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Marathon at the equator. Fact-checking the statements Zelensky made at his regular press conference

Photo: president.gov.ua
29 November 2021
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On November 26, Volodymyr Zelensky held a press marathon dedicated to the “equator,” i.e. the first half of his presidential term. Instead of the scheduled three hours, the conference lasted five and a half hours. Did he spend the time responsibly or manipulatively? Let’s figure this out in the new fact-check by VoxCheck.

The statements the President made at the press marathon can be split into several categories. The first category encompasses a large number of statements that cannot be verified using our fact-checking methodology (unfortunately for fact-checkers and journalists and fortunately for the President). They include comments on the Wagnerian case, intelligence officer Vasyl Burba’s lack of professionalism, allegations against Rinat Akhmetov for engaging in “anti-state activities,” and discussing Ukrayinska Pravda’s investigation about Andriy Yermak’s birthday celebration.

The second category includes fact-based and largely correct statements on foreign policy. Both the journalists and the President avoided manipulating issues of war and peace and the Western partners’ support for Ukraine.

Lastly, the most manipulative comments were made regarding the presidential team’s accomplishments, HR policy, and allegations directed toward the previous authorities, including statements about Petro Poroshenko’s activities.

Manipulation and true accomplishments

Speaking about changes in domestic politics, Volodymyr Zelensky managed to address many issues on the agenda: vaccination against COVID-19, infrastructure development, energy, judicial reform, military security, and peace agreements in Donbas. However, the President could not give correct indicators for all the questions and openly used manipulation in some cases.

Volodymyr Zelensky, November 26, 2021 (11:37-12:03)

Manipulation

“Our army is powerful. We’re providing it with new equipment, not too fast but, nevertheless. We’re increasing salaries because we need to increase our military’s motivation. Because you know, when they’re out there in the trenches – I’m sorry to be addressing financial issues, but it’s very important – it’s one amount, and when it’s rotation, it’s three times less money. We’ve already decided that there’ll be an increase.”  

The Ukrainian army has indeed been receiving new or refurbished equipment both from Ukrainian manufacturers and international partners. For instance, the Ukrainian cruise anti-ship missile “Neptune” was brought into service in 2020. The army also received modernized Ukrainian BTR-4E and new multi-launch rocket systems “Verba.” The Island-class patrol boats received from the United States represent an example of international assistance. The Bayraktar UAVs, purchased earlier from Turkey, went on patrol for the first time this year.

Salaries for the military were last raised in January 2019. According to Andriy Taran, former Minister of Defense (2020-2021), the UAH 131 billion allocated in the Ministry of Defense’s draft budget for 2022 will not be enough to increase salaries in the near future. 

Upon his appointment, the new Minister of Defense, Oleksiy Reznikov, said that financial support for the army and equalizing servicemen’s salaries are priority issues. However, he did not provide any details on how they could be resolved. A little later, at the same press conference, Zelensky said that the Defense Minister would soon announce innovations regarding salaries for the military. It is, therefore, not yet possible to comment on whether servicemen’s wages will indeed increase.

Volodymyr Zelensky, November 26, 2021 (08:03-08:07)

Untruth 

“We started the reform of the judiciary. Nobody else did. That’s a big fight with the judges.”

Former President Petro Poroshenko also said that changes to the judiciary were among priority reforms of his presidency. To “reload” the judiciary, Parliament passed a law on the judiciary, the status of judges, and constitutional changes to the judiciary in 2016. In 2017, the Supreme Court was selected through a competitive selection process, and the re-certification of judges began. But the public had questions about the Supreme Court’s composition and the re-certification procedure. Yet, it is wrong to claim that no one had ever tried to reform the judiciary before President V. Zelensky and the mono-majority in Parliament.  

Volodymyr Zelensky, November 26, 2021 (01:08:44–01:09:11)

Manipulation

“As for the SAPO, electing the chairman, I’ve been approached by our Western partners, I mean that the ambassadors, they see that we’re moving forward. I really want, I do really want us to be able to elect the head of the SAPO by the end of the year. I know there are short-listed candidates. And I don’t quite understand what kind of pressure comes from the Office.”

The EU and the US support anti-corruption and judicial reform in Ukraine but have repeatedly expressed frustration with the slow pace of reform. In particular, in October 2021, they expressed disappointment with another delay in appointing the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO) head. As of November 26, the selection committee’s meeting to elect the SAPO head did not occur due to several committee members’ absence. 

SAPO has been without a director for more than a year. Representatives of anti-corruption NGOs (e.g. Transparency International, the Anti-Corruption Action Center) believe that the President’s Office may impede the competition by influencing the committee members delegated by the Verkhovna Rada. In the absence of a permanent SAPO head, all decisions under the SAPO’s jurisdiction are made by the Prosecutor General, i.e. an official appointed by the President with the consent of Parliament.

Volodymyr Zelensky, November 26, 2021 (01:03:00-1:03:29)  

Exaggeration

“As for judicial reform, you know very well that the main, fundamental laws on the High Qualifications Commission of Judges (HCJC) and the High Council of Justice (HCJ) were passed. And you know very well that it was my initiative, and you know very well that the Servant of the People party voted in favor of these laws, as well as MPs from some other groups.”

The Servant of the People faction and deputies from other groups were not alone in voting for the HCJC bill. The European Solidarity and Holos factions also did. MPs from Holos also supported the HCJ bill.

MPs voting in favor of

HCJC bill 

HCJ bill 

Servant of the People

226 (92.6% of the faction)

224 (91.8%)

European solidarity

24 (88.8%)

0 (0%)

Holos

17 (85%)

16 (80%)

For Future

14 (63.6%)

1 (4.5%)

Dovira

17 (85%)

14 (70%)

Non-partisan

7 (35%)

4 (20%)

Voting for judicial reform bills

Volodymyr Zelensky, November 26, 2021 (04:07:33-04:07:58)

Manipulation

“Electing Mr. Tatarov… Look, he’s working as a deputy, he has responsibilities, he is appointed and selected by the head of the Office. That’s his deputy, that’s his staff.”

Like at his previous press conference in May 2021, the President avoided direct answers regarding the activities of Oleh Tatarov, Deputy Head of the President’s Office. However, his activities also fall under the President’s responsibility since this official was appointed by presidential decree. The head of the President’s Office can only submit proposals for the appointment or dismissal of their deputies.

Oleh Tatarov was deputy head of the Investigation Department of the Interior Ministry during the events of the Revolution of Dignity. He oversaw detentions of the protesters and placed ultimatums on them. Zelenskyi had earlier expressed his view of him in a BBC interview, saying at the time that “this particular person did not disperse anyone” and that information of the families of those killed on the Maidan being dissatisfied with him had allegedly been spread by the media associated with Petro Poroshenko.

Volodymyr Zelensky, November 26, 2021 (06:47-06:52)

Untruth

“As for Covid: there are in-patient beds, 90 thousand beds for infectious in-patients, there used to be 5 (thousand – ed.)”. 

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were 12.7 thousand in-patient beds for COVID-19 patients in Ukraine. On September 29, 2021, the Prime Minister said that 45,000 beds were available for in-patients, and a total of 90,000 beds were to be provided. Since then, the Minister has not updated the information about the number of available in-patient beds and the maximum number of beds.

According to the National Health Service of Ukraine website, there are 65,000 beds for infectious patients available in the country, with the total number of beds being 126.7 thousand.

Volodymyr Zelensky, November 26, 2021 (01:55:01-01:55:14)

Untruth 

“You understand very well how our people feel about vaccination. Now… the situation was very bad, 80% were against [it]. Things are much better now; people are getting vaccinated now.”

The number of those opposing vaccination has not decreased significantly, and the initial number of such opponents was lower. Thus, according to a KIIS survey conducted in August 2020, 47% of Ukrainians were ready to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for free, and 42% said they would not do so. According to Rating’s poll data published in December 2020, 55% of respondents supported, and 40% opposed free vaccinations. A survey conducted by the same organization in January 2021 showed that this ratio had changed in the opponents’ favor: 43% and 52%, respectively.

According to the latest 2021 surveys, the number of those opposing vaccinations remains at 40-50% of the country’s population. The August survey conducted by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation and the Center for Political Sociology found that 56% of Ukrainians did not plan on being vaccinated in the near future. According to an October survey by Rating, those unwilling to be vaccinated amounted to 43%.

Volodymyr Zelensky, November 26, 2021 (05:03-05:24)

Manipulation 

“I believe that Ukrzaliznytsia has become profitable. That’s another matter related to de-oligarchization. Take airports. Boryspil is profitable, Ukrzaliznytsia has started to make a profit, and ports have become profitable. That’s de-oligarchization…”

According to the January-October 2021 results, Ukrzaliznytsia made UAH 113.5 million in profit. Comparatively, the company ended 2020 with a loss of UAH 11.94 billion. However, before the COVID-19 pandemic, the company also received a profit of UAH 2.9 billion in 2019, UAH 203.9 million in 2018, UAH 114.5 million in 2017, and UAH 303 million in 2016.

Boryspil International Airport made UAH 189 million in January-September 2021. In 2020, it incurred losses amounting to UAH 1.48 billion. However, the airport was also steadily profitable before the pandemic.

Ukraine’s seaports have always been profitable before and during the pandemic. 2021 data is only available for the first six months, with profits amounting to UAH 944 million. 

Therefore, linking the profits of state-owned enterprises exclusively with the policy of the presidential team, and in particular, with de-oligarchization, is manipulation.

Volodymyr Zelensky, November 26, 2021 (01:50:22-01:50:33)

Truth

“We’ve got 273-275-300 thousand vaccines every day. It’s a lot more than when we were starting.”

Volodymyr Zelensky, November 26, 2021 (01:51:50-01:52:27)

Truth

“The statistics are better now. We see a decline in mortality rates. I believe it’s due to the number of available vaccines, and there are enough vaccines, there are millions of them now in stock. But also, there’s a decline in this complicated Delta wave’s rates, etc. that was in Europe before. Why are we leaders… Europe was a leader, it came to us a little later. So we may have another wave in the spring, according to the Ministry of Health’s data.”

In October-November 2021, vaccination rates indeed accelerated (see the Chart) approaching the above figures.

The trends in the number of vaccinated patients.

Source: NHSU

According to the National Academy of Sciences, Ukraine passed the COVID-19 incidence and mortality peaks in November.

Volodymyr Zelensky, November 26, 2021 (02:39:05-02:39:39)

Truth  

“As for the Minsk… Right, you’re absolutely right. It works, and then it doesn’t work. I want to repeat it: that’s the only thing that’s worked, and even the ceasefire. Even despite an escalation, even despite everyone shouting that armistice was over. But since the beginning of the ceasefire, look, not thousands – I feel sorry for all these people – but 66. Not thousands. Yes, I know, it’s a bad result, but “pick your poison,” as the saying goes.”

Indeed, on November 24, the OSCE Mission reported that 66 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed since a ceasefire was introduced on July 27, 2020.

Despite formal ceasefire agreements, the OSCE regularly records violations of the Donbas armistice: since the beginning of the ceasefire, observers have recorded more than 85,000 violations.

Volodymyr Zelensky, November 26, 2021 (03:54:29-03:54:58)

Truth 

“Today, we extract about 60% of what we need for our consumers. First of all, it is our task to make sure in the coming years that our need does not exceed the 60%. To do everything we can to know for sure that our own gas that we extract will be enough.”

In 2020, the population and industry consumed 31 billion cubic meters of gas. At the same time, the state-owned and private companies produced 20.2 billion cubic meters. That is, Ukraine produces about 65% of its total needs.

Volodymyr Zelensky, November 26, 2021 (04:27-04:35)

Without a verdict

“Infrastructure reform today is the largest and most successful in 50 years.”

It is not entirely clear what criteria can be used to define the most successful reform over the last 50 years. Without a doubt, the presidential team has contributed to this area’s development. Following the introduction of the “Large Construction” program, greater attention started being paid to infrastructure in Ukraine, with more funding allocated for its development. However, it is hard to compare infrastructure reform with the other important reform areas such as healthcare, judicial, anti-corruption, and land reform without any clear criteria.

At war with the “predecessors”

The traditional theme of Ukrainian politicians’ speeches is admonishing the previous government. Several statements by Volodymyr Zelensky specifically related to the activities of the previous head of state, Petro Poroshenko. 

Volodymyr Zelensky, November 26, 2021 (15:21-15:34)

Manipulation

“I’d also like to say that I’m not Yanukovych, I won’t run away. And not Poroshenko, I won’t get on top of a bulldozer on deaths of the Heavenly Hundred.” 

Suppose Volodymyr Zelensky tried to accuse the previous President of gaining popularity by speculating on the topic of victims during the Revolution of Dignity. In that case, it is manipulation: Petro Poroshenko took part in the Euromaidan much earlier. The “bulldozer” moment (i.e. Poroshenko’s speech before the protesters) took place on December 1, 2013 i.e. long before the killing of the Heavenly Hundred.

Volodymyr Zelensky, November 26, 2021 (01:34:23-01:34:34)

Manipulation

“So it seems to me that Mr. Turchynov is looked upon as… I don’t blame him – one of those who lost Crimea. And Mr. Poroshenko as one of those who lost Donbas.”  

Although the President does not formally accuse his opponents, he effectively blames them for Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian territory. However, it is too simplistic a perception. In September 2020, the State Bureau of Investigations published an investigation about how Ukraine lost Crimea. Yanukovych-era politicians began impairing the Ukrainian army’s combat effectiveness in 2012, failing to take measures in late 2013 and early 2014 to prevent annexation, despite available intelligence information about Russia mounting an operation.

As for Donbas, Petro Poroshenko did indeed promise to end the war as soon as possible. Just like Volodymyr Zelensky did before the presidential election. Although those were different promises: by ending the war, Petro Poroshenko meant getting the occupied territories back by military means (a quick and effective anti-terrorist operation), and Volodymyr Zelensky planned on concluding peace agreements with Russia.

However, not everything is decided by presidential will because the future of the conflict largely depends on Russia. In the case of Petro Poroshenko, Russia thwarted plans to end the war by quickly launching a massive offensive in Donbas. In the case of Zelensky, it expected a surrender from the new President unwilling to make concessions as part of a peaceful settlement.

Volodymyr Zelensky, November 26, 2021 (01:26:19-01:27:00)

Manipulation

“Mr. Yermak, on the contrary, was returning people whom the owner of your channel, by the way, former president Mr. Comrade Petro Poroshenko, whom he was supposed to get home as part of his various operations. And Yermak did it. He returned sailors, he was engaged in exchanges, he really conducted, with many colleagues, I think, very important operations. More than 100 people returned after our Normandy meeting.”  

Over the first five years of the war in Donbas (April 2014 – April 2019), it was possible to free 3,233 prisoners. Petro Poroshenko himself gave a slightly higher number, namely 3,270. Over the two and a half years of the Zelensky presidency, it was possible to return 136 people to Ukraine. However, during the “35-for-35” exchange in September 2019, Ukraine handed Vladimir Tsemakh over to Russia, a key figure in the case of the downed Boeing 777 that could have provided valuable evidence to the international investigation authorities.

Naturally, it would be manipulative to compare the periods of different lengths (2014-2019 and 2019-2021) with hostilities’ different intensity levels and, consequently, with different potential prisoner numbers. However, it cannot be said that the previous presidential administration did not make efforts to liberate Ukrainians.

Volodymyr Zelensky, November 26, 2021 (01:59:53-02:00:06)

Manipulation

“He was doing business in the midst of the war. Not only that, I guess this factory was there, it stood there, it didn’t sell candies somewhere, the candies came from somewhere.”

 Volodymyr Zelensky, November 26, 2021 (02:00:10-02:00:24)

Manipulation

“By the way, those candies were also sold in the temporarily occupied territories, lots of pictures… And those candies were sold in those separatist regiments etc. etc.”  

In 2015, a Russian court seized the property of the Lipetsk confectionery factory in Russia owned by Roshen, making it impossible to sell. In June 2017, the factory ceased operations altogether.

In 2018, Roshen stated that it had never sold its products in the occupied territories of Donbas and Crimea. The company suggested that some third parties could have supplied its products to the occupied territories.

At war with the oligarchs

A real surprise at the press conference was the President’s words about Rinat Akhmetov and his being possibly involved with preparing a coup in Ukraine on December 1-2 this year. The oligarch denied this information after Zelensky’s speech. However, both the President’s and the businessman’s statements cannot be verified using our fact-checking methodology. To understand the context and the following sections, we will describe the background against which such statements were made.

Volodymyr Zelensky, November 26, 2021 (13:46-13:57)

Without a verdict

“I received information that on the first [of December], a coup d’état will occur in our country. Interesting information, isn’t it? It seems to me this information is important. December 1st or 2nd.”

Volodymyr Zelensky, November 26, 2021 (14:16-15:02)

Without a verdict

“We have not only intelligence; we even have audio information, where representatives from Ukraine, so to speak… with representatives from Russia, so to speak… discuss Rinat Akhmetov’s participation in the coup in Ukraine. That a billion dollars will be attracted, etc. I believe that businessman Rinat Akhmetov is being set up, I believe it’s an operation, he’s being dragged into a war against the state of Ukraine. I think he started it. I think that it’ll be, unfortunately, his big mistake because you can’t fight against your own people, against the President elected by the people of Ukraine.”

Context: the war between Akhmetov and Zelensky

Volodymyr Zelensky’s statements about Rinat Akhmetov is a logical continuation of the previous aggravation of their relations. On November 24, Yuliia Paliychuk, a Servant of the People spokeswoman, said that most MPs would ignore the oligarch’s media because they allegedly violated journalism standards and were used to “blackmail the state and society.”

In reality, their relations deteriorated not only because of the law on oligarchs or frequent appearances on the Ukrayina channel of opposition politicians like Dmytro Razumkov, who recently left the majority. Among the government decisions hitting Akhmetov’s business in 2021 are:

  • non-payment of funds from Ukrenergo’s Eurobonds placed in November 2021 to DTEK (Ukrenergo had to repay debts to green energy producers);
  • increasing rail freight tariffs from 2022, as stated by Ukrzaliznytsia in August this year (since Akhmetov’s business has to do with ore and coal mining, its transportation costs will go up);
  • Ukrazaliznytsia’s intentions to revise a three-year contract with Metinvest for the use of gondolas;
  • The government’s decision to renew the cargo fleet, whereby the owners will be forced to decommission old railroad cars over the next seven years. This decision will significantly affect Akhmetov’s company – the second railroad car owner in Ukraine after UZ.

Volodymyr Zelensky, November 26, 2021 (52:45-53:27)

Manipulation

“Do you know that heat generation belongs to the state to a lesser degree than to private entities? Do you understand that the responsibility for purchasing coal lies with private entities to the same degree as with the state? It has to be solidarity work. If, for example, we’re… not good with this or that country, and if they can’t officially sell us coal, then the private structure must come in to help and buy. If I make a deal at the highest level with the United States for 11 coal ships to come here, do I say: “Give it to us but not to DTEK?” Well, nothing of the kind! I say: “To us [both].”

The President accused the businessman not only of anti-government activities but also of contributing to the energy crisis. At the same time, he used manipulation when he said that the state resolves this crisis alone, without help from the private sector.

The DTEK Group does provide about 80% of the country’s heat generation. As of November 26, only two Ukrainian TPSs had coal reserves above the minimum required, namely those in Luhansk and Kryvyi Rih. DTEK owns both.

Coal reserves at thermal power stations

The Ministry of Energy has graphs showing the country’s coal reserves. For instance, at the end of October 2021, the actual reserves at TPSs and CHPSs were 4.2 times lower than planned. The government’s task is to prevent such crises, including introducing clear rules for the energy market and supporting competition.

The energy crisis affects both state-owned and private enterprises. According to Vitaliy Dovhal, Tsentrenergo’s acting CEO, the state-owned mines have failed to fulfill the delivery plans by 30-40%, forcing Ukraine to buy expensive imported coal.

However, DTEK also participated in purchasing imported coal to meet Ukraine’s needs. For instance, in August this year, DTEK and Tsentrenergo made a deal with an American company to supply 75,000 tons of coal, which was then equally distributed between state-owned and private enterprises. In addition, in November, the company chartered seven vessels to ship coal from the United States and Colombia. Zelensky meant these very agreements. On November 15, he spoke about 7 (not 11) vessels with coal, which would fully meet Ukraine’s needs by the end of this year. On November 20, the first ship arrived in Ukraine and brought coal for Tsentrenergo.

Volodymyr Zelensky, November 26, 2021 (49:11-49:39)

Without a verdict

“My main ally is the Ukrainian people. I think that’s why there can’t be other Maidans because people see what we are doing. Because we’re not like thieves, or something. And the fact that I’m fighting with the situation that someone owns, excuse me, 20% of the country’s GDP, and I say you can own even 30%, but please leave the MPs alone.”

The President also had a chance to talk about his plans for de-oligarchization. However, his statement about the 20% of GDP being allegedly owned by the oligarchs is difficult to fact-check. Firstly, the law on oligarchs has not yet entered into force, so there is no official list of all the oligarchs. Secondly, there is an issue of assessing oligarchs’ hidden wealth. According to the World Bank, the net assets of the three richest Ukrainians exceeded 6% of the country’s GDP in 2017. However, it should be kept in mind that comparing wealth, which is an asset, with GDP for a certain period (e.g., a year) may not be entirely correct.

Wagnerians and the personality of Vasyl Burba

As expected, the conference’s main topics were the operation aimed at detaining the fighters from the Wagner private military contractor, and Vasyl Burba, former head of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Defense Ministry. The latter spoke on Freedom of Speech on November 20, criticizing the actions of the President’s Office that led to aborting the operation.

Volodymyr Zelensky criticized the very idea of ​​the operation and negatively assessed the intelligence officer’s personal and professional qualities. Most of these comments cannot be fact-checked due to a lack of information available in open sources. 

Volodymyr Zelensky, November 26, 2021 (25:46-26:40)

Without a verdict

“I didn’t know Mr. Burba very well. I wanted to fire him when I came because intelligence officers didn’t speak very well of him, but that could be “argle-bargle”. He oversaw the blocking of traffic on the Maidan, you know. It’s an important point. When the Maidan was being dispersed, he oversaw transport in this operation, when he was with the SBU. On the one hand, he was there. You should know it and understand my attitude. He did this, but then they decided to keep him. Petro Oleksiyovych.”

Vasyl Burba’s involvement with suppressing the protests was mentioned in the documents provided by Hennadiy Moskal in 2014 that contained the SBU’s operative plans for dispersing Maidan. These plans are part of the material of the investigation into the Maidan killings. However, Vasyl Burba is not currently a suspect in the case.

Volodymyr Zelensky, November 26, 2021 (27:35-28:02)

Without a verdict

“He repaired it (a house in Koncha Zaspa – ed.) for 11 million. It’s all true. He’s a businessman, but it’s the intelligence service, and it’s Besarabka. Everyone knows that he did business by obtaining this or that information and making money on it. Such an intelligence chief was not OK with me, such an intelligence chief was not OK with the future Minister of Defense” (the President meant the then Minister of Defense, A. Taran – ed.)

Volodymyr Zelensky, November 26, 2021 (34:45-35:16)

Without a verdict

“I said (in response to V. Burba’s proposal to conduct the operation – ed.) I believe that’s not our operation. That was my answer. It’s not well-thought-out. I’m ready to accept any operation, including this one, if things have been calculated in detail and people are not injured. When he left, I said that, after America, he wanted to put against each other not only me but involve Ukraine in a huge scandal with Erdogan. Erdogan would never forgive us for that.”

Context: the Wagnerian case

On November 15, 2021, the Temporary Investigation Commission (TIC) of the Verkhovna Rada published an interim report on this operation. The report confirmed that the idea of ​​detaining Wagnerian militants in the summer of 2020 belonged to Ukraine. However, the Commission failed to establish who, and at what level, decided to postpone/cancel the special operation between July 25-30.

On November 17, investigative journalists from Bellingcat published their investigation. Citing Vasyl Burba, the investigators write that on July 24, the head of the President’s Office, Andriy Yermak, suggested that the operation be postponed for a week. Probably, in order not to disrupt the truce in Donbas scheduled for July 27. As a result, the delay was reduced to 4 days. And already on the morning of July 29, the Wagnerians were detained by the Belarusian security officers. Journalists were not able to find evidence of the information about the operation being “leaked out.”

Speaking on-air on the Ukrayina channel on November 20, Vasyl Burba said that Andriy Yermak had ordered on behalf of the President that the operation be postponed, which later led to its abortion. However, there is no written evidence of this instruction. The officer also claimed that there was a “mole” in Ukraine’s “government offices” that could have “leaked” information about the operation. Shortly after the operation failed, on August 5, 2020, Vasyl Burba was sacked.

At the press marathon, the President confirmed that he knew about the operation but disapproved of it. According to the President, Andriy Yermak had nothing to do with approving and postponing it. 

Conclusions. How did the marathon go?

The article’s most common verdict is “Manipulation.” Occupying an honorable second place is “Without a verdict.” Openly false quotes that would be completely untrue were few. However, this does not necessarily mean that the President provides reliable information.

Firstly, the topics under discussion helped Volodymyr Zelensky avoid getting more “Untruth” verdicts since the accuracy of his statements about the personality of Vasyl Burba, the Wagnerian case, and “Akhmetov’s war against the state” cannot be verified according to our methodology.

Secondly, the press conference’s format proved helpful. The journalists and the President regularly exceeded the time limit, due to which the amount of “empty talk” increased significantly. Besides, some journalists‘ questions such as “List the biggest mistakes made during your presidency” or “Why have opinion leaders and journalists changed their rhetoric about you?” enabled Volodymyr Zelensky to avoid facts and drift off into long “lyrical digressions.”

Authors

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