupol”. Minister was shown giving keys from new apartments to 63 internally displaced families and equipment to the local hospital;
  • On June 23 MinTOT released data of the “survey about radicalization in Ukraine”. However, there were no information how survey was prepared and whether it will be used somehow by the ministry.

To sum it up, we must say that in May-June the MinTOT was working primarily to boost minister’s image.

Donetsk Civil Military Administration (CMA): Before Resignation Zhebrivskyi Promoted President 

In May-June Head of the Donetsk CMA Pavlo Zhevbrivskyi did not chage his style of communication. Almost half of news (11 out of 24) covered his participation in the opening and inspections of the reconstruction sites: from church in Volnovakha to Co-Working Center in Sloviansk. Zhebrivskyi paid much attention to promotion of the President’s policies in the region:

  • Speaking to heads of the local administrations he reminded about importance of the healthcare reform: “I repeat, healthcare reform, launched by President, must be implemented in the rural areas of the Donetsk region immediately”;
  • Talking to teachers he stressed urgency of the implementation of the inclusive education mechanisms: “Until September 1 every united territorial community of Donetsk region must have Center for inclusive education. It is a priority of the President Poroshenko’s policy”
  • Meeting with the representatives of the civil society organizations he underlined their patriotic mission: “Ukraine’s development depends on development of the true civil society. And true civil society consists of patriotic entrepreneurs, youth organizations which unite people around Ukraine”.

At the same time we should admit that Zhebrivskyi demonstrated his awareness about people’s concern. When the Joint Forces Operation started he visited communities on the frontline near Mariupol and Donetsk, listening to the people and giving precise orders to the local administrations. Thus we will follow how these orders fulfilled by new Donetsk governor Oleksandr Kuts.

Luhansk Civil Military Administration (CMA): Yuriy Harbuz avoided burning issues

On May 10 Head of Luhansk CMA reported about his achievements after two years in office. However, it was hard to found facts in his report except sums of budget expenditures. Governor Harbuz did not say how many acres of land were cleared of mines, how many people received necessary medical treatment. Instead, Mr.Harbuz reminded how many taxpayers money were paid to emergency and healthcare services.

In the same manner he led working meeting with the representatives of the regional law enforcement agencies about counter-smuggling measures: he did not mention issue of the illegal trade with the occupied territories. While talking to representatives of the different Orthodox churches Harbuz avoided topics of oppression of the Kyiv Patriarchate in the occupied territory and tacit collusion between Moscow Patriarchate and separatists. He had nothing to suggest to the miners except promising to send a formal letter of support to the Ministry of energy.

Moreover, Harbuz forgot to update information about his earlier commitments: reconstructions of the damaged private houses in Svatovo, improving condition at the check point in Stanitsa Luhanska, securing sustainable electricity supply in the region. Again, we have to say that broken promises work against public trust to the government.

First Deputy Head of Verkhovna Rada Iryna Herashchenko: unintentionally revealing failures

The lion’s share of Ms. Herashchenko’s communication of was about negotiations about the fate of prisoners (19 news out of 27). On two occasions she condemned Russia for killing civilians in Donbas and praised MinTOT for its housing program for IDPs. Левова частка комунікації Геращенко у травні-червні була присвячена темі звільнення заручників та в’язнів (19 з 27 повідомлень).

One of her posts attracted our attention. Ms. Herashchenko reported about her contribution to the struggle for liberating Donbas. She mentioned her efforts to protect property rights of IDPs and social rights of the people, living in the occupied territories. It seems that unintentionally Ms. Herashchenko revealed unpleasant truth about situation in the troops battling in the frontline. She was proud of delivering “humanitarian aid” to the soldiers, including “notebooks, electric stoves, heaters, washing machines, construction materials for fortification etc., what we managed to collect together with other MPs from Solidarnist…We also handed over 35 thousands of books to Donbas schools, libraries and universities!”. The fact is that these supplies must have been delivered by the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Culture. Although it is hard to deny that Ms.Herashchenko did right and helped troops and people, it is also strange why she did not use her power as leader of the parliament to force executive power bodies to exercise their obligations.

Another important message toward Donbas Ms. Herashchenko released on may 30. In her post, commenting on negotiations in Minsk she ruled out possibility of direct talks with separatists: “Any suggestions about direct talks with Donetsk and Luhansk are symptoms of surrender to Kremlin. It will never happen!”. She repeated her message in the interview to the 5 channel.

Opposition Bloc insisted on “peace at any price”, while Solidarnist sidestepped task of working with Donbas

In May-June the Opposition Bloc released as many as 16 news about urgency of the “direct peace talks” with Russia and separatists: Yuriy Boyko mentioned the issues 8 times, Vadym Novinskyi – 3 times, Oleksandr Vilkul – 2, Serhiy Liovochkin – 2, parliamentary faction of OB – 1 statement.

Also, speakers of the Opposition Bloc paid attention to the IDP rights (15 news): Nataliia Korolevska – 10 times, Yuriy Boyko – 5 times. Ms. Korolevska targeted female voters, while Boyko tried to address wider audience, speaking about legislative activity of his party.

Pro-presidential faction “Solidarnist” evaded for the forth consecutive months struggle with the Opposition Bloc over President’s policy in Donbas. Most of party news touched upon issues of hostages (10 times), peacekeeping mission (4 times), IDP rights and rights of the people in the occupied territories (3 times).

Tymoshenko, Yatsenuik and Liashko used Donbas issues to advance their political agenda

Many leaders of the parliamentary political parties embraced Donbas issues to demonstrate to their potential voters why it is necessary to support them in the next year elections. For instance, Arseniy Yatseniuk, head of “Narodnyy Front” called to suspend civil rights of the people, living in the occupied territories, since it will result “in growing political influence of Russia in the supreme legislative body of Ukraine”. At the same time his comrade minister Avakov said that “60% of the people in the occupied territories want to return to Ukraine”. Releasing such controversial statement either shows that Narodnyy Front has serious internal problems or that the party tries to lure different groups of voters at the same time.

Meanwhile Batkivshchyna decided to play hard and called voters to trust its charismatic leader Yulia Tymoshenko and her ability to stop the war. MP Serhiy Vlasenko tried to persuade people that “only new president can bring peace to Ukraine”, while Tymoshenko herself during party congress in Kyiv stated: “I know how and with whom I must negotiate about the peace. I will not be stopped neither by business interests, benefiting from bloody war, nor by backroom deals, which exist now”. However, she did not mention any specific detail to prove her pledge.

Samopomich did not address people in Donbas at all. It continued the campaign against smuggling in the conflict zone and dismissed possibility of UN peacekeeping mission.

The leader of the Radical Party Oleh Liashko improved his PR and propaganda efforts in Donbas. He was quite successful in positioning himself as a politician who cares about common people and does things:

  • He boasted that he has got budget financing for repair of the Youth Center for the Fine Arts and Aesthetics in Mariupol.
  • He promised to lobby for additional funds to reconstruct highways between Mariupol and other major cities of Ukraine.
  • He reminded that his legislation helped to support steel mills in Mariupol and save thousands of jobs.
  • He showed himself as decent person, who respect church and elders.

Photo: vestifinance

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