Comment by the Information and Press Department on Vladimir Zelensky’s first anniversary of assuming office as President of Ukraine
On May 20 a year ago, Vladimir Zelensky was inaugurated as President of Ukraine. It is a good occasion to look at the results Ukraine has achieved under his leadership. During his election campaign, Vladimir Zelensky promised to overcome the legacy of Petr Poroshenko, to launch serious reforms, to restore peace in Donbass and to improve life in the country. He said a great deal about the need to bridge the gap in society and “live happily with each other, despite any differences.”
The past year has shown that this declaration of good intentions has not materialised. It has become a tradition in Ukraine that its presidents’ intentions are not backed by action. Corruption has not diminished, and neither have the oligarchs eased their grip on power. Promises to investigate the financial machinations and embezzlement schemes of Poroshenko and his team, the events on Maidan in 2013 and 2014, as well as political assassinations and other crimes of the previous government never came to pass.
Economic problems and social tension are growing in Ukraine. The land reform is being promoted at foreign prompting contrary to the opinion of the overwhelming majority of society. Human rights and freedoms are being violated. Zelensky has not delivered on his election promise to examine the discriminatory law on the state language for compliance with the Constitution. Quite to the contrary, the implementation of the law is in full swing. Kiev has refused to take note of international criticism and the Council of Europe’s recommendation to honour its international commitments. The educational standards adopted under Poroshenko, which infringe on the interests of many ethnic groups, have been complemented by the offensive law on general secondary education after Zelensky became president. The information space is being “cleaned up” and dissent is being suppressed in Ukraine, as stipulated in the draft law on media which has been adopted by the Verkhovna Rada in the first reading.
The current president of Ukraine has inherited from his predecessor a panic fear of the aggressive radically-nationalist minority who is behaving like the master of Ukraine and dictating their will to the authorities.
In his inaugural address, Vladimir Zelensky declared a ceasefire in Donbass as his “first task.” He said he was “definitely not afraid to make difficult decisions” and “ready to lose [his] position to bring peace.” We have not seen any cardinal changes in Ukraine since then, although the new president’s first steps were inspiring indeed. But it appears that he took them to ensure the holding of a Normandy format meeting in Paris. The subsequent events have shown that the current Kiev authorities do not have the political will to implement the Minsk Agreements. It is being said in Kiev now that these agreements are “void,” that there must be an alternative solution, and that they have a Plan B. Zelensky’s administration is not eager to implement the decisions of the Paris summit either.
The only unshakeable part of Kiev’s policy is its focus on confrontation and on fostering tension in relations with Russia. Kiev continues to attack everything that connects our peoples, including the Russian language and culture, distorting our shared history, glorifying Nazism and desecrating memorials to Soviet soldiers.
New sanctions are introduced against Russian citizens and companies. Kiev’s desire to “punish” Russia has taken on absurd proportions. Zelensky, who ridiculed Poroshenko for his restrictions against Russian social media a year ago, has extended them. In fact, he is being even more creative than his predecessor when it comes to sanctions. It is difficult to see any reason in Kiev’s decision to add the Hermitage and the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts to the sanctions list. Will the Ukrainian authorities persecute people for visiting these treasure houses? What will happen to the Ukrainian citizens who received or are receiving education at Moscow State University, which Kiev has designated as a threat to Ukraine’s national security? Apart from MSU, the list includes the Russian Geographical Society, the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies, the Academy of Sciences of Tatarstan, and other research and educational establishments. All of them have been prohibited from contacting their Ukrainian colleagues.
It is not enough for radical nationalists in Kiev that the Russian language and literature, films and media outlets have been prohibited in Ukraine. They want more. It will come as no surprise if books by Tolstoy, Chekhov, Dostoyevsky and Gogol are burned and the remaining monuments to the great figures of the common Russian and Ukrainian culture are destroyed in Ukraine by the end of Zelensky’s term in office.
Regrettably, Russophobia has been given a new lease on life and has become part of the state policy in Ukraine, just as under Poroshenko. That policy was rejected by the majority of Ukrainians a year ago, which helped Zelensky to assume power. It is highly regrettable that the grip on power can gradually change the attitude of “servants of the people” to the interests of the people who elected them.