Ukraine’s president-elect Volodymyr Zelensky has formulated his ideal country as one that is neither a “corrupt partner of the West,” nor “Russia’s little sister.” This pragmatic kind of civil patriotism is close to the hearts of most Ukrainians, for whom the most important task right now is to fix the country’s domestic problems following the crusade-like presidency of Petro Poroshenko.
The Kremlin will soon wish it were still dealing with a Ukrainian president who so much resembled its own.
The Russian authorities have never been inclined to consider Ukraine a truly separate state.
With polls showing incumbent Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko heading for a major defeat in the runoff election, governors and ministers are looking for contacts with the likely winner and his team. The president has fired a series of governors to send a warning to the rest. But the message is too late and not convincing.
The clash between the new populism of Zelenskiy, who staked everything on Russian-speaking Ukraine, and Poroshenko’s national-patriotic conservatism is leading to a partial resumption of the old standoff between the two Ukraines.
Ukraine is going to the polls amid stalled reforms, multiple corruption scandals, and low trust in political institutions. Despite this, more than 80 percent of voters plan to take part, and the election is truly competitive. And although one candidate is leading in the polls, top political operatives are predicting a different outcome.
For Ukraine’s patriotic voters, the war with Russia is the defining issue in the upcoming presidential election. The country is choosing a leader at a time when being the commander in chief is not simply a title and honorary regalia, but the president’s primary responsibility. This factor may win incumbent President Petro Poroshenko a second term.
The Russia-Ukraine relationship has moved from cozy mutual exploitation to lethal hostility. Neither side is prepared to admit its deep dependence on the other.
After throwing his hat into the Ukrainian presidential race, popular comedian Volodymyr Zelensky will likely attempt to woo the country’s Russian-speaking southeast. That will make the race more difficult for incumbent Petro Poroshenko and front-runner Yulia Tymoshenko. It will also challenge Russia, using ideas amenable to the Kremlin to undermine its favored candidate.
President Poroshenko is making use of the newly created Orthodox Church of Ukraine for political ends. The new church may become a state-sponsored church, while the pro-Moscow church could present itself as a marginalized persecuted entity.