20 months of war in Ukraine: The current situation on the front and the new challenges to Zelensky’s power in relation to the Israeli attack

By Oleg VERNIK, president of the «Zahist Pratsi» Independent Union, Ukrainian Socialist League

In November 2023, the situation on the front lines to repel Russian imperialist aggression in Ukraine became relatively stable. According to what was expressed a few days ago to The Economist magazine by the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, General Zaluzhny; the situation on the Russian-Ukrainian front is characterized by the impossibility of both sides achieving quick success. Neither the Ukrainian army nor the Russian army currently has sufficient forces and means for a massive offensive in many sectors of the front at the same time. The front currently extends over approximately 1,300 kilometers of combat contact. The Ukrainian offensive in the southern sector of the front has practically ceased, and the Russian offensive in the Avdiivka area (Donetsk region) is accompanied by huge losses for the advancing Russian troops.

General Zaluzhny points out the parity between the sides on the front, which can only be overcome through some kind of “technological advancement.” Firstly, he mentions the task of the Ukrainian army to achieve air superiority and overcome the system of deep explosive barriers that the Russian army built in the southern direction during the occupation of this region of Ukraine.

At the same time, Ukraine has practically no aviation as a major component of its military resources. In the complete absence of air support for the ground offensive, the Ukrainian army attempted a counteroffensive in June 2023, but in its course it did not achieve any significant success that allows us to talk about a breakthrough towards the Sea of Azov or Crimea. Unfortunately, the heroism of the Ukrainian soldiers alone was not enough. And only recently, when the Ukrainian government became convinced of the failure of the counteroffensive on the southern front, did it recognize the significant shortage of Western weapons to successfully break through the Russian defense line. However, these things, obvious to everyone, were silenced by the Ukrainian authorities in May-June 2023, when the Ukrainian counteroffensive was being prepared and launched. Zelensky’s spokesmen then vied with each other to say that the weapons received by the Ukrainian army from “Western partners” were enough to enter Crimea and reach the coast of the Sea of Azov by the end of summer.

General Zaluzhny’s material in The Economist caused outrage in Zelensky’s team. If before the contradictions between the political leadership of Zelensky and the military leadership of Zaluzhny were kept secret, now they have come to light. A few days ago, Zelensky fired General Khorenko, close to Zaluzhny, who successfully led the Special Operations Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. It was an unprecedented decision, since General Zaluzhny didn’t even know about this dismissal, and it was carried out behind his back. The scandal about this dismissal is gaining momentum.

It is now obvious to everyone that without modern aviation, Ukraine has no chance of succeeding in a counteroffensive. However, in the best-case scenario, the Ukrainian military will not be able to receive the F-16 aircraft promised by its “Western partners” until the spring of 2024, and even then, in minimal quantities and with extremely outdated modifications of these aircraft. Only in the fall of 2023 did Zelensky’s entourage publicly acknowledge the fact that the United States and its Western partners were giving Ukraine enough weapons so that Ukraine could not lose this war, but at the same time was unable to win it. It is beneficial for Western imperialism to prolong the war as long as possible, weakening the military power of the Russian aggressor and ultimately dragging Ukraine into the chains of debt slavery from which it will never escape.

Ukrainian society rejects any behind-the-scenes negotiations with the Russian occupiers on the surrender of Ukrainian territories. But the Zelensky government and Ukraine’s “Western partners” regularly publish messages to the world and the Ukrainian news space about the need for quick negotiations with Russia to end the war and at the same time retain all occupied territories for Russia. So far, this is not happening on behalf of Ukrainian officials, but these speakers are the personification of the Zelensky team and no one has any doubt that in this way the authorities are trying to start preparing the mass consciousness of Ukrainians to accept the possible and extremely undesirable results of the war.

The internal political situation

In November 2023, a series of corruption scandals in Ukraine and the total corruption of the Zelensky apparatus caused a complete imbalance, both in the highest authorities and in the Ukrainian media. At the beginning of the war, Zelensky suspended independent television broadcasting in Ukraine, forcing all television channels to broadcast a “single telethon,” which consisted exclusively of government officials. Of course, before the war, all television channels belonged to one oligarch or another. However, the competitive environment made it possible to form a kind of bourgeois quasi-democracy in the media. With the outbreak of war, any oppositional thoughts were banned from television. It should be noted that at the beginning of the war, the Ukrainian people reacted with understanding to Zelensky’s decision. In the situation when Russian troops were located several kilometers from Kyiv in the spring of 2022, it was difficult not to accept certain restrictions on the rights and freedoms of Ukrainian citizens caused by Russian armed aggression.

However, as the situation developed, both at the front and in the rear, an increasing number of media and citizens began to become outraged. Interest in the government’s “single telethon” has fallen to rock-bottom levels. The authority of social networks and alternative information on the networks has increased considerably. For the first time in the country’s history, Ukrainians began to receive basic political information not from television, but from the Internet. Both opposition Internet bloggers and bourgeois parties opposing Zelensky have greatly increased their information influence. If at the beginning of the war a cunning agreement was reached between them on “non-aggression” in the face of Russian armed aggression, now all these agreements between Zelensky’s team and the bourgeois opposition have actually been canceled.

In October 2023, Zelensky, in a meeting with journalists, asked them “temporarily”, that is, until the end of the war, not to write about corruption in the highest levels of the Ukrainian government. But the effect turned out to be precisely the opposite. In addition to the issue of corruption, Ukrainian journalists increasingly began to ask Zelensky questions publicly about who is to blame for Ukraine’s complete lack of preparation for a Russian attack and how it happened that 20% of the territory was practically delivered without resistance to the Russian occupiers in the first weeks of the war. It is obvious that those responsible for this situation are found in Zelensky’s closest circle. However, Zelensky saves his close friends from the attack of law enforcement agencies, subordinating these bodies to his influence.

It should be noted that in the fall of 2023, all real power in Ukraine was concentrated in the so-called “Office of the President.” It is an unconstitutional body that formally only has technical powers to support the work of the President. However, it was this body that concentrated all the fullness of royal power in its hands, subjugating the Parliament and the Cabinet of Ministers who now play only a formal «operetta» role. Currently, not a single appointment to key government positions is made without the approval of the “Office of the President.” It is with the “Office of the President” that most corruption scandals, including Western aid spending, are linked. Ukraine’s “Western partners” are increasingly raising the question of their control over the financial assistance it allocates, but the “Office of the President” reacts with extreme difficulty and nervousness to the West’s attempts to obtain full transparency in this matter.

If before the start of Russia’s large-scale aggression against Ukraine, I observed in my analysis thatthe political agenda of Ukraine was traditionally developed under the sign of the struggle of the agents of Western imperialism (in Ukraine the symbol is “Soros’ pool”) as an instrument of external control against the large Ukrainian financial and industrial groups, which received their own symbol: the “oligarchs” and the Zelensky regime. Traditionally, the oval balances between them, periodically scaring one or the other by the fact that it will eventually side with its opponents. This is clearly an unstable equilibrium. He pointed out the obvious weakness and instability of the extremely corrupt Ukrainian bourgeois state apparatus.

Since the beginning of the full-scale war, Zelensky managed to subordinate all key oligarchs to his influence, and now his team in the “Office of the President”, in fact, began to try to oppose the influence of direct representatives of the United States and the European Union in Ukraine. Of course, this kind of «struggle» by Zelensky has nothing to do with the anti-imperialist struggle and is only aimed at realizing his own ambitions to rob Ukrainian workers and his unwillingness to share his super profits with «Western partners».

But the US and EU authorities are well aware of these attempts by Zelensky to “sit on two chairs.” And now they have a decisive argument: the supply of weapons to Ukraine. During the five years of his rule, Zelensky did nothing to revive the work of the Ukrainian military-industrial complex. On the contrary, his team, even before the war, did everything possible to destroy defense production companies. Currently, Ukraine is almost 100% dependent on Western arms supplies. Any interruption in the supply of weapons condemns Ukraine and its people to defeat by the Russian imperialist aggressor and the loss of Ukrainian territories.

US President Joe Biden has traditionally transferred fewer weapons to Ukraine than necessary due to the nature of the war and the military’s tasks to recapture occupied Ukrainian territories. However, now the situation in the United States has become even more complicated in the context of the supply of weapons to Ukraine. Key officials in the US Republican Party and Donald Trump’s growing team are calling on the US to stop all assistance to Ukraine and focus all efforts on helping Israel.

Ukraine-Israel-Palestine: a complex tangle of contradictions

On October 7, 2023, events occurred that were key to the current world order. We do not exclude the religious fundamentalists of Hamas from our criticism, but it is absolutely clear to common and current Ukrainians that lasting peace and justice in the entire Middle East region is only possible if the occupation of Palestinian lands ends. Palestinians have the right to self-determination and to resist the Israeli occupation, just as Ukrainians have the right to resist the Russian invasion.

We stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people who have endured 75 years of Israeli military occupation, division, colonial violence, ethnic cleansing, forced land acquisition and apartheid. Ukrainians find themselves in a situation similar to the Russian imperialist attack on their land. We see very well that there are no “axes of good” or “axes of evil” in the world, but there are the same predatory imperialist interests in different parts.

We note that a significant part of Ukraine has been occupied by Russian imperialism since 2014. Then the international community failed to stop Russian aggression and turned a blind eye to the imperial and colonial nature of armed violence, which led to a full-scale war on February 24, 2022.

Ukraine’s civilian population is attacked every day in their homes, hospitals, bus stops and in bread queues. As a result of the Russian occupation, thousands of people live without access to water, electricity and heat, and the most vulnerable populations suffer the most from the destruction of critical infrastructure. During the months of siege and massive bombardment of the city of Mariupol, the humanitarian corridor was not provided. Watching Israel bomb civilian infrastructure in Gaza, it is especially painful for us as Ukrainians to see the humanitarian blockade and Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.

It should be noted that until recently Ukraine supported all pro-Palestinian resolutions at the UN. The Palestinian Embassy in Kyiv has been fully functional for many years. However, in the current situation, Zelensky’s team decided to abandon the traditional course of Ukraine’s foreign policy and declared its firm support for Israel’s attack on Gaza. This seems even more strange according to the Ukrainian public in a situation where Israel categorically refused to support Ukraine and transfer even minimal military assistance to it. The “special relationship” of the Israeli regime with Russian imperialism turned out to be superior to the concepts of international justice and people’s rights that are obvious to the entire world. For its part, Israel has long talked about important “humanitarian support for Ukraine.” But more recently it turned out that for the entire year 2023 it made only one delivery: the supply of drinking water to people affected by floods as a result of the explosion of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant. And that’s it!

But more than that. Israel also decided to humiliate Zelensky himself by banning him from traveling to Tel Aviv to publicly support Israel. They do not want to see Zelensky so as not to spoil his relations with Putin and Russian imperialism. Nevertheless, public humiliation by Israel is not the only problem Zelensky’s recent behavior has caused. Several Arab countries that have helped Ukraine since the beginning of Russian aggression are now ready to reconsider their attitude towards this support.

In this regard, we strongly call on the Zelensky government to condemn the use of terrorism and humanitarian blockade sanctioned by Israel against the civilian population of the Gaza Strip and affirm the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. At the same time, we also oppose holding all Jews around the world responsible for the policies of the State of Israel and condemn anti-Semitic violence such as the mob attack on a plane in Dagestan, Russia.

For the Ukrainian people, fighting for their independence from Russian imperialism, perhaps the worst winter in their history is approaching. The Russian army is amassing many missiles to completely destroy Ukraine’s energy structure this winter, condemning the people to mass freezing in their homes and the defeat of the army on the front. The Ukrainian working class, both those who defend our independence with weapons in hand in the ranks of the Ukrainian defense forces and those who continue to work in companies, have not yet formed their own program of action and political demands. However, this process is objectively speeding up every day. It is very difficult for us now, but our fight will continue.