“I am the president, Misha”

InLadimir Zelensky noted the equator of the presidency with a skirmish with journalists For five hours of a press conference, the president of Ukraine announced the possibility of involving the richest Ukrainian in a coup attempt and freezing the bill criticized by Putin. What else did Zelensky talk about – in the RBC review

«I am the president, Misha»

Vladimir Zelensky

About the war with Russia

Vladimir Zelensky’s press conference this time took place at the Creative State Arsenal coworking in Kiev. One of the first questions was whether there would be a war with Russia. In November, the head of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine Kirill stated that Russia was preparing a “large-scale invasion”.Budanov. And Bloomberg, citing a source in the US intelligence community, wrote that an attack was allegedly being prepared in 2022. “It seems to me that we have been at war for eight years. We fully control our borders and are ready for any escalation,” Zelensky replied, adding that there is “a lot of intimidation” in the Ukrainian media.


Speaking about relations with Russia, Zelensky repeated several times that the leaders of the European Union and Germany are calling on Ukrainian representatives to start communicating with Russian ones. “There will definitely be a call [to the Russian side],” Zelensky noted. “They [the head of the European Council Charles Michel and Acting German Chancellor Angela Merkel] want our administration to contact the Russian administration. I think Ermak will be in contact with them in the near future. We are absolutely not against it,” he said.

Journalists also asked about the fate of the head of the office of Andrei Ermak several times, to which Zelensky replied that he was not going to dismiss him. The opposition parties to the president held a march on November 21, one of the demands of which was the resignation of the head of the presidential office. They accused him of sabotaging the operation to lure Russians to Ukraine, whom Kiev considers to be participants in hostilities in the Donbass.

Answering the question about the reasons for the lack of progress in the work of the Normandy format, Zelensky complained about the coronavirus pandemic, because of which the second meeting did not take place (after the Paris one in December 2019). He also said that he does not consider it necessary to adopt a law on transitional justice yet. This bill has been criticized by the President of Russia more than onceVladimir Putin, considering his wording a direct violation of the Minsk agreements. “There is no question that Russia is against it, we are an independent country. We believe that this is one of the principles that can lead to escalation. Therefore, our other allies are not responding very positively to the subject of transitional justice,” Zelensky explained his position.

This time, the tradition of choosing non-standard meeting places with media representatives for heads of state was continued. Zelensky’s first press conference was held at a food court in Kiev and lasted a record 14 hours. After that, he met with journalists outdoors in the Mariinsky Park and in the hangar of the Antonov Aircraft Factory. The procedure for inviting journalists this time was also unusual— the president’s office independently sent outinvitations without announcing the usual accreditation for such events. In total, 30 journalists took part in the conversation with Zelensky, who communicated with him in “fives”, each was supposed to take 30 minutes, but the conversation with each team of journalists dragged on, as a result, the entire press conference lasted more than five hours. Journalists who were not invited to the conference held a protest rally at the gathering place.

About the involvement of the richest Ukrainian in the coup

The main sensation of the press conference was also heard at the very beginning, in the response about the threat of a Russian invasion. Zelensky said that there are not only external, but also internal threats. “I have received information that there will be a coup d’etat in our country on the first of the month. We have not only intelligence information, we even have audio information where representatives from Ukraine with representatives of Russia, let’s say, discuss Rinat Akhmetov’s participation in the coup in Ukraine, that billions of dollars will be raised and so on,” he said.

Zelensky refused to provide further details about the conspiracy in which the country’s richest man Akhmetov may be trying to get involved (Ukrainian Forbes estimates his fortune at $7.6 billion, he is ranked 327th in the global ranking). He invited Akhmetov to give explanations.

“I am outraged by the spread of this lie, regardless of what motives the president is guided by. My position has been and will be unequivocal – an independent democratic and integral Ukraine with Crimea and my native Donbass,” Akhmetov’s press service reported his comment.

The words about Akhmetov are another escalation in the conflict between the president and his office with the oligarchs in general and Akhmetov in particular, draws the attention of Ukrainian political scientist Volodymyr Fesenko. According to him, the media owned by the businessman have been actively criticizing the president for the last two months.

At the suggestion of Zelensky, the parliament passed a law limiting the political influence of the oligarchs. In particular, they are prohibited from owning the media. “I am an investor, and the SCM Group is the largest taxpayer and employer in Ukraine. And if necessary, I am ready to defend my name in Ukrainian and international courts,” Akhmetov reacted to this law.

About journalists rocking the situation

Several times during the conversation, the President of Ukraine broke down and began to criticize journalists asking questions. One of the first victims of Zelensky’s anger was the famous TV presenter Savik Shuster, who since 2019 has been hosting the program “Freedom of Speech of Savik Shuster” on the TV channel “Ukraine”, owned by Akhmetov. The president accused Schuster of rocking the situation in the country.

Journalist and editor-in-chief «Censor.Zelensky accused Yuri Butusov of involvement in the death of the Ukrainian military, as his publication leaked information about the use of a drone “Bayraktar” in the Donbass and details of the operation during which they were detained in Belarus and then sent toRussia is the fighters of the Wagner PMCs. “How can you lie so terribly, you mock the country, you don’t need to lie so much,” Butusov said in response to Zelensky. Journalists returned to the topic of this operation several times, the head of the Ukrainian state said that he knew about the upcoming operation, but did not approve its conduct.

33 Wagner fighters

In July 2020, 33 Russians were detained in Minsk. The Belarusian KGB called them fighters of the Wagner PMCs and accused them of preparing a terrorist attack and mass riots before the elections. But a few weeks after their detention, they were extradited to Russia. Later it was reported that they were lured by the Ukrainian special services to arrest them as participants in hostilities in the Donbass.

The head of the presidential office and President Zelensky himself have been repeatedly accused of disrupting this operation. At the same time, the Ukrainian president in June 2021 said that other states were planning the operation, and they tried to drag Ukraine into it as much as possible.

To the journalist of “Ukrainian Truth” Mikhail Tkach, who was interested in the details of using state helicopters to fly to the celebration of Ermak’s birthday, Zelensky answered simply: “I am the president, Misha.” As the head of state, Zelensky explained, he could use the transport of the state emergency service, especially in a situation when the presidential helicopter was broken.

It was wrong to consider these statements as criticism of journalists in general, insists political scientist Vladimir Fesenko. In these situations, Zelensky showed himself as an ordinary person who is hurt not by criticism, but by an unfair assessment, interference in personal life. This is how Zelensky’s non-political nature manifested itself, although any political strategist would say,that politics should not interfere in the fight against journalists, Fesenko notes. Having attacked Akhmetov and journalists working in the media controlled by the oligarchs, Zelensky wants to show that he can fulfill his promises, is trying to restore the image of the people’s politician, suggested Oleg Ignatov, consultant of the International Crisis Group, in a conversation with RBC.

About the second term and the order of elections

The President of Ukraine did not say much about the current political and economic situation. He admitted that the parliamentary factions would appeal to the Constitutional Court so that the parliamentary elections would be held later than the presidential ones. Such a decision, as the Ukrainian publication “Left Bank” wrote, is being prepared and will allow the presidential party “Servant of the People” to benefit from the president’s rating, which is still higher than the party’s.

Speaking about his political future, Zelensky replied that he had not yet made a decision to participate in the next election. “It will be connected with the support of my personality by the people of Ukraine,” he said. According to the latest poll of the Razumkov Center, 25.2% of Ukrainians are ready to vote for him. The next elections should be held in Ukraine in 2024.

Zelensky spoke briefly about his achievements: land and banking reforms were launched, and infrastructure modernization, according to him, is celebrated not only in Ukraine, but also in the world.

“Zelensky had three main promises that he made at the beginning of his presidency: peace in the Donbass, improvement of the economic situation and the fight against corruption,” Oleg Ignatov recalled. By the middle of his presidential term, he was able to do little, there were objective reasons for this, he believes. The coronavirus pandemic excludes the solution of the problem of economic growth, it does not work with peace in the Donbass because of the unresolved contradictions betweenUkraine and Russia, the progress was only on the third topic – the fight against oligarchs: the relevant law was adopted and charges and sanctions were brought against Viktor Medvedchuk, the expert continues. The press conference did not go as planned by the president’s team, so Zelensky will probably present more specific plans for the development of the country during his December address to parliament, Fesenko believes.

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