Espreso. Global

Order did not help. How Zelenskyy was shamed by his favorite reporter in TIME

1 November, 2023 Wednesday

They wanted the cover of TIME, but they got shame. What's wrong with Volodymyr Zelenskyy's scandalous interview with scandalous reporter Simon Shuster


If last year's article by the popular American publication announced the Ukrainian president as the rising leader of the free world, this year's article is more about a tired man whose shine has worn off in some places. 

Absolutely confident in his political charm, Zelenskyy obviously wanted to remind the US audience of himself with the cover amid the political debate there over what kind of aid packages to provide to Ukraine and how much. However, the dinosaur of Ukrainian television entertainment projects did not take into account that the cover can be a way to get "caught" rather than become famous. And instead of last year's confidence, Zelenskyy says: "Nobody believes in our victory like I do. Nobody!"

It is worth looking at who the author of this article is. Old screenshots of TIME senior columnist Simon Schuster's work have already been circulating on the Internet, where he says that Azov is a Nazi organization. And he did this not only in 2014, when the world at large did not distinguish between Russia and Ukraine. He was doing his dirty work at the peak of the Congressional debate in 2019, when they seriously wanted to recognize Azov as a terrorist organization. 

Journalist Simon Shuster, photo from social media

Journalist Simon Shuster, photo from social media

However, despite this tumultuous biography, Simon Shuster has been regularly writing articles about Zelenskyy since 2019 and has extremely comfortable working conditions on Bankova Street. Moreover, last year, Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed a decree awarding the scandalous reporter... the Order of Merit of the third degree. This is the same order that was awarded to Yevhen Koshovyi and Sashko Pikalov, close friends of Zelenskyy. It is worth recalling that these decorations were handed out on the eve of Independence Day in 2022. At the time, many military personnel and families of the fallen heroes were outraged that they got everything, while the people who directly saved independence were left behind. 

However, if the order could buy the loyalty of his people, Shuster did not show complete obedience. 

So eventually, the article about Zelenskyy was published with a comment from Yermak, who complained about a cramped room in a bunker where it was difficult to sleep. And with Shurma's remarks that there are some political forces that have pulled out the sh*t about his brother's illegal million-dollar deals in the occupied territories. And that there was no need to fire anyone at all, because they would continue to tear them apart. 

So, in fact, Bankova Street fell into its own information policy trap. Bad opposition channels, bad Sokolova, Butusov, Tkach, Nikolov and Mostova... A bunch of anonymous Telegram channels and a single TV marathon. All of this came to a screeching halt when a favored reporter hacked into the open mic mode in an office that hundreds of other journalists would have dreamed of entering. 

Did Zelenskyy know about Shuster's rather dubious past with Azov? Let's see, given that the issue of the so-called extraction of Azov, Olenivka and the captivity of hundreds of soldiers of our glorious regiment periodically catches up with Zelenskyy and Yermak. 

For many years in a row, including the defense of Mariupol, Azov has been unfairly discredited and defamed. Need I remind you of the nonsense that was broadcast on television and in the Rada whenever someone mentioned Azov? For years, we have been asked not to "split the country" with sad talk about the war.

I remind you that the first years of Zelenskyy's presidency were marked by the search for peace and the hunt for "radicals" represented by Ukrainian veterans. Zelenskyy's entourage did not hide their dislike for Azov - only the defense of Mariupol was able to break this situation, when it became impossible to ignore Azov's victory. Therefore, I fully understand why the scandalous author became an interviewer for the president, who did not give a damn about nationalists with values. At their core, Shuster and Zelenskyy are very similar. It is therefore not surprising that Bankova did not react to the discrediting of Ukrainian soldiers. When Shuster and Zelenskyy started working together in 2019, their tastes were quite the same. 

Many were outraged by the article's quotes from several anonymous aides, who spouted deafening things about the crisis in public administration and the direct interference of politicians in the affairs of the military. 

I can say that it was not Arestovych who was there, but three other people. Some are already pushing back – including Mykhailo Podolyak, who is now in charge of information policy. 

Simon Shuster, as is well known, treated Bankova Street like his home for two weeks. And here the gaps in the press service's work became very clear. Simon is a very skillful reporter, and even more so, he is a very ambitious person who is aiming for fame and the role of an opinion leader in American politics. When you go to a conversation with an author like this, you have to prepare carefully and run through all the negative questions with all the participants. This is about a week of hours of work by a high-quality press service. Zelenskyy doesn't have one, because he has either hired Yanukovych's second-hand staff or Lukashenko's leftovers. Instead, Zelenskyy's press service was eager for positive PR. And in fact, they let the fox into the hen house. And there, the fox turned the insides of Shurma, Yermak and the leader himself outwards. It tore up and scattered the feathers. 

All this is happening against the backdrop of quotes from anonymous advisers who clearly want to play the gray cardinal. And they are rubbing their hands in anticipation of either a second term or barbecues on the Yalta embankment, which, for a number of objective reasons, are becoming more and more illusory. All of this creates unnecessary tension within Ukraine and even worse in the West, on whose help we are critically dependent. 

Overall, it was a useful article, despite the personality of its author and the understanding of the chaos and mess that is happening in the President's Office. 

In essence, Zelenskyy and his inner circle have signed off on the fact that they spent the past year like flies. That they are interested in their own images, ratings, and the prospect of a large post-war cache - like Shurma. And what is banal is that the scale of all these personalities is not enough to solve a layer of military, economic and diplomatic problems. Even worse, all these people consider themselves the smartest and do not consider it necessary to ask for advice and call for help from people who know how to work, rather than press the Rec button on the camera. So, of course, they will keep their feet on the ground and do everything they can to prevent the government from being rebooted by people who understand the economy. And they will definitely pretend that they did not notice the famous US letter to the government with a list of reforms. 

So we can state the sad fact. Volodymyr Zelenskyy is not trusted in the West as he used to be. His trust limit is exhausted. But we can do everything in our power to keep people from losing faith in Ukraine. Because presidents come and go. And we will not have another home.

Specially for Espreso

About the author: Maryna Danyliuk-Yarmolaieva, journalist

The editors do not always share the opinions expressed by the authors of blogs.

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