Oleg Tsarev: Scenarios For Ukraine’s 2019 Presidential Election

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard



During an interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda the former candidate for the Ukrainian presidency Oleg Tsarev evaluated the alignment of forces in the presidential race in the neighbouring country.

Oleg Anatolyevich, on February 6th the overthrown president Yanukovych spoke in Moscow. He spoke about the presidential elections that are coming in Ukraine in March, and claimed that the person who replaced him as the president’s duty, Petro Poroshenko, will not be able to win. Is Yanukovych right?

“I would not completely write Poroshenko off just yet. He, of course, is one of the strongest players now. But indeed, he won’t be able to win without falsification. Another thing is that now Vladimir Zelensky came out on top, and Zelensky is a creature of the oligarch Igor Kolomoisky.”

One of the richest people in Ukraine (or THE richest).

“But also one of the toughest and most unscrupulous oligarchs.”

He was called the most impudent and cunning puppeteer and the gray cardinal of the country.

“Not absolutely so. He has always had a positional war with Rinat Akhmetov, his rival in the fight for the rank of the richest Ukrainian, as well as with Firtash and Pinchuk. Kolomoisky was at war with everyone. Both of us are from the Dnepropetrovsk region, we know each other very well, he feels comfortable in a conflict. For example, he has a conflict with a certain person. Well, let’s say, with the billionaire Viktor Pinchuk. And the latter, like a normal person in any conflict, doesn’t feel comfortable. But Kolomoisky feels comfortable. That’s why when there are negotiations over a compromise, Kolomoisky always wins because he says ‘let’s continue to fight’.”

Zelensky, who now has 19% according to the latest polls, is a person who was put forward and unleashed by Kolomoisky.

“Yes. A whole headquarters works for Zelensky now. A headquarters that was created by Kolomoisky. About 30 lawyers, about 50 creative producers, including creative producers who work together with Zelensky for his television talk show. Both creative producers and political strategists, who are very known in certain circles…”

Including foreign circles?

“It is not without Russians. But about foreigners, I do not know. And 50 persons also work with social networks. It’s a rather creative electoral campaign.”

The most powerful and most numerous support group among all candidates for president? Or it is comparable to Tymoshenko in terms of size and power?

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“Tymoshenko has the oldest party, which has a network structure that works across all of Ukraine and is stable. That’s why from this point of view Tymoshenko is number one.”

You had a formulation “phenomenon of Zelensky” …

“He should have deployed a party structure. A party is a rather expensive tool. It is a reliable machine that, like a steamroller, goes on the electoral field, but the maintenance of the party is very expensive. The party continues to be loss-making for a long time until local self-governance arrives and it has deputies and arrives at the level of self-sufficiency. This happened for Tymoshenko. For Zelensky, deploying a party structure would be very expensive.”

And he also wouldn’t have enough time.

“And yes, he wouldn’t have enough time. Kolomoisky reoriented the ‘UKROP’ party towards him. This is a young party. It has a small number of members and a small network structure, which is why Zelensky started to create a virtual party. On the Internet. And it is rather successful. He launched the ZE! project. The aim of the project is to appeal over the Internet to the non-indifferent citizens of Ukraine who want to influence the situation in the country and are ready to work for free. It’s like saying: ‘send a filled in questionnaire, send your data – e-mail, phone – and we will contact you’. And so indeed, my former co-party member decided to participate in it. He sent his completed questionnaire there. He was immediately contacted. He wrote that he has 30 people to hand who he can influence. And he was promised to later have one of the districts in one of the cities …”

After the possible victory of Zelensky?

“Yes. They gave an action plan. And thus this is how the structure is being formed in general.”

It happened now, in January-February?

“Yes. Just a week ago. I want to say that for the first three days 200,000 people registered. Today already half a million people are in such a network structure. I.e., it is a creative approach. The only minus here is that they are young people who …”

… They may not come to polling precincts on March 31st.

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“Yes. I.e., after all, the choice is made by old people, and old people in villages mostly don’t have the Internet.”

You perceive Zelensky seriously not only because he has such high figures of support? Don’t you have the feeling that Zelensky just splits the protest electorate, which does not like Poroshenko, but at the same time it doesn’t especially doesn’t like Tymoshenko? It turns out that those who are against the current authorities, their votes will be scattered between these two people – the former Prime Minister and the current showman, and against this background Poroshenko will win?

“I wrote more than half a year ago that Zelensky’s project is being launched to help Yuliya Tymoshenko. Zelensky had to criticise Poroshenko, downgrade his approval rating, and Yuliya had to arrive on a white horse. Well, and Zelensky had to receive a certain rating and then, during parliamentary elections, let the faction of Igor Kolomoisky enter the Verkhovna Rada. But it turned out that new names are now highly demanded so much so that old politicians have such a high anti-rating [opposite of an approval rating – ed] that Zelensky came out on top. Last week Zelensky was invited by the ambassador of Israel.”

Is this a sign?

“He was invited by the ambassador and told that Israel is ready to support and help him … But Israel did not invite either Yuliya Tymoshenko or Petro Poroshenko. He was also invited by EU ambassadors.”

On January 23rd in Kiev there was a meeting between Zelensky and ambassadors.

“Yes. My friend was at this meeting and described how it took place. The ambassadors were shocked when Zelensky said that he will have the first meeting with Putin. They asked him again several times. They expressed their displeasure and showed their dissatisfaction. But Zelensky now wants to receive the votes of the Southeast, that’s why he will take such a position.”

And what will his sponsor oligarch do?

“Igor Kolomoisky has two paths in front of him. He went to elections and built his electoral campaign under Yuliya Tymoshenko. Yuliya Tymoshenko was supposed to be president, and over half a year a scheme was formed concerning what Igor Kolomoisky will receive, what posts, in what regions, and in what ministries in exchange for supporting Yulia Tymoshenko. And here the deck was shuffled because Zelensky came out on top.”

I.e., you believe that he did not even expect this?

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“If he expected it then it means that he’s thinking is sophisticated. The first signs appeared a few months ago. I rang around my friends and all said that Zelensky isn’t so bad, that voting for him can be a good thing … And this pricked up my ears. So Kolomoisky now has two paths. The first: either somehow remove Zelensky from elections, or force him to make sharp steps. He completely controls him, all the headquarters were supplied by him, Zelensky won’t be able to do anything without him. The second: force Zelensky to make some statements that will downgrade his approval rating and make him fall to second place …”

To work against himself?

“Yes, so that Yuliya Tymoshenko receives first place. But if Zelensky nevertheless remains in the electoral campaign, there is one minus. If Yuliya Tymoshenko enters the second round of voting along with Zelensky, she would unambiguously lose. All opinion polls show it, and there will be a gap … Yuliya won’t be able to do anything.”

The second option – Poroshenko enters the second round along with Zelensky?

“No. The second option is to reach an agreement with Yuliya, to promise her the position of Prime Minister – Zelensky goes for the presidency and Yuliya becomes Prime Minister. In Ukraine there is no such tradition – keeping pre-election pledges, the undertaken obligations are seldom fulfilled. I do not think that Yuliya will believe that Kolomoisky will keep his promise. Yuliya’s problem is that Yuliya wins only if either Poroshenko or a representative of the Southeast enters the second round. In any other case she will lose. Old politicians have a very high anti-rating. That’s why, strange as it may sound, the ideal situation for Yuliya Tymoshenko is if Poroshenko enters the second round through falsification.”

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