In a post-Trump world, Ukraine gets it’s own celebrity leader

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In a post-Trump world, Ukraine gets it’s own celebrity leader

Kyran Mitchell

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On April 21st, Volodymyr Zelenski was elected as the president of Ukraine, with a 73% margin of the vote over the incumbent president Petro Poroshenko. Zelenski has no prior political experience. He mainly rose to prominence through a popular television show in the country titled “Servant of the People” about a school teacher whos rant about corruption goes viral in the country, and he is later elected as president. Zelenski represents a new feeling in Ukraine, as citizens are tired of the corruption and Russian influence that has plagued their country since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Not unlike the current United States president, Zelenski is seen as an outsider who may be the answer to fixing corruption and other hot button issues present in the country. Poroshenko was seen by many as being a pawn of large oligarchs in the country, and many were ready to move on to a new face for the presidency. Zelenski was also able to win majorities with the two major factions of Ukraines population: Pro-European Westerners and Pro-Russia Easterners. He became the first candidate to win a majority from both of these groups by using comedy in his tours across the country to win support and by not being tied down by debates.

He instead worked by avoiding debates and speeches and winning the trust of the people with his comedy. He is appealing to all by preaching economic reforms for all and stifling corruption, while also avoiding angering the oligarch that control much of the country’s finances. He has worked to appeal to all sides of the political spectrum, and it seems to be working.

However, there are many concerns with an inexperienced tv comedian becoming the president of Ukraine. In his first few weeks in office, there have already been attempts to undermine and take advantage of his lack of experience. Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, has offered passports to eastern Ukrainian citizens in order to garner more support for the separatist faction of east Ukraine. The region has strong historical ties to Russia since its early history, and the eastern region of Ukraine gained many new Russian Allies with the advent of the USSR. 

Russia is attempting to capitalize on the Russian supporters in the country while an inexperienced politician is leading the country. This is seen by many nations as an attack on the sovereignty of Ukraine and provocation by Russia, in line with the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Russia is working to secure ties in former soviet republics, and the issuing of passports to separatist Ukrainians is a means to garner support for the region to strengthen ties with Russia, and the new presidency and transition of power is a perfect time for Russia to work on securing influence in Ukraine, which is frightening for many pro-european citizens living in the north.

There have also been domestic concerns raised about President Zelenski. While he is widely seen as a candidate against corruption, working to break free of the oligarchs that hold power in the country, he does have his own ties to powerful individuals. Zelenski has strong ties to Ihor Kolomoisky, a Ukrainian oligarch who runs the tv station that Zelenski’s show ran on. Zelenski visited the house of Kolomoisky numerous times during his campaign, but it it unknown what was discussed.

Oligarchs in the country are largely corrupt and work to ensure their own interests, not the interests of the people at large. This is against Zelenski’s platform, as one of his major points is anti-corruption. His ties to this large oligarch raise concerns with citizens of Ukraine, but there is still great hope that he can incite real change within the country. As a newcomer to the political arena, he does seem to have the interests of the people in mind as opposed to working to secure his own profits or profits for large businesses. There is now real hope within the country thar real change may be soon around the corner.