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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has suspended 11 political parties because of their ties to the Kremlin. In the military conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the optics battle has taken on a role of immense importance, and Zelensky is taking a risk with the authoritarian move. This development coming from Kyiv is almost certain to be exploited by pro-Russia elements and those seeking to prevent the US from becoming militarily involved.
The Guardian reported: “The country’s national security and defence council took the decision to ban the parties from any political activity. Most of the parties affected were small, but one of them, the Opposition Platform for Life, has 44 seats in the 450-seat Ukrainian parliament.” During a video address on Sunday, Zelensky declared that “the activities of those politicians aimed at division or collusion will not succeed, but will receive a harsh response.”
“Therefore, the national security and defense council decided, given the full-scale war unleashed by Russia, and the political ties that a number of political structures have with this state, to suspend any activity of a number of political parties for the period of martial law.”
Zelensky also banned three news channels associated with the oligarch. “With the help of legal instruments, Medvedchuk was deprived of the opportunity to use the media and state property to openly attack the country and cause ruinous damage to state security,” the Ukrainian president said.
Moscow lambasted Ukraine for the suspensions on Sunday. Vyacheslav Volodin, chair of the Duma, characterized it as “another mistake” made by Zelensky’s administration, adding that it will “divide the country.” Former Russian president and current top security official Dmitry Medvedev wrote a sardonic post on the Telegram social media platform, saying the suspensions would bring Ukraine closer to the Western world. He wrote: “The most democratic president of modern Ukraine has taken another step towards the western ideals of democracy. By decision of the Council for National Defense and Security, he completely banned any activity of opposition parties in Ukraine. They are not needed! Well done! Keep it up.”
This move comes amid efforts by Zelensky to exert more influence over Ukraine’s media. On Sunday, he issued a decree designed to consolidate all national TV channels under one umbrella, touting the importance of establishing a “unified information policy” under martial law.
Zelensky’s actions, while arguably pragmatic, could possibly be used against Ukraine in the public relations battle. Putin’s allies could use these actions to intimate Kyiv is acting in ways that are antithetical to American principles. The fact that he silenced 11 parties and cracked down on media might seem reminiscent of the tactics used by Russia’s leader and could serve to undermine the case for giving aid to Ukraine.
Still, it is worth noting that Zelensky’s actions are targeting only parties that are reported to have ties to the country that is currently invading his nation. This is not some arbitrary move to retain political power, it is ostensibly designed to prevent allies of an invading army from doing further damage.
So far, international opinion still seems to be on Ukraine’s side and it will likely stay that way. Because Russia is the aggressor in this tale it is nearly impossible for Moscow not to be perceived as the villain. But it remains to be seen how far Zelensky is willing to go to defend his country. While it is unlikely he will ever be viewed in as bad a light as Putin, is it possible Zelensky might go far enough that other nations will no longer wish to support him?
~ Read more from Jeff Charles.
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