President Zelensky has invoked his emergency powers under martial law to nationalize television news and ban Ukraine’s main opposition party along with ten others—all of which are said to have links to Russia—to clampdown on internal divisions within the country.
The announcement, which came in form of an address posted online on Sunday—amid the ongoing Russian invasion—prohibits The Opposition Platform – For Life, Left Opposition, Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine, Socialist Party of Ukraine, Socialists, Union of Left Forces, Party of Shariy, Opposition Bloc, Ours, State, and Volodymyr Bloc from conducting any political activity as long as martial law remains in place, Ukrajinska Pravda reports.
Although the vast majority of parties affected by the decree are rather insignificant, the ban’s main victim, the Opposite Platform – For Life (OPZZh), which has 44 seats in Ukraine’s 450-seat parliament, is the second-most popular party in Ukraine after Zelenky’s Servant of the People party. In the 2019 Ukrainian parliamentary elections, the OPZZh garnered 13% of the national vote, performing best in the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts—as well as other regions in the country’s southern and eastern regions, where there are large ethnic Russian and Russian-speaking communities.
“Therefore, the National Security and Defense Council decided, given the full-scale war waged by the Russian Federation and the ties of some political structures with this state, any activity of a number of political parties during the martial law is suspended,” Zelensky wrote, before ordering the Justice Ministry to “immediately take comprehensive measures to ban the activities of these political parties in the prescribed manner.”
“The activities of politicians aimed at splitting or collaborating will not succeed, but will receive a harsh response,” the Ukrainian president added.
Following the announcement, officials from the Opposite Platform – For Life, led by Viktor Medvedchuck, an oligarch and media mogul who chairs the pro-Russian political organization Ukrainian Choice, stated that the Ukrainian government “had no legal basis” for the ban.
Senior officials from the Russian Federation have also slammed Ukraine’s decision to suspend the activities of the opposition parties, with Vyacheslav Volodin, the Chairman of the State Duma, saying the move “was another mistake” that will work to “divide the country” further.
Dmitry Medvedev, the former president of Russia who’s now top security officially, also criticized the ban, sarcastically writing on Telegram that the new decree would work to bring Ukraine closer to the West.
“The most democratic president of modern Ukraine has taken another step towards the western ideals of democracy. By decision of the Council for National Defence and Security, he completely banned any activity of opposition parties in Ukraine. They are not needed! Well done! Keep it up!” Medvedev wrote.
In a separate statement, President Zelensky announced the implementation of a “unified information policy” which involves “combining all national TV channels, the program content of which consists mainly of information and/or information-analytical programs, [into] a single information platform of strategic communication” to be called “United News.”