More than 600 days have passed since the Russian army launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Soon, two sad dates will be engraved on the country’s modern history: 10 years since the annexation of Crimea and the start of the war in Donbas, and two years since the beginning of new Russian aggression.
I do not believe that Ukraine will mark these dates in any special way, but – for most Ukrainians – February 2024 will bring a new reason to contemplate the recent past, the present, and the future.
It is no secret that optimism among Ukrainians regarding an imminent end to the war has waned since last year, when even those who did not vote for President Volodymyr Zelensky believed that his unbridled energy would help Ukraine obtain the weapons necessary to expel the enemy from occupied lands. It did not initially seem to worry anybody that reports about the supply of weapons only ever mentioned small quantities: “Slovakia gave Ukraine two Zuzanna howitzers, and Germany gave two Iris air defense systems,” etc.
There were rumors in Ukraine that our allies were giving much more in secret, not wanting to irritate Russia, but – if Ukrainians had expected a miracle from Western weapons – now, talk of Hymers and storm-shadow missiles has become something familiar, almost banal.
Many people are worried about what will happen if the occupied territories are liberated but Russia continues to fire missiles and drones at the entire territory of Ukraine. Could this be considered a victory or a partial victory? What should Ukraine do in response to such attacks? Bombard Russian territory? Would Ukraine be forced to keep spending money on weapons with so much restoration work to be done?
Such conclusions, of course, cannot but provoke sad thoughts about the coming months or even years of this war. This has prompted Ukraine’s leadership to focus squarely on the issue of national unity and like-mindedness.
Trust ratings of politicians
Before the war, the main split in Ukrainian society was between supporters of former President Petro Poroshenko and supporters of Zelensky. Three quarters (75 percent) of Ukrainians still support Zelensky. However, divergence in Ukrainians’ attitudes and beliefs is obvious from the results of sociological surveys covering a range of themes. The results often show contradictory attitudes in any one person, which is not surprising. We are a war-traumatized society, torn between belief in a miracle and a not-so-inspiring reality.
President Zelensky's trust rating reached 90 percent in 2022, but today it has dropped to 75 percent. While he is still at the top of the popular public figures’ list, this summer 78 percent of Ukrainians considered Zelensky to be personally responsible for corruption in the government and regional military administrations.
In the “trust ranking,” the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) takes first place among national institutions, enjoying 93-94 percent of trust. This is followed by volunteer military formations and volunteers. The president is in seventh place in this rating with 72 percent trust.
Political parties take first place in the list of the least trustworthy. Some 74 percent of Ukrainians do not trust them. Meanwhile, 72 percent of respondents distrust Ukrainian civil servants and the government of Ukraine is distrusted by 60 percent of Ukrainians. Among the current politicians in President Zelensky’s camp, the least trusted are the Head of the Presidential Office, Andriy Yermak, the Speaker of Parliament, Ruslan Stefanchuk, and Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.
This shows that Ukrainians are not looking at the reality in which Ukraine finds itself through rose-tinted spectacles, and while there is unconditional support for the AFU, it is not a consolidating factor for Ukrainian society. Discussions about possible presidential elections, which are heard increasingly often in the Ukrainian media, could further split Ukrainian society.
Zelensky recently said in an interview with foreign journalists that, if the war continues, he will run for a second term. If the war ends, he will not qualify for an additional five years as president. This is probably the most concrete signal of his plans that we have received. After all, it is clear to most Ukrainians that the war will continue. Elections during a war, when about eight million Ukrainians have become refugees abroad and more than half a million are on the front line, can hardly be considered fair or legitimate. However, for some reason, sociological institutes have not conducted an opinion poll on this matter.
Meanwhile, attacks on the presidential camp by its opponents have intensified. In traditional style, one of the leaders of these attacks is the former adviser to the head of the presidential office, Alexey Arestovich. Last year, when Arestovich – a blogger and former military intelligence officer – worked for Zelensky’s team, his personal popularity rating broke all records. Today, according to the sociological service of the Razumkov Center, 71 percent of Ukrainians do not trust him. However, this evidently does not upset him. He clearly has presidential ambitions and is quite capable of regaining most of his lost ratings by criticizing Zelensky and his team.
Earlier this month, according to journalist Yulia Mostova, President Zelensky provoked displeasure among her colleagues by gathering a narrow circle of loyal journalists in his office for an informal chat during which he asked them not to write about corruption in Ukraine until the end of the war.
In the meantime, a survey of how many Ukrainians would be willing to accept territorial losses in exchange for an end to the war should be of interest to objective journalists. The number has grown by four percent over the past six months and now accounts for 14 percent of the total population. Some 80 percent of Ukrainians still oppose territorial compromises. However, if we consider these results by region, we will see that, in the south of Ukraine, the number of those who are ready to compromise has increased from eight to 21 percent, and in the east of Ukraine from 13 to 22 percent.
Not believing in the victory of AFU would show a lack of patriotism. So, some respondents may shy away from being honest when answering this question. Talk about territorial compromises carries the assumption that the Ukrainian army can't win this war.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian counter-offensive in the south is proceeding very slowly. In the east, Russian troops have again launched an offensive around Avdiivka, Marinka, and Kupyansk. It looks like the upcoming winter on the front line will be hot and Ukrainian soldiers will again celebrate the New Year in the trenches and under fire.
The views expressed are the author’s and not necessarily of Kyiv Post.
You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter