Zelensky: The Promises of Ukraine’s New President
This article is part of an editorial collaboration with Impakter Italia. Authored by Eduardo Lubrano, it was first published in Italian on our sister publication on 22 April.
Now that he has won the elections with a popular mandate of over 60%, the new president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky will have to keep faith above all with what he declared in the last days of the electoral campaign:
“Ukraine has two main problems: the war in the Donbas and the fear of people investing in the country,” he said in a television interview.
War in the Donbas
Zelenskiy says the first step in ending the war in the Donbas is to establish a ceasefire.
“We cannot afford a long process, because every day begins with news of the number of dead and wounded in the war. We have no time for other solutions”, he said, adding that he was ready to negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Minsk peace process, which has stopped: “It must be restarted. It is a war with Russia, so the talks should be with Russia. It must be in the diplomatic format, with the presence of Western partners. We will never sacrifice our people or our territories. “
Ukraine must also start an information war against Russia, Zelenskiy believes. In previous interviews, he said that Ukraine needed to launch a Russian-language television channel that will broadcast in eastern Ukraine and in the Donbas territories occupied by Russia.
“We must reach all the inhabitants of the East and the occupied territories and tell them: “Guys, you have been brainwashed, you are part of Ukraine, we are waiting for you, you are Ukrainians.” And he has added, “We have to start paying their pensions.”
Zelensky aims to simplify the procedure by which Ukrainians living in the territories occupied by Russia get a pension. Currently, they must register as internally displaced persons and make difficult journeys to border control posts to collect their money on the side overseen by Ukraine. A particularly difficult process for the elderly.
Zelensky also promises that Ukraine will continue working toward integration with the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), but adds that the benefits of joining NATO have yet to be explained to Ukrainians living in the eastern part of the country.
“As a citizen of Ukraine I am for NATO, but we must explain to people that it is for security. We must reach out to all the inhabitants of the east. NATO membership must be decided through a referendum, “he said.
The fight against corruption
According to Zelensky, the Ukrainian investment climate depends on two things: the protection of businesses and the fight against corruption.
Zelenskiy has two anti-corruption advisers: the journalist who became a lawyer, Serhiy Leshchenko, and the lawyer and former member of the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption, Ruslan Ryaboshapka.
On April 6, his team released a detailed anti-corruption program. At its center is the political will to change the situation. Its opening statement reads:
“It is wrong to hope that a corrupt state system has the will to deprive itself of its food base. Corruption for old politicians is like water for fish. The old political elite standing against corruption is like bees against honey.”
Zelensky’s anti-corruption Program
Here are the key steps:
- Ensure real independence of the entire chain of anti-corruption agencies: in particular, anti-corruption agencies must be established through an independent international selection committee;
- Remove immunity from legal proceedings for politicians;
- Establish the High Economic Court;
- Take away the power to investigate economic crimes from police forces, such as the Ukraine Security Service, the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Interior Ministry, and transfer these powers to a new agency for economic investigations;
- Decriminalize economic activity as much as possible and introduce financial and administrative fines for economic crimes, and keep track of public officials who harass businesses;
- Strengthen penalties for public officials involved in corruption through demanding their voluntary resignation; confiscating their assets and placing a life ban on taking on any public office; courts are prohibited from releasing corrupt officials on bail;
- E-government: the largest possible number of public services to business should be moved online;
- Involve citizens in denouncing corruption through a system of rewards;
- Ask Western law enforcement agencies to investigate Ukrainian officials who, according to Ukrainian anti-corruption agencies, are involved in corruption.
Cover Photo Credit: Volodymyr Zelensky portrait – Wikimedia Commons