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A confession of accused in coup d’etat

Victor Tregubov
Ukrainian columnist, journalist and co-founder of the Democratic Axe party and movement

"On 1st of December, Ukraine could expect a coup d'etat," told Volodymyr Zelensky, the current president of Ukraine, during an urgent press conference. He stated that some unnamed rebels tried to lure Rinat Akhmetov, the notorious business tycoon and oligarch, into the plot to overthrow the Ukrainian government.

A bit later Security Service of Ukraine elaborated his statement: according to them, they have intercepted some talks of former Ministry of Internal Affairs officials, who now reside in occupied Crimea, work for Russia and plan to draw $1 billion of USD from Rinat Akhmetov for the rallies and provocations in Kyiv. Still, no investigative body made any official accusation.

International news agencies widely distributed this statement — and many Ukrainian experts and insiders got to answer their foreign colleagues’ "what's going on?" questions. Even Joe Biden, the president of the United States, had to comment on this statement for American press — and promised to call his Ukrainian colleague for details.

The frank answer is a bit embarrassing. Our president continues to use his favorite Lukashenko-styled populistic tricks: first of all, he attracts media attention with a bold and shocking statement; secondary — he tries to put his critics as enemies of the state. 1st of December is the date that several parties and political movements, including my own Democratic Axe party, chose for the protest rally against the current politics of the Office of President.

Being a professional comedy actor, Zelensky is a natural-born populist. He knows how to make a statement or a promise out of nothing. He already promised to raise the monthly salary of school teachers to $4.000, create a top-grade new university, plant a billion trees, and provide 36 ships for the Ukrainian science fleet — just after Ukraine managed to buy the first. That sounds great, always attracts media attention, and usually is too far from the current reality for someone asking to show the results in the foreseeable future. However, he was nervous because of the recent media scandals and made an obvious mistake: naming the specific and relatively early date. So on the 1st of December Security Service of Ukraine will have only two options — either report the heroic prevention of planned coup d’etat in its bud or try to pose planned protests as its attempt. Both options are inadequate.

That’s the main problem of Zelensky’s leadership: he isn’t used that words have consequences. His part in the investigation of the well-known Sheremet murder case is a striking example. The press conference about "solving" this crime became a show with the president in a lead role. In a few days, the Ukrainian press and civil society discovered that the case was far from being solved, and the evidence against the main suspects was feeble at best. Still, the investigative bodies and judges tried their best to keep accused persons in detention, fearing to prove that the president was wrong.

From the start of his political career, Zelensky chose the tactics of social populism. He blamed his opponents for all the things common folks hate: motorcades and state-owned dachas, corruption and shady dealings with oligarchs, nepotism and hypocrisy. The irony is that he multiplied all of this and didn’t even care to hide it. His use of motorcades is second only to Yanukovich’s, he uses state-owned sea rescue helicopters to get him and his secretary on birthday party on state dacha, he’s office got a separate ash trail for the oligarch Igor Kolomoysky, and his friend and second-in-command, Andriy Yermak, stuck in a corruption scandal during his first month in the office. Today president Zelensky blames journalists — and it seems he believes they cover all that just because of intrigues of his enemies.

That’s the reason we gather our rally. We are battling the same evil that all the free world: the evil of populism. A comedy actor hacked our democracy, and it could be shameful if only we were alone with the problem — but that’s the sign of our age. We, Democratic Axe, strive to fix it: we want to live in a country where rules are simple, laws are the same for everyone, and politics got to stick to their words. Zelensky blames us for trying to overthrow the constitutional order — the irony here is that our sole political demand is to restore it. Zelensky neglected Article 106 of the Constitution of Ukraine, which implies that the president has no right to delegate or transfer his powers. That’s precisely what he did while raising his friend and head of the office, Andriy Yermak, from the president’s secretary to de-facto country’s vice-president with a place in Security Council, authorization to conduct international negotiations and meetings with special services’ commanders, etc.

That’s the "old Ukrainian politics" at its core: populism, double standards, and total irresponsibility; the evil Zelensky was supposed to battle, not to join. He had to be the engine of Ukrainian development, not its anchor. If he isn’t ready, he must step aside. The dismantling of the Constitution and discrediting state institutions is not what we can afford or forgive during the Russian aggression: we already had this sad experience with Yanukovich. Still, we understand that we had to prevent any possible provocations. That’s why we planned our rally as a peaceful and adequate protest.

We have not come to abolish the Constitution but to fulfill it.

Victor Tregubov, the co-head of the Democratic Axe party

The Democratic Axe is a Ukrainian classical liberal party and grassroots movement with decentralized management of 15 political council members and several thousand active supporters and donators. It is known for using a blockchain mobile application as a voting and decision-making tool of direct democracy.

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