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Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Russia will build its intentions towards Ukraine on the basis of the policy of the new president

Russia and its satellites monitored and commented on literally every episode of Zelensky's election campaign. And when the results of the vote became obvious, they rushed to write analytics and forecasts about what to expect from the new Ukrainian President. Moreover, the tonality of these materials varies from enthusiastic to sharply negative. The first interviews with Zelensky, in which he expressed his political position as much as possible blurred and said that it is necessary to "negotiate somewhere in the middle", many in Russia were optimistic about it. However, the website Україна.ру, which covers the events in Ukraine from the Russian position, even such a restrained interview without any radical statements gave frankly negative assessment. Immediately after its release on the mentioned resource was published an article with the words: «Nothing funny about that. Everything is dull and sad. Nothing but a new version of Poroshenko-2014, adjusted for the features of the showman like a Trump-2016, we are not offered».

Official Russian media have no exact position regarding Zelensky yet. For example, an odious TV presenter, Olga Skabeyeva, at first called Zelensky «banderovets», and then praised that in his speech he called that fighters of "DNR and LNR" are rebels. «Zelensky is a banderovets and copy of Poroshenko! The candidate declared that Bandera is a hero and it is normal and cool. We are waiting for him to appear with the same stripe "cynical Bandera"! Putin for Zelensky is an enemy! NATO is a friend for Zelensky! Donbass will not receive any special status!», she yelled on the program "60 minutes" on April 18, 2019. And already on April 19, her tone completely changed. "Volodymyr, you're doing great, because you're the first person to say thery’re not terrorists, but still the rebels, and this is a fundamentally important moment," said Skabeyeva after the debates.

In other popular talk shows on the federal TV channels of Russia Zelensky is also or praised or scolded. [1]For example, the main propagandist of misinformation of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Kiselyov, was excited that during debates "Zelensky managed to bring Poroshenko on his knees both literally, and figuratively". But his colleague Vladimir Solovyov strictly stated that it is not necessary to be excited at Zelensky's victory: "If you ask what team the person they chose have, they are not able to answer. What are the first steps he's going to take? They can’t answer. And all Ukraine is excited. Why?".

Pro-Kremlin politicians, political scientists and experts also give the new President a very different estimates. Someone expresses hope for a renewed dialogue with Russia and the abolition of the "policy of radical nationalism". And someone believes that Zelensky will be no different from Poroshenko and will continue his course.[2]

The position of the Federation Council was expressed by the First Deputy Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Vladimir Dzhabarov. "Zelensky is an authoritative showman, he knows how to behave and speak. He was Poroshenko's alternative. But only if he will be real alternative, not fake, thaen, we’ll hope that he, as a smart man, draw some conclusions," he said." Of course, he can not immediately rush into the arms of Russia because too much has happened over the years in our relations. If he wants to really improve the situation, he should at least abandon the hostile rhetoric that has accompanied Poroshenko all the last years. Because, frankly speaking, they voted not for Zelensky, but voted against Poroshenko", Dzhabarov said. In addition, he stated that the vector of Ukraine is necessary to return to the Kremlin, because alleged "Ukraine can not develop normally without Russia for sure." "Now it's the turn of the new leadership (Ukraine - Ed.) to understand and realize the hopes of voters in the domestic and foreign policy of the country," Russian Foreign Ministry responded.[3]

State Duma Deputy Natalia Poklonskaya happily congratulated Zelensky on the victory: "I want to congratulate the people of Ukraine with the emergence of hope for a change of the disastrous course. The elected President, Volodymyr Zelensky among the priorities of the cooperation with Russia called the return of the Ukrainian sailors, those who Poroshenko sent to certain death, like sheep to the slaughter. We remember the stolen by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) crimeans Baranov, Odintsov and other russian citizens in Ukrainian prison. Congratulations Volodymyr, I wish you wisdom and strength to send in the past the bloody regime and to untie all the knots of misunderstanding. At first, to return peace to Donbass, as well as to return the citizens of both countries held in places of imprisonment."

But the political scientist Armen Gasparyan said that the new President will not be able to return the Donbass, because the "republics" will not want to be part of Ukraine: "We should not wait for anything from Zelensky. Not because the whole policy of Kyiv does not provide for any dialogue. But given the simple and obvious point: the republics of Donbass are building their statehood regardless of whether the clown or confectioner manages Ukraine," he said. A former Ukrainian political scientist, a supporter of the "DNR", Konstantin Dolgov, who emigrated to Russia, now reminds Russians how they were in vain happy about Trump's victory, and warns them that the joy of Zelensky's victory will be even less: "Euphoria of the "victory over Poroshenko" will pass very quickly. As soon as the enthusiastic rams will understand that Zelensky will continue the course of Petro, a hundred times steeper from the Petro" Dolgov wrote in the social network. As for the Russian authorities, its tone is still rather cool. [4] Press Secretary of Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Peskov, said that the Kremlin does not intend to congratulate Volodymyr Zelensky on his victory, and stressed that it is too early to talk about joint work with the new leadership of Ukraine.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, in turn, noted that there is chances of improving cooperation with the new leadership of Ukraine. However, he made it as uncertain as possible and blurred: "Elections in Ukraine took place. The result showed a clear request for new approaches to solving the problems of Ukraine. Obviously, the new President will face the task of consolidating the country, taking into account the realities that have developed in recent years. I have no doubt that the new head of state will adhere to the rhetoric he used during the election campaign against Russia. And repeat known ideological formulas aimed at different groups of the population. I have no illusions about it. At the same time, there are still chances to improve cooperation with our country. What is needed? Honesty. And a pragmatic and responsible approach. An approach that takes into account all the political realities formed in Ukraine. And above all, the situation in the East of the country."

However, best of all the Kremlin's reaction to Zelensky's victory, as always, demonstrated actions, not words. Before the second round of elections, when the winner was already known, Moscow suddenly decided to introduce new sanctions. The Russians restricted the export of oil products and coal to Ukraine, as well as banned the import of some of our products. Of course, such an action can not be called friendly. It was directed obviously against Zelensky. And at the same time it is preventive. After all, the new President has not yet had time to make any anti-Russian steps, because he has not yet become President officially.

"Surprise" for the future should be considered a decree of Putin on a simplified procedure for issuing Russian passports to residents of the occupied Donbass. President Petro Poroshenko has already called this step an attempt to legitimize the Russian military presence in the East of Ukraine. It seems that the Russian government, like many in Ukraine, so far has little idea what the new leadership will look like, who will be in Zelensky's team and what policy he will lead. But habitually acts by the only methods it understands: threats and blackmail. Whether Zelensky will be able to resist this pressure is probably the main intrigue of the next five years. Obviously, the answer to this question still even newly elected President do not know.[5]

Given that it is important for the Russian Federation to keep Ukraine under its control at all costs, and therefore it will use various provocations to ensure that the new President pursues a policy beneficial to Russia. In particular, the "passport occupation"has recently begun. Therefore, while Russia is waiting for the new President of Ukraine to show himself in relation to Russia.



[2] Ibid. 



[5] Ibid.