There Will Be No Oscars. Looking Into The Film Titled “A Year Of President Zelenskyi”

How candid was the president after returning to the “big screen”?

Lena Shulika, VoxUkraine

Authors:

On April 22, the Office of the President of Ukraine announced the documentary “A Year of President Zelenskyi” on its Facebook page. According to the announcement, the showing was to begin at 7 p.m., but, whether intentionally or not, the film aired earlier. 

President Zelenskyi returned to the big screen at about 6 p.m. on two channels simultaneously – Channel 24 and Ukraine 24. Later, the film was shown on other channels too. The film was made by the press service of the Presidential Office. In any event, it was credited to it in the Office’s letter to UAH:PBC.

During the 51 minutes of screen time, Zelenskyi touched upon nearly all possible topics, ranging from the “turbo mode” and relations with the IMF to the MPs’ age and no days off for the President.

We have analyzed the film and selected 13 statements by Zelenskyi containing facts.

The result: no lies, four manipulations, two overstatements, six true statements and one without a verdict.

Disclaimer: The order of the statements is not chronological, starting from the “worst”. Manipulations are shown at the beginning, followed by overstatements, then we have true statements and finally one “without a verdict”.

President’s manipulations 

MANIPULATION

180 laws in 8 months, 180 laws were adopted by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. Where else can you find such statistics? ”

Volodymyr Zelenskyi, 22.04.2019 (04:16-04:29)

During 8 months (or, more precisely, 237 days – from August 29, 2019 to April 22, 2020), the Parliament of the 9th convocation passed 174 bills. For comparison, during almost its 6 months of work, the Parliament of the 8th convocation passed almost as many – 173 bills. During the same period (from November 27, 2014 to July 22, 2015), the parliament of the 8th convocation passed 362 laws out of 3754 registered draft laws.

It is important to emphasize two more points

  1. Many bills had originally been drafted by the Parliament’s previous convocation, but there was not enough political will and votes to adopt those decisions back then.
  2. We do not tire of emphasizing that quality is more important than quantity. Thus, the VoxUkraine reform index in the fall of 2019 increased significantly compared to previous years, but did not achieve a maximum, as in early 2015

MANIPULATION

“In our country now, an official earns a maximum of UAH 47 thousand. And it used to be millions. We have changed it.”

Volodymyr Zelenskyi, 22.04.2019 (05:37-05:46)

On April 13, 2020, due to quarantine, amendments were made to the state budget, limiting the salaries for employees of budgetary institutions to 10 times the minimum wage. But this restriction is temporary, for the period of quarantine, and this maximum amount does not take into account  rehabilitation compensation, monetary assistance to address social needs, etc.

In February 2020, there was talk of limiting the salaries of ministersand heads of state-owned enterprises (but not all civil servants). Besides, research shows that low official salaries could cause corruption, with illegal benefits making up for low official earnings.

By the way, when it comes to “salaries amounting to millions”, this refers to the management of such enterprises as NJSC Naftogaz or Ukrposhta, not to government agencies. But the adopted limit does not apply to the former.

MANIPULATION

“And you see what is going on in the Verkhovna Rada, when a law is proposed by the Servant of the People, the President, or by the government – thousands of amendments, thousands of amendments, just to slow down the process.”

Volodymyr Zelenskyi, 22.04.2019 (05:53-06:05)

The “thousands of amendments” were submitted not too often. Among the most significant were: 4 thousand amendments to the bill on the circulation of agricultural land, 16.3 thousand to the so-called “anti-Kolomoyskyi” bill. But if the land market bill was hampered by the MPs of OPFL, the “anti-Kolomoyskyi bill” – a record holder in the number of amendments – was impeded mostly by the Servants of the People themselves, both former and current. Of the 16.3 thousand amendments, the majority were submitted by

  • Anton Poliakov (ex-Servant of the People, non-factional) – 6,033 amendments;
  • Viktor Bondar (group For Future) – 1,911;
  • Dmytro Chornyi (Servant of the People) – 1,781;
  • Olha Vasylevska-Smahliuk (Servant of the People) – 1,689;
  • Oleh Dunda (Servant of the People) – 1,656;
  • Serhiy Demchenko (Servant of the People) – 1,463;
  • Oleksandr Dubinskyi (Servant of the People) – 1,199. 

MANIPULATION

“That’s why when we speak, and write with big capital letters on every poster out there – here it is, the second stage of medical reform, we see now that, after the coronavirus, we need to completely change the approach.”

Volodymyr Zelenskyi, 22.04.2019 (36:21-36:38)

According to the law on state medical guarantees, all the changes with regard to specialized medical institutions and doctors were to begin on April 1, 2020. That is, it was only the start date for transforming the secondary care level. It takes some time to see and evaluate the outcome of any reform. It is dubious that conclusions could be drawn about a need for a complete change of approach after only 20 days into the reform.

As for a change of approach, VoxCheck does not check or assess politicians’ plans.

President’s overstatements

OVERSTATEMENT

“Remember the Mariupol-Zaporizhzhya road, right? We built it in 3 months.”

Volodymyr Zelenskyi, 22.04.2019 (25:33-25:38)

The road was not built, but it was repaired, and these are two different things as regards the time and money. Besides, one section of the road (60 km) began to be fixed back in 2016.

OVERSTATEMENT

“Then it was the law in accordance with our program – we will lift the parliamentary immunity. It stirred a great deal of resentment even in the new Verkhovna Rada, but, thank goodness, we have mono-majority and, thank goodness, we have succeeded, we have lifted the parliamentary immunity. “

Volodymyr Zelenskyi, 22.04.2019 (02:39-02:56)

Lifting the MPs’ immunity was indeed part of the Servant of the People party’s program. The respective bill was voted in September 2019.

But all the other parties and non-factional MPs (except Opposition Platform – For Life) voted for the bill too, not just the mono-majority. Therefore, it is difficult to call it “resentment”.

For reference, the bill on amendments to article 80 of the Constitution of Ukraine (concerning parliamentary immunity) was passed to the Verkhovna Rada in October 2017 at the initiative of Petro Poroshenko. Later, the Parliament forwarded this bill to the Constitutional Court that presented its conclusions on June 19, 2019.

The new Parliament only voted in favor of the bill without going through all the necessary procedures before voting.

President’s true statements

TRUE

“Ukraine has never had a Verkhovna Rada like this before – it is younger than any other convocation of the Verkhovna Rada.”

Volodymyr Zelenskyi, 22.04.2019 (03:59-04:08)

The average age of the MPs of the 9th convocation is 42 years. Prior to that, the 8th convocation was the “youngest” with 44 years.

TRUE

“The moratorium on land sales has been lifted. That is, according to the Constitution, the owner of Ukrainian land is the citizen of Ukraine. And where can you see that? Is it true or not? No, it is not true, because we do not have landowners. Land is traded, it is a shadowy business today.”

Volodymyr Zelenskyi, 22.04.2019 (21:57-22:14)

Although the Constitution states that land belongs to the people of Ukraine (according to article 13, it is the object of the right of property of the Ukrainian people) and not to citizens, the moratorium on the sale of agricultural land, in point of fact, only limited this right, with the shadow market flourishing.

For reference, the bill on the circulation of agricultural lands was voted and, on April 13, sent to the President to be signed.

TRUE

“For instance, in Estonia, they vote both traditionally and electronically (with respect to the presidential election – ed.)”

Volodymyr Zelenskyi, 22.04.2019 (31:50-32:04)

In Estonia, there is indeed a possibility of online voting in elections. People can also vote using traditional paper ballots.

TRUE

“Antonov is a large enterprise, a large number of jobs, no aircraft have been built in recent years.”

Volodymyr Zelenskyi, 22.04.2019 (28:48-28:58)

In 2019, SOE Antonov did not produce aircraft (p. 6).

In 2018, the company did not build aircraft either, but it signed an agreement with Boeing to jointly manufacture aircraft and supply parts.

However, in 2017, Antonov finished the An-132 D aircraft, whose prototype had been presented in 2016. The then president Poroshenko attended the official launch of this plane in March 2017. Earlier, 7 aircraft were built in 2013, and 2 aircraft in 2014 (out of the 5 planned).

Only one plane was built over the last 3 years, so our verdict is that this statement is true.

TRUE

“For 30 years, no one had wanted to pass a bill on impeachment, so I started with myself. This bill was submitted by the President of Ukraine to the Verkhovna Rada and voted.”

Volodymyr Zelenskyi, 22.04.2019 (02:27-02:39)

Article 111 of the Constitution of Ukraine (adopted in 1996, i.e. 24 years ago, not 30) provides for impeachment. The impeachment procedure was prescribed in the Law On the Rules of Procedure of the Verkhovna Rada. A separate law defining the impeachment procedure was passed in 2019.

The bill on a special procedure for removing the President of Ukraine from office (impeachment) №10340 was registered by Volodymyr Zelenskyi in the Parliament on May 29, but the MPs of the 8th convocation did not include this document in the agenda. On August 29, Zelenskyi submitted a similar bill, №1012 to the Parliament of the 9th convocation, where it was approved by 245 votes and later signed into law by the President.

TRUE

“We have excellent relations with the International Monetary Fund. If our Parliament gives us this opportunity, we will sign a memorandum and Ukraine will receive at least 8 billion from the IMF, and also a couple of billion from other European financial institutions, the World Bank, EBRD, etc.” 

Volodymyr Zelenskyi, 22.04.2019 (11:10-11:28)

In order to receive IMF funding, it is necessary to pass the “anti-Kolomoiskyi” law, that, among other things, will make it impossible for PrivatBank to be returned to Kolomoyskyi or allow him to receive compensation from the state. For this, Ukraine can receive $ 5.5 billion from the IMF. Another $ 2.4 billion in additional funding is part of IMF assistance to countries with developing economies or those affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

By the way, we could have received the IMF $ 5.5 billion program back in December had the Parliament passed the “anti-Kolomoyskyi” law. But back then, the President and his party lacked political will.

It is true that cooperation with the IMF will allow us to continue our cooperation with other international institutions, attracting funding from them.

“Without a verdict”

WITHOUT A VERDICT

“I still do not understand why we have so many law enforcement agencies. Meaning, it was done here to blur the line of responsibility. That’s all”.

Volodymyr Zelenskyi, 22.04.2019 (15:10-15:22)

It is not a question of the number of law enforcement agencies, but of their quality and leadership. At the moment, there is a significant amount of political persecution and increased spending on law enforcement agencies.

As for the new law enforcement agencies, such as the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, the State Bureau of Investigation, there is logic in their creation. A separate vertical anti-corruption structure (NABU, SAPO, Anti-Corruption Court) is necessary since the law enforcement agencies are corrupt and, for that matter, unable to clean themselves or combat high-level corruption. The body established to combat abuses by law enforcement bodies and judges is the SBI. Each of the newly created law enforcement agencies has its own area of responsibility, so there is no question of eroding responsibility.

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