With the election of the comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Ukraine may possibly be entering a new era- or not….
With no known specific policy agenda items Zelenskiy is a blank canvas, but there are drivers that indicate where the new government may head, based on historical trends.
While promising to eliminate the endemic corruption that has been rampant in Ukraine since the Soviet Union was dismantled on December 25th 1991 ( as have many other recent politicians like Brazil’s new president Bolsonaro or President Trump’s ‘draining of the swamp’) Zelenskiy’s credentials are not promising. His main backer appears to be the Ukrainian /Israeli/Cypriot billionaire ( the second or third richest person in Ukraine) Ihor Kolomoyskiy, who fled Ukraine in 2016 (to Israel?) after being accused by Ukrainian officials of embezzling $5 billion from his now nationalized Privatbank. Once favoured by the post Maidan Ukrainian government and appointed governor of the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, Kolomoyskiy is also accused of using his wealth and paramilitary forces to threaten other businesses into submission. Wikipedia notes that: Kolomoyskyi has used Privat’s “quasi-military forces” to enforce hostile takeovers of companies, sending a team of “hired rowdies armed with baseball bats, iron bars, gas and rubber bullet pistols and chainsaws” to forcibly take over a Kremenchuk steel plant in 2006,and has used “a mix of phony court orders (often involving corrupt judges and/or registrars) and strong-arm tactics” to replace directors on the boards of companies he purchases stakes in.[27
You may be amused (or not) of this account of Kolomoyskiy’s behaviour in 2014 in attempting to reclaim his ‘rightful’ ownership of “Ukrtransnafta” a Ukrainian company which manages the transport of oil through the Ukrainian pipeline network.
Kolomoyskiy also owns the TV channel on which Zelenskiy’s comedy programmes were shown and has provided security, lawyers, and vehicles for the candidate. Zelenskiy however, denies, somewhat implausibly, any influence by Kolomoskiy on his political agenda as president.
The former President Poroschenko, the confectionery billionaire and apparent CIA asset, attempted to portray Zelenskiy ( and all the other presidential candidates) as Putin’s stooges; a ploy that has been used extensively by Ukrainian American intelligence assets in the Ukraine since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Zelenskiy, while speaking Russian, does not appear to have the inclination or motivation to break away from these current Ukrainian mindsets, although he has indicated a willingness to at least talk to the Russians about the breakaway primarily Russian speaking oblasts of Donetsk and Lugansk .
Despite a lack of evidence ( somewhat surprising in this age of satellite imagery) Ukraine and many Western governments have continued to insist that Russia is directly militarily involved in the breakaway regions. The Minsk Protocol of 2014, designed to halt the savage war between the breakaway Donbass paramilitaries and the Ukrainian government and paramilitary forces (many of the paramilitary having neo-nazi connections and using nazi-like terms to describe their ‘untermenschen’ Russian speaking opponents) , has failed to stop the fighting, with both sides accusing the other of breaking the agreement. Kolomoisky himself has been accused of ‘funding the Aidar, Azov, Donbas, Dnieper-1, and Dnieper-2 battalions that engaged in a brutal campaign of looting, torture and murder during Kiev’s Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) military action against eastern Ukraine, starting in April 2014 as well as being involved in the burning of Odessa’s Trade Union building with much loss of life . Russia issued a warrant in 2014 for Kolomoyskyi’s arrest for “organizing the killing of civilians”.
Despite monitoring by an independent OSCE force, violations of the ceasefire by both parties continue to occur on a day by day basis. We can be thankful at least that former president Poroschenko’s attempts to further stir up racial hated using the bigotry of the far right groups, have not won the day in Ukraine ( for now). For that, Zelenskiy and the Ukrainian Jewish communities too will be thankful; despite his billionaire sponsor’s apparent support for those groups; Patriots of Ukraine, Right Sector (Pravy Sektor) and White Hammer .
While inflation and unemployment have reduced somewhat since 2017, Ukraine continues to be mired deep in a financial crisis, with the EU and IMF stating that they do not consider Ukraine has done enough to reduce government corruption or government subsidies . Zelenskiy will be caught between the need to satisfy his billionaire supporters, satisfying the demands of the IMF and EU, while appeasing his voters and improving their lot, and somehow reducing the scale of the conflict in the East.
As the media onslaught and historical emnity to ‘foreigners’ and national ‘patriotism’ of western Ukrainians has surged since Soviet days , the window of opportunity for reconciliation between Eastern , largely Russian speaking Ukrainians and the Western EU oriented populations has begun to close. Fears of a Russian invasion have been fanned relentlessly by intelligence operatives from U.S. and U.K. and several other Western European states with Ukrainian media increasingly hyping the perceived threat to the benefit of the oligarchs and political forces. As Ukraine’s biggest trading partner, and with its many hundreds of years of ethnic , religious and language connections , Russia seems unable to counter that spin. For the medium term at least that may mean a Ukrainian nation both divorced from its historical Rus roots, and also unable to to achieve recognition as a European nation.
A nation which can achieve harmonious integration of both of these paths , despite outside interventions , would be the best of futures. Can Zelenskiy begin the perilous journey down that pathway; juggling the competing interests of Russians, Europeans and Americans whilst maintaining Ukrainian independence?- it is just possible….
ConsortiumNews comments to the above webpage by “Abe”