On May 20th, newly-elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was inaugurated in the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) and immediately dissolved it.
In his address, he said that one of the first actions that need to be undertaken is a ceasefire in Donbass.
“What price are you ready to pay for the ceasefire? It’s a strange question. What price are you ready to pay for the lives of your loved ones? I can assure you that I’m ready to pay any price to stop the deaths of our heroes. I’m definitely not afraid to make difficult decisions and I’m ready to lose my fame, my ratings, and if need be — without any hesitation, my position to bring peace, as long as we do not give up our territories.”
Meaning that despite his calls for a ceasefire, one is unlikely to happen:
“History is unfair. We are not the ones who have started this war. But we are the ones who have to finish it. And we are ready for dialogue. I believe that the perfect first step in this dialogue will be the return of all Ukrainian prisoners.
Our next challenge is returning the lost territories. In all honesty, this wording does not seem entirely correct to me because it is impossible to return what has always been ours. Both Crimea and Donbas have been our Ukrainian land, but the land where we have lost the most important thing — the people.”
According to him, the people’s minds must be returned to Ukraine. According to him, the Ukrainian fighters on the frontline need to feel respected from their officials.
Any talks with Russia would happen under the condition that prisoners of war were released first.
“There can be no strong army in a place where the authorities do not respect the people who every day sacrifice their life for the country. I will do everything I can to make you feel respect.”
And, finally, because in his words “Ukrainians want actions, not words,” Zelensky asked for the parliament to approve immediately:
- The law on removing parliamentary immunity;
- The law establishing criminal liability for illegal enrichment;
- The long-awaited Electoral Code and open-lists.
He called for the dismissal of the Head of the Security Service of Ukraine, the Prosecutor General of Ukraine and the Minister of Defense of Ukraine. He suggested that the entire Cabinet of Ministers should resign, but that would suffice for now.
“You will have two months to do that. Do it. And take all the medals for it — not a bad move before the snap parliamentary election.”
He concluded his address by dissolving the Eighth Ukrainian Parliament.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groyzman said that he would tender his resignation on May 22nd, immediately after holding a regular government meeting.
A resignation letter of Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak addressed to Zelensky appeared on the minister’s official Facebook page shortly after the speech.
“Mr. President of Ukraine – Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, I respect your constitutional right to decide on the Minister of Defense of Ukraine and nominate a candidate for endorsement by the Verkhovna Rada. Please consider, in the prescribed manner, the issue of dismissing me from the post of Minister of Defense of Ukraine.”
Earlier in the day, prior to the swearing in, departing Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has signed a letter of resignation submitted by Ukraine’s envoy to the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG) at the Minsk talks on Donbas Yevgenij Marchuk.
The EU, in the face of the Vice-President of the European Commission Maroš Šefčovič said that the bloc would respect the decision, which will be carried out according to the Ukrainian Constituion.
“Indeed, this decision [on dissolution of the parliament] has been announced today. I listened attentively to the inaugural speech of the new President. In this regard, the interest of the European Union lies in the fact that the high-quality democratic behavior that was demonstrated during the presidential race and the elections should be kept so that Ukraine would further demonstrate the democratic behavior of such a high level. We will support any decision that meets the will of the Ukrainian people and is in accordance with the Ukrainian Constitution,” Šefčovič said.
Allied countries sent representatives to Ukraine, with the UK, Lithuania and others congratulated the Ukrainian President.
The US sent Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who had a message to convey from US President Donald Trump.
“America is here to send a clear message. The president of the United States has asked us to come to share with the people of Ukraine that they can count on the United States, count on working with this president and, hopefully, working with this parliament to make the greatest days ahead for the people of Ukraine,” Perry said.
The US recognized that Zelensky’s election was for the people, not for him personally.
“The United States will stand with the people of Ukraine in their quest for independence, in their quest for freedom, and one of the most powerful ways is that they can see that freedom through economic freedom,” Perry said.
On Russia’s side, the Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that Russian President Vladimir Putin had no plans of congratulating Zelensky.
Igor Kolomoisky being back to Ukraine would potentially also prove a challenge, according to Yaroslav Yurchyshyn, expert in advocacy and fight with corruption who spoke to Al Jazeera.
“[Kolomoisky’s return] is the main challenge because his presence in the country means our judges are open to help him to return PrivatBank and compensation money for the privatisation. And we will not only lose money but also have problems with the International Monetary Fund,” he said.
“It all depends on Zelensky. If he is a puppet of Kolomoisky, we will lose a lot.”
According to him, Zelensky’s address was quite populist and it is unlikely that he would actually tackle corruption as aggressively as he lets on, especially if Kolomoisky turns out to be pulling his strings.
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
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- Volodymyr Zelenskiy Is Yet To Be Inaugurated, Could Potentially Dissolve Parliament For Early Elections