«Military Quarter»: how the majority people’s deputies from Kharkiv region worked in the first 3 months of the war | Center for Political Analysis «Observatory of Democracy»

«Military Quarter»: how the majority people’s deputies from Kharkiv region worked in the first 3 months of the war

Unlike the people’s deputies elected on party lists and “majoritarians” from Kharkiv, representatives of districts from the region found themselves in a more difficult situation, which required cooperation with the heads of many communities in their district and solving specific problems of their constituents since the beginning of the full-scale war. The situation with the districts, whose territories were fully or partially occupied, was particularly difficult. In the latest material from the cycle of monitoring the political process in Kharkiv region during the war, the Analytical Center «Observatory of Democracy» examines the work in parliament and public activities of 7 “majority” deputies from  the “regional districts”.

Legislative activity of the deputies

Compared to the “majoritarians” from Kharkiv, the representatives of “regional” districts were less active in legislative work during the first three months of the war – in total they became co-authors of 35 legislative initiatives (“urban” people’s deputies have a combined figure of 129). At the same time, 6 out of 7 people’s deputies (except for the “vanished” Dmytro Shentsev) took part in the voting at the sittings of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine with sufficient discipline.

Constituency Deputy Voting at sessions Bills initiated
Voted Didn`t vote Absent Total
175 Yevhen Pivovarov 185 25 2 212 2
176 Dmytro Shentsev 0 3 209 212 0
177 Dmytro Lyubota 205 4 3 212 23
178 Oleksandr Litvinov 212 0 0 212 2
179 Yulia Svitlichna 181 13 18 212 1
180 Oleksiy Krasov 184 13 15 212 1
181 Dmytro Mykysha 210 2 0 212 6

Source: the table is based on data from the website of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (voting statistics and registered bills – from February 24 to May 17, 2022).

Dmytro Lyubota, a representative of the 177th constituency (center -the city of Kupyansk), was the most involved in the work on the bills as he co-initiated 23 draft legislative acts (which is more than the indicators of 6 other deputies combined). Among them, in particular, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine passed the laws №7269 on the functioning of local self-government in conditions of martial law and №7272 on the postponement of the mobilization of certain categories of conscripts. But most of the bills co-initiated by Lyubota did not acquire the status of laws (among the most resonant of them are №7129 on the possibility of holding remote meetings of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, №7260 on military transport duty during martial law, №7265 on strengthening responsibility for non-return after the imposition of martial law in Ukraine). However, it was not Lyubota’s legislative initiatives, but the episode with his “uncounted” vote for sanctions against Russia, which is why the deputy, without choosing the way of speaking, addressed the Vice Speaker live on TV, resonated more in the media.

If the adopted law №7269 adjusts the system of local self-government in the direction of increasing the powers of community leaders and heads of Civil- military administrations, the law №7283, registered in April, on the contrary, fills a number of mechanisms of direct democracy in communities. Among the small group of its co-initiators were two “majoritarians” from Kharkiv region – Dmytro Mykysha (district №181, center -the city of Zmiiv) and Oleksandr Litvinov (district №178, center -the city of Balakliya). This rather progressive project (although it is relevant for communities in non-combat regions) is still under development in the committee of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, which probably indicates a political decision to pause it. In addition to this project, there is only the co-initiation in the adopted resolution “On the commission of genocide by the Russian Federation in Ukraine” of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in the assets of Litvinov. The long list of co-authors of the resolution included Mykysha, who was also involved in the groups of initiators of the bills four more times (although none of them has been voted on by the parliament so far).

Like Litvinov, Yevhen Pivovarov, a deputy from the 175th constituency (center -the city of Derhachi), has two co-authorships in the bills during the period of study. In addition to the already mentioned initiative to hold meetings of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine remotely (№7129), the deputy joined the amendments to the Tax Code to reduce the burden on organizations that involve volunteers (№7364 – currently preparing for the second reading).

Legislative achievements of deputies from the 179th (center -the city of Lozova) and  the 180th (center -the urban village of Zolochiv) constituencies Yulia Svitlychna and Oleksiy Krasov include one initiative. In May, the former Head of the Kharkiv Regional State Administration joined the bill №7353 on the payment of one-time financial assistance for damage to life and health of journalists and employees of critical infrastructure (the bill is pending). And Oleksiy Krasov limited himself to supporting the initiative on remote parliamentary sittings, which was finally rejected.

As for Dmytro Shentsev, a non-partisan deputy from the 176th constituency (center -the city of Chuhuiv), he disappeared after February 24 and did not take part in the work of the parliament. Interestingly, on May 12, the “Rada” system defined Shentsev’s position as “did not vote”, not “absent” on three issues, which was most likely a technical error, because the deputy was absent in the session hall. In fact, even before the start of the full-scale war, the deputy was marked by systematic “absenteeism” as his attendance at sessions in this cadence was only 20%. It is noteworthy that Shentsev did not become a member of the two newly formed (mostly on the basis of the former Opposition Platform-For Life faction) parliamentary groups, so we can assume that he does not plan to appear in the parliamentary hall soon.

Everyday life and public activity of the deputies

Source: the collage is composed of photo materials posted on the personal pages of Oleksandr Litvinov, Yevhen Pivovarov, Dmytro Lyubota on social networks, as well as the “My.ua” website. 

At the same time, Dmytro Shentsev combines his absence in parliament (and, according to the Kharkiv Telegram channel “Komendant Kharko”, his absence in Ukraine in general) with his activity on Facebook. However, the people’s deputy made the first public address to voters after a pause until March 15. In his statement, Shentsev said that “his heart is torn by a terrible tragedy”, avoiding the mention of its Russian causers, but emphasizing that all this is happening “on the lend, where May 9 has always been a holy day and Russian was the native language. By the way, the appeal on the personal page of the people’s deputy was signed “yours, Dmitry and Nikita Shentsev” – apparently, it is about the son of the people’s deputy, the 32-year-old deputy of the Kharkiv regional council (elected from the “Opposition Platform-For Life” and absent at the recent session of the regional council). After March 15, articles about the humanitarian activities of the Shentsev Charitable Foundation and other volunteer organizations with his support were regularly published the people’s deputy’s page. In the Ukrainian-controlled part of the 176th district (in particular, in Chuguev, Lebyazhy, Kochetko, Kamyany Yaruz), the “people’s deputy on a distance” joined the distribution of humanitarian aid to the residents and the organization of “field kitchen”. At the same time, most of the Shentsev`s district has been under occupation since the first days of the war, but the people’s deputy did not touch this topic in any of his publications, and the comments from subscribers, such as invitations to Vovchansk, were left without an answer.

Another deputy whose constituency is partially occupied is Oleksandr Litvinov, a representative of the 178th constituency. But according to the content of the official Facebook page of the people’s deputy, it is not clear which district or region he represents at all. Mentions of occupied Balaklia, the center of the 178th district, appear only in the comments where subscribers remind the people’s deputy of his ties to the collaborating mayor, Ivan Stolbov. But in the publications of the deputy himself there are no messages, appeals or even mentions of settlements in his constituency (not to mention the current activities in this area and the people’s deputy’s help to his electorate). The majority of content on Litvinov’s page consists of reposts of video appeals by Volodymyr Zelensky-accordingly, if the people’s deputy conducts some work with the voters in his constituency, he obviously leaves it in the shadow of presidential speeches.

And in the 175th constituency, which had been partially occupied since the first hours of the war, a positive tendency of liberating certain settlements in the North of Kharkiv emerged in Spring. Yevhen Pivovarov, the representative of the constituency in the parliament, actively covered this process, posting his own photos from the occupied territories on his Facebook page. Judging by this biographical photo archive, the deputy personally visited many communities of his constituency – in particular, Lyubotyn, Pisochyn, Solonytsivka, Mala Danylivka, Tsyrkuny, Ruska Lozova, Cherkasy Tyshky in April-May. In addition to meetings with the community leaders, the people’s deputy handed out humanitarian aid to the residents and the equipment for the defenders of Ukraine. The deputy’s charitable foundation reports on its separate Facebook page that since the beginning of the war, a total of 250 tons of “humanitarian aid” has been provided to the residents of the constituency, 5,000 targeted deliveries have been made, and 700 people have been evacuated. But despite all this charitable activity, the initiative of the deputy to rename the village of Ruska Lozova to Ukrainska Lozova received the most publicity during the “military quarter”. On May 14, dozens of mass media (including national ones) wrote about this “trendy” proposal of the people’s deputy, and in the comments to the original source, which is the deputy’s post on Facebook, a rather heated discussion took place. For the most part, the opinions of the opponents of the initiative, who were accusing the deputy of a clumsy “hype” and ignorance of history, prevailed.

The situation in the majority district №177 is the most critical in terms of temporary occupation as currently the control over its entire territory is lost (Kupyansky, Izyumsky, Shevchenkivsky and Borivsky districts in the categories up to the “enlargement” in 2020). The representative of this constituency in the parliament, Dmytro Lyubota, has been concentrating his public activity on the official Facebook page since the beginning of the war, having stopped updating the parallel personal page. In addition to covering legislative work at sessions and purely “calendar” content, such as congratulations on professional holidays, Lyubota does not forget about his constituency. For example, on May 31, the deputy, thanking the volunteers, reported on the evacuation of 1,500 residents, in particular, from the settlements of the 177th district. The problem of the occupied territories is often raised in the comments to the deputy’s posts – for example, on April 28, under the publication on payments to internally displaced persons, Lyubota was asked: “who surrendered Kupyansk?”,to which the people`s deputy gave the following answer: “When the invaders fired and bombed Chuguiv at night at the beginning of the war, all of our troops and territorial defense, by order, were sent there. The Russians, taking advantage of this, not without the help of local collaborators, entered Kupyansk. After the negotiations with the Mayor, he provided comprehensive assistance”. It can be assumed that this question also hinted at the position of the deputy’s father – the Head of Kupyansk district administration Valery Lyubota, who called out not to resist after the occupation of the district center (but then referred to the fact that he made this appeal under pressure and risk to his life).

Source: the collage is composed of photo materials posted on the personal Facebook pages of Dmytro Mykysha, Oleksiy Krasov and Yulia Svitlychna. 

Before his election as a parliamentarian from the 181st constituency, Dmytro Mykysha served as the deputy mayor of his native Merefa, which probably explains his separate public appeal to Merefa residents, not all the voters in his constituency with the center in Zmiiv on February 26. Subsequently, on February 28, the deputy introduced the practice of periodic video appeals on his resources (Facebook, Instagram and Telegram), in which he told about the operational situation in the communities of the 181st district and covered his own humanitarian activities. In general, the content shared publicly by the deputy showed significant emphasis on work in the district. The people’s deputy responded quite actively to the comments of subscribers, sometimes quite openly and without selecting the statements too much. On May 6, he recorded a separate video with the main refrain about his whereabouts, refuting the allegations of the enemies about escaping to Spain. And at the end of May, the people’s deputy dedicated a separate publication to the personnel and political issue, rejoicing at the dismissal of Roman Dudin from the post of the Head of the Security Service of Ukraine in Kharkiv region. It is possible that personal motives of the people’s deputy are connected with the press conference of the “Razumkov Team”, which was disrupted in Kharkiv on February 9 and includes Mykysha, and the deputies publicly accused the local security service of deliberately disrupting the event.

During the first three months of the war, Oleksiy Krasov, a representative of the 180th constituency, probably appeared next to the Head of the military state administration, Oleh Synehubov, more than all the people`s deputies from Kharkiv region. This “tandem” was traced both on the Facebook page of the people`s deputy through joint publications and “offline” – the people’s deputy often accompanied Sinegubov at meetings (including a meeting with Kharkiv IT specialists and rectors of universities) and while handing the aid over to the military. It is noteworthy that in the early elections to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in 2019, Oleg Sinegubov was Krasov’s proxy. Currently, the people’s deputy is actively reporting on humanitarian aid to the residents of Kharkiv region (both in his constituency and the regional center), as well as on the transfer of equipment to the military and police. Together with the heads of communities, the people’s deputy held field meetings with the constituency’s voters – for example, on May 16 he published photos from Nova Vodolaga on his page, and on May 18 – from Zolochiv region. Interestingly, after visiting the destroyed museum of Skovoroda  in Zolochiv Region, the deputy publicly appealed to the largest Kharkiv developers to join in restoring the museum (but, at least in the comments, none of the 11 companies responded).

People’s deputy Yulia Svitlychna also actively reported on visiting the communities of her 179th constituency on her Facebook page. Thus, in May the deputy held meetings in Lozova, Kegychivka, Sakhnovshchyna, Krasnohrad and Zachepylivka. In addition to photos from the territory of the constituency, the people’s deputy shared photos from the parliament hall and a brief summary of some of the adopted laws with subscribers. The first post-war publication appeared on the page on March 15, and it was a joint photo of the non-partisan Yulia Svitlychna with the Batkivshchyna party leader Yulia Tymoshenko and the “servant of the people” Vasyly Virastyuk.  In the comments on Svitlychna’s page, as in peacetime, the words of gratitude and support dominated, although some of the questions from the subscribers turned back to military realities – in particular, those regarding state regulation of prices or specific actions of the people’s deputy to release a fellow party member and the deputy of the Kupyansk City council from the “Block of Svitlychna” Mykola Masliy, from Kupyansk.

Conclusions

Although the status of  a “legislative initiative” is largely formal and does not always (especially with a large number of co-initiators) mean the real involvement of the deputy in drafting a bill or resolution, it still provides a source base for comparative analysis. Among the three categories of the people`s deputies from Kharkiv region – those elected on party lists, from the majority districts of the regional center and from the districts of the region, the last group was the least active in legislative work, joining a total of 35 initiatives (23 out of 35 -initiation belongs to one people’s deputy – Dmytro Lyubota from the 177th constituency).

Particularly surprising is the relatively low level of involvement of the people`s deputies who are the members of the “majority” (respectively, their bills have a high chance of being approved) and represent the majority districts with partially occupied territory, which currently have urgent specific needs in a number of areas and processes.

The “majoritarians” from the region tried to partially compensate such legislative passivity with discipline in attending the sittings of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine – 6 out of 7 people’s deputies voted on almost all of the issues (individual turnout ranges from 85% to 100% for Oleksandr Litvinov from the 178th constituency). On the other hand, the people’s deputy from the 176th constituency, non-partisan Dmytro Shentsev, has been ignoring parliamentary sittings since the beginning of the full-scale war.

The already mentioned heterogeneity of the situation in the districts of the region has caused specific requests for work with voters in the partially occupied territories or in the war zone. Among them, in particular, is humanitarian aid with the essential products and medicines to the residents, as well as the organization of evacuation. People’s deputies Yevhen Pivovarov, Oleksiy Krasov, Dmytro Mykysha and Dmytro Shentsev reported on the largest assistance. In the case of Pivovarov and the “remote” Shentsev, their personal charitable foundations operated in the constituencies, while the publications of other pro-presidential people’s deputies did not always directly indicate their personal degree of participation in the organization of relevant assistance.