Zelensky and the delicate task of tackling corruption in wartime
On the eve of Vladimir Putin's invasion, Volodymyr Zelensky was not a particularly popular figure in Ukraine. In the year since, he has achieved virtually universal support at home, and hero status abroad. What will the onetime anti-corruption crusader do with this political capital? asks Konstantin Skorkin in Russian-language independent website Vazhnyye Istorii/Important Stories.
To understand Volodymyr Zelensky's spectacular rise, it's worth going back to his arrival on the political scene in Ukraine.
In the first round of the 2019 presidential elections, the well-known actor and comedian, and political novice, got 30% of the ballots, before rallying the entire protest vote in the second round to win with a sensational 73%. In May 2020, about 40% of Ukrainians supported Zelensky’s presidency. By 2021, that support had dropped by 10 percentage points, and by the beginning of Feb. 2022, he could claim 24.6% support.
Zelensky’s rating was affected by the inevitable disappointment of inflated expectations, as well as personnel failures, unpopular land reforms, rising utility bills and the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of his key promises — peace in the Donbas — remained unfulfilled. Despite a short détente in the summer and autumn of 2019, the Kremlin demonstrated that it did not intend to give in to Kyiv’s demands. Similarly, the Ukrainian public made clear that they were not ready to make concessions to the aggressor.
The Russian invasion of Feb. 24 changed everything. Zelensky went from fading president to supreme commander, leading a nation at war.
In the first days of the war, support for the Ukrainian president shot up to 91%. Zelensky's refusal of offers from Western allies to move abroad for safety, and instead remain in Kyiv, then under attack by Russia, played a key role.
As a result of his courageous behavior, the president has created moral capital for himself, and left all political competitors far behind.
Polls in February 2022 show the main rival of the fading Zelensky was his predecessor, Petro Poroshenko. The ex-president, who did not resign but was defeated by the younger Zelensky, sharply criticized the new president. Media outlets and activists associated with Poroshenko accused Zelensky of capitulating to Moscow and having ties to oligarchs.
The outbreak of the war nullified those arguments. Pro-Russian politicians were the first to drop out of the game, and any remaining pro-Kremlin parties, including the parliamentary ‘Opposition Platform for Life,' were banned by a court decision.
But even opponents of the pro-European camp, like Poroshenko, are struggling to challenge the president. In wartime conditions, there are few opportunities for criticism of presidential decision: parliamentary sessions are held behind closed doors, the broadcasting of the ex-president’s TV channels is limited and the rhetoric of “sharing responsibility” isn't popular in wartime. The image of the ex-president has faded significantly against the backdrop of Zelensky’s popularity.
Zelensky's only serious competitors will come from the military. The press often writes about alleged political tensions between the President and Ukraine's military commander-in-chief, Valery Zaluzhny, whose popularity is comparable to the President's. Russian propaganda likes to speculate on this topic, pushing the narrative of a split among Kyiv elites.
Now, however, the survival of the country depends on the cooperation of civil and military authorities, and if there is political competition between Zelensky and Zaluzhny, it has been postponed until better times. But there is no doubt that in post-war Ukraine, regardless of the outcome of the conflict, the military will play a huge role. [...]
— Read the full Vazhnyye Istorii article by Konstantin Skorkin translated into English by Worldcrunch.
• Russia isolated as UN marks one year of Ukraine war: The United Nations has marked the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with a vote demanding Moscow withdraw its troops and stop fighting. The measure adopted Thursday by 141 countries, which also calls for a "comprehensive, just and lasting peace," received just a handful of ‘No’ votes. Among the 32 abstentions was China — the fourth time Beijing has done so in similar circumstances since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 last year.
• North Korea test-fires cruise missiles to demonstrate nuclear counterattack: North Korea test-fired four strategic cruise missiles during a drill designed to demonstrate its ability to conduct a nuclear counterattack against hostile forces, its state media said on Friday. The launch came as U.S. and South Korean officials took part in a tabletop, or simulated, exercise that focused on the possibility of North Korea using a nuclear weapon.
• Weinstein sentenced to 16 years: Ex-Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 16 years in prison for the 2013 rape of an actress in Los Angeles. In 2017, Weinstein came to epitomize a culture of pervasive sexual misconduct by powerful men that ignited the #MeToo movement. The sentence is added to the 23-year prison term that Weinstein, 70, is already serving for a sexual misconduct conviction in New York.
• Two Pakistanis leave Guantanamo after 20 years without charges: Two Pakistani brothers held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay military prison for two decades have been freed by U.S. officials and have returned home. Abdul Rabbani, 55, and his brother Mohammed, 53, will be reunited with their families after a formal questioning by Pakistani authorities, which said the two were “innocently imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay for 21 years”. They were the latest inmates to be released from US custody as the country moves towards emptying and shutting down the prison.
• Netflix slashes prices in 30+ countries: U.S. streaming giant Netflix is cutting its prices throughout the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and parts of Europe, with discounts ranging from 20% to almost 60%. The decision, led by growing competition and changing viewing habits, will concern 4% of Netflix’s subscriber base, an estimated 10 million people.
• Soyuz rescue ship sent to ISS: The Russian space agency Roscosmos has launched an uncrewed Soyuz spacecraft from Kazakhstan on a rescue mission to bring back three astronauts on the International Space Station, after their return vehicle was damaged by a mini meteorite.• Instagram’s new most-followed woman:
With 382 million followers, American singer and actress Selena Gomez has regained her title
of Instagram’s most-followed woman, dethroning Kylie Jenner. Gomez had left the social media platform for a period of time because she found it toxic.
“Ukraine, Year 1” reads the somber front page of Spanish daily ABC, alongside a black-and-white photo of destruction near Kyiv, to mark the one-year anniversary of Russia invading Ukraine. Here’s a look back at how international newspapers featured the news a year ago.
In order to boost tourism, Taiwan plans to offer cash handouts of NT$5,000 ($165) to 500,000 individual tourists to visit the island on vacation, as well as incentives of up to $658 to 90,000 tour groups. According to statistics from the Taiwan Tourism Bureau, the island saw just under 900,000 inbound visitors last year — far from pre-COVID 2019 and Taiwan’s record number of 11.8 million international tourists.
50 years after Pinochet's coup, Chile is ready to recover the disappeared
The government of Chile's young new president, Gabriel Boric, has begun to develop the National Plan for the Search for Victims of the Dictatorship, half a century after the coup, reports Yasna Mussa in Spanish-language monthly magazine La Marea.
🇨🇱 This coming September 11, it will be 50 years since a group led by Augusto Pinochet shattered democracy and forever changed the history of a country whose wounds are still exposed : 17 years of a dictatorship would follow, in which thousands of people were sent to prison, tortured, murdered, or forcibly disappeared.
🔍 In a country where the exact number of those who disappeared is not yet clear, nor has it been possible to identify all the bodies found, the government's announcement is the closest thing to hope for the relatives and groups that have had to work for decades with little support and funding. The National Search Plan includes several points, amongst which are the georeferencing of sites, the review of hidden folders and the creation of a single national registry.
⚠️ Gaby Rivera has chaired the Association of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared since this year and enthusiastically welcomes this government's initiative, but warns that political will is not enough. “It is also important to provide the tools for this to take place. We do not have more time. The murderers are dying and our relatives have died without knowing where their loved ones are,” says Rivera.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
“Conflict and war benefit no one."
— China’s foreign ministry has released a 12-point proposal that includes a call for a ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine on the first anniversary of Moscow’s invasion, in order to “prevent the crisis from deteriorating further or even spiraling out of control.” Beijing’s plan also urges for the end of Western sanctions against Russia and the establishment of humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians.
📸 PHOTO DU JOUR
To mark one year since the Russian invasion, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky has shared a series of striking photographs through his social media accounts, to thank members of the Ukrainian military for their continued efforts to protect the country. — Photo: Official Facebook account
✍️ Newsletter by Ginevra Falciani, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger
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