UKRAINE: The Real Zelensky

Natylie Baldwin  interviews academic Olga Baysha about Ukraine’s president, a former TV actor who has become, since the start of the war, an A-list celebrity in the U.S.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky on Feb. 23, the eve of Russia’s invasion. At the time he was hosting the presidents of Lithuania and Poland in Kiev. (President of Ukraine, Flickr)

By Natylie Baldwin
The Grayzone

A comedic actor who rose to the country’s highest office in 2019, Volodymyr Zelensky was virtually unknown to the average American, except perhaps as a bit player in former U.S. President Donald Trump’s impeachment theater.

But when Russia attacked Ukraine on Feb. 24, Zelensky was suddenly transformed to an A-list celebrity in U.S. media. American news consumers were bombarded with images of a man who appeared overcome by the tragic events, possibly in over his head, but ultimately sympathetic.  It didn’t take long for that image to evolve into the khaki-clad, tireless hero governing over a scrappy little democracy and single-handedly staving off the barbarians of autocracy from the east.

But beyond that carefully crafted Western media image is something much more complicated and less flattering. Zelensky was elected by 73 percent of the vote on a promise to pursue peace while the rest of his platform was vague. On the eve of the invasion, however, his approval rating had sunk to 31 percent due to the pursuit of deeply unpopular policies.

Ukrainian academic, Olga Baysha, author of Democracy, Populism, and Neoliberalism in Ukraine: On the Fringes of the Virtual and the Real, has studied Zelensky’s rise to power and how he has wielded that power since becoming president.

In the interview below, Baysha discusses Zelensky’s embrace of neoliberalism and increasing authoritarianism, how his actions contributed to the current war; his counterproductive and self-absorbed leadership throughout the war, the complex cultural and political views and identities of Ukrainians, the partnership between neoliberals and the radical right during and after the Maidan uprising and whether a Russian takeover of the entire Donbass region might be less popular among the local population than it would have been in 2014.

Tell us a bit about your background.  Where are you from and how did you become interested in your current area of study?

Olga Baysha. (Higher School of Economics, National Research University)

I am an ethnic Ukrainian born in Kharkov, a Ukrainian city on the borderline with Russia, where my dad and other relatives are still living. Before the current war, Kharkov was one of Ukraine’s leading educational and scientific centers.  The city’s residents pride themselves on living in the “intellectual capital” of Ukraine.

In 1990, the first television company free from party control was established there; soon, its first news program went on air. By that time, I had already graduated from Kharkov University, and one day, I was invited to work as a journalist in this program by a university friend. Next day, without prior experience, I started reporting.  In a couple of months, I was a news presenter. My meteoric career was not an exception.

New uncontrolled media, the number of which was increasing at a huge rate daily, demanded more and more media workers. In the overwhelming majority of cases, they were young ambitious people without any journalistic education or life experience. What united us was the desire to Westernize, a lack of understanding of societal contradictions characterizing the post-Soviet transition, and deafness to the concerns of working people who opposed reforms. In our eyes, the latter were “retrograde”: they did not understand what civilization was about.

We saw [our]selves as a revolutionary vanguard and chosen progressive reformers. It is we — media workers —who created a favorable environment for Ukraine’s neoliberalization, presented as Westernization and civilization, with all disastrous consequences for society they brought. Only years after, I realized this.

Later, while supervising the production of historical documentaries in a Kiev television company, I recognized that the mythology of unidirectional historical progress and inevitability of Westernization for “barbarians” provided an ideological ground for neoliberal experiments not only in the former Soviet states but around the globe. It is this interest in the global hegemony of the ideology of Westernization that led me first to the doctoral program in critical media studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder and then to the research I am doing now.

According to the academic work of some Ukrainian sociologists, polling showed in the recent past that most Ukrainians were not very interested in the issue of identity but were more concerned with issues like jobs, wages and prices. Your work focuses a lot on the neoliberal reforms that were enacted in Ukraine since 2019 – against the popular sentiment. Can you talk about what the view is on economic issues for most Ukrainians and why?

In the social milieus [in which] I lived — the east of Ukraine, Crimea and Kiev — there were very few people concerned with the issue of ethnic identity.

I do not in vain emphasize “my social milieus.” Ukraine is a complex and divided country with its far east and far west holding diametrically different views on all socially significant issues. Since the declaration of Ukraine’s independence in 1991, two ideas of national identity have been competing in Ukraine: “ethnic Ukrainian” versus “eastern Slavic.”

The ethnic Ukrainian national idea, based on the notion that Ukrainian culture, language, and ethnicity-centered history should be the dominant integrating forces in the Ukrainian nation-state, has been much more popular in the west of Ukraine. The eastern Slavic idea, which envisages the Ukrainian nation as founded on two primary ethnic groups, languages and cultures — Ukrainian and Russian — has been accepted as normal in the Ukrainian southeast. However, in general, I can agree that most Ukrainians are much more concerned with economic issues, which has always been the case.

Sunset at the train station in Kharkov, Ukraine, 2007. (Trey Ratcliff, Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

As a matter of fact, Ukraine’s independence of 1991 was to a big extent also a matter of economic concerns. Many Ukrainians supported the idea of political divorce from Russia because of an expectation that Ukraine would be better off economically — this is what propagandistic leaflets promised us.

This economic hope was not realized. In many ways, the collapse of the Soviet Union radically changed people’s lives for the worse because of Ukraine’s neoliberalization — the marketization of the social sphere and ruination of the Soviet welfare state.

What about neoliberal reforms initiated by Zelensky?  You can judge on their popularity by opinion polls – up to 72 percent of Ukrainians did not support his land reform, the flagship of Zelensky’s neoliberal program. After his party approved it despite people’s indignation, Zelensky’s rating fell from 73 percent in Spring 2019 to 23 percent in January 2022. The reason is simple: a deep sense of betrayal.

In his unofficial election platform — the show “Servant of the People” — Zelesnky-Holoborodko [Holoborodko was Zelensky’s character in the television show – NB] promised that if he could rule the country for just one week, he would “make the teacher live as the president, and the president live as the teacher.” To put it mildly, this promise was not fulfilled. People realized that they were duped once again — the reforms have been carried out in the interests of not Ukrainians but global capital.

To what extent do you think that prioritizing of economic security versus identity issues has changed with the Russian invasion?  How do you think that will work out for the political fortunes of the nationalists/ultranationalists versus moderates or leftists?

That is an interesting question. On the one hand, people’s priority now is to survive, which makes security their primary concern. To save their lives, millions of Ukrainians, including my mom and my sister with children, have left Ukraine for Europe. Many of them are ready to stay there forever, to learn foreign languages, and to adopt to a foreign way of life — all these developments can hardly prioritize identity concerns.

On the other hand, however, the intensification of ethnic sentiments and the consolidation of the nation in the face of the invasion is also evident. I can judge on this from public discussions in social media — some Kharkovites whom I know personally even started making posts in Ukrainian [language], which they had never used before, to highlight their national identity and signal that they are against any foreign invasion.

This is another tragic aspect of this war. The Maidan revolution of 2014, which many people in the southeast did not support, transformed these people into “slaves,” “sovki” and “vatniki” — derogatory terms to denote their backwardness and barbarism.

This is how Maidan revolutionaries, who considered themselves the progressive force of history, saw anti-Maidan “others” because of their adherence to Russian language and culture. Never ever could this pro-Russian population imagine Russia shelling their cities and ruining their lives. The tragedy of these people is twofold: first, their world was ruined symbolically by the Maidan, now, it is being destroyed physically by Russia.

The outcomes of these developments are unclear so far as it is unclear how the war will end. If the southeastern regions remain in Ukraine, the ruination of everything resisting aggressive nationalism will most likely be completed.

… first, their world was ruined symbolically by the Maidan, now, it is being destroyed physically by Russia.”

This will be probably the end of this unique borderline culture that has never wanted to be either completely Ukrainized or Russified. If Russia establishes control over these regions, as it boasts now, I can hardly predict how it will be dealing with mass resentment — at least, in the cities that are damaged significantly, as in Kharkov.

Moving to Zelensky specifically – one thing you point out in your book is how Zelensky served as this sort of Pied Piper figure in that he used his celebrity and acting skills to get people to support him on behalf of this vague, feel-good agenda (peace, democracy, progress, anticorruption) but that really obscured another agenda that would not have been popular, specifically a neoliberal economic agenda.  Can you talk about how he did that – how did he run his campaign and what were his priorities after he got into office?

The basic argument presented in my recent book is that the astonishing victory of Zelensky and his party, later transformed into a parliamentary machine to churn out and rubber-stamp neoliberal reforms (in a “turbo regime,” as they called it), cannot be explained apart from the success of his television series, which, as many observers believe, served as Zelensky’s informal election platform.

Unlike his official platform, which ran only 1,601 words in length and contained few policy specifics, the 51 half-hour episodes of his show provided Ukrainians with a detailed vision of what should be done so that Ukraine could progress.

The message delivered by Zelensky to Ukrainians through his show is clearly populist. The people of Ukraine are portrayed in it as an unproblematic totality devoid of internal splits, from which only oligarchs and corrupted politicians/officials are excluded. The country becomes healthy only after getting rid of both oligarchs and their puppets. Some of them are imprisoned or flee the country; their property is confiscated without any regard to legality. Later, Zelensky-the-president will do the same towards his political rivals.

Interestingly, the show ignores the theme of the Donbass war, which erupted in 2014, a year before the series started being broadcast. As the Maidan and Russia-Ukraine relations are very divisive issues in Ukrainian society, Zelensky ignored them so as not to jeopardize the unity of his virtual nation, his viewers and ultimately his voters.

Volodymyr Zelensky in 2016, in an episode of Ukrainian TV comedy “Servant of the People.” (YouTube)

Zelensky’s election promises, made on the fringes of the virtual and the real, were predominantly about Ukraine’s “progress,” understood as “modernization,” “Westernization,” “civilization” and “normalization.”

It is this progressive modernizing discourse that allowed Zelensky to camouflage his plans for neoliberal reforms, launched just three days after the new government came to power. Throughout the campaign, the idea of “progress” highlighted by Zelensky was never linked to privatization, land sales, budget cuts, etc.

Only after Zelensky had consolidated his presidential power by establishing full control over the legislative and executive branches of power did he make it clear that the “normalization” and “civilization” of Ukraine meant the privatization of land and state/public property, the deregulation of labor relations, a reduction of power for trade unions an increase in utility tariffs, and so on.

You’ve pointed out that many foreigners were appointed to important economic and social posts after the 2014 coup and before Zelensky’s term. Similarly, many of Zelensky’s officials have close ties to global neoliberal institutions and you’ve suggested there is evidence that they manipulate Zelensky who has an unsophisticated understanding of economics/finance. Can you discuss that aspect of the ramifications of the pro-Western change of government in 2014?  What are the larger interests at play here and do they have the interests of the general Ukrainian population in mind at all?

Yes, the Maidan change of power in 2014 marked the beginning of a completely new era in the history of Ukraine in terms of Western influence on its sovereign decisions.

To be sure, since Ukraine declared its independence in 1991, this influence has always existed. The American Chamber of Commerce, Center for US-Ukraine relations, US-Ukraine Business Council, European Business Association, IMF, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, WTO, the EU — all these lobbying and regulating institutions have been significantly affect[ing] Ukrainian political decisions.

Mustafa Nayyem, one of the first activists to urge Ukrainians to gather on Maidan Nezalezhnosti, or  Independence Square, speaking on Nov. 23, 2013. (Aleksandr Andreiko, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

However, never in the pre-Maidan history of Ukraine had the country appointed foreign citizens to top ministerial posts — this became possible only after the Maidan.

In 2014, Natalie Jaresko, a citizen of the U.S., was appointed Ukraine’s minister of finance; Aivaras Abromavicius, a citizen of Lithuania, became Ukraine’s minister of economy and trade; Alexander Kvitashvili, a citizen of Georgia, the minister of healthcare. In 2016, Ulana Suprun, a citizen of the U.S., was appointed the acting minister of healthcare.

Other foreigners assumed offices of lower ranks. Needless to say, all these appointments resulted not from the will of Ukrainians but from the recommendations of the global neoliberal institutions, which is not surprising given that the Maidan itself was not supported by half of Ukraine’s population.

As already mentioned, the majority of these anti-Maidan “others” reside in the southeastern regions. The farther east one looked, the stronger and more unified a rejection of the Maidan with its European agenda one would find. More than 75 percent of those living in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts (two eastern regions of Ukraine predominantly populated by Russian-speakers) did not support the Maidan, while only 20 percent of people living in Crimea supported it.

These statistical figures, provided by Kiev Institute of Sociology in April 2014, did not prevent Western institutions of power from arguing that the Maidan was the uprising of “Ukrainian people” presented as an unproblematic totality — a very powerful ideological trick. When visiting the Maidan Square and encouraging its revolutionaries to protest, members of the “international community” disrespected millions of Ukrainians who held anti-Maidan views, thus contributing to the escalation of the civil conflict, which at the end of the day led to the disaster that we are helplessly observing today.

“… members of the ‘international community’ … contributed to the escalation of the civil conflict.”

What about foreign interests invested in Ukraine’s neoliberalization, carried out in the name of the Ukrainian people?  [T]hey are diverse, but behind the land reform, which I have been analyzing carefully, there were financial lobbies in the West. Western pension funds and investment funds wanted to invest money that was depreciating. Looking for assets to invest in, they enlisted support of the IMF, the World Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and various lobbying groups to promote their interests and lay out all necessary groundwork. This has nothing to do with the interests of Ukrainians, of course.

How has Zelensky’s record been on democracy – freedom of speech and press, political pluralism and treatment of different political parties? How does it compare to past presidents of post-Soviet Ukraine?

I agree with Jodi Dean who argues that democracy is a neoliberal fantasy in a sense that it cannot exist in neoliberal systems of government controlled not by people but by supranational institutions. As mentioned earlier, this became especially evident after the Maidan when foreign ministers were appointed by these institutions to present their interests in Ukraine.

However, in his reforming zeal, Zelensky went further. In early February 2021, first three oppositional television channels — NewsOne, Zik and 112 Ukraine — were shut down. Another oppositional channel Nash was banned in the beginning of 2022, before the beginning of the war.

After the war broke out, in March, dozens of independent journalists, bloggers and analysts were arrested; most of them are of leftist views. In April, television channels of right-wing leaning — Channel 5 and Pryamiy — were shut down as well. Moreover, Zelensky signed a decree obliging all Ukrainian channels to broadcast a single telethon, presenting only one pro-governmental view on the war.

All these developments are unprecedented for the history of independent Ukraine. Zelensky’s proponents argue that all the arrests and media bans should be written off for military expediency, ignoring the fact that the first media closures happened one year before the Russian invasion. As for me, Zelensky only uses this war to strengthen dictatorial tendencies within his regime of government, which started being formed right after Zelensky came to power — when he created a party machine to control the parliament and rubber-stamp neoliberal reforms without regard to public mood.

The National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) was used by Zelensky in 2021 to sanction certain people – mostly political rivals.  Can you explain what the NSDC is and why Zelensky was doing it and whether it was legal or not.

After his popular support plummeted in 2021, Zelensky launched the unconstitutional process of extrajudicial sanctions against his political opponents, imposed by the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC).

These sanctions involved the extrajudicial seizure of property without any evidence of illegal activities of the relevant individuals and legal entities. Among the first to be sanctioned by the NSDC were two parliamentary deputies from the Opposition Platform — For Life (OPZZh) — Victor Medvedchuk (later arrested and shown on TV with his face beaten up after interrogation) and Taras Kozak (who managed to escape from Ukraine), as well as members of their families. This happened in February 2021; in March 2022, 11 oppositional parties were banned. The decisions to ban oppositional parties and sanction oppositional leaders were taken by NSDC; they were put into effect by presidential decrees.

The Constitution of Ukraine states that The Council of National Security and Defense is a coordinating body: it “co-ordinates and controls the activity of bodies of executive power in the sphere of national security and defense.”

This has nothing to do with prosecuting political opponents and confiscating their property — something the NSDC has been doing since 2021. It goes without saying that this know-how of Zelensky’s regime is unconstitutional — only courts may decide on who is guilty or not and confiscate property.

But the problem is that Ukrainian courts turned out to be unprepared to serve as Zelensky’s puppets. After the head of Ukraine’s Constitutional Court, Oleksandr Tupytskyi, called Zelensky’s unconstitutional reforms a “coup,” Zelensky had nothing to do but to rely on NSDC to push forward his unpopular policies. What about the “dissident” Tupytskyi?  On March 27, 2021 — also in violation of the Ukrainian Constitution — Zelensky signed a decree canceling his appointment as a judge of the court.

Under Joseph Stalin’s rule, the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD) created “troikas” to issue sentences to people after simplified, speedy investigations and without a public and fair trial. What we observe in the case of NSDC is a very similar development, only NSDC unconstitutional trials have a bigger number of participants — all the key figures of the state, including the president, the prime minister, the head of Ukrainian security service, prosecutor general of Ukraine, etc.

One NSDC meeting can decide destinies of hundreds of people. In June 2021 alone, Zelensky put into effect an NSDC decision to impose sanctions against 538 individuals and 540 companies.

I’d like to ask you about the “Peacemaker” (Myrotvorets) list that is reportedly affiliated with the Ukrainian government and SBU intelligence service.  My understanding is that this is a list of “enemies of the state” and publishes said enemies’ personal information.  Several of those who appeared on it have been subsequently murdered.  Can you talk about this list, how do people end up on it, and how does it fit into a government that we’ve been told is democratic?

The nationalistic Myrotvorets website was launched in 2015 “by a people’s deputy holding a position of adviser to the Ministry of Interior of Ukraine” — this is how the U.N. report describes this. The name of this people’s deputy is Anton Gerashchenko, a former adviser to the former Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov. It is under Avakov’s patronage in 2014 [that] nationalistic punitive battalions were created to be sent to Donbass for suppressing people’s resistance against the Maidan. 

Myrotvorets has been part of the general strategy of intimidating the opponents of the coup. Any “enemy of the people” — anybody who dares to express publicly anti-Maidan views or challenge Ukraine’s nationalistic agenda — may occur on this website.

Oles Buzina. (CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

The addresses of Oles Buzina, a famous publicist [journalist], shot dead by nationalists near his apartment building in Kiev, and Oleg Kalashnikov, an oppositional deputy killed by nationalists in his house, were also on Myrotvorets, which helped the killers to find their victims. The names of the murderers are well known; however, they are not imprisoned because in contemporary Ukraine, whose political life is controlled by radicals, they are considered heroes.

The site was not shut down even after an international scandal when Myrotvorets published the personal data of well-known foreign politicians, including the former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. But, in contrast to Mr. Schröder residing in Germany, thousands of Ukrainians whose data are on Myrotvorets, cannot feel safe. All those arrested in March 2022 had been on Myrotvorets as well. Some of them I know personally — Yuri Tkachev, the editor of Odessa newspaper Timer and Dmitry Dzhangirov, the editor of Capital, a YouTube channel.

Many of those whose names are on Myrotvorets, managed to flee Ukraine after the Maidan; some were able to do it after mass arrests this March. One of them is Tarik Nezalezhko, Dzhangirov’s colleague. On April 12, 2022, already being safe outside of Ukraine, he made a post on YouTube, calling Ukraine’s Security Service “Gestapo” and giving advice to his viewers on how to avoid being captured by its agents.

That said, Ukraine is not a democratic country. The more I observe what is going on there, the more I think about the modernization path of Augusto Pinochet, who, as a matter of fact, is admired by our neoliberals. For a long period of time, the crimes of Pinochet’s regime had not been investigated. But in the end, humanity discovered the truth. I only hope that in Ukraine this will happen earlier.

Ukrainian academic Volodymyr Ishchenko said in a recent interview with New Left Review that, unlike in Western Europe, there is more of a partnership between nationalism and neoliberalism in post-Soviet Eastern Europe.  This was even observed in the Donbass among the more affluent. Do you agree with that?  If so, can you explain how that combination evolved?

I agree with Volodymyr. What we observe in Ukraine is an alliance of nationalists and liberals based on their common intolerance to Russia and, respectively, to all who advocate for cooperation with it.

In the light of the current war, this unity of liberals and nationalists may appear as justified. However, the alliance was created long before this war — in 2013, during the formation of the Maidan movement. By liberals, the Association Agreement with the European Union, advocated by the Maidan, was seen predominantly in terms of democratization, modernization and civilization — it was imagined as a means of bringing Ukraine up to European standards of government.

In contrast, the Eurasian Economic Union, led by Russia, was associated with civilizational regression to Soviet statism and Asian despotism. It is here that the positions of liberals and nationalists converged: The latter actively supported the Maidan not because of democratization, but due to its clear anti-Russia stance.

From the first days of the protests, radical nationalists were the most active Maidan fighters. The unity between liberals associating the Euromaidan with progress, modernization, human rights, etc., and radicals co-opting the movement for their nationalistic agenda was an important prerequisite for the transformation of the civic protest into an armed struggle resulting in an unconstitutional overturning of power.

Maidan coup in Ukraine, 2014. (Wikipedia)

The decisive role of radicals in the revolution also became a crucial factor in the formation of a mass anti-Maidan movement in the east of Ukraine against the “coup d’etat,” as the hegemonic anti-Maidan discourse dubbed the change of power in Kiev. At least partly, what we observe today, is a tragic outcome of this shortsighted and unfortunate alliance, formed during the Maidan.

Can you explain what Zelensky’s relationship has been with the far-right in Ukraine?

Zelensky himself has never expressed far-right views. In his series “Servant of the People,” which was used as an unofficial election platform, Ukrainian nationalists are portrayed negatively: they appear as nothing else but stupid oligarchs’ marionettes.

As a presidential candidate, Zelensky criticized the language law signed by his predecessor Petro Poroshenko, which made the knowledge of Ukrainian language a mandatory requirement for civil servants, soldiers, doctors and teachers. “We must initiate and adopt laws and decisions that consolidate society, and not vice versa,” Zelensky-the-candidate claimed in 2019.

However, after assuming the presidential office, Zelensky turned to the nationalistic agenda of his predecessor. On May 19, 2021, his government approved an action plan for the promotion of the Ukrainian language in all spheres of public life strictly in line with Poroshenko’s language law, to the delight of nationalists and dismay of Russophones.

Zelensky has done nothing to prosecute radicals for all their crimes against political opponents and the people of Donbass. The symbol of Zelensky’s right-wing transformation was his endorsement by nationalist Medvedko — one of those accused of murdering Buzina —who publicly approved Zelensky’s ban of Russian-language oppositional channels in 2021.

“After assuming the presidential office, Zelensky turned to the nationalistic agenda of his predecessor.”

The question is why? Why did Zelensky make a U-turn to nationalism despite people’s hopes that he would pursue the politics of reconciliation?

As many analysts believe, this is because radicals, although representing the minority of the Ukrainian population, do not hesitate to use force against politicians, courts, law enforcement agencies, media workers, and so forth—in other words, they are simply good at intimidating society, including all the branches of power. 

Propagandists may repeat the mantra “Zelensky is a Jew, so he cannot be a Nazi” as often as they want, but the truth is that radicals control the political process in Ukraine through violence against those who dare confront their nationalistic and supremacist agendas. 

The case of Anatoliy Shariy — one of the most popular bloggers in Ukraine living in exile — is a good example to illustrate this point. Not only does he, along with his family members, permanently receive death threats, radicals constantly intimidate the activists of his party (banned by Zelensky in March 2022), beating and humiliating them. This is what Ukrainian radicals call “political safari.”

Right now, Zelensky is the most influential figure on the world stage with respect to a conflict that has grave implications if it escalates. I’m concerned that he’s using those same manipulative show biz skills to rally support behind this image of some personal incarnation of democracy and righteousness against the forces of evil and autocracy. It’s like a movie based on a Marvel comic book world. It’s precisely the kind of framing that seems antithetical to diplomacy. Do you think Zelensky is playing a constructive role as the wartime leader of Ukraine or not?

I follow Zelensky’s war speeches on a regular basis, and I can confidently say that the way he frames the conflict can hardly lead to any diplomatic resolution as he permanently repeats that the forces of good are attacked by the forces of evil. Clearly, there can be no political solution for such an Armageddon.

What falls out of this mythical frame of reference for the war is the broader context of the situation: the fact that for years Ukraine has been refusing to implement the Minsk peace agreements, which were signed in 2015 after the defeat of the Ukrainian army in the Donbass war.

According to these agreements, Donbass had to receive a political autonomy within Ukraine — a point inconceivable and unacceptable for radicals. Instead of implementing the document, which was ratified by the U.N., Kiev has been fighting with Donbass along the line of demarcation for eight long years. The life of Ukrainians living in these territories has been transformed into a nightmare. For radicals, whose battalions have been fighting there, Donbass people — imagined as sovki and vatniki—do not deserve mercy and indulgence.

The current war is a prolongation of the war of 2014, which started when Kiev sent troops to Donbass to suppress anti-Maidan rebellion under the premise of the so-called “anti-terrorist operation.” The acknowledgement of this broader context does not presuppose the approval of Russia’s “military operation,” but it implies the acknowledgement that Ukraine is also responsible for what is going on.

Framing the issue of the current war in terms of a fight of civilization against barbarism or democracy against autocracy is nothing else but manipulation, and this is essential for understanding the situation. Former U.S. President George W. Bush’s formula “you are either with us or with terrorists,” propagated by Zelensky in his appeals to the “civilized world,” has turned out to be very convenient in terms of avoiding personal responsibility for the ongoing disaster.

In terms of selling this one-dimensional story to the world, Zelensky’s artistic skills appear invaluable. He is finally on the global stage, and the world is applauding. The former comedian does not even try to hide his satisfaction. Answering the question of a French reporter on March 5, 2022  — the 10th day of the Russian invasion — on how his life had changed with the beginning of the war, Zelensky replied with a smile of delight: “Today, my life is beautiful. I believe that I am needed. I feel it is the most important meaning in life – to be needed. To feel that you are not just an emptiness that is just breathing, walking, and eating something. You live.”

For me, this construction is alarming: it implies that Zelensky enjoys the unique opportunity to perform on a global stage provided by the war. It made his life beautiful; he lives. In contrast to millions of Ukrainians whose life is not nice at all and thousands of those who are not alive any longer.

Alexander Gabuev has suggested that the Russian leadership has a lack of expertise about the country that was a contributing factor to this conflict.  I have also heard Russian commentators suggest that Ukraine has a superior attitude with regard to being pro-Western versus pro-Russian. Do you think this is a significant contributing factor for either side?

I am inclined to agree with the claim regarding the lack of an adequate understanding on the part of Russian leadership of social processes that have been going on in Ukraine since the Maidan. Indeed, half of Ukraine’s population did not welcome it, and millions living in the southeast wanted Russia to intervene. I know this for sure as all my relatives and old friends reside in these territories.

However, what was true in 2014 may not be necessarily the case now. Eight years have passed; a new generation of young people, raised within a new social environment, has grown; and many people simply accustomed themselves to new realities. Finally, even if most of them despise radicals and the politics of Ukrainization, they hate the war even more. The reality on the ground has turned out to be more complex than decision-makers expected.

What about the sense of superiority among those Ukrainians who identify themselves with Westerners rather than with Russians?  

This is true, and, as for me, this is the most tragic part of the whole post-Maidan story, because it is exactly this sense of superiority that prevented the “progressive” pro-Maidan forces from finding common language with their “backward” pro-Russian compatriots. This led to the Donbass uprising, the “anti-terrorist operation” of the Ukrainian army against Donbass, Russia’s intervention, Minsk peace agreements, their non-fulfillment, and, finally, the current war.

Natylie Baldwin is a writer on Russian and U.S. foreign policy and the author of The View from Moscow: Understanding Russia & US-Russia Relations.

This article is from The Grayzone.

The views expressed in this interview may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

39 comments for “UKRAINE: The Real Zelensky

  1. vinnieoh
    May 3, 2022 at 17:12

    An excellent informative piece that I could not comment on immediately because of time constraints. Many thanks to spread around: Grayzone, CN, Natylie Baldwin, and Olga Baysha.

    Like some others, I kept waiting for things – names, and incidents – that Olga did not name. She has been there, I have not. Her perspective is hers and does not of course tell the whole story.

    Many thanks CN for posting this.

  2. Jeff Lovejoy
    May 2, 2022 at 07:54

    Zelensky eliminating all but one political party, eliminating all but one MSM, declaring Martial Law, thereby concentrating all political power and authority under one man. Where have we seen this before? Who’s your Nazi now? Zelensky has fulfilled the regime change his controllers in the US government expected. “Brandon” used threats of regime change in Russia as a cover for the real regime change that took place in the Ukraine, first. Now, it’s on to regime change in Russia.

  3. May 1, 2022 at 18:01

    The insight of Olga, given her experience, and Nataylie’s reporting, gives even deeper evidence of why a negotiated peace, and a future of debates over the direction of Ukraine, by the Ukranian people, is what is best for Ukraine, and that the people do not want war, it is outside interests, especially western “regime change” theorists, who have been pushing this war, their theories blinded, as another comment above refers to Chris Hedges “War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning”, describing the addiction to power that drives these conflicts

  4. Philip Reed
    May 1, 2022 at 16:19

    If this article became required reading for all westerners perhaps the spell that Zelensky has over public opinion might be broken and they would demand that their leaders stop engaging in this fantasyland view of the Ukrainian experience.
    If MSM were honest and sincere this would happen. Sadly we know they are completely compromised and will not.
    All we can do as individuals at this point is disseminate these kinds of articles far and wide before this situation devolves into the unthinkable.

  5. Daniel Borgström
    May 1, 2022 at 14:02

    They set him on a stage and give him a script. He reads it and the world applauds. What more could an actor want?

    • Tony Sustak
      May 3, 2022 at 02:05

      That was THE summation and any more said would only detract.

  6. Ray Peterson
    May 1, 2022 at 12:06

    While the Grayzone is outstandingly reliable I’m troubled that Olga doesn’t once
    mention the Azov Battalion or the C-14 neo-Nazis in Zelensky’s national guard and
    government. Nor does she comment on the billions of dollars (31 now proposed) going
    into weaponry for long-term Ukrainian military violence, for U.S./NATO hegemony,
    rather than a negotiated settlement along the Minsk II lines.
    A Grayzone critique would be helpful.

    • Philip Reed
      May 1, 2022 at 16:24

      To be fair,she doesn’t mention them by name but clearly referenced their influence within government and the military. It’s an unmistakable reference. We all know their names but she obviously expands on their actual influence which is marginalized in any western reporting,if it’s even mentioned at all.

  7. Dou Gen
    May 1, 2022 at 11:47

    Many thanks for this great interview. However, I still don’t feel like I know much about the “real” Zelenski. For example, it is often said that Ukrainian pols are controlled by their oligarch supporters/controllers. Zelenski’s greatest patron and supporter is the very corrupt oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, who owns Burisma, which has recently become famous for its hires of US board members with political connections…. Kolomoisky’s TV company made Zelensky’s reputation as an actor of political dramas, and he has reputedly made Zelensky a very wealthy man. It is also said that Kolomoisky chose most of Zelenski’s cabinet and 30 of his party’s members in the Rada. It is also known that Kolomoisky was the main sponsor who made the openly fascist Azov Battalion into the most powerful ultranationalist militia in Ukraine in 2013-14. (He used the Azov thugs to threaten his business competitors.) According to Michael Hudson, even Zelensky’s bodyguards are ultranationalists. If so, is Zelensky a president in name only? Is he simply an experienced actor who just reads lines written by his sponsors and handlers, including the self-declared fascist Azov Battalion, who could threaten his life if he disagreed with them? Zelensky’s many policy 180s can be easily explained if he is simply pretending to be president while a “deep state” shadow government comprised of the US, the UK, multinational corporations, corrupt oligarchs, and violence-prone ultranationalist extremists make all the important decisions for him. I would like to know much more about this apparent unholy alliance of deep-state forces that, since 2014, have hijacked the still-nascent Ukrainian democracy. These forces seem much more important than Zelensky’s personal traits, foibles, or motives. I hope Ms. Baldwin will teach us more about this problem in the future. I would also be grateful if she told us more about the details of Zelensky’s land policy. That policy seems to be very important.

  8. May 1, 2022 at 11:16

    {It is under Avakov’s patronage in 2014 [that] nationalistic punitive battalions were created to be sent to Donbass for suppressing people’s resistance against the Maidan.}

    {first, their world was ruined symbolically by the Maidan, now, it is being destroyed physically by Russia.

    While she paints a fairly clear picture of questionable character and unethical practices in regards to Zelensky and all his surrounding aspects, she still resembles western media with a lack of detail in regards to Donbass. The above downplays the actual 8 year period of warring as a mere resistance and referring to those defending the people of Donbass as radicles. At one point she blames Russia, as stated, seemingly solely responsible for all the destruction in Donbass, again an absence of facts from the previous 8 years. Quite easy to hide in such few words. Deception? When the vast majority of “physical destruction” was done by the Ukraine army and fascist elements during that 8 year period.

    If you actually spend time watching the documentaries on RT of these 8 years you find a completely different reality in regards to both this destruction and civilian testimony of who they claim caused this destruction and who they support. Especially in the more recent release in regards to Mariupol where the citizens explain how Azov used their housing, schools, and hospitals to fight the newly Russian troops who came to defend them. I’m sorry! I should have said, release them, from their basements as they were being held as human shields to slow down the Russians. If they came out for water they risked being shot. I’m sorry! Were shot in some cases.

    In case anyone missed this, Azov was sent into Mariupol well ahead of the Russian advance and took over the city and terrorized it for months in hopes of keeping this vital area. It didn’t work out so well for them as the remainder of them are trapped in the steel plants. Again holding citizens as human shields. While the DPR troops are passing out humanitarian aid from Russia to the citizens. Who thanks to Russia are now cleaning up the city and beginning to attempt to get back to a normal life.



    You just can’t talk about what’s going on in Ukraine today while leaving out these important aspects of factual information, the history of NATO and western agendas, and expect to win the information war being waged that still have to many people living in a delusional reality. This also includes the NATO and US bombings of other countries tied to the end of the USSR which have been manufactured into turning against Russia who also highly resemble the same correlated cultures and intertwined societies Russia and Ukraine share. Doing so only begs further ignorance among the world society as this fascist ideology is again after 100 years spreading again, and seemingly winning! :-(

    • Philip Reed
      May 1, 2022 at 16:32

      When I first read that reference to Russia now destroying Donbass I had to re-examine and re-read her context. It does appear confusing as we know already what the Ukrainian military was doing to the separatist Donbass. I believe she was referring to the Russian assault on those parts of the Donbass and cities like Kharkov that weren’t under bombardment and are now resentful about the war being enlarged to their part of the east.
      I think she explains very well the attitude of those people who want neither primarily Russian oversight anymore than they want Ukrainian nationalist oversight.
      At least I think that’s what she meant to say.

    • maggie harrisin
      May 1, 2022 at 16:49

      Sadly we can no longer watch RT in UK! I really miss it!

      • m
        May 2, 2022 at 21:28

        You can still watch RT.

        Download Brave or Yandex browser and you should be able to watch.

  9. April 30, 2022 at 13:29

    I sense that Zelensky’s rhetoric has been crafted by CIA/NSA propaganda specialists. He consistently uses highly emotionally and historically charge rhetoric that is tailored very specifically to the nationalist sentiments and grievances of his audience. He essentially plagiarizes nation specific historical figures and national traumas and resentments. There is no way this could be his own rhetoric. So who is writing his scripts?

    For examples today he claimed that Russia was turning Ukraine into a “concentration camp”.

    • irina
      May 1, 2022 at 11:18

      And now we have the photo op of Zelensky meeting and greeting Nancy Pelosi,
      which caused Chuck Todd to state on Meet the Press that it’s clear the US and
      Ukraine are ‘joined at the hip’. Pretty strong words for Mr. Todd.

  10. April 30, 2022 at 12:42

    Still trying to digest our government’s decision to have a fake news tribunal. How can you not compare this with George Orwell’s 1984!?Who is Zelensky? Ms. Baldwin does a thorough job of describing this repulsive little man. You see him for what he is, an instrument to bludgeon the Russians. a clever but transparent charlatan, and a man that history will not be kind to.

  11. Em
    April 30, 2022 at 12:38

    Buyer Be Conscious Disclaimer: The stories are framed by the narrative of the Blue-Blood Corporate media.
    Is the following comment just another conspiracy theory?
    Be devils, research the details and decide for yourselves!
    According to the ‘sauce’, the high-ranking Pentagon Secretary, John Kirby, became emotional while offering a status of the war briefing. He must be from the same actors’ school as Zelensky, because he too gives a consummate performance of the actors’ art – able to show emotion, on cue, each time he opens his ‘gab-hole’ while spouting, off-the-wall, figment of creative imagination – information sucked out of the thumb ‘retorts’ on the actual fighting and dying taking place in the Donbas region.
    This is the same ‘pot calling the kettle black’ proverbial idiom style Zelensky is trained in, in his delusional fantasies, when spouting such things as: “the chances of peace talks ending are ‘high’ because of Russia’s ‘playbook’ on murdering people,” according to an accredited BBC storyteller of fiction.
    It is obvious, by now, to any critically open-minded person that the two of them must have attended the same acting class as the ‘currant’ (a small dried… out, spineless, nothing) U.S. ‘Secretory’ of State ‘Blinkers-on-Blinken’ (blinders) – producing and discharging American foreign policy strategy, on behalf of yet another ‘leader’ who, in fact, is not leading, but too is doing as he is told. All of their’ performances are caricatures of the same acting instructor’s style – showcasing whomever the ‘hidden hegemonic hand’ may be; of mimicking what others are doing, and then pointing a finger at them as being the instigator of what you yourself, clandestinely, have been carrying through all along!
    The address of this particular acting school happens to be in Washington D.C.
    “Only in America” is the idea of truly sharing one’s emotions a tabu – a threat to the homeland’s security; to be left to the professional actors – the politicians, to portray, through formal legislation. Deceit is the only remaining child of American sincerity!
    What’s the actual difference in presentation between state-controlled media and neoliberal capitalist-controlled media?
    Not much in reality, other than that they both present their’ vastly differing ideologies, whose proof is in the daily eating of the pudding the populace is forced to swallow. Neither’s general populaces have much choice. However, the one offers universal healthcare, and a rapidly risen, and still rising, standard of living across the board, with a more equivalent in-built bottom-line safety net for all.
    The planet is no longer humanity’s’ commons. Its bounteous resources were long ago usurped and privatized by the self-anointed elites among us; to whimsically do with – distribute, as they wished.
    An example, coming from the mouth of Brazil’s dictatorial autocrat, Bolsonaro, in a disingenuous, sarcastic, response to one generous private individuals’ plea to Brazil’s youth to vote in the forthcoming elections: “Brazil is home to the Amazon and other ecosystems critical to climate change… what happens there matters to us all and youth voting is key in driving change for a healthy planet.”
    Bolsonaro’s response, in part, also contained: “our people will decide if they want to keep our sovereignty on the Amazon or to be ruled by crooks who serve foreign special interests.”
    The devastating paradoxical tragedy, for all of humanity, is that the individual donor, and Bolsonaro, speak the same truths.
    The differences play out in each person’s active responses!

  12. Vera Gottlieb
    April 30, 2022 at 05:04

    I admire Zelensky’s gut and stay power but…I think the hole thing is turning much bigger than he, lacking savvy, can handle. If he truly wants peace for his country, he needs to stop listening to the foreign influences that are out to harm Ukraine for the sole purpose of getting closer to Russia. Pouring more oil into this fire puts all of Europe at risk of being engulfed in a war. America’s aim is always the same: divide and conquer – which it has done for a good two centuries.

    • irina
      April 30, 2022 at 13:49

      There are credible reports that Z’s predecessor, Poroshenko, was threatened
      by high-up persons in the Azov Battalion and its spin-offs if Poroshenko did
      not adhere to their agenda. It would be very very easy to threaten Z as well,
      since he has a wife and children. Certainly by now his family is fairly well
      protected, but when he assumed office that would not have been the case
      and may explain his abrupt about-face after becoming President. Of course,
      if at all politically savvy, he should have factored that possibility in to his run.

      • Eddy
        May 1, 2022 at 03:23

        Actually Irina, he WAS threatened with DEATH by the Nazis, IF he surrendered to the Russians. That is factual and recorded in the MSM releases early on. Now consider his reaction to the Azov/Nazi battalion trapped in Mariupol Steel works who he has threatened with firing squad as traitors, if they surrender.
        It just so happens, that the boot is now on his foot instead of the Azov battalions. Thu he sees this as an excellent situation to rid himself of these people who would murder him, plus an extra bonus, allowing the Russians to do the job for him, and then claim humanitarian rights against the Russians for doing his dirty work. There’s a very good reason, he won’t allow the trapped battalion to walk out, he wants them DEAD. As for the civilians, have you ever seen any action emanated by him, on behalf of civilians ?????

  13. Francis Lee
    April 30, 2022 at 04:03

    It occurs to me that Putin’s decision to go to war with the Kiev regime, finally led to a late awakening of Russia’s strategic move to counter NATO’s continued policy of expansion up to Russia’s borders, better late than never I guess.

    The Russian move was underscored by NATOs continued expansion to Russia’s borders; a policy which started in 1991 and has continued unabated. It seemed apparent that the Russians were happy enough to sit on their hands whist the Ukrainian military kept up an artillery barrage on the unfortunate population in the Don Bass, and Russia did nothing. In 8 years of Ukraine’s bombardment of the Donbas and 14,000 dead it appeared that Putin made rather lame attempts to get the Minsk accord going. It was only when the Ukraine got signed up to NATO’s expansionist war plans the Putin finally made his move.

    The Russian expansion was a war against NATO, not Ukraine – a bit player. Putin had previously informed the US-led NATO push, not to park their assets on Russia’s borders prior to the Ukraine’s de facto membership of NATO. Of course the West in the shape of NATO has seemingly gone berserk but that was to be expected. Sooner or later this was going to be Russian geopolitical/military riposte to the US neo-cons who have been behind this strategy from the outset. Sorry for Ukraine, but they backed the wrong horse.

  14. Jaime Longhi
    April 30, 2022 at 02:10

    I am grateful to the two participants for having provided a critical overview of Zelensky’s 180° turn towards the most radical of “liberals”
    and their international backers. I can send this particular article to my pro-Ukranian/anti-Russian friends because of Dr. Baysha’s realistic appraisal of the invasion’s failure to ignite the Russian speaking (anti-Maiden) majority in opposition to Kiev. Just the opposite happened, proving again that war always has unintended consequences.

    One can admire Zelensky for his very successful P.R. operation that broadcasts around the world his monomaniacal tirades aimed not only at defeating, but humiliating the Russians, or see him as an amoral narcissist, bordering on megalomania; but a “defender of democracy” he is not. Never was.

  15. Tara
    April 30, 2022 at 00:00

    Thank you for the interesting article. Nothing motivates a politician more to go to war than a plummeting domestic approval rating! Works like a charm, 11 out of 10 times.

    I’d, a couple of full moons ago, come to the conclusion that this is the most dangerous person in this conflict.

    Many have underestimated Zelensky and therein lies the problem.

    Contrary to reasons given to make sense of and justify his behaviour, he is no mere puppet nor a hostage.

    Power does not discriminate – be it gender, ethnicity, religion or age.

    He is very much an active contributor to the sufferings of his nation’s people – it hands him the world stage on which he proceeds to deliver the performance of a lifetime.

    Forget the Bafta, Oscars, César etc., when he can instead command attention of the whole world – with mainstream media, governments of nations and global citizens fawning all over him.

    Gollum and Nero come to mind.

  16. April 29, 2022 at 23:21

    A very informative article on the nature of Zelensky, Ukraine’s President – an actor who loves the attention of the world stage, now his theatre. He’s playing the part with all the west’s politicians requesting more and more lethal weapons so the war continues.
    Horrifying to learn more about his destruction of the democratic system, imprisoning and threatening Opposition politicians, confiscating their property. And shutting down media, threatening, even killing journalists. So Zelensky is now really a dictator, like Pinochet. And it’s not as if the economic system is doing well, that Zelensky promoted, Ukrainians are worse off.
    I feel there’s not enough attention in this article to the gross interference of US/NATO in orchestrating the violent coup in 2014, that deposed a democratically elected government , and replacing it with an anti-Russia regime with leader chosen by America. What could be less democratic and more destructive than this. The regime then forbade speaking the Russian language and started bombing those who understandably rejected the regime imposed on them by western interference. This is a great crime of western countries who pretend to be democratic.
    Also, what choice did Russia have with Ukraine’s military buildup over 100,000 forces by early February, in preparation to kill as many civilians in Donbass as they could in the 8 years long war?. Was Pres Putin and the Russian people just to stand by and watch as Ukraine’s military finally murdered most civilians in Donbass?

  17. Aaron
    April 29, 2022 at 21:28

    The comparison to Pinochet is very interesting. Pinochet had his “Chicago Boys” and if anything, the neoliberal zealots of today are even more entrenched in all of the oligarchies around the world and those with a vested interest in extracting wealth from Ukraine.

  18. Sam F
    April 29, 2022 at 20:00

    Thank you Natylie Baldwin and Olga Baysha! Zelensky apparently concealed an anti-democracy, anti-Russia agenda, to claim a “modernizing” intent, but upon election created “a party machine to control the parliament” and force an unpopular neoliberal agenda, then upon losing popularity launched unconstitutional sanctions against his opponents.

    Zelensky appears to be a typical tyrant exploiting the “global stage” provided by war and claiming to represent good vs. evil when in fact his rejection of the 2015 Minsk peace agreements led to the war. He appears to regard Ukraine as expendable for his personal political agenda, which in weakening Russia in Syria, appears to align with that of Israel.

  19. onward
    April 29, 2022 at 19:04

    Olga Baysha does not mention the word nazi she refers to them as radicles, mentions far-right once.
    She does mot mention the killing of 14000 to 20000 (possibly 20,000 mentioned by Eva Bartlett) Russian speakers in east Ukraine by the radicles.
    She describes the Russians as bombing Ukraine to bits. But does not describe how the Russian intervention occurred, the fact that the intervention is a ‘soft’ war to nullify and denazify Ukraine, that the radicles use the Ukrainian population as human shields.
    She avoids the term sub-human, but gets close, which is a precursor to violence.
    OB does not mention the US involvement in the Maidan; the CIA snd the WEF.
    We can see the importance of generalised terminology (propaganda) to control people; for example in Ukraine, the French election, the covid machinations and now the US ‘home office’.

    • Eddy
      May 1, 2022 at 03:26

      Onward, my thoughts exactly.

  20. Rob Roy
    April 29, 2022 at 17:30

    A lot of interesting background and insight here. Odd that a political novice like Zelensky suddenly has the sophistication to steer the country into neoliberalism that obliterated his campaign promises. Could it be he is a puppet for his sponsor oligarch Kolomoisky (and perhaps cooperation with US neoliberalists)? He couldn’t do this on his own without guidance. Why aren’t the coup-makers mentioned: Clinton, Nuland, Biden, Obama, and their love of “shoving NATO down the throats of Russians” and keeping US weapons makers making billions? Let’s not leave out the Nazi Azov Battalion, the Right Sector, Svoboda Fascists (Stefan Bandera-ites). Jans Stoltenberg says this war will go on for years, to bog Putin down in a quagmire.

    • kiers
      May 1, 2022 at 22:16

      My take: his TV producing company STARTED operations just as his offshore accounts and his company’s accounts were filled by Kolomoisky. Pretty nifty don’t you think? This insight from the Pandora papers and offshore wealth leaks. He’s not even an actor. He’s produced everything he’s acted in. He is a complete Kolomoisky front, laundered as an “actor” who became president to the publicks. He’s a complete shadow man.

  21. JonnyJames
    April 29, 2022 at 17:13

    Nice outline of the Zelensky character, who is clearly being used as a puppet for the US, and a cheerleader for the proxy war.
    The slickly stage-managed war propaganda featuring Zelensky in the starring role could be produced in Hollywood (under the direction of the folks in Langley).

    I can corroborate the anti-Russian hatred by some Ukrainians. I have had quite a number of educated adult immigrant Ukrainians in my class in recent years. I have heard things like “Russian is NOT a Slavic language, Ukrainian is a “pure” Slavic language while Russian is a mongrel language that is totally unlike Ukrainian. Anyone with a basic understanding of languages and linguistics knows this is utter nonsense. Also, Russians are not related racially to Ukrainians, Russians are a “Mongoloid”, Asiatic race, while Ukrainians are European. I have read about Ukrainians learning this nonsense, but I have been confronted with is personally.

    I have also been told by more than one recent Ukrainian immigrant that “Nazi Germany was only protecting itself against Russian Aggression in WWII.” The Nazis had no choice but to invade in 1941, because Stalin was planning a massive invasion of Germany and the rest of Europe. Germany was justified in its invasion, according to them. Apparently, this is what is taught in Ukraine schools nowadays. Again, complete nonsense.

    It seems some WWII-era Nazi ideology has been repackaged in Germany itself: Florence Gaub, German EUISS official, stated that Russians don’t value human life, are not European, not like us. (paraphrased) She reportedly stated this on an interview on German TV (ZDF). Is she aware that she echoed the racist ideology that considered Slavs and especially Russians as “uentermenshen” (subhumans)? Then we have the German govt. supporting the overtly Nazi Azov Regiment.

    The historical irony is staggering

    • April 30, 2022 at 13:32

      exactly right – and none of this is being reported by US media.

  22. Peter F Harris
    April 29, 2022 at 16:52

    I could not help but thinking about Chris Hedges.

    From War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges. “There are always people willing to commit unspeakable human atrocity in exchange for a little power and privilege.” “The enduring attraction of war is this: Even with its destruction and carnage it can give us what we long for in life.”

    “Zelensky replied with a smile of delight: “Today, my life is beautiful. I believe that I am needed. I feel it is the most important meaning in life – to be needed. To feel that you are not just an emptiness that is just breathing, walking, and eating something. You live.”

    For me, this construction is alarming: it implies that Zelensky enjoys the unique opportunity to perform on a global stage provided by the war. It made his life beautiful; he lives. In contrast to millions of Ukrainians whose life is not nice at all and thousands of those who are not alive any longer.”

  23. April 29, 2022 at 16:29

    Brilliant article. This analysis:
    “New uncontrolled media, the number of which was increasing at a huge rate daily, demanded more and more media workers. In the overwhelming majority of cases, they were young ambitious people without any journalistic education or life experience. What united us was the desire to Westernize, .. and deafness to the concerns of working people who opposed reforms. In our eyes, the latter were “retrograde”: they did not understand what civilization was about. We saw [our]selves as a revolutionary vanguard and chosen progressive reformers…”

    is equally true of those on the modern pseudo-left in the West, moralising and obsessed by subjects they don’t understand (climate, sex, economics..) The deplorables are our Donbass separatists, Trump was our Russian invasion.

    • Rob Roy
      April 29, 2022 at 17:49

      The Russian-speakers in the Donbas are nothing like Hillary’s “deplorables,” a very ugly thing to say, BTW, and those who’ve paid attention know that Putin is nothing like Trump. That, again, was based on Hillary’s lies. Russiagate was a lie, a hoax from the first time she mentioned it.

      • alembic
        April 30, 2022 at 09:36

        Rob R. – I sense the genuineness of what your above comment denotes, assuming I interpret it correctly.

        A possible meta-truth, FWIW: Even within the small scale one’s personal nuclear family, the truths of elemental justice are often misperceived or rendered entirely upside-down; let alone human understandings within or between nations, wherein such ‘truths’ are even-all-the-more muddled…..

  24. dave
    April 29, 2022 at 16:16

    “Propagandists may repeat the mantra ‘Zelensky is a Jew, so he cannot be a Nazi’ as often as they want, but the truth is that radicals control the political process in Ukraine through violence against those who dare confront their nationalistic and supremacist agendas.”

    It turns out it doesn’t matter how many votes you get or how many seats in parliament you have if you have your own army.

    • Rob Roy
      April 30, 2022 at 00:56

      Zelensky doesn’t have his own army….the army has their own president. They told him if he interferred in the killing of the Russian-speakers in the Donbas, they would hang him from a tree. They killed over 14,000. The war has been raging for eight years, ever since the US pulled off the coup in 2014. BTW, Zelensky was raised in a secular household and didn’t give much thought to being Jewish. Now it’s of political use to him.

  25. Vincent ANDERSON
    April 29, 2022 at 16:11

    Absolutely GREAT reporting! As for Baysha’s closing reservation, ‘However, what was true in 2014 may not be necessarily the case now…,’ this is less explanation than observation. As Aristotle said, we need to ‘grasp the phenomena’ [tithenai ta phainomena].

    Brian Berletic does just this in a 10-min. video update lambasting (e.g.) the ‘despicable’ ATC reporters Ari Shapiro and Eleanor Beardsley’ for their about-face on the ‘new’ vs. ‘old’ Kharkov. Summary: ‘The Western media has attempted to claim that previously pro-Russian cities in Ukraine aren’t now because they’ve “changed their minds.” In reality, it is Kiev’s use of N@Zl military formations officially incorporated into Ukraine’s military and security organizations terrorizing pro-Russian Ukrainians into silence.’


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