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Challenging President Zelensky as the hostilities protracted

As the fighting shows no sign of ending, President Zelensky needs to keep the people’s spirits up and continue to find a way to reconcile with Russia.

Nearly every day, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in a military green shirt, shoots videos to send messages to the people, sometimes sitting at his desk, other times standing outside in the dark. Recently, he warned of difficulties to come, when the war with Russia shows no signs of abating.

“We all want to win, all of us, but there will be battles ahead,” Zelensky said on April 1. “We still have a hard way to go to reach the goal we are striving for.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks from the capital Kiev on February 4.  Photo: Reuters.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks from the capital Kiev on February 4. Photo: Reuters.

As Russia’s military campaign enters its sixth week, a series of challenges arise for him to face. He must maintain the spirit and will to fight for Ukraine, in the context of increased war casualties, severe economic damage and increasingly difficult people’s lives. He must also maintain the belief of Western nations that Ukraine can stand up to the momentum of Russia, in order to maintain the source of weapons aid to Kiev.

But he must also find out if a political agreement to end the conflict is agreed with Russia, whether the Ukrainian people are willing to accept it in a referendum.

“He relied on Ukrainian nationalism to fight, but this is also what makes the war difficult to end,” said Keith Darden, a political science professor at American University.

President Zelensky has for months been unable to push for a face-to-face meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to discuss some of Moscow’s demands. David Arakhamia, the head of Ukraine’s negotiating team, said on April 2 that Kiev was preparing for a possible meeting between Zelensky and Putin in Turkey.

However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said yesterday that the meeting can only take place when the two sides’ negotiating teams “agree on a specific written agreement”.

For President Zelensky, any deal with the Kremlin is a political challenge.

One possible scenario is that the conflict will drag on if he doesn’t feel he has public support when he makes the compromises needed to end the war. Another possibility is that strong public support for him will erode if a peace agreement with Russia is signed without widespread popular support.

Zelensky is laying the groundwork to end his constitutional ambitions to join NATO, noting that the alliance is not ready to accept Ukraine’s admission. Instead, he focused his efforts on securing Ukraine’s admission to the European Union (EU).

The Ukrainian leader has shown that he is a flexible and practical person. In an interview with the magazine Economist Last month, President Zelensky defined victory for him as “possibly saving the most lives”.

“Our land is important, but in the end it’s just territory,” he said.

But at the same time, Zelensky also vowed to fight to the end to protect territorial integrity.

He also warned that Russian forces are likely to regroup to focus on attacking certain areas, especially those where Ukrainian forces have the most difficulty. Zelensky also called on the Ukrainian people to be ready for a protracted conflict.

“Right now, every Ukrainian wants to resist,” commented Mikhail Minakov, a Ukrainian political analyst at the Kennan Institute in the US. President Zelensky “will have to find a way to balance, maintain that spirit, but also find a solution”.

At the prospect of being able to meet President Putin directly to negotiate peace, Zelensky is equipped with a solid foundation with political support from the people as well as successes on the battlefield. The challenge, though, is whether he can turn that political advantage into a lasting peace accepted by most Ukrainians, observers say.

It is unclear whether this is a favorable time for him, as Russian forces remain determined to gain control of more territory in the east and Ukraine has so far been unwilling to give up any land. which Russia has claimed control since the launch of a military operation on February 24.

Serhiy Leshchenko, a former member of Ukraine’s parliament who is advising President Zelensky’s chief of staff, said that despite continuing to resist, perhaps Ukrainians in besieged areas want and need an agreement. agree to cease fighting.

“Those living under bombs in Mariupol, Kharkov and Chernihiv have much less access to social media than people in safe places,” Leshchenko said, before noting the predicament that PresidentPresidentensky had to face. face to face.

“People want to stop the conflict, to return to normal life,” Leshchenko said. “But people also want to protect Ukraine. They don’t want to lose territory and sovereignty.”

Vu Hoang (According to Washington Post)

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