His opponents feared he would become a puppet of the Russians. He is now the Kremlin’s first enemy. A month ago, 55% of Ukrainians did not believe he could be a good warrior. By encouraging his people, President Volodymyr Zhelensky violates expectations and proves Vladimir Putin wrong.
An “average” president
Much has been written about comedian Volodymyr Zhelensky, the president of Ukraine, after playing this role on screen. But before the invasion, what kind of leader was he?
The “average” president summarizes Maria Popova, a professor of politics at McGill University.
With no political experience and no browsing in his infamy, Zhelensky was elected in 2019 with a large majority or 73% of the vote.
In particular, he promised to end the conflict with Russia, which has already raged since 2014 in the Donbass region, and end corruption. Struggling to deliver on its key promises, its popularity has continued to plummet since then, declining to 20% by 2020.
“He did not hesitate to openly criticize his foreign allies, which is unusual,” recalled Dominic Arel, head of Ukrainian studies at the University of Ottawa. “I saw it as an admission of weakness. Now I have changed my mind.
Paradoxically, Zhelensky revealed the compromise candidate, summarizing Maria Popova. His main opponent, the outgoing president, Pedro Poroshenko, defended the tough stance against the Russians.
Zhelensky, on the other hand, aimed for peace and wanted to negotiate with Putin to achieve it. The audience even suspected him of being a puppet of Russia, Ms. Popova explains.
“But it soon became clear that Putin had no intention of negotiating and that he was seeking to compromise the sovereignty of the country. […] What Russia is asking is unacceptable to the Ukrainian community.
He adds that this puts Zhelensky in a much stronger position today. Contrary to what Putin said, he has proved that he is not a terrorist.
At some point, Zhelensky lied to the clich that relates the United States to democratic purity and the former Soviet Union to corruption.
In October 2019, he held a world record-worthy press conference. In a mall restaurant section, he had a wave of reporters for more than 12 hours.
Meanwhile, his American rival, Donald Trump, is known for his hostility to the media and to press conferences where journalists struggle to ask their questions.
Not forgetting this famous phone call of July 25, 2019, Trump asked Zhelensky to open an investigation into the son of his own rival Joe Biden, who worked for the Ukrainian gas company.
On that day, the clich was reversed, Maria Popova mentions.
Sir to all “
After the Russian invasion, the testimonies of Ukrainians who had previously criticized Zhelensky, but now those who praise him, have multiplied.
On February 25, he posted a video on social media of himself and his ministers on the streets of Kiev to show that he had not left the country.
“It’s like Charlie Chaplin turned into Winston Churchill,” we filmed in Time magazine.
He starred in “Everybody” in romantic comedies. As a warrior, he somehow shows himself to be like his people.
Volodymyr Zelensky shows “what it means to be a formal democratic leader.” It’s not about telling people what to do, it’s about setting an example. “
The comedy scene from the Servant of the People series, in which Zhelensky played the head of state before becoming one, does not make people laugh much.
We can see the call coming from him to the President declaring his country recognized in the European Union (EU). The outraged president thanked Ukraine, saying it had been waiting a long time for this honor. He was told there was a mistake: we thought we were talking to the leader of Montenegro.
On Tuesday, when his country was bombed, real President Zhelensky spoke via video conference with members of the European Parliament to urge his country to unite with the European Union.
“I think today we are showing everyone that we are equal to you,” he said in a sensational speech.
On CNN, the live translator could be heard crying tears.
From McDo to the green sweater
Zhelensky mastered the art of communicating through social media long before the Russian invasion. You can watch videos of him chatting on the treadmill, driving a car and ordering McDonald’s from drive-through.
Camille Aloying, a professor of public relations at UQAM, explains, “It’s a feeling of emotional intimacy.
For more than a week, the resistance was able to breathe heart, creating a similar intimacy. Dressed in a green or camouflage sweater, he shows himself as a man who shares effort with his people.
A picture light years away from the austerity proposed by Vladimir Putin, in a jacket at a large office, he gets figures he keeps at a distance around a relentless desk.
Towards moral success
Until now, experts agree that Zhelensky won the film war in Ukraine and abroad.
People gather to make Molotov cocktails, and foreigners rush to fight the Ukrainians. But above all, his calls for help succeeded in mobilizing almost all the nations of the world and moving the Westerners.
Is encouraging the Ukrainians the courage of President Zhelensky or does he reflect the courage of his people? “Both,” Dominic Arel believes.
Mary Popova, on the other hand, says Vladimir Putin’s rhetoric is increasingly “absurd.”
“A very long time ago, some people could still doubt the real desire of the Ukrainian people to retain their independence,” he explains. “Imagine if they immediately surrendered to the Russians …”
Can no longer be doubted.
This is the page of the story [de Zelensky] It’s self-imposed and it’s a success, “she believes.
– With Atlantic, Le Monde, Time, Washington Post, BBC, Britannica, CNN, L’Ops, New York Times, France 24