Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, not a day has gone by without mentioning the Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky, ubiquitous through his speeches to the nation and to the world. Behind him, his team is working hard on this extremely well-established communication that has become crucial to winning the war of opinion.
To keep his speeches addressed to his people, to leaders, parliaments or peoples across the globe, President Zelensky is clearly not the only maneuver: a large team is busy around him in his role, beginning with his cabinet consisting of about twenty ministers.
Among them, some stand out in these times of war. We can especially mention the Minister of Defense, Oleksiy Reznikov, who likes to put himself on the stage.
On social networks, he talks about his phone calls with other defense ministers around the world, his meetings with soldiers, and he regularly posts selfies, with two thumbs up, the bulletproof vest and often … a big smile.
Another minister who stands out is the young Mykhailo Fedorov, who is in charge of Digital Transformation. Also very active on social networks, he set up a few days ago an NFT museum (for “non-fungible token”, non-fungible token, a virtual certificate of authenticity to make a digital work unique and non-reproducible, ed. Note. ) document the war and raise funds.
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He also urges the web giants to take a stand and withdraw from Russia. He especially tweeted for poly-entrepreneur Elon Musk: “While trying to colonize Mars, Russia is trying to occupy Ukraine!”. The founder of SpaceX subsequently made several deliveries of Starlink satellites to Ukraine.
Communication as a weapon
President Zelensky is therefore surrounded by a good team of communicators because this aspect is his trademark. Communication is actually the president’s strong point, according to political scientist and specialist in Ukraine Alexandra Goujon and professor of political science at Sciences Po Aix Dorota Dakowska. When the Ukrainian president addresses people, parliaments, the speech is targeted, documented, and the upstream work is obvious.
Another person who means a lot to President Zelensky is his wife, Olena Zelenska. According to an interviewed diplomat, “he is an impressive person who has the heart in the right place” and who represents a strong support for her husband in his function.
Olena Zelenska and her husband, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, pictured here in 2019. [Toms Kalnins – EPA/Keystone]
Volodymyr Zelensky thus inserts a “diplomatic activism” which he has actually used since taking office three years ago. According to Dorota Dakowska, the communications war has already been won by the Ukrainian camp, in contrast to 2014, when Russia had “imposed its history”.
As a comedian and humorist, he had created the production and entertainment company “Quarter 95”, and several of his former colleagues joined his administration when he became president.
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Should anything happen to Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian constitution stipulates that if the country’s president can no longer perform his duties, the Speaker of Parliament will replace him.
The current chairman of the Rada – the Ukrainian parliament – is Ruslan Stefantchouk. Close to Zelensky, he is a key figure in his party, the Servant of the People. In particular, he stood with Zelensky when the latter again applied for membership of the European Union.
Volodymyr Zelensky flanked by Rada President Ruslan Stefantchouk (left) and Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal (right). [EPA/Keystone]
The two men have known each other for a long time, participated in comedy shows in student clubs. But Stefantchouk does not have Zelensky’s aura. The consulted specialists agree: If Zelensky dies, it is an absolute tragedy for Ukraine.
Before the war, his popularity rating had dropped and an anti-corruption campaign was considered too slow. But things have changed: today he has gathered an entire country – or almost – behind him, and he has managed to silence critical voices.
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Pauline Rappaz / kkub