Ukrainian revolution of Dignity happened 5 years ago when I was finishing high school. It`s hard to imagine how it was for me, 17 years old student, to face such a traumatic experience. In the time when students usually need to prepare to exams that will define their future, I was watching live translations from Kyiv or participated in local protests in my city. The Revolution ended with a lot of blood on the streets of our capital. President Yanukovych and his partners in crime escaped from the country and our eastern neighbor annexed Crimea and started a war in Donbass region. Ukrainians elected a new president with the high hopes that he could finally beat corruption and secure our borders. Unfortunately, when you have too many expectations for things or people, many times it leads to many disappointments. Although Poroshenko has done a lot to save Ukraine from total economical and geopolitical collapse, after 5 years corruption is still a huge issue and the high cost on the utilities without more economical freedom become a big problem for the poor. Even the data from the first round of the elections is showing us that wealthier people voted for Poroshenko, because the positive effects of Poroshenko’s presidency such as visa-free agreement with EU, medical reform, a huge work on the cultural front matters the most for them. In the same time, people from less wealthy neighborhoods, the ones who saw a dramatic increase on the utility’s costs while having the lack of opportunities, voted for Zelenskyi.
But now we have a new president and not only foreigners wondering who Mr. Zelenskyi is, a lot of Ukrainians do not know the answer as well. Just a few months ago Volodymyr Zelenskyi was a well-known comedian, owner and creator of production company, Kvartal 95. It is not so easy to analyze his political views. Zelenskyi supports the free distribution of medical cannabis, free abortion in Ukraine and the legalization of prostitution and gambling. And in the same time, as well as President Poroshenko, he opposes the legalization of firearms in Ukraine. In his election program he promised a lot of good initiatives including deregulation, tax cuts, open agricultural lend market and others. He is a big supporter of direct democracy promising to establish a mechanism for referendums. But why a lot of Ukrainians are worried about his upcoming presidency?
There are two big concerns about him. The first one is that while declaring to be a new face, he has a lot of people from Yanukovych era in his team, including Dmytro Razumkov, one of his main political advisers, who was also a member of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions in 2006-2010. The second one is his possible affiliation to Igor Kolomoyskyi. Kolomoyskyi is a billionaire who was an early target of President Poroshenkos fight against corruption. In the end of 2016 Ukraine has nationalized Kolomoyskyi’s biggest asset – the biggest Ukrainian bank PrivatBank in order to avoid a financial meltdown. The bank gave loans to insiders that might never be repaid, approximately from 80 to 90 percent of PrivatBanks loans were to institutions controlled by Kolomoyskyi. He is also an unofficial owner of the 1+1 Media Group, which operates eight Ukrainian TV channels. Zelenskyi’s Kvartal 95 works very tightly with 1+1 Media Group and broadcasts majority of its shows including Vechirniy Kvartal there.
Regardless personality of the Ukraine`s president-elect, there is one thing we could see clearly, Ukraine became a truly democratic country. It is not the victory of Zelenskyi or the loss of Poroshenko, it is the triumph of Ukrainians who showed the world a clear message – Ukraine is not Russia and it is not to going to be like it.
By Mykhailo Lavrovskyi
Mykhailo Lavrovskyi is a COO at Ukrainian Students for Freedom studfreedom.org
You can also read our article about the new president Zelenskyi