I did not vote for Ukraine’s president. His courage has changed my mind and inspired millions.

Washington Post – Global Opinion

Opinion: I did not vote for Ukraine’s president. His courage has changed my mind and inspired millions.

By Anna Myroniuk – February 27, 2022

Anna Myroniuk is a journalist and the head of investigations at the Kyiv Independent.

“Captain Ukraine,” the first “true” president of Ukraine, a hero, a leader. I would have never thought I would see people use these terms to refer to Volodymyr Zelensky.

Back in 2019, I did not vote for him. Like some other Ukrainians, I did not believe Zelensky, a comedian, actor and entertainer with no experience in politics, was suited for the job. His campaign was idealistic but lacked substance. He was often vague and raised concerns about where he stood toward Russia. He had his own powerful backer, the billionaire who owned the TV station that broadcast “Servant of the People,” the show that made Zelensky a star. But he won with overwhelming support.

I was not impressed by his administration. He promised to fight corruption but, as an investigative reporter, I saw how his efforts were selective. He appointed loyalists and friends to powerful posts, and his allies rarely faced consequences when they were snared in scandals. In his first three years in office, he showed a true populist side. He loved to be loved. He was also very sensitive to media criticism.

But Zelensky showed some promising signs as well. He refused to give in to Putin’s demands to break up Ukraine to sell in parts. He rejected to negotiate peace in Donbas with Russia-appointed leaders and suggested an invitation to the discussion be extended to the natives of war-torn Donbas who relocated to Kyiv. Russia was not happy.

As a broader conflict with Russia loomed, Zelensky annoyed the public by repeatedly downgrading the threat of an invasion. It appeared as though he was in denial, which gave Ukrainians a reason to lose faith in him.

Many left the country weeks ago out of fear that Ukraine would surrender if Putin invaded. Many wondered whether Zelensky would fight back. I must admit that I left Kyiv for another city nearby a few days ago for this same reason.

But now, many of my colleagues and I are trying to find ways to return to the capital to cover the resistance there. Zelensky’s brave response has made me reconsider. Ukraine’s leadership is not surrendering. Many experts thought Kyiv would fall in 24 hours — but four days later the battle continues.

I’m glad Zelensky has proved skeptics wrong such as myself. A new poll shows his approval rating at 91 percent, three times what it was in December. His defense of Ukraine deserves praise. His bravery is inspiring. When the United States offered to evacuate him amid concerns for his safety, he replied: “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.”

The actor-turned-president stumbled and did not live up to my expectations at first — but now he has demonstrated that he is not shying away from the biggest responsibility for any national leader: the protection of their people.

I, as a journalist, will keep covering Zelensky with independence and rigor, praising him or calling out his mistakes when necessary. The pressure will only increase. Zelensky has the trust of the nation and a big part of the world. I hope he keeps it up.

Author: John Hanno

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Bogan High School. Worked in Alaska after the earthquake. Joined U.S. Army at 17. Sergeant, B Battery, 3rd Battalion, 84th Artillery, 7th Army. Member of 12 different unions, including 4 different locals of the I.B.E.W. Worked for fortune 50, 100 and 200 companies as an industrial electrician, electrical/electronic technician.