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17 April, 2019  ▪  Denys Kazanskyi

Predictable revenge

The Donbas and especially the Luhansk Oblast have remained to be the domain of the pro-Russian forces, although the electoral map of the region has changed significantly

The first round of presidential elections has ended up with the result that a year ago might have seemed insane for the Ukrainians. The first place by a significant margin has been taken by the showman and actor Vladimir Zelenskiy. The current president, Petro Poroshenko, has squeezed into the second round with only 2% ahead of Yulia Tymoshenko. And the intrigue remained until the end. Many were sure that Poroshenko would even end the fight in the first round.

Opinion polls unanimously gave the first place to Zelenskiy even before the election. However, but there was not much belief in his victory until the very end: this scenario seemed too incredible. After all, Zelenskiy practically did not lead the traditional election campaign and addressed his voters / supporters mainly through accounts in social networks. It seemed that his electorate simply would not reach the polling stations and would stay at home on the Election Day. But these predictions did not come true, and Zelenskiy received high support throughout the country. There was no outright failure in any Oblast of Ukraine, which is extremely rare with top Ukrainian politicians. But the current president could not boast of such an achievement. His results in the West and East of Ukraine differed fivefold. If in the Lviv Oblast Poroshenko received 35.3%, in the Luhansk Oblast he got only 6.6%.

The electoral map of Ukraine has acquired new interesting outlines. The mental split of the country into the north-west and south-east, which was clearly manifested in the 2000s, is now less noticeable. Almost the entire territory of the country, from Volyn to Slobozhanshchina, is now painted in a single color. Vladimir Zelenskiy and his “Kvartal-95” has become the bond that has united the Russian-speaking proletarians of Donbas, the cosmopolitan Kiev hipsters and Ukrainian-speaking farmers in Western Ukraine. The remnants of the former mental split are now visible only at the poles of the country. The current president Petro Poroshenko has won in Halychyna, where he received the highest result in the country. In the Donbas, Yuriy Boyko, the leader of the pro-Russian party, “Opposition Platform “For Life”, has got to the top. 

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It was mainly the Donbas that riveted the attention of journalists and experts. Some areas of this region actually elected the president for the first time since 2010, because in 2014 they could not vote. Sloviansk, Kramatorsk, Lysychansk, Severodonetsk, Rubezhne, Konstantynivka and other cities and towns of the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts in May 2014 were controlled by illegal armed groups, and the election of the Ukrainian president was banned there. The parliamentary elections in the fall of 2014 cannot be called full-fledged — the war in the Donbas was still in full swing at this time, so the local residents were just not in the mood for elections. Turnout was then minimal, so the results of the will expression were distorted.

The current elections can be called the first full-fledged campaign in the areas controlled by Ukraine in the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts since the pre-war times. Now the turnout there is equal to the average Ukrainian indicators. But the electoral mood, as it turned out, has not changed much. The main triumph was gained by the odious ex-Regional Yuriy Boyko. The third place in most districts was taken by another former representative of the PR Оlexander Vilkul.

The highest result Yuriy Boyko received in the Luhansk Oblast – where he, seemingly, should have received only a curse. In the towns of the so-called “chemical triangle” (Severodonetsk-Lysychansk-Rubezhne, where a number of large chemical enterprises worked in the days of the Soviet Union), the Boyko team left the ruins behind. Even before the war outbreak, these cities had the appearance that the war had already taken place there. The giant factories with thousands of workers were artificially brought to bankruptcy and destroyed by representatives of local elites, which at that time were part of the Party of Regions and were Boyko’s associates. Especially Lysychansk suffered from the activities of this team, where the post of mayor was held by the Boyko’s comrade-in-arms and companion, People’s Deputy Sergiy Dunayev (in these elections he worked as Boyko’s electioneering agent). Almost all industrial enterprises were destroyed or brought to bankruptcy in the town: soda plant, rubber products plant, glass factory “Proletary”. The latter was controlled by Dunaev and was closed down in 2013, at the height of the so-called stability.

Now Serhiy Dunaev is considered the unofficial master of Lysychansk. The People’s Deputy, who in 2014 won the elections there in the single-mandate district 107, having received only about 7 thousand votes, in fact, controls the city council. The consequences of his managerial talent application can be seen with the naked eye by any guest of the town even at the entrance to Lysychansk. Broken roads, deep potholes in the main streets, endless fields of ruins and broken bricks remaining at the site of industrial enterprises, interruptions in water supply, bridges that collapsed because of old age. Lysychansk is in a neglected state, but continues to support those who turned the once developed industrial center into a depressive zone. Yuriy Boyko got a confident victory in this city: 40% of Lysychansk residents voted for him. And he received a similar result in other cities of the Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts.

However, the main event for the East of Ukraine, perhaps, has become the second place of Vladimir Zelenskiy. The uniqueness of this achievement lies in the fact that he, not being from the Donbas and not having a pro-Russian position, without resorting to administrative resources and bribery, has received such a high result in the region that was usually received either by representatives of pro-Russian forces like “Regionals” or communists, or representatives of local elites and those who they put their stakes on (before Yanukovych it was President Leonid Kuchma). Not having neither party cells, nor local deputies and mayors at the local levels, Zelenskiy has received 25% of the votes in the Donbas. Perhaps from Kiev or Lviv, this fact does not seem to be something strange. Many have recorded him in the ranks of the pro-Russian candidates and therefore do not see anything unprecedented in the fact that he has received high rates in the East.

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But for the authorities, the election results in the East are disappointing. If in the Donetsk Oblast Poroshenko unexpectedly has shown a quite high for this area result of 12.6%, then in the Luhansk Oblast there has been a complete failure and the worst indicators among all Oblasts of Ukraine. And such a result can be considered natural. The Luhansk Oblast has long been turned into a godforsaken spot and ulcer, always bleeding, about the problems of which they know little in Kyiv. Suffice it to say that in the frontal area they have not had Head of ORDiLO for half a year! Since last fall Acting Head has been ruling the Luhansk Oblast.

It is obvious that independently, without support at the state level, this Oblast will not be able to get out of the pit into which it fell due to the outrages of local clans and hostilities. And while there is no such support, people who live in a front-line region with closed factories and broken roads have few reasons to vote for the current government. But any destructive forces – from former “Regionals” to radical separatists – are happy to use the difficult economic situation of the region in their own interests. And that turned out to be a predictable revenge on the anti-Ukrainian forces, which has been talked about so much in recent years, but which has never been prevented.

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