“I want Ukraine to be independent,” Mykola Mykytenko wrote on Instagram, hours before setting himself on fire in Kyiv’s central Maidan Square.
The 49-year-old died on October 14, three days after his extreme protest in the heart of the country’s capital, where months of massive anti-government demonstrations took place in late 2013 and early 2014.
His daughter Yulia told reporters at a memorial service shortly after his death that he was protesting against Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Mykytenko, a veteran of the military conflict against Russian-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine that has claimed more than 1
“He did it at night because he didn’t want other people to get hurt,” she said. “He also didn’t want anyone to stop him.”
Zelenskiy, a political novice who played a president in a TV series, ran on an anti-corruption card and promised to curb the power of the oligarchs and promised to end the conflict in the east with Russia and improve relations with Moscow before defeating the incumbent president. Petro Poroshenko in April 2019.
But the former comedian’s popularity has waned since he took over the leadership of the country, which sits at the forefront of the West’s opposition to Russia, as he has fought to control the coronavirus pandemic and revive its battered economy.
His approval rating was 46 percent in a national poll conducted by the highly respected think tank of Rating Group earlier this month, while 51 percent said they did not trust him. However, this was higher than many of his rivals.
Opponents in the country of 42 million, where a significant minority of the population uses Russian as their first language, especially in the cities and the industrialized east, have accused him of leaning too close to the West.
Others have accused Zelenskiy, who was hospitalized with Covid-19 earlier this month, of favoring Moscow.
“Winners always lose electoral support in the first year of power in Ukraine,” said Volodymyr Paniotto, director general of the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology. He added that people had returned to traditional parties, which have mobilized their resources against Zelenskiy.
This was demonstrated when the pro-Kremlin Opposition Platform for Life party – co-chair of Viktor Medvedchuk, a close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin – made a strong show at the local elections last month.
“They feel his lack of experience and use it against him,” said Oleksandr Danylyuk, Ukraine’s former national security chief.
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Evil over a decision of October 28 by the Ukrainian Constitutional Court has also bulged Zelenskiy’s popularity both at home and abroad.
Eleven of the 15 judges slammed a mandatory asset register for civil servants and removed some of the most significant powers from the Central National Anti-Corruption Agency or NAZK, which lost the right to verify the accuracy of information in the statements of officials. as well as conducting inspections at government agencies. Free public access to officials’ statements was also made illegal.
The ruling also declared it illegal to hold officials criminally liable for false information in their asset statements.
Activists claimed the decision was part of a systematic attempt by the court to wind up anti-corruption institutions, pointing out that the case was brought by 47 pro-Russian lawmakers, including Medvedchuk.
Zelenskiy questioned the decision a day after the ruling that Ukraine would lose the World Bank’s support, leaving “a big gap in the budget.”
On the same day, the European Union reiterated his claim. In a statement, it said the court’s ruling called into question “a number of international commitments that Ukraine has made to its international partners, including the EU”
Zelenskiy responded by submitting a bill to overturn the ruling, dismiss the judges of the Constitutional Court and appoint new ones. But this was rejected by his colleagues, including several members of his ruling Servant of the People’s Party. Some accused him of a power grab.
Instead, another bill has been submitted that restores the rules that the court has laid down. It has not yet been discussed.
Zelenskiy has also been criticized for failing to make progress with Russia, although he was able to reach an agreement that troops should withdraw from key frontier areas in eastern Ukraine in October 2019, and he secured prisoner exchanges in September and December 2019.
He hailed this as a success and told NBC News last month that some of his rivals had claimed the withdrawal would encourage attacks by Russian-backed forces. “Instead, there is an ongoing ceasefire,” he said.
However, sporadic exchanges of fire continue along the 250-kilometer front line, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe reports that there were nearly 14,000 ceasefire violations between July and September 2020. Three civilians were killed, it said.
For some like Dmytro Filimonenko (25), an information technology specialist from Kiev, Zelenskiy is making progress, albeit slowly.
“I voted for Zelenskiy because I expected rapid changes,” he said. “He wants to do this. But in a year, I understand that a person can not change everything. ”
But for veterans, some of whom physically tried to prevent Ukrainian troops from leaving the front line, the withdrawal was seen as an act of capitulation.
Mykytenko gave up his life because of the problem.
“He wanted to be heard,” said his daughter Yuliya.