Saturday 19 October 2019

Ukraine's new president calls for sackings and election on first day

‘Common victory’: Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky. Photo: Reuters/Gleb Garanich
‘Common victory’: Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky. Photo: Reuters/Gleb Garanich

Alexandra Odynova

UKRAINE'S new president dismissed parliament and called a snap election just moments after being sworn into office yesterday.

Volodymyr Zelensky, whose Servant of the People party has no representation in the current parliament, also used his inaugural address to promise an end to the war in the east of the country and asked MPs to fire several key officials, including the current defence minister.

"All my life I tried to do all I could so that Ukrainians laughed," Mr Zelensky, a television comedian, told MPs during a ceremony in the parliament in Kiev. "Now I will do all I can so that Ukrainians at least do not cry any more."

Mr Zelensky (41) won the presidency last month with a landslide run-off victory against Petro Poroshenko, the incumbent, who had been in power since 2014.

He had no prior political experience, and he was mostly known for his role in 'Servant of the People', a TV comedy in which he played a schoolteacher who accidentally becomes president of Ukraine after ranting against corruption. He named his party after the TV show.

Critics say he has given few specific details about his plans for the presidency and have questioned his links to Ihor Kolomoisky, a billionaire oligarch who had fallen out with the previous government. Yesterday he dispensed with the traditional motorcade and arrived at the parliament building on foot, stopping to pose for selfies and high-­fiving his cheering supporters who gathered outside.

Inside, he delivered a punchy and at times confrontational speech in which he said his priority would be ending the war, which has claimed at least 13,000 lives since Russia sent troops across the border to support a separatist uprising in 2014.

"I'm ready to do everything so that our heroes don't die there," he said. "I'm ready to lose my popularity and, if necessary, I'm ready to lose my post so that we have peace," he said. He said he would begin by demanding that Russia release Ukrainian prisoners.

When one MP heckled him for switching from Ukrainian into Russian in an appeal to residents in the east, he retorted: "Thank you for continuing to divide our people."

The next Ukrainian elections were scheduled to take place in October. Mr Zelensky said they would be brought forward to July. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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