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11 November, 2019  ▪  Roman Malko

Before it’s too late

How to prevent surrender

It was clear from day one that the promises and principles with which Volodymyr Zelenskiy stormed Ukraine’s political landscape are unviable. But the grade of hatred and manipulations heated up to an absurd point and spiced up generously with cynicism and jokes worked. People believed in a new messiah. The worst thing is that the messiah came to believe in himself. In his ability to change the world, the country and the rules. But winning an election is half of the cause done. Time proves that reality is much more complex. “Just stopping to shoot” does not mean stopping the war. “Doing them all together” is not a step into a bright future. Even speaking to Trump and Putin on the phone is not an extraordinary accomplishment. 

The victory of chances has opened wide the door to revanche. The country has plunged into a chaos and is slowly getting out of control. All things gained with sweat and blood in the past years is being minimized and crossed out. A number of processes has been launched that can undermine Ukraine’s statehood, and destroy it as well. “Let’s change the flow of history”, the Servants’ slogan, sounds threatening already in this context. 

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I would hate to believe that Zelenskiy is an average Trojan horse with the respective mission. So far, however, things have not played out well for him. He has managed to fulfill nothing of what he pledged; quite on the contrary, everything is going into a dead end. The party in power is tormented by scandals. The Parliament continues to dismay people even without its turbo gear. The government fails in the international arena. The IMF is not going to issue any money. The promised wild GDP growth is postponed, while the government of technocrats turns out to be the government of amateurs. The grade of excitement with the President is falling slowly among his electorate as everything moves in some unclear direction and people feel it. 

The war goes on, there is no peace, and a Russian Duma MP freely comes to the grey zone (will more follow? Zhyrinovsky, for example?). Zelenskiy’s wish to get Putin’s goodwill with humiliating gestures, such as the withdrawal of troops (de facto surrendering territory), fits into the rationale of someone without a clear statehood position, someone who just wants peace but delivers no results. Sitting at the table of negotiations with Putin is an unlikely prospect. The Kremlin’s leader puts forward new demands all the time. Now, the meeting in the Normandy Format depends on Kyiv’s consent to the Kremlin’s gas conditions, not so much on the Steinmeier formula. What will come next? Russian as the second official language, federalization? Moscow has a program for taking Ukraine under control and it is naive to think that it will suddenly wrap it.


The fact that the “servants” include some curious figures, such as Ihor Kolomoiskiy, Valeriy Khoroshkovskiy or Viktor Pinchuk as shareholders, points to an upsetting circumstance for the fans of Ze: the rules of game have not changed. The return of people like Portnov from forced emigration and their attempts (unresisted by anyone in power) to restore the positions they once had confirms that. Finally, the urge to purge appointees of the previous government from the bureaucratic apparatus and replace them with strange alternatives makes one think that Zelenskiy’s staff policy is his weak spot. 

“You’ve never been in politics… And it’s the most important thing so far. I’m going. Come with me,” Zelenskiy appealed to the mass in an attempt to be liked. The new messiah probably did not think that he was thus driving himself into a trap. Nor did he probably think about the fact that all kinds of fraudsters could use this window of opportunities. Someone whispered in his ears that this was the right thing; that he could do it all; that he is very talented and he would get help as long as he trusts people and opens the way to all things new. It was hard not to believe this: after going through the miraculous personal transformation “of someone from the people”, Zelenskiy obviously believes that appointing people like Serhiy Syvokho, incidental companions and career-oriented people to important offices is perfectly normal and necessary. Some say that a shortage of candidates for these offices forces the President to take such steps, but this is nonsense. After getting strategically important sectors under control, these newly-appointed officials with no experience of work in previous administrations can act as they see fit, based on their preferences and insecurities. The impression is that this absurdity has gone massive with Zelenskiy. Is it hard to project what accomplishments the newly-appointed head of Ternopil Oblast State Administration Ihor Sopel have there after his membership in the Party of Regions? Someone from the Party of Regions in Ternopil is a verdict in itself. Or Pavlo Kyrylenko, the new head of the Donetsk Oblast Administration whose brother is currently working at the “DNR MGB” and the President is perfectly aware of this (he admitted that when he presented Kyrylenko in Kramatorsk). Why stage these experiments? Who advises these absurd moves to the President? Is the shortage of professionals so bad that he can’t find someone more neutral for such serious offices? 

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It is too early to scream that all is lost. Firstly, this will not help. Secondly, the “servants” have not yet managed to break apart state institutions, and they continue to work by inertia which is still encouraging. Thirdly, there are sound forces in Ukraine’s society who are ready to protect the country with arms. More and more people realize that matches should be taken away from the kids so that they don’t burn the house, or at least that they should not be left with matches unattended. The strategic council of the Resistance to Capitulation Movement has recently presented the Ukrainian Doctrine of Security and Peace with an alternative plan for the peaceful resolution and strategic vectors for ensuring sustainable security for Ukraine. This profound document written by Ukrainian diplomats, politicians and academics could serve as a good assistant for the President who seems to not know how to get out of the situation he has entered. The doctrine offers a detailed roadmap of what the problems are and how they should be solved. It would be great if the President found time to take a look at it (provided that Andriy Bohdan allows him to do so). This could help him avoid poorly thought-through moves. For this, he should at least quit his regime of confidence and stop perceiving every dissenting and critical voice as an enemy. He should remember his own words spoken on the day he pledged allegiance — that everyone is president in this country. These are very profound words. But is the servant of the people capable of delivering this? For now, his ability to understand alternatives has not been too visible. In fact, it is hard to call the plan for saving the country and avoiding capitulation an alternative — it’s the only positive scenario for Ukraine.    


Translated by Anna Korbut 

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