Comedian wins Ukrainian Presidential Election
Ukrainian Comedian Volodymyr Zelensky defeated former President Petro Poroshenko in the country’s presidential election. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that there is “a chance to improve relations with our country.” Pressure will now be mounted on the comedian, who currently stars in a TV series to show, that he knows what he is doing. Throughout the election campaign, he avoided serious interviews and discussions about policy – preferring instead to post light-hearted videos to social media.
On Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree that makes it easier for those living in eastern Ukraine’s separatist territories to access a Russian passport. The move is seen as a challenge to Zelensky. In campaigning, Zelenskiy had signalled he could be more amenable to compromise on the separatist regions than the outgoing president, Petro Poroshenko, and he campaigned in part on Ukrainians’ exhaustion with the war. Now, Russia’s challenge could force him to take a harder line. His team released a statement on Wednesday calling Russia’s move another sign that Russia was “an aggressor state that is waging war against Ukraine”.
More than 13,000 people have died in eastern Ukraine since fighting broke out in 2014 between the government and separatists armed and financed by Russia. The offer of Russian passports will be seen in Kyiv as an attempt to continue the integration of the territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions into Russia, as well as to pressure the new president to come to the negotiating table. The text of the law, which appeared on the Kremlin’s website on Wednesday, granted Ukrainians living in parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions “the right to request citizenship of the Russian Federation” as a humanitarian measure. The move met a very frosty response from the Unites States State Department and will further strain Russia-US relations in addition to the further deterioration of Russia’s relationship with the EU.