British journalist Edward Lucas wrote this in his article "The two Vladimirs" for British cultural and political magazine Standpoint.
"Volodymyr may be Vladimir's downfall. […] The election of Volodymyr Zelensky as president of Ukraine is a nightmare for Vladimir Putin and his increasingly threadbare regime in Russia," the journalist wrote.
Lucas is convinced that for a start, Ukraine had a real election, with lots of candidates and a wholly unpredictable outcome. After all, both Yulia Tymoshenko and Petro Poroshenko hoped for victory, but the winner was the 41-year-old Zelensky, who is famous for starring in a television satire, in which he plays a history teacher who is unexpectedly elected president after a rant against corruption goes viral on social media.
"This makes [U.S. President] Donald Trump's career switch from reality TV to the White House seem rather tame," he said.
The author recalls that stunning upsets are not a feature of Russia's closely-controlled political system: "Putin likes surprises, but not when they come from the voters. In particular, incumbent politicians in Russia do not lose elections. That would be careless."
"Poroshenko, to his credit, did not try to rig his way to victory. He lost fair and square," the article reads.
According to Lucas, the sign of free people making effective choices in a real election is bad enough. It demolishes the standard Kremlin propaganda narrative about Ukraine: that the country is a failed state with a sham democracy.
"In fact, Ukraine has fought Russia to a standstill. The economy, society and the political system all came under huge strain—but refused to buckle," he said.
The author also notes that Zelensky's ethnic background dispels the myths of Russian propaganda that Ukraine "is run by a fascist junta that uses Nazi hoodlums to crush opposition."
"Apparently not. Even the most patriotic Russian can see that their rulers have been lying to them about Ukraine. They may also wonder why Ukrainians can choose their rulers freely and Russians cannot," Lucas says.
The journalist is sure that having won a real election, Zelensky has a stronger mandate than Putin.
"He has a stronger message: the potent cocktail of freedom, legality and dignity, and treating integration with the outside world as an opportunity, not a threat. By contrast, the Putin regime offers its people stagnation, paranoia and isolation," he said.
Lucas added that the former TV star is a far better communicator than the ex-KGB man in the Kremlin, and gives an example of the response of the new Ukrainian president after Putin's decree on "passportization" in Donbas.
He also notes that big questions surround Zelensky. He has no political experience or machine. He faces a recalcitrant parliament and a web of entrenched bureaucratic interests (often combined with corrupt business ones). "Foreign and domestic problems will be piled on his desk. The Kremlin can increase economic and military pressure, and use its assets in Ukraine. Expectations are huge," Lucas wrote.
"All the more reason, therefore, for us in the outside world to help Zelensky's new administration in every way we can. We used to see Ukraine as a bastion against Kremlin imperialism. Now the prize is much greater. Success for Ukraine could herald the longed-for dawn of democracy and freedom in Russia too," Lucas wrote.
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