Make Ukraine better! Zelensky must seize on post-war to end Kyiv ‘incompetence’ – expert

Russia deploying ‘‘poorly trained conscripts’ says Zelensky

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for the West to send advanced missile defence systems to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia’s continued assault on the country’s eastern Donbas region. Vladimir Putin, Russia’s President, has increasingly focused his invasion on the self-proclaimed proto-states of Luhansk and Donetsk, which are controlled by Moscow-backed rebels. As Western leaders and people around the world have rallied behind Ukraine, a political expert from the country has examined Mr Zelensky’s first three years in office.

The former actor-turned President has been praised for his leadership and heroism throughout Russia’s invasion, and his refusal to flee his war-torn nation.

Just days into the war, he uttered the now-immortal words, “I need ammunition, not a ride”, in response to an offer from the US to evacuate him from the capital Kyiv.

However, before Russia invaded, Mr Zelensky was an incredibly divisive figure among Ukrainians, and his administration showed major signs of “incompetence” and “nepotism”, according to Volodymyr Ishchenko, a research associate at the Institute of East European Studies at Freie Universität Berlin.

Looking at the prospect of Mr Zelensky leading Ukraine to victory, he said: “Of course, that would mean seduction.

“He could be seduced to concentrate power and then all the problems – the lack of competence, the nepotism, the inviting friends to the government – would of course be felt very strongly again.”

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One of the most intriguing aspects of Mr Zelensky’s past prior to politics is his showbusiness career in which he played the Ukrainian President in sitcom, ‘Servant of the People’, which also happens to be the name of his political party.

Mr Zelensky’s media-honed image and assured nature in front of a camera have drawn praise from people around the world from politicians to celebrities, to members of the public.

The former actor’s communication skills have helped expose the horrors of Russia’s unprovoked campaign of military aggression against his people.

However, what is less well-known about the Ukrainian leader is how he filled key roles in government after his victory in 2019 with figures from his entertainment career, who were novices in the world of politics.

Mr Zelensky, who was elected in a landslide, appointed Ivan Bakanov as head of Ukraine’s internal intelligence agency, his former colleague who directed their old comedy troupe, Kvartal 95.

He also installed Serhiy Shefir, a screenplay writer and producer of romcom ‘Eight First Dates’, as his chief adviser.

Meanwhile, the President’s friend, Andriy Yermak, a media lawyer and film producer, was made head of the Office of Presidential Administration.

Mr Ishchenko was critical of Mr Zelensky’s running of the country and his appointment of friends in government posts.

Speaking about the war and the potential for victory, he said: “I think the management of the country could become better.

“It does not mean that when the war ends, the old problems will not come back. They may come back.

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“If Ukraine wins this war, Zelensky, of course, would be one of the most popular political leaders that our country has ever had in its whole history.

“He would be viewed as the leader of the victorious national liberation war — that is how he would be seen.

“At least in the very first years of the war, there will not be any serious competition against Zelensky in the case of victory, but of course, we cannot say exactly how the war may end.”

Mr Ishchenko also pointed to how Mr Zelensky’s popularity among Ukrainians had stagnated before the war.

The month before Russia invaded, the President failed in a bid to have his predecessor, opposition politician, Petro Poroshenko – who he beat in 2019 – arrested on treason charges.

Mr Ishchenko said: “That actually failed quite miserably, and Poroshenko was just allowed to go free. Poroshenko only increased his popularity.

“Some of the most recent polls before the invasion actually showed that Poroshenko could win the elections against Zelensky if the elections could have been in February 2022.

“And that was a huge political blow to Zelensky after you recall how large he won in 2019 against Poroshenko.”

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