On November 26, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy held a press marathon. On the day of the equator of his term, the head of state gathered 32 journalists from Ukrainian and international media to discuss topical issues of society. Initially, the meeting was scheduled for three hours. As a result, communication with journalists lasted almost 6 hours.
We are discussing the key moments of the press marathon in the program “Ukraine in fact” of the UA TV channel with political scientists Volodymyr Fesenko and Ihor Reiterovych.
Alyona Chornovol hosts the program.
During the press marathon, Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a resonant statement – the special services received information about a possible preparation for a coup d’etat in Ukraine, which is to take place on December 1-2, and that businessman Rynat Akhmetov may be involved in this process.
“We have received information that there will be a coup d’etat in our country on December 1-2. We have not only intelligence information, but also audio information, where representatives from Ukraine, so to speak, with representatives of Russia, so to speak, discuss Rinat Akhmetov’s participation in the coup d’etat in Ukraine, which will involve a billion dollars. I believe that this is an operation, he (Akhmetov, – ed.) Is involved in the war against the state of Ukraine. I think he started it, I think it will be his big mistake, because you can’t fight against your people and the elected president” Zelensky said.
– Your impressions following the results of the press conference and comments on the statement made at the very beginning about Rinat Akhmetov and the possible participation of people from his entourage in the preparation of the coup.
Fesenko: In fact, such a sensational statement was made at the beginning. Within the framework of this press conference there were many important and meaningful statements, assessments on various topics. But this (as for the coup and Akhmetov, – ed.), Perhaps the most sensational.
But I would be very careful in my estimates. We do not know the facts. There is a statement about the possibility of a coup. I think that the Ukrainian special services should provide additional information about this. I can only guess and make assumptions. In this regard, I will give just a factual series.
On November 25, Ukrinform reported that the US intelligence had provided Ukrainian colleagues with information about the FSB’s actions to destabilize the political situation in Ukraine against President Zelenskyy and his office.
In addition, I would like to remind you that a mass protest action on December 1 has been announced for several days now. It is directed against the head of the President’s Office [Andriy Yermak] and against the President himself. These include demands for Yermak’s resignation and even the impeachment of the president.
But what is the danger, again, linking the FSB and the possibility of a mass action. There are risks of provocations. In particular, perhaps with the participation of some people connected with the Russian secret services. Provocations can be: as a clash with the police, and calls to storm the President’s Office, and so on. And this is a provocation of an acute political crisis.
Of course, this is a very big danger, and we need to think and work on some kind of prevention of such actions. But still we do not know the details.
So, the other day [the head of the Radical Party] Oleh Liashko (he is associated with Rynat Akhmetov, ed.) Stated that on December 1, Zelenskyy was preparing to declare martial law.
That is, Akhmetov began to promote the topic on December 1, even before Zelenskyy.
A lot of such indirect information. But specifics are needed. And, of course, in my opinion, the main thing now is to prevent any adventures.
As for Akhmetov, it seems to me that we are talking about a warning.
That is, this is not an accusation against Akhmetov. Here everything is neat – “involved” [in the process]. That is – a warning. This signal is preventive. Allegedly, Akhmetov has already waged an information war against the president. Zelenskyy admitted it. But one thing – information war, another thing – a direct political attack, some political action. I would call it, so carefully, not a coup, but, more likely, an action to destabilize, to provoke a political crisis. This is a warning to Akhmetov not to get involved in such adventures, otherwise the state will respond.
Reiterovych: In short, about the press conference in general.
This was, of course, the brightest press conference of President not only Zelensky, but all the presidents who were in Ukraine.
I have to pay tribute, there were a lot of pressing issues really.
Fesenko: It was definitely not a “warm bath”.
Reiterovich: Yes, not a “warm bath”. The only thing is that I, for example, have not heard almost clear answers to these acute questions. But that’s another story.
Regarding the situation with the so-called coup d’etat, Akhmetov, etc. It seemed to me that the president had somewhat broken the causal link, as such statements should not be made by the guarantor of the Constitution. Such statements should be made by law enforcement agencies, which should say that we prevented an attempt at such a coup. There are so many people, they are detained, they testify, we have such data. And then the president can comment on it.
The President commented ex post facto, and his phrases that Rinat Leonidovich should go to the President’s Office and we will let him listen to the recordings – I do not understand at all how this applies to the head of state.
The president’s office is not a place where people who are suspected of something are allowed to listen.
So it really looked like an attempt to come to an agreement. Besides, I wouldn’t even say that from a position of strength, but rather that – let’s sit at the negotiating table, bury the ax of war, which was dug by the two sides, to a large extent. Because the same Akhmetov reacts simply to some actions on the part of the authorities. And I don’t think he’s the only big businessman in the country who doesn’t like, for example, the law on oligarchs, or he doesn’t like what the National Security and Defense Council is doing.
So I think the ax of war is not something that was buried, it was dug up, even a little bit sprinkled with the blood of opponents, and the slaughter will continue.
Will it benefit Ukraine? Of course not. The president kept saying: the state is me. I was elected, respectively, who is at war with me is at war with the state. But he has the right to say so, because we have a de facto presidential republic. So the war will continue. We hope that it will not pass to some hot phase, because against the background of the escalation on the part of Russia, we just did not have enough of the internal political crisis.
Fesenko: As for the situation itself, I am also afraid that this political conflict will escalate. And the ax of war is most likely dug. I think the culmination may be in the coming days. And it is no coincidence that Akhmetov is afraid of the next meeting of the National Security and Defense Council. Let’s see if there can be sanctions. But the fact that some decisions addressed to Akhmetov can be expected is highly probable.
The process of deoligarchization
On the issue of de-oligarchization, Ukraine is at the beginning of a great process and a “great war.”
“Both we are in progress and we are in a great war over de-oligarchization… I want to say at once that there is nothing personal here. I treat big business with respect for jobs. But it is very important that big business is not an oligarch and does not influence the media, does not influence politicians” Zelensky said, answering questions from journalists.
– Deoligarchization. What do you think about the prospects of this process?
Reiterovych: The story of de-oligarchization, on the one hand, is the right story, because the real political influence of big business mostly does not lead to something good. And there is a seizure of the state mainly by these financial and political groups. This is what we have seen in Ukraine since the second half of the 1990s, when this oligarchy began to take shape.
We are well aware that he does not want to give up his position and wants to maintain this influence both economically and politically.
On the other hand, I think it’s wrong to “nail a piano.” This is exactly what the President and the National Security and Defense Council are doing now, as such decisions must be made, firstly, by the courts, and secondly by the Antimonopoly Committee, the Verkhovna Rada, which can amend tender legislation, antitrust law, and pass a law. about lobbying that we do not have and that we only intend to adopt.
And all that the National Security and Defense Council is doing now is an information effect. People like it, people say – “cool”.
But soon the lawsuits that these people will file in international courts will be satisfied, and believe me, there will be no decision in favor of Ukraine. As I emphasize once again: the National Security and Defense Council cannot replace the court, make decisions about who to punish, whom to pardon. And most importantly: the decision they make in the context of including certain people in the register of oligarchs is directly contrary to the Constitution of Ukraine.
Because the Constitution clearly states that it is impossible to discriminate against people on the grounds of sex, race, property and other grounds. People cannot be punished for being involved in politics, influencing the media
Some may not like the mechanism, but other countermeasures should be used. That’s why I’m quite skeptical here.
If we started with what I have listed, believe me, the level of support for these initiatives would be much higher now, and, most likely, then all the oligarchs would not be at war with the state, but would sit at the negotiating table and try to bargain for more or less good conditions, as has happened in many democracies. No one there made a decision through the National Security and Defense Council, but followed the path of establishing uniform rules of the game – by the way, what Volodymyr Zelensky was talking about when he was still a presidential candidate. But then the concept changed a bit, and they decided to go the way of such “tightening the nuts”.
I don’t think it will lead to anything good. That is, we will not defeat the oligarchs and at the same time we will have another internal crisis with unpredictable consequences.
And if we talk about what surrounds us. For example, at this press conference I did not have enough serious talk about the challenges facing Ukraine. Yes, there were enough answers about Russia. For the sake of justice, the president clearly explained everything – we know, ready and so on. But there are many other challenges. But against the background of the irritation that began – and you who, and I who, and the oligarchs, and the channels – just did not talk about these things. They did not talk about the social sphere.
Fesenko: About social policy, yes. But this, in my opinion, is also a problem for journalists. Because this is not the first time this has happened.
Reiterovich: Definitely. They grab the themes that are perceived by society as a good show. And there is nothing wrong with that. Because they want to “sell” to the audience what the audience will see.
But on the other hand, the government gives them a pass, making some decisions that are ambiguous. And they will ambiguously simply perceive representatives of both small and medium-sized businesses.
– Less than half a year before the law on oligarchs came into force. What steps will be taken in this fight in the near future?
Fesenko: Half a year is such a transitional period that those who do not want to get on the register of oligarchs, sell the media, leave politics and so on.
And Petro Oleksiyovych [Poroshenko] already has a reaction. Although the law has a rule about related parties. And since the owners of TV channels “Direct” and “Channel 5” (after the recent transfer of ownership – ed.) Were MPs, including a member of the European Solidarity, on this basis, Peter still remains at risk.
Please note: the other day there was a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers, which adopted a document that was pathetically called “20 steps to de-oligarchization” (“Action Plan to prevent abuse of excessive influence by people who have significant economic and political weight in public life (oligarchs)”, – ed.). And it was there that it was necessary to adopt changes in the legislation, to strengthen the powers and role of the Antimonopoly Committee and to strengthen the antimonopoly legislation in general. This is now demanded by our international partners as well.
I will remind you that when the Ukraine-EU summit took place in October, the final document included support for the anti-oligarchic policy and a call to strengthen it. And where and how to strengthen? Strengthen in antitrust law in particular.
There are, of course, other issues related to mass media legislation. Because there is also a need to fight monopolization. The question is – how to fight to stay within the law?
The plan approved by the Cabinet of Ministers also referred to a bill on lobbying. Although I’m skeptical. This is not the most important tool in the fight against the oligarchs. Organize lobbying – yes. But in reality, antitrust law plays a crucial role here.
Well, a lot of regulatory work needs to be done. For example, adopt regulations on the register of oligarchs.
There should be regulations on how to determine, for example, the value of assets. We do not have a method yet. The law provides a general quantitative norm (that the oligarch has a fortune of more than 1 million living wage, now it is 2.2 billion UAH, or 83 million dollars, – ed.). And how to assess the value of assets? Because we have the assessments of journalists, and here we need a legal mechanism.
A clear mechanism for assessing who is the beneficiary in the media is also needed. Because there is a general norm in the law, but it must be specified in the bylaw.
Therefore, in general, training is already underway. I think that we just need system, consistency.
Wagnerian special operation
The President also spoke about a key conversation with the former head of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine Vasyl Burba about a special operation to detain mercenaries of the Russian private military company Wagner. After hearing this, Zelensky realized that the operation to detain the Wagnerians could not be allowed.
“Comrade Burba comes and says: this is the situation. I replied: “I know, you said that there are several areas and some 20 plans are being developed. But there must be all the details. ” And tells what he offers. I had one question: “Turkish Airlines”, [Turkish President] Erdogan should know (that “Wagnerians” will fly from Minsk by passenger plane to Turkey, but the plane will land halfway in Ukraine – ed.)? The answer is no. I don’t want to go into details about why I don’t believe this is “our operation.” I have a feeling that we are involved. They say [Burby]: “I want to know that the plane takes off from Minsk by Turkish Airlines, there will be ordinary people on board, about 120-130 people. And when you suggest that the plane go down and we land it in Ukraine, I have a question – what if the militants seize this plane… maybe? ”. He replies, “Maybe.” I continued: “Could it be that they will seize this plane and all the people will die?”. Answer: “Even better – we will blame others.” As a result, I said that I believe that this is “not our operation.” That was my answer. The operation is not thought out in detail. I am ready to accept any operation, but only if all things are calculated in detail and if people are not injured. It turned out that after America, he wants to quarrel with me and involve Ukraine in a huge scandal with Erdogan. Erdogan would never forgive us for that. Do you understand? That’s why I say: we didn’t carry out this operation, ”Volodymyr Zelenskyy said during the press marathon.
– The operation against the Wagnerians is a whole series. In addition to journalistic investigations, in addition to the investigation of the Temporary Commission of Inquiry of the Verkhovna Rada… And why didn’t we hear what the President said today?
Fesenko: One of the lessons of this whole situation is that when such delicate conflict situations arise, and they can arise because special operations take place from time to time, not all are successful (we know examples of unsuccessful operations in the Americans and even in Israel. ), – so you need to have an algorithm. It is necessary to react quickly enough.
The informational and policy assessment should be consistent. That it wasn’t – at first said that there is no operation, then – no, it was, but not ours, and so on. Such contradictions should be avoided, because they will use it against both the president and the Ukrainian authorities.
The second very important point. In my opinion, there is another such delicate topic. The President also touched upon it. That it is necessary to avoid leaks of information on how the Ukrainian special services work, and not to take out this dirty linen of any politically conflicting situations around activity of our special services.
So that we don’t make it public. Because it only works in Russia’s favor. We need to think about how to avoid that special services, in particular military intelligence, do not get involved in internal political conflicts.
And, of course, the most important thing is the balance between the activities of special services, intelligence and political decision-making. In my opinion, there really was a political dilemma. Either a spectacular but risky special operation, in particular – to spoil relations with Turkey, or if there were human casualties, God forbid.
On the other hand – the president also mentioned this – there was a need to sign and maintain the armistice for a while. Not everyone may like it. Many would criticize such a decision. But it had to be explained. Yes, then it was more important for the president, in his opinion, to keep the truce. So the operation was postponed. Burby didn’t like it, of course, and that resentment eventually spilled over. And now we see the insult of the president to Burba, who actually started a political information war with the head of state. And we see here such a chain reaction of mutual accusations, which, unfortunately, already bring negativity to the state.
Reiterovich: The president’s story about the conversation with Burba shocked me, because I can’t imagine that the discussion of such operations takes place in such a manner. In addition, unfortunately, the president returned to the version he had expressed a long time ago that this was not our operation. But what to do then with the order of the Minister of Defense appointed by Zelenskyy, who authorized this operation?
This document is. No one denies its existence. That is, the operation was authorized. Details, we transfer – we do not transfer, they arose later. And here was the dilemma: to get either a truce or a spectacular operation. In fact, we did not get a truce, because our soldiers both died and are dying, unfortunately. As well as did not receive effective operation.
Therefore, the question here is not even so in the image of the president on Burba, because Burba did not directly attack the president. The main attacks by the former foreign intelligence chief were on Mr. Yermak. And the president said that Yermak was useless.
It is bad that we are discussing this – here I do not agree. Because the same Mossad that is considered the best intelligence service in the world – there are a lot of stories when they post factum [talk about special operations], as we do – because we are not discussing this operation, but when it has not happened .
And the conclusion here is very simple. The president should have come out immediately and said: “It is my responsibility, I have made such a decision. You will find out some details of this decision later, when it will be possible to announce it, or you will not know it at all. ” And believe me, we would not be standing here now and not discussing it all.
Zelenskyy and the second term of the presidency
Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated that he has not yet decided whether or not to run for a second term. According to the head of state, the decision on his participation in the next elections should be made by the people of Ukraine.
“Regarding the second term. I definitely do not solve this issue. Society will decide. I did not make that decision. This is true… I do not plan such a complicated strategy. This will be connected with the support of my personality by the people of Ukraine. And not with manipulative ratings, they are different, ”he said.
– He added that he would make a decision not only with the people, but also with his family. And when should the president announce the decision on the next term at all?
Fesenko: It can be different. But so early it is not publicly announced. Unless you have to give confidence that you will run so that it does not disorient the team. Now, for example, Joe Biden’s team has announced that he will run. Because there are a lot of rumors, and he had to discipline both his party and his immediate entourage. Here, I think, the situation will be a little different.
How will he consult with the people? I think this is a very figurative conditional phrase.
Most likely, the president’s chances of winning will be taken into account. Now is the chance. According to almost all polls, he is in the lead in the ranking race with a margin, bypassing the nearest competitors. But if suddenly the situation changes and he sees that the chances are small, then, perhaps, he will make another decision.
It seems to me, given the context in which he answered many questions, before the dilemma. On the one hand, there is political responsibility to the voters, to the team. And promises must be kept: apparently, not everyone will be able to fulfill within 5 years. On the other hand, he constantly remembers his family. He is uncomfortable – he cannot see his family and children fully, he and his family are limited in their private lives. Therefore, I believe he sincerely said that he has not yet decided. From experience, such decisions are made in the last year of the presidential term, at the beginning of the year, so that there is time to prepare.
Reiterovich: I think that the president has already made a decision for himself. This decision is positive. He will go for a second term. The only question is whether the election will be urgent or early. I think we will find out soon.
However, there were two important statements.
The first is that a large-scale reform of housing and communal services will begin next year. It was about the reconstruction of an outdated fund. We will get some new “Big Construction”, probably in the context of housing. Such a socially important topic can be used during the election campaign.
And the second most important point. The President was asked a direct question about the elections to the Verkhovna Rada. And the president said that there will be a decision of the Constitutional Court – will this election be before or after the presidential one. But according to the tone of the statement and the fact that the president appointed two judges of the Constitutional Court, I believe that the elections will most likely be postponed after the presidential elections if they are not early.
Therefore, he decided to run for a second term.
Increasing the situation in Russia
The Ukrainian army controls the state border and is ready for any escalation of the conflict with the Russian Armed Forces. This was stated by President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
“I think the intimidation continues today. At once I want to tell: from some platforms in mass media there is a real intimidation that there will be a war. What do we need to know? We are in full control of our borders and fully prepared for any escalation. We have real intelligence every day, every day we receive data not only from our intelligence, although they are the most important, but also intelligence from other partner countries that support us. They really support us, there is military assistance, there is information assistance, financial assistance and technical assistance. But above all, we must rely only on ourselves, on our army. Our army is powerful” the President stressed during a conversation with journalists.
– Intelligence testifies to the concentration of Russian troops, preparations for, perhaps, a full-scale invasion. And so Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that if Vladimir Putin said: we do not intend to start any active hostilities, it would greatly defuse the situation. Should we wait for a reaction after that?
Fesenko: There is a reaction. Peskov, a spokesman for the Russian president, responded to the coup. He also spoke about the concentration of troops.
But, in my opinion, given what happened in the spring, it is not only Russia’s statements that are important, but also the withdrawal of troops. That is, concrete actions are the physical deconcentration of the military presence on our border. This is how both we and international observers will react. So there are not enough words here.
Russian propaganda is now inflating the topic. For example, the “energy crisis” in Ukraine. There are risks – there is no crisis yet, and they say that everything, Ukraine is already “freezing, there is no light, the treasury is empty.” In addition, Ukraine is allegedly “preparing to attack Donbass.” The topic is actively promoted.
Therefore, I think the president rightly said that this is not about our offensive. Yes, our troops are ready to repel the attack. And this is very important – we need to reassure citizens. But at the same time it is not about any military operations. Because it could be used for military provocations by Russia.
Reiterovych: The President gave comprehensive answers. The only thing, it seems to me, is that it is necessary, perhaps, to inform about the situation at the border every week.
Because we really see now, on the one hand, the transfer of Russian troops, and there the Russians are replacing the troops of the defense plan with troops capable of carrying out offensive actions. Assault troops, armored vehicles. And the date mentioned by the representatives of our intelligence and Western partners is February, maybe.
Therefore, the president’s statement was logical.
But it seems to me that opposition to Russian propaganda must be strengthened. Russian media not only discuss the so-called “Ukraine’s attack on Donbass”, but also say in general about “Ukraine’s invasion of Russia”, that Ukraine intends to “capture as far as Rostov, Smolensk” and so on.
On the one hand, they are probably afraid and understand that they will not have any easy walks.
On the other hand, they create a permanent background and teach their citizens that “if you wake up tomorrow morning and a soldier calls you at the door, the military and says: here’s your summons, quickly to the assembly point, Ukraine attacked us”, the Russians do not should be surprised. However, they will then be surprised when they find themselves not at the border, or somewhere near Smolensk, but, for example, somewhere in the temporarily occupied territories of [Donbass], and they are told that “somehow Ukraine attacked strangely, we need to capture the nearest [Ukrainian ] of the city ”.
There must be some counter-agitation propaganda moments here. And in particular in European countries to do it. Because the Europeans have somehow calmed down, they think that there is no active shooting in Donbass, so somehow everything will settle down. The more gas comes, the “North Stream” again. And it is necessary to remind constantly.
Reduction of people’s deputies
The reduction of deputies in the Verkhovna Rada is necessary, and it will happen, said President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
“History related to the number of deputies. Deputies very much want to reduce the parliament until they become deputies of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. Everyone reacts as follows: we have already met you, we have abolished the majority, we already have a cleaner voting format. Yes, this question is controversial. But we promised to reduce the number of deputies. And it will definitely be done” the president stressed.
– Are you for or against such an idea?
Fesenko: By the way, the bill is a presidential one, it is his election promise. This is an old idea – Kuchma proposed in 2000. These are ideas popular with the people.
But the final decision is up to the people’s deputies. There were votes in the first reading, but at least 300 votes are needed in the second reading. So far they do not exist. Therefore it is necessary to work with deputies, to convince them that the decision occurred.
In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with reducing the number of deputies to 300. Another thing is that we need to think about appropriate changes in the functional work of the structure of parliament and parliamentary committees. We need to make the work of deputies better. And yes – there will be no big problems due to the reduction of the deputy corps. Especially under the current electoral system.
Reiterovych: The thing is that such a decision should be made after the census is conducted in Ukraine. And then, according to the methods that are common in democracies, list [the required number of people’s deputies to represent the interests of all Ukrainians]. And believe me, the number will not be 300, it will be higher. We have a huge number of interest groups in society, and it is only growing every year.
Reducing the number of people’s deputies is not a good idea.
And the second important point. The president said everything correctly – they promised. But note: he, first, did not say from what year. And I do not rule out that a very interesting compromise may be reached in the Verkhovna Rada. We are introducing reductions and a “proportional” one until 2028, and not, for example, from 2023 or 2024: we have satisfied the current deputies who see themselves in the next parliament, and they have fulfilled their promise.