OstroV begins a cycle of materials on the upcoming election. We will analyze and describe how presidential candidates have expressed about resolution of the conflict in Donbass, return of the Crimea and reintegration process of the occupied territories in the last 5 years.
The first one to be discussed is the dark horse of the presidential race - actor, showman, screenwriter, producer and head of the Studio Quarter-95 Volodymyr Zelensky.
People started talking about Zelensky as politician after the release of the Servant of the People series, where he played the main role - a principally honest president out of the simple people, who strongly opposes the corruption system in Ukraine. He kept silence until the last moment whether he would run for the presidency while his ratings were only growing. While many politicians spend millions on advertising and public relations, Zelensky was able to rise in the presidential rating to the second place by his silence, having overtaken even the current guarantor. Officially, Volodymyr Zelensky declared his intention to fight for the presidency on the New Year's Eve: between the release of the Evening Quarter and congratulation of Petro Poroshenko.
"Now there is a situation in Ukraine where every Ukrainian has three ways. The first way is just to live, go along with the tide, and this is normal, this is everyone's choice. The second way is to pack up and go to another country, earn money there, send it to your relatives, and this is normal as well. But there is a third way – to try to change something in Ukraine. And I chose it for myself", - he said.
At this stage, Volodymyr Zelensky has not presented any election program or his team, so we tried to collect all his statements and comments on the topic of war and peace in Ukraine over the past five years.
War and peace
One of the first statements of Zelensky about the war in Ukraine dates back to March 1, 2014, when he spoke on the air of special edition of TSN on the 1+1 TV channel. The actor urged Viktor Yanukovych to "step aside" and prevent the possibility of separatism in Ukraine. Zelensky also appealed to the new Ukrainian government with a request not to keep up with the Russian-speaking Ukrainians who live in the Crimea and east.
"I really want to address Mr. Putin. Dear Vladimir Putin, do not allow even a hint at the military conflict on your part, because Russia and Ukraine are really fraternal peoples. We are of the same color, we have the same blood, we all understand each other regardless of the language. I can beseech you on my knees, but do not bring our people to their knees", - he added.
By the way, after Zelensky's announcement of his intention to run for the presidency, his opponents began to actively post this particular video in social networks, blaming him for the "fraternal peoples of Ukraine and Russia".
Since August 2014, when active hostilities began in the Donbass, Volodymyr Zelensky, along with other actors from the Studio Quarter-95, went to ATO zone with concerts for the Ukrainian military.
"Guys, I bow low to you that you protect us from all sorts of rabble. Thank you very much. You are handsome, applause to you, you are the most courageous people in our country. If courage remains in our country, then it is you", - the actor addressed to ATO fighters from the scene.
Zelensky had also stated in this "tour" that Donbass is a part of Ukraine and that he does not intend to refuse concerts in this region.
"Donbass is a part of Ukraine, pleasant, industrial, we all love it… I think that we cannot refuse such concerts, otherwise we will all believe that we have no piece of the country. I do not believe in it. I am glad that people in Mariupol believed that these guys (the Ukrainian military - OstroV) protect our homeland", - he said.
At the end of August 2014, Volodymyr Zelensky wrote an emotional post on his Facebook, where he actually accused the military leadership of Ukraine of leaving one of the volunteer battalions in the combat zone without support.
"Guys, Andriy Dzhedzhula just called me and told what is going on with our countrymen, with the Kryvbas Battalion, the boys are surrounded and under fire, there is no help, no technology and no support, people die constantly, every minute, while we are being fed with beautifully stated news shit, saying that we liberated something again and nobody died!!!! We are being put down for suckers and that is a shame that we being put down by suckers! Traitors and plunders, but not about them now, but about the heroes: please, do not abandon those who protect us and choose you, who love the country for free, while you earn money on it, who sincerely believes in peace in Ukraine and in its people, protect the guys, give the support, damn!!!!! Do not take away the meaning of life from the mothers, just HELP!!!!!! !!!!! help or God damn you!", - he wrote.
After that, the topic of war in the Donbas was publicly mentioned by Zelensky only in the releases of the Evening Quarter. However, in December 2018, the showman broke the silence and gave a long interview to the journalist Dmitry Gordon, where he told about his vision of solving the conflict in Donbass for the first time ever.
"What are the ways? The Minsk agreements do not work. Go there with war? I am against it in general, because I am such a person. I may be hard-edged as a leader, but I am quite liberal in thoughts. This whole topic, all these pieces of land, it is all about the human life. Everything in general. Therefore, I would take a human life, put it – this is our goal, we will save the people", - he said.
Thus, Zelensky completely excluded the option of military liberation of the occupied territories.
"If we will have to talk, well, we will have to talk. Whether we want, or not, but I am ready to arrange even with a devil, if only no one would die. I think this is at least the first step - to stop shooting and develop your country", - the politician stated.
According to him, a group of people from Ukraine should meet with a group of people from the Kremlin ("It is they who put these in "DNR-LNR" - what is the point of talking to them?", - Zelensky says), sit down at the negotiating table, offer their options and listen to the opponents.
"The agreement would be reached somewhere in the middle", - Zelensky believes.
According to the showman, then it was necessary to put this list before the public and then, to submit the issue to a referendum or online voting.
Almost immediately after his statement about his intention to go for the presidency, Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the Ukrainians with a request to help him draw up an electoral program. He asked everyone to write the five main problems of Ukraine to implement this. A week later, preliminary results of the survey on the basis of more than 120 thousand answers were posted on the official Telegram channel of "Zelensky's team".
The "War in the east of Ukraine" appeared to be in the first place. Accordingly, the topic of peace in the Donbass can be one of the key in the election campaign of Zelensky.
On the eve of new season of the Servant of the People series, which will be released in March 2019, a trailer titled "And in the Donbass next year as well" appeared. There, protagonist of the series Vasyl Holoborodko (Volodymyr Zelensky) tells in an interview with a journalist about his dream, where the topic of the return of Donbass and Crimea are the keynote.
"Today is exactly one year since peace in the Donbass has been established: not a single shot, not a single explosion, no one was wounded, no one was killed. Ukrainian flag waves about the last settlement", - the newscaster reports.
"Ukraine received the right to host the Summer Olympic Games. By decision of the International Olympic Committee, the next Olympics will be hosted by Simferopol", - she continued.
Thus, the topic of Donbass and Crimea will be raised in the series which is released in the month of holding the presidential election for the first time.
Volodymyr Zelensky allowed the possibility of tour of the Quarter in Crimea in an interview in the spring of 2014, after the so-called "referendum" on the peninsula.
"You know, the fact is that we came with tour to the Crimea every year. At the same time, the paradox was that we did not need to prepare them especially, despite the fact that Crimea was always quite a difficult territory for an artist in terms of tours. It was hard to assemble the full house, there are very few exceptions. People in the Crimea always came to the Quarter's concerts! Therefore, we have got used to it - we are on tour at such and such dates. At the moment, I just do not know what will happen. If there is an opportunity - now I speak for myself - we will go. After all, people are waiting for us", - he said in April 2014.
As for the trip to the Crimea to have rest, the showman stated that he would not go there for this purpose, while people with machine guns were there.
"The nature of the Crimea is unique, it is one of the most beautiful places in the world. But, of course, everyone who rested abroad and can compare, understand - the service is worth nothing there. Despite this fact, every year when we were on tour, my family was happy to come there. Regarding the current situation… I generally think that having a rest among the people with arms is quite wrong. Besides, now the beautiful nature of Crimea has been polluted by political gambling. And I will not go there to have rest, if people with guns are there", - he said.
"If people in the east and in the Crimea want to speak Russian, leave them alone. Let them speak Russian lawfully. The language will never divide our native country", - Zelensky stated in his address to the Ukrainian authorities in March 2014, when separatist moods began to rise in the east.
He was no longer so definite in December 2018, having stated that there should be only one state language (Ukrainian) in Ukraine, but nobody needs to be forced.
"We live in Ukraine, and for me, the question of language has always been a matter of time. I think that we should not force anyone, like the Ukrainian language was once burned out of this territory. We should not burn out those who speak other languages. We do not have the right, it is just wrong", - he said.
"Everything is in the Constitution, we already know all about the language… Everyone knows Ukrainian, everyone should know it, they do not know it in the East – they will learn… Well, that is all, the Ukrainian is state language. And speak in the language you like, this is my position", - Volodymyr Zelensky beliefs.
It should be noted that the majority of Zelensky's public speeches are in Russian.
About "brothers-artists" from the Russian Federation
Volodymyr Zelensky initially opposed the ban on Russian artists from entering Ukraine: "I have always been against bans. Moreover, I do not like that the bans policy has touched artists. This is nonsense".
In August 2014, he even demanded the resignation of the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine for such an initiative.
"Who are the politicians to argue whether to ban artists from entering the territory of a country? I still can understand when they ban food from entering… But when did we become vegetables? I, for one, do not consider our brother-artist to be such. Have we not seen the full houses of spectators in Russia at the concerts of Okean Elzy? It shows not only the love of that spectator of the Ukrainian group and their songs, but also glorifying, if you like, promoting Ukraine in Russia, advertising our culture and the beauty of our song. Are we not going to the Palace Ukraina at the concerts of Grigory Leps and Mashina Vremeni, do we not know the words of these songs, do Ukrainians close their ears, because the songs sound in Russian??? So why does someone decide for us who we should listen to, who should come to us, and what concerts we should attend? If this happens and these tactless sanctions are imposed, by force, precisely by force, into our life and into our freedom of choice, then we, people, first of all people, and then artists, should demand the resignation of the Ministry of Culture, which leads us without culture and without which the culture will lose nothing. If artist is a deputy of the State Duma or Verkhovna Rada - this is another question, this is not a pure artist, but a semi-politician, they can be approached with this question, but carefully, not behind and on tips, but honestly and with evidence! And the last: if you forbid - offer instead. You have banned, and what song did you write? Maybe a poem? Monologue? Dance? WHO ARE YOU? WHERE ARE YOU? WILL YOU BE REMEMBERED? REMEMBERED and SPIT AT in the best case scenario", - Zelensky wrote on Facebook on August 7, 2014, when the question of ban on the entry of some Russian artists, who supported the annexation of the Crimea, to Ukraine was raised.
Later, Volodymyr Zelensky stated that if a Russian artist violated Ukrainian law (whatever it may be), then he could be denied entry to Ukraine.
"I have always believed that the worst sanction for an artist was when he/she came on stage and saw that people did not come. What could be worse? But there is still such a moment as a legislative violation. If the artist violated the law of Ukraine - concerning the Crimea - there is nothing you can do. You may like the law or not, but you must obey. If you make a decision that goes against the law - you go to the Crimea and speak there, the Creameaisours finally - you understand perfectly well how it will all end. You have made your choice, and the other side has the right to make its one", - he stated in 2017 in an interview with the Latvian web portal Delfi.
The figure of Volodymyr Zelensky is often associated with Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi. The latter is even called the showman's sponsor and initiator of his nomination for the presidency (both deny it). Although objectively, their only known connection is that Zelensky has been working on the 1+1 TV channel, which belongs to Kolomoyskyi, for the last few years. But we still decided to trace the statements of the oligarch regarding situation in the Donbas.
In a recent interview with Dmitry Gordon, Kolomoyskyi refused to call the conflict in Donbass a war.
"I cannot say "civil war", I will say "civil conflict" which does not go beyond the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. Have you noticed it? When there was war in Spain, there was a fire all over the country. Therefore, I cannot call it a war, but a local civil conflict. Once again, provoked, warmed up and supported by Russia, but based on a large number of people, namely the residents of Donbass", - he said.
According to him, Ukraine will return the Donbass in the next five years.
"The Donbass will be returned the first (maximum five years), and the Crimea needs a little bit of patience", - the businessman suggested.
At the same time, the businessman believes that it is necessary to negotiate not with Putin, but with the residents of Donbass.
"Everything depends on us. Everything depends on us in the Donbass issue. We fight with ourselves", - Kolomoyskyi said in an interview with Sonia Koshkina.
"How to return the Donbass? We need to agree on something with those who are there. All these talks that Putin is sitting there and commands are ridiculous. I know the situation from the inside, it is not Putin. Putin does not need this burden. It would be more profitable for him to integrate the Donbass back into Ukraine in order to destroy it from the inside. So Donbass does not bring him any joy, except for headache… The only thing that he will not allow to solve this issue via military means", - he added.
In general, the approaches of Kolomoyskyi and Zelensky to return of the occupied territories somewhat differ: one sees it through negotiations with the militants, the other - with the leadership of the Kremlin. Both agree only in one - the impossibility of applying the force option.
It is safe to assume that the topic of war and peace in Ukraine will be one of the key in the showman's election campaign. Firstly, from the very first day of the conflict, Zelensky took a rather active position on this issue and did not hesitate to address Russian President Vladimir Putin with an appeal to prevent a war in Ukraine and criticized the actions of Ukrainian authorities in the Donbass. Secondly, the last interview of the actor shows that he has, if not a step-by-step plan, then a clear vision of how to begin the process of ending the conflict (negotiations+referendum). Thirdly, the results of online poll conducted by Zelensky himself on social networks, where the war in Ukraine was recognized as the most important problem in the country, speak of this. So he will have to reply to this electoral request…
Vladyslav Bulatchik, OstroV