10. Political and Security Environment
Russia’s military aggression entered its sixth year in the eastern oblasts of Donetsk and Luhansk, as did its illegal occupation of the Crimean peninsula. Residents of Russia-controlled areas are subject to political violence at the hands of Russia’s proxy authorities. Civilian casualties in eastern Ukraine from landmines, shelling, and small arms fire have decreased steadily since 2017, but continued to occur with some regularity. Infrastructure for water, gas, and electricity remained at risk of conflict-related damage, and fighting routinely disrupted maintenance of aging facilities, thereby threatening essential service delivery to populated areas. Russia-led forces control approximately 400 km of Ukraine’s international border with Russia through which Russia supplies and equips its proxy forces, who receive logistical and command support from Russian Army soldiers. Russia continued its illegal occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol, and reports of political violence, repression, and religious persecution continue.
The 2019 presidential elections, and subsequent early parliamentary elections fundamentally reformatted Ukraine’s political space, bringing to power a new political party with little prior governance experience. The new parliament initially adopted rapid legal changes, but the perceived lack of a coherent strategy lead to growing social dissatisfaction. Presidential dissatisfaction with progress on reform and economic performance led to the replacement of the Presidential Chief of Staff and a complete overhaul of the Cabinet in the spring of 2020. The president remains personally popular, but popularity for the parliament and the Cabinet has declined. Protests have been limited to those against “capitulation” to Russia, especially in October 2019, and more recently against specific legislation such as land reform. Protests have decreased as COVID-19-related quarantine restrictions on large public gatherings have been implemented.