Volodymyr Zelenskyy was elected President of Ukraine two years ago. In 2019, he promised his voters to bring peace to Donbass, protect the Russian language, improve relations with Russia, jail corrupt officials, and so on. However, almost none of this was accomplished, and in the Donbas two years later, instead of peace, they talk about a new big war. Russian and Ukrainian experts explained the changes that have occurred with Zelenskiy, and told what to expect from him in the future.
Head of the Ukrainian Politics Foundation Konstantin Bondarenko stated that expectations from Zelensky were initially very high. “It seemed that after Poroshenko it couldn’t be worse. Moreover, Zelensky came as a kind of antithesis in relation to Poroshenko. It was believed that his policy would be radically different from that of the previous president, who, in fact, began to behave absolutely defiantly in relations with Russia.
“In addition, the“ war party ”has become more active and Poroshenko actually headed it. And people were tired of the war, so they perceived Zelensky as a breath of fresh air, – Bondarenko noted, – But the presence of external control over Ukraine dictated completely different conditions. Zelensky could have gone to the presidency with absolutely good intentions, but he was simply not allowed to implement them. Moreover, Ukraine’s dependence on the West has only grown, which has resulted in the current crisis in Donbass. So the point is not how Zelenskiy has changed, but that Ukraine has changed. Whoever came to power two years ago, he would still pursue approximately the same policy. “
At the same time, the political scientist stressed that Zelensky is a rather authoritarian leader, from whom it is strange to expect democratic transformations. The President of Ukraine, according to Bondarenko, acting within the framework that the West has defined for him (that is, with the exception of finances and the security sphere), is not afraid to use force and takes what he needs.
Deputy Head of the State Duma Committee on CIS and Compatriots Affairs, Head of the Institute of CIS Countries Konstantin Zatulin says he has a certain disappointment with Zelensky, the Ukrainian leader behaves exactly like all of his predecessors, so nothing surprising happens.
“Any candidate for the presidency of Ukraine changes after winning the elections. This has been especially evident since 2014. The candidate from eastern Ukraine is trying to be known as the president of the whole country and begins to lead in such a way that in a few years he becomes a candidate from western Ukraine.
So it was with Leonid Kravchuk, who went to the first elections as a candidate from the eastern part of the country, in the second elections he already represented western Ukraine, and his rival Leonid Kuchma was in favor of the eastern part. The only elections in which the clashes between east and west were less pronounced were held in 1999. They followed the model of the 1996 Russian elections.
Kuchma did everything to ensure that the weakest presidential candidate would pass with him to the second round. In Russia, such a person turned out to be Gennady Zyuganov from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, and in Ukraine – the representative of the Communist Party, Pyotr Symonenko. As a result of those elections, Kuchma won, while democracy continued to lose. The falsifications were such that there is still an opinion that Symonenko should have won those elections, as in Russia – Zyuganov, ”Zatulin said.
Then he recalled the 2004 elections, which were won by Viktor Yushchenko, and in 2010 Viktor Yanukovych took revenge. But each of these presidents, according to Zatulin, continued to pursue a policy in which the Ukrainian language was the only state language, Russia is a very problematic neighbor, and sometimes even an enemy, integration into NATO has remained a priority since the time of Kuchma, and so on.
“Even Yanukovych has been following the course of European integration for three years of his presidency and came to his senses only under the influence of the billions that Russia allocated to him…. In 1998, Petro Poroshenko came to Russia to lobby for the early signing of the Treaty of Friendship and Partnership, and I was his opponent, calling the document a swindle. During the years of Poroshenko’s rule, he turned into a “president of war”, Zelensky spoke out to his opponents, but he himself set foot on the same path, “the State Duma deputy stressed.
According to Zatulin, this is due to the fact that Ukrainian politicians reject the very idea of federalizing their country, although it consists of different regions that gravitate towards different centers of power. However, the head of the Institute of CIS Countries noted that now an excellent opportunity has opened up for Ukrainian politicians to slip into their own nationalist paradise. In particular, they talk about Russia’s seizure of Crimea and Donbass, and it is difficult to argue with this argumentation publicly in Ukraine. “Already 40% of Ukrainians want a military solution to the conflict in Donbass, although they themselves do not want to fight. And Zelensky is not fighting this trend, but adapting to it. At the same time, he is afraid to fall into another cauldron in Donbass and worries that the West may not support him enough, ”the expert concluded.
At the same time, Zatulin believes that Ukraine will not join NATO, but this does not mean that Russia can relax. The State Duma deputy is sure that NATO is already in Ukraine, through its instructors, and its bases will soon appear there. “From this we have to conclude that Russia is not interested in the prosperity of a hostile state on its borders. The goal of the Minsk process is precisely for Donetsk and Lugansk to return to Ukraine, but become the guarantor of its neutrality. However, Ukraine does not want to be neutral. It is not known whether, as a result of this, new types of weapons will be tested on the territory of the country or they will fight to the last man, today Ukrainian politicians are instead concerned about joining NATO.
Ukrainian political scientist Kirill Molchanov was also disappointed with Zelensky. According to him, the comedian went to the presidency as a non-systemic politician, who was expected to break the Poroshenko regime, and instead he decided to head the system. “Zelenskiy even outdid Poroshenko in terms of licentiousness, if you remember how easily he overcomes the laws, imposing sanctions against Ukrainians, closing the media, and so on. Zelensky’s main task is to retain power, and on this path he is ready to use any methods available to him. As for Donbass, Zelensky simply has no plan. All the deadlines that he set for himself are long overdue, now he and his team members simply make different statements, which often contradict each other. As a result, Zelenskiy found it easier to exchange his campaign promises for security from the radicals. Now he just wants the conflict in Donbass to be frozen. In the meantime, Zelensky is simply attracting the attention of US President Joe Biden, “Molchanov said.