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"For Putin, Zelensky is a UFO, a specimen he never met in the former USSR"

A renowned comedian, the winner of the Ukrainian election does not make a laugh in the Kremlin, whose leader was used to dealing with adversaries who share his codes and culture, explains in his column Sylvie Kauffmann, editorialist to the "World".

Posted today at 02:14 Time to Reading 4 min.

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Volodymyr Zelensky leaves the polling booth on April 21 during the presidential election in Ukraine.
Volodymyr Zelensky leaves the polling booth on April 21 during the presidential election in Ukraine. GENYA SAVILOV / AFP

Minsk, February 2015. Angela Merkel and François Hollande are trying to bring to reason, and secondarily to the cease-fire, two enemy presidents, the first of which, Vladimir Putin, annexed part of the territory of the second, Petro Poroshenko, then invaded another. " Several times, will tell the French president in his Memoirs, Lessons of power (Pocket, 2019), the tone goes up between Poroshenko and Putin, who suddenly becomes angry and threatens to simply crush the troops of his interlocutor. "

In short, the atmosphere is tense. However, a diplomat present will tell us his surprise to see, during a break, the two enemies exchange jokes in Russian with an air of understanding … This moment of unexpected complicity betrays the post-Soviet reality: the Russian and Ukrainian presidents have to be at war, they come out of the same mold, of which they share the codes and the culture – the breeding ground of the late USSR. Before his country became independent in 1991, Petro Poroshenko, a Ukrainian, served in the Soviet Army in Kazakhstan.

Volodymyr Zelensky was 13 when the USSR disappeared. The future president, comedian neophyte in politics but talented manager of a major show business company, elected April 21 by more than 70% of the vote, not only embodies a leap generation in the post-Soviet space, it also represents a political break. For Vladimir Putin, in power for nineteen years, it is a new experience: the successor of Petro Poroshenko is not bound by the same story, does not share the same codes.

He is, certainly, Russian-speaking, of this category of Ukrainians more at ease in Russian than in Ukrainian. But this makes him almost more dangerous for the Kremlin than his predecessor who, by choosing to lead a nationalist campaign on religion, the army and the Ukrainian language, played on the divisions of a country that he nevertheless helped to change. . Volodymyr Zelensky, he claims to unite the Ukrainians, those of the east and those of the west, by playing the card of the easing of tensions and by betting on the fight against corruption. But as everyone knows, a united country is stronger than a divided country.


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