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Protected by Constitution: Basic law saves Ukraine in wartime

Friday, 28 June 2024, 10:00

Perhaps in the course of these 28 years, there have been many questions to the Constitution, but today one thing is for sure: despite all the imperfections, our basic law withstood the moment of the greatest turbulence. It withstood the challenge and protected our state. 

Overall, the existence of the Constitution is another element of the statehood that we are defending now. Interestingly, all the appeals of our enemies to the provisions of this law only сonfirm that it is capable and ready to withstand difficult challenges.  

In the past year alone, the world witnessed perhaps the most striking example of this — when Putin spoke about Zelenskyy's "illegitimacy," he referred specifically to Ukrainian legislation and the Constitution in particular, which, I am sure, he did not read. It's strange to hear such things uttered by a person whose legitimacy is much more questionable because Putin himself has repeatedly violated and desecrated the constitution of his country. But the purpose of these statements was very specific. 


All the winter PSYOPs were spread by the Russians because they believed that there was foundation for it. Allegedly, there is no one worthy to negotiate with, either for the Russians or for representatives of other countries. This strategy is not new for Russia; they have repeatedly used it by trying to sow even more chaos both inside Ukraine and around it. But it didn't work at all this time. 

What is the purpose of a PSYOP? To make people lose faith, to make them doubt more. Although the powers of the parliament have been enhanced again since 2014, in wartime, sole power, or one decision-making center, is vital. For us today, this power is the president, despite everything. It is he who makes the main decisions in the war, and this is directly spelled out in our Constitution: the President is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine; appoints to office and dismisses from office the high command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and other military formations; administers in the spheres of national security and defense of the State. 

But suddenly, we are told that Zelenskyy is illegitimate because his presidential term expired, and it makes sense to talk only to the Chair of the Verkhovna Rada. But would Putin talk to Stefanchuk? It is highly unlikely because it is no secret that the leadership of the Rada is also guided by instructions from the Office of the President, and, as a result, it is also no good for negotiations.  

What does the Constitution have to do with it? It does not mention the expiration of the president's powers; these issues are already regulated in the Law of Ukraine on the Legal Regime of Martial Law. But the principles of these provisions lie precisely in the very Constitution, to which the Kremlin usurper so manipulatively appeals. 

The fact is that the basic law lays the foundations for the continuity of the central government in Ukraine. The Constitution states that the President of Ukraine shall not transfer his or her powers to other persons or bodies. The law on martial law states that the powers of the president cannot be terminated during the period of martial law. Then again, the Constitution states that in the absence of the Head of State, these functions are performed by the Chair of the Verkhovna Rada. This will continue until the new convocation of the Verkhovna Rada meets for the first time, whenever the next parliamentary elections take place. Continuity? Undoubtedly.  

But, in addition to the doubtful likelihood of a conversation between Putin and Stefanchuk, there is another trick in the words of the Russian dictator—the speaker of the parliament cannot perform all the powers of the Head of State. The Constitution contains specific paragraphs of Art. 106, including, by the way, some powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief. 

That is why Putin says that he is ready to talk to Stefanchuk. That is why the Kremlin usurper appeals to some provisions of our legislation, neglecting others. He hopes that all those heeding such manipulations will not read either our Constitution or other laws.  

However, the fact is that the creators of the Constitution laid in it such safeguards back in 1996 that negate all the false manipulations of our enemies. This is the special magic of the Ukrainian Basic Law: the people who wrote it, including Communists and outspoken supporters of Russia, took into account things that they couldn’t have imagined. Perhaps there are similar provisions in other constitutions, but they have repeatedly proved functional in ours.  

Could the authors of the Constitution imagine that the legitimately elected president of Ukraine would at some point flee the country, frightened of his own people? We saw this after the escape of the "legitimate" Yanukovych in 2014, and at that moment, the basic law ensured the continuity of power for the first time. Interestingly, at that time, Putin also mentioned our Constitution but appealed to entirely different articles, twisting the notion of legitimacy as he pleased.  

Could the creators of the Constitution even think about Russia's open aggression against Ukraine? That this war would last so long that the terms of elected bodies would expire? It is unlikely, but this year, this important function of legislation has proved functional again. No matter how much Russian propaganda spread the statement of Zelenskyy's illegitimacy, it was not believed either within Ukraine or at the international level, which is confirmed by the number of countries participating in the Peace Summit.  

In my opinion, we have a fairly functional Constitution; it takes a lot into account. Despite some clearly socialist points, everything else there was quite well envisaged. Even all the changes that were introduced during this time did not change the fundamental things in the basic law too much: they mostly concerned the person to be considered as the head of the country, and each time, the Constitution was amended for political reasons and not for the welfare of the country. The very essence of the Constitution has not changed. 

I think if every Ukrainian read the Constitution at least once, we would feel more and more like the source of power, rather than separate ourselves from the authorities. It describes everything quite clearly and is not an extensive document. An even better idea would be to include studying the Constitution in a compulsory discipline of higher education so that young people who can vote understand the power and consequences of voting.  

I think that now the Constitution Day is increasingly turning into a great festive day for many people. The foundation of Ukrainian statehood spelled out in the basic law is, on the one hand, precisely what Ukrainians are fighting for today. On the other hand, the Constitution protects us all too. And that's another reason to respect it.

Disclaimer: Articles reflect their author’s point of view and do not claim to be objective or to explore every aspect of the issues they discuss. The Ukrainska Pravda editorial board does not bear any responsibility for the accuracy of the information provided, or its interpretation, and acts solely as a publisher. The point of view of the Ukrainska Pravda editorial board may not coincide with the point of view of the article’s author.

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