Zelensky looks set for landslide as Ukrainians turn out to vote | Financial Times

'Mr Zelensky, who largely avoided in-depth interviews and press conferences during the campaign, has provided limited details about his reform plans but has pledged to keep Kiev on an EU integration path.'

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“Surfing a wave of anti-establishment sentiment and widespread voter disillusion since he announced his candidacy in a New Year’s eve comedy act, Mr Zelensky has accused incumbent president Petro Poroshenko of profiting from corruption, failing to lift living standards and not doing enough to end the conflict in east Ukraine. … Mr Poroshenko said the comedian was a “puppet” of Igor Kolomoisky, an oligarch exiled to Israel after the state nationalised his bank in 2016 over a $5.5bn balance sheet hole.” Full story here.

Also see: Jewish comedian poised to clinch presidency as Ukraine votes | Times of Israel

“[Q]uestions have been raised over his links to controversial oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, who lives in exile in Israel, and whose TV channel broadcasts the entertainer’s shows. According to some reports, Zelensky is a frequent visitor to Tel Aviv and Geneva, where Kolomoisky spends much of his time. Analysts say Zelensky’s political program is vague at best and it remains unclear who will fill key positions in his government.”

And: ‘He finds laughter in the tragedy’: Comedian Volodymyr Zelensky set to become first Jewish president of Ukraine | The Independent “They are some of the hundreds of thousands of Hasidic pilgrims that each year make their way to Uman, a town lost in the middle of Ukraine and arguably a previous century too. … Like the rest of Ukraine, Uman hasn’t always been a good place for Jews. Persecution has accompanied almost every stage of history: from the pogroms of the 19th and early 20th centuries to the Communists, who from 1917 sealed the city off from foreigners. The worst page of history came in 1941, with Hitler’s invasion, sending the town’s entire Jewish population of at least 17,000 to open pits in one of the very first acts of the Holocaust. … But Zelensky’s appeal stretches far beyond the Jewish population. Remarkably, it extends also into groups who identify with national icons associated with serious antisemitic crimes, including collaboration with the Nazis in extermination practices. Zelensky’s election will give the nation an opportunity to come to terms with its past. … A major study showed Ukraine to have the lowest level of antisemitism across the whole of eastern Europe. … These newest pages of history have changed the way many Ukrainians view the Jewish community … “We used to get vandals writing ‘piss off to Israel’ here in Uman … All that stopped once Israel offered to help rehabilitate our wounded soldiers.”

And: Ultranationalism in Ukraine – a photo essay | The Guardian

“[T]he influence of nationalist groups has steadily grown, driven by public dismay over the country’s economic woes and rampant corruption. Mostly teenage members of the ultra-right groups have followed the guidance of war veterans, practising martial arts and learning how to handle weapons. The number of ultranationalists is estimated at about 10,000, and they can quickly take thousands to the streets and resort to violence. … In a series of violent actions that underline their strength, rightwing radicals in recent years have assaulted gatherings by LGBT and women’s rights activists, attacked Roma encampments around the country, derailed a lecture on the history of the Holocaust and brawled with pro-Russia veterans. The ultra-right groups also have a strict, military-style structure, and many of their members have battlefield experience from years of fighting in the east.”