Vladimir Zelensky to “Azov”: “I Am Not a Sucker, I am a President”

In recent days Ukraine has witnessed a number of inconspicuous events, which, nevertheless, if we consider them carefully, give a much clearer idea of the catastrophic state of national statehood than other loud statements of an international nature.

The president in Zolotoye turned out to be “naked”

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky went to the village of Zolotoye, where “volunteers” (radical nationalists) from the regiment of the National Guard “Azov” occupied the so-called “last checkpoint” to prevent the disengagement of forces in Donbass under the Minsk Agreements. The video of his meeting with radicals appeared online and is actively discussed. Most evaluations for Zelensky are negative, but there are people claiming that he demonstrated his desire for peace by starting dialogue with “volunteers”. It’s as if they are saying: don’t start another armed conflict without even trying to negotiate.

This seems to be correct. Indeed, the authorities of many countries are forced to negotiate even with inveterate terrorists when it comes to the lives of people taken hostage. Many still remember the talks broadcast live on Russian television by Prime Minister Chernomyrdin with the hostage-taking terrorist Basayev in the hospital of Budyonnovsk.

But who does Zelensky talk to? With some unknown radical at a checkpoint in Zolotoye. We will leave aside the manner of conversation when the president points his finger and is rude to a person who is talking with him quite correctly.

The radical is trying to find out from Zelensky what his reaction is to the demands previously handed to the president. Zelensky replies that he is not a sucker but a president and came to tell him “put the guns downs”.

In fact, Zelensky is not even able to properly formulate his demands to unblock the process of disengaging troops. The phrase “remove weapons” can be interpreted as you like, but it does not contain an absolute requirement to leave the “last checkpoint”.

Zelensky claims that he went to Zolotoye to explain to the nationalists that they are wrong, but does not explain anything. It is unlikely that those who spoke to him, and those who saw this conversation, started to treat him better or were imbued with the depth of the presidential arguments about the need to withdraw troops.

But these are all lyrics. It has long been known about Zelenskiy that he is as “Cicero” as Poroshenko was (if not worse), and his communication not only with the people, but even with the leaders of foreign countries is being prepared very badly by his team.

Why was Zelensky afraid of meeting Biletsky?

Let’s ask a simple question. The leader of “Azov” and numerous associated neo-Nazi organisations Andrey Biletsky spoke about blocking the process of withdrawing troops from the contact line in Donbass. “Azov” is a regular part of the National Guard, which is under the operational authority of Interior Minister Avakov (from who they wanted to take it, but failed). Andrey Biletsky gave an order to start a blockade. Biletsky is in Kiev, and it is not necessary to go to Zolotoye to meet him. Without Biletsky’s order, his men won’t leave Zolotoye. Who to negotiate with, should the desire be present? That’s right, with Biletsky. It is also possible to ask Avakov whether there are active soldiers of the National Guard among those blocking Zolotoye or only “veterans” of “Azov” are there.

Why isn’t Zelensky talking to Biletsky? Firstly, because such a conversation cannot be used for PR purposes. Biletsky may not be a genius, but in the political discussions in the Ukrainian format he has become skilled, does not feel reverence for the president, Zelensky standing next to him will look even paler than next to his militants. Secondly, because if dialogue with Biletsky would’ve failed, and it would inevitably fail, it would be necessary to give orders to the same Avakov (or General Staff) to unblock Zolotoye by force.

It would be more reasonable to order Avakov to force him to take a certain position. But Zelensky would hardly risk taking such a step, because if Avakov refuses, what to do? To fire him? What if he doesn’t leave, but asks Zelensky himself to leave? But Zelensky is not confident in the army either, because the Chief of the General Staff of the UAF also did not receive the corresponding order. And they immediately felt that uncertainty, I would say even fear, of the Nazis. No sooner had Zelensky left Zolotoye when the same Biletsky, who had already talked himself into a life sentence (not counting what he had done before), immediately reported that if Zelensky’s tries to use force against his people, 1000 armed radicals would arrive in Zolotoye, and if it would be necessary, 10,000.

I think that Biletsky exaggerates about 10,000, the whole mobilisation potential of all his structures throughout Ukraine at best will allow to recruit as many militants (in principle, experts estimate it to be 5,000-7,000 people). But, firstly, radicals from other organisations can join them (not to give all the laurels of the “fight for Ukraine” to Biletsky), secondly, even 2,000-3,000 uncontrollable and well-armed militants in the front-line zone is a lot, they cannot be quietly dealt with, and the approval rating of Zelensky has fallen from the beginning of the “dancing” around the “Steinmeier formula” from 73% to 66%. The shootout scandal will bring it down even more. Finally, several thousand armed nationalists may go not to Zolotoye but to Kiev, and storm the presidential office on Bankova Street. And it’s not a fact that someone will stop them.

If it is not the collapse of state structures, what then is the collapse?

I understand that for many this case does not seem to be something out of the ordinary, one never knows what’s going on in Ukraine. In order to understand the depth of the decomposition of Kiev’s state structures, imagine that this is happening in Russia. People who associate themselves with the regular part of the National Guard of Russia (it’s not clear if they are still serving or not) have captured a village and put forward an ultimatum to the leadership of the state – to reconsider some international obligations (for example, to withdraw troops from Syria). Putin goes to the captured village to have a soul-saving conversation with ordinary militants. At the same time, their leader directly from Moscow states that they don’t give a sh*t about the president and all the government, and if they are touched, they will raise an open armed rebellion. At the same time, the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Commander National Guard of Russia, the Minister of Defence, the Chief of the General Staff, the Prosecutor General, the Director of the FSB, and other officials remain silent and pretend that nothing is happening.

Can you imagine? What would you say about the condition of the Russian state if this happened inside it?

So, after all that happened Zelensky once again declared that disengagement in Zolotoye and Petrovsky does not take place because the demand for a seven-day ceasefire (which Ukraine itself thought up) is not fulfilled. It is not radicals who block the disengagement of troops, but some incomprehensible exchanges of fire that are going on, so the troops cannot be withdrawn.

The strength of radicals – who people in Ukraine (and many in Russia) say are an endangered species; their support in elections is allegedly only 1.5% – was felt not only by Zelensky. If at the beginning of his coming to power, on the wave of waiting for a “thaw”, the Security Service, the Prosecutor’s Office, and the courts restrained their ardor and stopped jailing people for wearing a St. George’s ribbon, the other day the court decision came into force in accordance with which a man walking on the streets of Krivoy Rog in a red T-shirt showing the coat of arms of the USSR received a year of restricted liberty. After an appeal, the sentence was softened (a year of probation), but he had to plead guilty. It was such court decisions that were made en masse under Poroshenko under the pressure of radicals.

By the way

Last week, the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine stated that Zelensky had never received a summons for conscription (during the several waves of mobilisation in 2014/2015). But the same Ministry of Defence of Ukraine less than a year ago, on the eve of the presidential election, declared that Zelensky was handed four summons, but he avoided mobilisation. This seems like a minor thing. However, we are dealing with a government structure that has officially made two statements that are opposite in meaning. I.e., in one case the Ukrainian Defence Ministry officially lied.

And if now most citizens of Ukraine do not care if Zelensky received summons or not, during the presidential election campaign the statement of the Defence Ministry was clearly aimed at discrediting him as a candidate, i.e., specific officials used their official position to influence the election results.

So what. In theory, the Defence Ministry should have sent the relevant materials to the Prosecutor’s Office to initiate an investigation. Some of his high-ranking functionaries (the number of people entitled to make statements on behalf of the agency can be counted on the fingers) lied with the intention of influencing the result of the presidential election. This is a criminal article. Moreover, the Ministry of Defence should have already conducted an internal investigation and, based on its results, taken administrative measures to inform the public. They don’t even think about this. And what if tomorrow it will be necessary to declare that Zelensky was given eight summons?

When an official does not care if his statements at least look plausible (rather than opportunistic), when he does not care about the danger of administrative or even criminal responsibility, is it not the collapse of the apparatus?

Do you think that the opposition is any better? By no means. I will not list the names of the “great oppositionists”, who expected to fit into Zelensky’s team, actively supported him even when it was obvious to a fool that he was Poroshenko’s second (deteriorated) edition and encouraged voters not to pay attention to the fact that nothing is changing, because the “new team” “has not yet had enough time”. They would continue to sing this song, but some would not give the promised position, some would not have the criminal case initiated against them closed, and some would have a previously closed one reopened against them. And already the “young team of our hope” turned into “a bunch of bastards”. They don’t scold Zelensky yet, they hope for something else. But soon patience will run out (especially since his approval rating will fall), and they will start on him. I.e., the “principled” opposition was ready to integrate into power and not notice its crime, but as it was not accepted inside [power – ed, it was obliged to notice it [crime – ed].

And here the finish line already begins. Any country can be saved if an inadequate government, which led it to catastrophe, is opposed by adequate opposition, ready to accept responsibility – and with their own blood, and then restore what was destroyed. But if the dreams of the opposition do not go beyond personal (in an extreme case – a small-group) integration into power, the country can no longer be saved. Not because it isn’t possible, but because there is nobody to do it.

Rostislav Ishchenko

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