Two Russia-friendly political parties – Opposition Bloc and Za Zhittya (For Life) – are to merge forces prior to the 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections, they announced on Nov. 9.

Announcing the alliance, Opposition Bloc co-chairman Yuriy Boyko and Za Zhittya leader Vadym Rabinovych also called on all other opposition forces to unite under their Opposition Platform – Za Zhittya.

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The Opposition Bloc holds 43 seats in the Ukrainian parliament, and is widely perceived as the successor of the Party of Regions, a pro-Russian political party that ceased to exist after the collapse of the regime of its leader, Viktor Yanukovych, the former Ukrainian president who fled the country in 2014 after the EuroMaidan Revolution.

Israeli-Ukrainian businessman and a lawmaker Rabinovych remains a member of the Opposition Bloc faction in parliament, although he left the party two years ago to start his own party, Za Zhittya. The party recently appointed a new head of its political council – Viktor Medvedchuk, a Ukrainian politician and oligarch who supports reintegration with Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin is said to be the godfather of Medvedchuk’s daughter.

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Boyko said that the coalition will have a single candidate for the presidential election next year, but who that will be is still up for discussion.

Currently, there are three potential candidates: Boyko, Rabinovych, and the co-chairman of the Opposition Bloc faction in parliament, Oleksandr Vilkul.

The proposed alliance will continue Opposition Bloc’s Russia-friendly line.

“There are three action points to which we invite everyone,” Rabinovych said on Nov. 9. “The first is unconditional peace in the country; the second is the end of the economic genocide of the Ukrainian people; and the third is a creation of an independent, neutral country – ‘a Switzerland of Eastern Europe.’”

An agreement signed between Opposition Bloc and Za Zhittya on Nov. 9 reads that the main enemies of Ukraine are war, social injustice, corruption, criminal impunity, criminal national leadership, tariff genocide, predatory nationalism, and poverty.

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“We are together to defeat ‘the party of war and theft’ and return to millions of our citizens a peaceful, united and successful country where they will have an adequate quality of life,” the document reads.

The Opposition Bloc calls for the neutrality of Ukraine and the country maintaining a non-bloc status, meaning not drawing closer to membership of the European Union or NATO as Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko has suggested.

The bloc wants to reboot talks with Russia over peace in eastern Donbas, leaving aside other issues such as Russia’s occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea.

They also propose to criminalize the incitement of inter-regional hatred and ban all organizations that promote it, use violence as an instrument for political gain, or set up illegal paramilitary forces – a swipe at ultra-nationalist vigilante groups such as the Right Sector, National Militia, and C14.

They support Ukrainian’s status as the state language, but want to allow ethnic minorities to be able to define Russian and other minority languages as regional languages in their own communities.

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In line with that, Opposition Bloc lawmakers opposed a law adopted in 2017 that made Ukrainian the main language of public education, as well as the 2018 draft bill that establishes Ukrainian as the obligatory language in all spheres of public life, and makes the violation of this legislation an administrative offense.

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