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Ukrainian Spring or Maidan Constitutional Crisis

by Gordon M. Hahn

The victory of television comedic actor and producer, President-elect Volodomyr Zelenskii, over the increasingly ultra-nationalist oligarch, outgoing President Petro Poroshenko, marked a rejection by a slim Ukrainian majority in the western regions of the oligarchic element in the Weimar Maidan oligarchic-ultranationalist hybrid regime. In the country’s southeast it represents a full rejection of both the regime’s oligarchic element and its increasingly active and vocal ultra-nationalist and neofascist element in the regime. The presidential election has been a positive process that opens the way for a possible but far from certain way out of Maidan Ukraine’s dead end. However, the election in and of itself is not a turn towards a better Ukraine. That turn can now only just begin, and there is no guarantee of its success. To the contrary, there are powerful oligarchic and ideologically extremist forces who lost in the election and who face the prospect of a similar defeat in September’s Rada elections and who will do everything possible to retain power and their positions in the bureaucracy, the siloviki  departments, and the economy.

Contrary to what the American people and other Western publics have been told, Ukraine is very similar to Russia in its political culture, which is corrupt and authoritarian overall. Elections have never been the core problem. The Maidan regime — now on the verge of being the new opposition — plans to emasculate the office of the Ukrainian presidency  in what can only be regarded as a parliamentary coup against the constitution and the sovereign will of the majority of the Ukrainian people as expressed in the presidential voting. Zelenskii himself is likely to fight corruption, to be sure, but he is unlikely to challenge the ultranationalists, neofascists, and their militarized combat organizations. As I wrote on my Facebook page just before the election, “(w)ithout a coup, assassination or election cancellation, it’s Pres. Zelenskii, with all the promise and risk that entails” (  Thus, it turns out, the first option to Zelenskii’s presidency — a coup — appears to the chosen instrument of the Weimar Maidan oligarchic-ultranationalist hybrid regime. Finally, Zelenskii is unlikely to offer concessions that the DNR, LNR or Moscow will find acceptable for resolving the Donbass civil war.

Zelenskii’s Victory and the Presidential Elections

Zelenskii’s victory signified some decline in the acceptability overall in Ukraine of the Galician/Western line backed by Poroshenko countrywide’ fueled largely by a full rejection in the east and south. Zelenskii made it a central point of his campaign to bring the ostracized south and east back in to Ukraine and end the discrimination against the Russian language fostered by Poroshenko legislation. Thus, Zelenskii won more than 80 percent of the vote in each of the 11 more Russian-speaking regions in eastern and southern Ukraine and nearly 90 percent in several of them. Poroshenko took only nationalistic Lviv. In the rest of western Ukraine won, in many of these regions only by a slim majority, but he won nevertheless. He even took some 60 percent in Poroshenko’s native Volhyn region ( To the extent Zelenskii received great support in the east, his election represents a desire for an end of the slow-burning civil war in Donbass, of the east-west polarization inside the country, and of alienation of Russian speakers and ethnic Russians as well as for a  normalization of Kiev’s relations with Russia. Poroshenko’s narrow but nevertheless defeat in almost all the western regions reflects the Galicians disenchantment with corruption far more than any significant rejection of Galician Ukrainian nationalism, ultrnationalism and neofascism in the west.

Takeaways from the electoral process itself are almost all positive.  The election was clearly free and fair with the incumbent losing in a process characterized by democratic ‘outcome uncertainty.’ There can be little doubt that Poroshenko was preparing several ways by which he might cancel or subvert the second round of the vote, including withholding representatives to the election monitoring councils, SBU fake news claiming emails were hacked showing Zelenskii was colluding with the Kremlin (sound familiar?), and the last-minute court challenge against the Zelenskii’s registration as a candidate, among other scenarios being worked out in the presidential administration and SBU. Nevertheless, the second round took place and the votes were counted honestly delivering a resounding defeat to the sitting president. His ability to skew the results using administrative resources was clearly limited by the unwillingness of many bureaucrats and electoral racketeers to violate the law in Poroshenko’s support, preferring to jump ship.

The Nature of Maidan Ukraine’s Hybrid Regime

However, the problem in Ukraine has often been less with its elections being unfree or unfair ( Most often the problem has been with the rule of law, massive corruption, the theft of the state by various powerful oligarchs, the lack of a cohesive national identity, and a deeply polarized society. It is these aspects of Ukraine’s authoritarian side, its ‘stateness problem’ and political polarization and instability which are rarely understood in the West [see Gordon M. Hahn, Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West, and the ‘New Cold War’ (Jefferson: McFarland, 2018)].

The absence of the rule of law in Maidan Ukraine was in full display on the eve of the election as the siloviki chose sides in the vote. The SBU supported Poroshenko by trumping up the noted fake news of hacked emails never shown but allegedly showing that Zelenskii was Putin’s Manchurian candidate ala ‘Trump’s collusion with the Kremln.’ Doing the bidding of Yiliya Tymoshenko’s campaign, the MVD, headed by ultranationalist Arsenii Avakov, uncovered Poroshenko vote buying schemes. Similarly, the present and former Ukrainian general prosecutors’ charges of interference in corruption investigations by US Vice President Joseph Biden and the present US ambassador to Ukraine underscored the point. Also, the release of former Maidan war hero Nadia Savchenko also demonstrated this quite clearly. Either her arrest a little over a year ago for allegedly planning a massive terrorist attack that would have left many Maidan Rada deputies and civilians dead was based on wholly trumped up charges or some among the authorities are protecting an ultranationalist terrorist. Ironically, three days after the presidential vote, a Kievan was arrested on the basis of charges reminiscent of Russian law as many Maidan regime laws remind one of. Thus, the arrestee was charged with spreading on the Internet calls for ‘separatism’ and the overthrow of the Maidan regime that was established by an illegal and violent seizure of power (
A shocking level of official corruption has been characteristic of the Maidan regime’s oligarchical side and was demonstrated even more forcefully during the presidential campaign. Poroshenko’s failure to divest himself or ‘trustify’ his businesses established a fundamentally corrupt oligarch-presidency the Maidan’s first elected president, whose pyramid of competing clans rivaled Putin’s sistema in the level of corruption and rent-seeking. One might also point out the disappearance of $1 billion in US assistance tied to the notorious Burisma scandal involving the US VP Biden and his son (;; and During the presidential campaign, different siloviki services investigated the corruption of their political opponents, creating a feeding frenzy of corruption and election fraud exposes (;;;;;; and Journalists exposed an extensive vote-buying network created by Poroshenko’s campaign ( The most potent symbol of the Ukrainian system’s corruption during the campaign, however, was the scandal that exploded into view in late February featuring Pororshenko’s deputy head of the Council for National Security and Defense (SNBO) and close business partner Ihor Gladkovskiy, whose son had masterminded a scheme that saw the purchase of Russian spare military parts and their re-sale to the Ukrainian army at exorbitant prices ( Poroshenko was forced to fire his long-time associate, and the investigation continues thus far without any arrests. 

The lack of a cohesive national identity and resulting ‘stateness problem’ (threat of separatism and secession) is based on a profound political polarization between western Ukraine’s Galicia and southeastern Ukraine, aggravated by several shifts in the post-Soviet period from regimes controlled by western Ukrainian-dominated governments to ones dominated by southeastern Ukrainian-dominated governments. Western Ukrainian Galicia is poorer, more ethnically Ukrainian, confessionally Uniate Catholic and divided by pro-Western democrats and Ukrainian nationalists, ultranationalists, and neofascists. Southeastern Russophone Ukraine running from the Donbass to Crimea and more multinational Odessa is more more well-off economically, ethnic Russian, religiously Orthodox, and generally pro-Russian. Historically speaking, some in the west — Stepan Bandera’s OUN and UPA fascists — were allied with the Nazis in World War II; while the grandparents of many in the east fought for the Red Army against Hitler’s forces and after the war repressed the OUN and UPA Banderites. This translates into a deep societal polarization with the west displaying considerable support for and tolerance of Galician-Ukrainian ultra-nationalism and neofascism in domestic politics a pro-Western foreign policy stance and the east supporting a more leftist, quasi-Soviet domestic order and pro-Russian foreign orientation. This divided has been repeatedly reflected in presidential and parliamentary elections throughout the history of post-Soviet Ukraine; hence the political upheavals often surrounding national elections, in particular in the 2004 ‘Orange revolution,’ precursor to the 2013-14 Maidan revolt. This polarization has helped drive some of the lack of rule of law, corruption, and stealing of the state as oligarchs scramble to protect and expand their holdings on the background of deep political polarization between western Ukraine’s Galicia and southeastern Ukraine and regime shifts from western Ukrainian-dominated governments to southeastern Ukrainian-dominated governments.
All this explains and/or is explained by the Maidan regime’s birth event – its original sin — the 20 February 2014 snipers’ terrorist false flag massacre. Contrary to the West’s false narrative that reads deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych ordered snipers to kill Maidan demonstrators, the Maidan’s ultranationalist-neofascist wing, with support from former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, deployed snipers on the Maidan to fire on both police and demonstrators in the false flag terrorist operation of the century (Ivan Katchanovski,; Ivan Katchanovski,; and my own article at As one Ukrainian presidential candidate, former Orange regime Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko, noted: “I propose that one of the reasons that (the snipers massacre) has not been investigated to the end is that someone has feathers on their snout among those who are now in power” (” Weeks later, Zelenskii commented: “People whom came to power on blood are profiting on blood” ( It appears he understands the essence of the Maidan regime’s original sin. This poses a grave threat to some of the most powerful men in the regime including the likely organizer of the snipers’ plot, Rada Chairman Andriy Parubiy, and perhaps Poroshenko himself, who appears to have played a role in helping smuggle the snipers out of Maidan Square, though he appears to have opposed the shooting as a video from the Maidan headquarters demonstrates. This issue has the potential to bring the whole Western-backed house of cards tumbling down.
Maidan v. the People
The magnitude and centrality of the terrorist snipers’ attack coverup for both the Maidan regime and the West’s ‘new cold war’ narrative portend a bitter and brutal battle to prevent an objective investigation. Thus, the election of the politically unknown Zelenskii and the prospects of his inauguration and rule as president have sparked a cold civil war in Kiev. The Maidan regime’s forces about to be relegated to the opposition, particularly after the victory of Zelenskii’s new political party (Servant of the People in September’s Rada elections, are poised and are already moving to do almost everything and perhaps everything to prevent his assuming the powers in Ukraine’s semi-presidential system. Poroshenko and his allies and temporary allies in the Rada have undertaken several first steps against Zelenskii and his presidency.
The most important may be the a draft law that would institute changes in the balance of power in the political system in favor of the prime minister and Rada against the president’s office. Many of the proposed changes would empower the prime minister to a level nearly equal to that of the president. Thus, Article 35 of the new law would require the president to nominate a candidate for the post of prime minister indicated by a coalition of factions in the Rada. In other words, the Rada would nominate prime ministerial candidates, and the president would simply submit the same name much like the king or queen of England plays a purely formal role in the formation of the UK cabinet [ (from here on cited as ‘Draft Law’), p. 16]. Similarly, the president would be deprived by Article 36 in the new law of the power to independently submit to the Rada candidates for nomination to the posts of defense minister and foreign minister, the candidate nomination of which would have to be agreed upon before submission to the Rada again by a coalition of deputies’ factions (Draft law, pp. 16-17). These clauses in the new law appear to be a direct violation of the Ukrainian Constitution’s Article 106, which gives the President the unrestricted power to make such nominations. The Rada is also boosted by the draft law’s Article 85.1, which stipulates that in the event of the president’s removal from office under an impeachment process the Rada’s chair will execute the office of the presidency (Draft law, p. 42). This violates the Ukrainian Constitution’s Article 112, which gives the role of acting president in such a case to the PM.
At the same time, the PM would receive a series of new powers in the draft law. Article 39.3 of the draft law stipulates that the president “shall hold mandatory consultations with the Prime Minister regarding the formation of the personnel of the National Security and Defense Council” (SNBO), and Article 39.4 allows the Prime Minister to “initiate a decision before the President on formation of the personnel” of the SNBO and make changes to it (Draft law, p. 18). Acting or temporary holders of the offices of Defense Minister, Foreign Minister, SBU chairman, and National Bank head are to be nominated by the PM under certain circumstances (Articles 30.4, 30.5, 40.6, and 42.5, respectively, Draft law, pp. 16-17, 19, and 20, respectively). Also, under the draft law the PM would also receive the new right to be consulted by the president in cases where two-thirds of a regional parliament has voted ‘no confidence’ in the region’s administration head, which allows the president to dismiss him (Article 49. 3, Draft law, p. 24).  Although the President would retain the power to submit nominations to the posts of Prosecutor General and SBU chair, there is no mention of his power to appoint and dismiss regional prosecutors and SBU chiefs.  The new law also appears to deprive the Ukrainian President of his present power to appoint the membership of the National Commission for Implementation of Regulation of  Energy and Housing Services (NKREKU), the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), and other regulators. Also, the president would be barred from creating any state administrative bodies such as a presidential apparatus or chancellery with powers anything more than advisory.
Thus under the new law the office of the president is deprived of its most important power — appointment of the PM — which now belongs to the majority in the Rada. Thus, this new law on the presidency if adopted by the Rada and signed by Poroshenko as he leaves office would effectively transform Ukraine’s semi-presidential system into a parliamentary republic with a powerful PM, whose authority rivals that of the President. In and of itself this is not problematic and could even be regarded as a step in the direction of greater democracy in the sense of strong republican rule by a legislature of elected representatives of the people, it becomes anti-democratic and a violation of the rule of law by dint of the facts that several of the law’s statutes violate the constitution. More importantly perhaps, the law violates the spirit of election by abrogating the recently expressed will of the people who elected a candidate to a particular office of the president of Ukraine as it existed on the day of the election, with all the powers the constitution vests in that office.
The imminent ‘Maidan-in-opposition’ has undertaken a series of other highly questionable measures to prepare to block or hamper his presidency. When presidential candidate Hrytsenko criticized the draft law on the presidency days after its posting on the site of the Galicia-based nationalist party ‘Self-Help’, led by the mayor of Lviv (Lvov) Andriy Sadoviy, the Lviv  branch of the SBU opened an investigation against his wife’s opinion polling company ( and Hrytsenko was the only first round presidential election candidate to meet with Zelenskii during the campaign for the second round, rousing suspicions he may have cut a deal for a place in any Zelenskii administration, perhaps his return to the post of Defense Minister.
A move directly against Zelenskii has been the delay in announcing the final results of the presidential election ( This move has been combined with an attempt to delay Zelenskii’s inauguration by removing the chairman of the constitutional court who deliberates in the president-elect’s taking of the oath of office ( and Although the delay is not prohibitive yet it risks preventing Zelenskii from calling new Rada elections as soon as he assumes office as he has reportedly planned to do. Mid-term elections cannot be called less than six months before the end of a Rada’s convocation. The present Rada’s term ends in early November.
The delay of the inauguration may also provide time for investigative processes against Zelenskii to be completed and used to block his assumption of office. Thus, three days after the election, the corrupt anti-corruption body, NABU, opened an investigation int Zelenskii production company ( The new draconian language law adopted by the Rada four days after the voting excludes from civil service those not fluent in Ukrainian. Zelenskii is not fluent in Ukrainian, and Poroshenko has vowed to sigh the law; one he himself helped draft and then submitted to the Rada before the election.
Tentative Conclusions and Some Black Swans

The Ukraine is on the edge of a constitutional crisis. The country remains badly divided between the newly elected and at present popular president and his support base in the east and south, on the one hand, and Maidan’s outgoing president, government and Rada with its support base largely in the west. As at the beginning of the Maidan protests in fall 2013, there are many Ukrainians who want positive democratic change. Unfortunately, they are countered by a powerful oligachic-ultranationalist coalition that has been stealing the state, dividing Ukrainians along regional, ethnic, linguistic, and religious lines in order to stay in power, and is about to be relegated to the position of the Maidan-in-opposition. For now, Zelenskii is the new Yanukovych minus the corruption and pro-Russian inclinations. His positive image with the voters can be destroyed with new framing that can come with the ravaging of time in office as the elan of the victory in the presidential election fades and by effective Maidan-in-opposition propaganda. With Rada elections set for September, the first five-six months of Zelenskii’s presidency — should Poroshenko and the Rada radicals allow it to commence — will be bogged down in a bitter power struggle that can easily spin out of control. There is good reason to believe that the Rada leadership, the siloviki, and the ultranationalists and neofascists in Ukraine’s frequently uncivil society will be willing to repeat a use of violence of February 2014 in order to preserve their power and avoid the risk of Zelenskii investigations into their corruption and the Maidan’s original sin of that February 2014 snipers’ terrorist attack. Zelenskii may very well forego a serious investigation of the Maidan terrorist attack and a crackdown on the illegal armed formations and activity of ultranationalists and neofascists like the National Corps and C14. A bridge too far for any Ukrainian leader, given the weak state and powerful extremist element on the streets.

There are black swans on the horizon. One is Vladimir Putin. He ‘welcomed’ Zelenskii by issuing a decree easing requirements for immigration to Russia and the receipt of Russian passports and pension payments for residents in civil war-torn region of the separatist DNR and LNR. In this way, he seemed to remind Zelenskii of Russia’s now limited, albeit, direct military presence in the war zone. He further signaled his intent to run a hard bargain by refusing to congratulate Zelenskii on his presidential election victory unlike in 2014 when Putin congratulated Poroshenko. But Zelenskii may have walked into this slap. He threw down the gauntlet to Putin when declared after his election victory (and before these moves by Putin): “To all post-Soviet countries: Look at us, anything is possible” ( He reiterated the point several days later specifically when responding to Putin’s decision to ease Donbass access to Russian passports and immigration ( If Zelenskii sees himself as the spark or leader of a wave of color revolutions in the former USSR, he will find the going with Russia tough, regardless of who the Russian president is. Russians fear both revolution and foreign interference far more than they do Putin. More importantly for Ukraine, such a stance will make a resolution of the Donbass conflict imossible.

Another black swan is that Ukraine now has a Jewish president. This is not evidence of the absence of anti-Semitism, which is robust among Ukraine’s substantial number of ultranationalists and neofascists. Anti-semitism has been overshadowed by such radicals’ lazer-like focus of their xenophobia on ethnic Russians. The fact of a Jewish president — in addition to the present PM being Jewish — poses the risk of an uptick in anti-Semitism and in the appeal of the ultranationalist/neofascist message if Zelenskii fails to improve the economy, cut corruption, and/or appears to be ‘caving in’ to Russian or Western demands to the detriment of Ukraine’s interests. The Jewish president will be a prime scapegoat in the case of such failure. These two dynamics – the inexperienced Zelenskii’s possible failure and the potential political repercussions of his Jewish roots — could tip the scales in favor of the ultranationalist wing of the Maidan-in-opposition and shape its calculus as to whether or not to undertake a coup, repeating what worked once in February 2014.


About the Author – Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., is a Senior Researcher at the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, San Jose, California,; an expert analyst at Corr Analytics,; and an analyst at Geostrategic Forecasting Corporation (Chicago),

Dr. Hahn is the author of the four books, most recently Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West, and the ‘New Cold War. Previously, he has authored three well-received books: The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland Publishers, 2014), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), and Russia’s Revolution From Above: Reform, Transition and Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, 1985-2000 (Transaction Publishers, 2002). He also has published numerous think tank reports, academic articles, analyses, and commentaries in both English and Russian language media.

Dr. Hahn also has taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, and San Francisco State Universities and as a Fulbright Scholar at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia and has been a senior associate and visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Kennan Institute in Washington DC, and the Hoover Institution.


  1. They keep voting and getting oligarchs.
    This time they have got a puppet who will at the mercy of the IMF as well as the oligarchs trying to squeeze the people who are the poorest in Europe.

  2. Mr. Hahn! I can’t help but notice, that my recent comment which included the quotation of this tidbit:

    “Another black swan is that Ukraine now has a Jewish president.”

    followed by ennumeration of high-ranking Ukrainian 100%-Not-Jewish members of the national elite, mysteriously disappeared. You know, that I can (and will) repost it. Maybe it would be better for you to instead drop the inane claim which you repeat after the Western press, i.e. that NOW the Ukraine has a Jewish president?

    P.S. At least, did you like the song?

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