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20 Mar, 2022 07:44

Zelensky bans main Ukrainian opposition party

President Volodymyr Zelensky explained the clampdown by citing possible links to Russia
Zelensky bans main Ukrainian opposition party

Ukraine has moved to suspend the activities of almost a dozen opposition parties, including the parliament’s second-largest group, Opposition Platform – For Life, for as long as the conflict with Russia continues.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced the decision of the country’s National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) on Sunday.

It was made “given the full-scale war and the ties of some political structures with this state,” he said, apparently referring to Russia. According to Zelensky, the activities of the opposition parties will be put on hold “for the period of martial law.”

“Any activity of politicians aimed at division and collaboration won’t be successful, but will instead be faced with a harsh response,” the president warned.

A total of 11 parties were blacklisted, including Opposition Platform – For Life, which is the second-biggest in the Verkhovna Rada with 39 seats; Party of Shariy, founded by harsh critic of the Kiev authorities, blogger Anatoly Shariy; and Nashi party, headed by Evgeniy Murayev.

In January, the UK Foreign Office said that Murayev was the man whom the Kremlin wanted to put in charge of Ukraine instead of Zelensky. However, the claim was denied by officials in Moscow and the politician himself, who said it was “nonsense and stupidity.”

Opposition Platform – For Life said the suspension was “illegal” and promised to challenge it. “Instead of political dialogue [and] attempts to search for compromise and ways to unite the country, the authorities are relying on raiding, intimidation, repression and reprisals against their opponents,” the party said, urging its MPs and activists to continue working.

Shariy reacted by suggesting that Zelensky was only really looking to ban two parties – allegedly referring to his own and to Opposition Platform – while the rest were only added to the list so that the president could avoid “criticism and mockery” for blatantly targeting his opponents.

Russia sent its troops into Ukraine in late February, following a seven-year standoff over Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the breakaway Donbass republics in Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols had been designed to regularize the status of those regions within the Ukrainian state.

Moscow has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it had been planning to retake the two republics by force.