Ukraine's president schedules snap election for 21 July

Photo: EPA Volodymyr Zelenskiy presents flowers to a police officer as he walks to the Presidential office after his inauguration in Kiev on 20 May.

Ukraine's President Zelenskiy disbanded the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament on Tuesday and scheduled snap parliamentary elections for 21 July, news wires reported. The 41-year-old TV comedian, who won 73% of the presidential vote last month, promised the early vote in his inauguration speech on Monday, saying that current lawmakers were too focused on self-enrichment and lacked public trust.

The election to Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada legislature was originally scheduled for 27 October. That would have left Zelenskiy facing a parliament dominated by supporters of the man he beat, former President Petro Poroshenko, and unable to pursue his anti-corruption agenda for months.Zelenskiy, who has become famous for playing the role of a Ukrainian president in a widely popular TV sitcom, was gambling that his popularity will allow his party to make a successful showing in the parliamentary vote. “Zelenskiy is trying to act as quickly as possible, because he realizes that voters’ excitement will cool down in half a year,” Volodymyr Fesenko, head of the Kiev-based independent think-tank Penta told AP. Zelenskiy already has asked several top ministers to step down, but he would likely have trouble getting their successors appointed by the current parliament.

In his inaugural speech, Zelenskiy said the main goal of his presidency is to bring peace to eastern Ukraine, where government troops have been fighting Russia-backed separatists for five years in a conflict that has left at least 13,000 dead. He said that Ukraine would rely on Western help in talking to Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin talked about Ukraine among other issues in a conference call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday. Putin emphasized the need for the Ukrainian government to enact legislation granting special status to the rebel regions in line with a 2015 Minsk agreement sponsored by France and Germany, according to the Kremlin. Putin also noted that the Ukrainian government must establish direct dialogue with the rebels.

On Tuesday, Zelenskiy dismissed the nation’s top military officer, Gen. Viktor Muzhenko, replacing him with the chief of staff of the military’s ground forces Lt. Gen. Ruslan Khomchak, who took part in the fighting in eastern Ukraine. Zelenskiy also named 42-year-old lawyer Andriy Bohdan as his chief of staff. Bohdan, who worked as a deputy justice minister in the past, served as Zelenskiy’s legal adviser during the election campaign. Speaking on television after his appointment, he said that a possible peace deal with Russia must be put to a referendum.


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