The World Today for January 06, 2022
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a former television star and comedian, has installed friends and colleagues from his comedy studio into the top echelons of his government.
That’s his prerogative as the head of state of the former Soviet republic who was elected two years ago, of course. But his personnel decisions come as Russia has amassed around 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s border. This situation foreshadows a serious escalation of the conflict that has marked relations between the two countries since 2014.
“I wouldn’t want to be in the room when there are just a couple of guys who know how to produce videos,” Orysia Lutsevych, a Ukraine expert at Chatham House in London, told the New York Times. “This is not a peaceful time. This is a time of war.”
Zelenskyy’s personnel decisions are one sign of how the Ukrainian president is devoting significant time to internal issues as he prepares to fend off a potential Russian invasion, reported the Washington Post. His moves, moreover, could alienate key international and domestic players at a time when the president and his allies might want to present a united front against Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has warned the West and NATO from encroaching on territory that was once part of the former Soviet Union.
For example, on Christmas Eve, Ukrainian prosecutors sought an arrest warrant for former President Petro Poroshenko, whom Zelenskyy defeated in 2019, on allegations of high treason and funding pro-Russian separatists, Voice of America wrote. Poroshenko has denied the charges, calling them fabricated. Ukrainian officials said he purposely bought coal from the Russian-controlled Donetsk and Luhansk People’s republics in Eastern Ukraine to bolster their independence, MarketWatch explained.
A billionaire who owned a candy consortium, Poroshenko then fled the country, telling the Financial Times that he was meeting Polish and other European politicians to drum up support for the fight against Russia and visiting Orthodox Christian Church leaders in Turkey.
Some Ukrainians felt that Zelenskyy was playing politics. Others, the Kyiv Post noted, saw Poroshenko’s escape abroad as proof that he was guilty.
No matter how one analyzes the move, the prosecution was part of Zelenskyy’s campaign pledge to bring the country’s oligarchs to justice. He has also targeted Rinat Akhmetov, another billionaire whom Ukrainian officials have accused of planning a coup with Poroshenko, wrote CNN.
Even so, critics say it’s not the time to be focusing on putting the house in order. Still, supporters point out there is little Zelenskyy can do to stop Russia on his own. But what he can do is take care of some of the campaign promises that made it onto the to-do list.
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