In a recent interview on a US news program, Ukraine’s first lady raised doubts about President Volodymyr Zelensky’s plans to run for a second term during the wartime difficulties of Russia’s full-scale invasion.

 

Olena Zelenska, the wife of Ukraine’s president, was interviewed by Margaret Brennan on the CBS weekly “Face the Nation” program on Sunday, just days after her husband addressed the UN and met with US President Joe Biden.

 

She spoke about the effect of Russia’s full-scale invasion was having on children, especially those abducted from occupied areas of Ukraine, and crimes of sexual violence being carried out by Russian troops. This continued the themes she raised on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, Sept. 19.

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Brennan asked her about how her life and that of her family had changed when her husband became president and how she would “feel about him running again in 2024 if elections are held?”

 

Zelenska admitted it would be difficult for her saying: “You know, even when he ran for the first time, I didn't fully endorse it.” This comment repeats those she made in an interview with Sky Australia in July 22 , where she said she only found out he was running when she saw him announce it on TV.

 

This time around she said: “I don’t know whether he has made this decision [to run] or not. It will depend on the situation in our country and the situation and the possibility of organizing free and fair elections.”

British Defence Intelligence Update Ukraine 21 April 2024
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British Defence Intelligence Update Ukraine 21 April 2024

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Zelenska went on to say “It will also depend on whether our society would need him as a president. If he feels that Ukrainian society will no longer wish him to be the president, he will probably not run. But I’ll support him, whatever decision he makes.”

 

The Washington Post said earlier on Sunday that a number of Western officials, including US Senator Lindsey Graham, have been pushing for Ukraine to hold presidential elections in March next year, which is when they were originally due to be held, even as the war continues.

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Graham said, in a press release on his website, that “Holding democratic elections during wartime would be seen as a bold and consequential decision by President Zelensky and the people of Ukraine. It speaks to their vision of a free and democratic Ukraine both today and in the years to come.”

 

The Washington Post, however, quoted a senior administration official from the Biden administration that the White House was not pushing Ukraine to have an election. Elections are currently blocked under Ukraine’s imposition of martial law, which is reviewed and renewed every 90 days.

 

While the Ukrainian first lady's statement seems to indicate Zelensky has not yet decided whether to run for a second term, he was quoted by Reuters at the end of August as saying that elections could take place during wartime but only if partners shared the cost, legislators approved, and if everyone, including Ukrainian refugees abroad had access to the polls.

 

He said any elections must include those serving on the front lines: “They are defending this democracy today, and [it was unacceptable] not to give them this opportunity because of war.” Which he suggested that, as well as providing funds, Ukraine’s partners must be ready “to send observers into the trenches.”

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He said that the costs of elections are high in normal times and during a period of war could only be higher and added: “I will not take money from weapons and give it to elections.”

 

President Zelensky has not indicated, one way or the other, if he would run but some of his critics pointed out that he said when first elected in 2019 that he would only run for office for one term and would not seek office a second time.

 

Of course, much has changed since then in ways he could never have predicted. BBC News Ukraine on Aug. 31 quoted Zelensky as saying in an interview with the Portuguese RTP channel that “If the war is still going on in 2024, and if elections are held, I will never in my life abandon my country. Because I am a guarantor of the Constitution, and I will protect it under any circumstances.”

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Comments (2)

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Cedar
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It is absurd for the West to demand elections in wartime. Democracy is not a matter of dropping voting booths on people’s heads. A legitimate election would require the participation of those fighting on the various fronts, the millions of exiles, all those deported to Russian territory, Ukrainian captives, & the Ukrainians in the occupied areas. How could that possibly be achieved? Democracy is being lived, every minute, by the active Ukrainian resistance and through the resilience and individual creativity of its civilian population. Western politicians are idiots.

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David
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The biggest problem is disingenuous Republican politicians talking about bloodshed, accountability and definition of victory in Ukraine.
They should ask experts from ISW and General Milley what was possible for Ukraine to do given the constraints placed on them by highly delayed decisions and late inadequate supply of mostly outdated used weapons and dribs and drabs of artillery ammunition at less than 10% of Russian army stocks and usage rates.

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