President Zelenskyy has been accused of dodging the press since he took office, and so he decided to address this criticism recently with (as it turned out) the longest press conference from any President in history. The gaggle convened at a shiny new location, the Kyiv Food Market at Arsenalna which is, by all accounts, pretty good. The event saw as many as 300 journalists gathered to sit around a table in groups with the President, asking (and him answering) over 500 questions. While the marathon may have addressed the criticisms of openness, some of the answers he offered invited more questions.
First off, there was a non-answer about the ongoing and never-ending desire of oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky to get “his” bank (Privat) back. On this the only acceptable answer from the President, known for his ties to that same oligarch, should have been, “No, the former owners will not regain control over this bank.” Instead, he demurred and offered nothing concrete, saying only that he will “defend the nation’s interests” whatever that means in this case.
This is a major concern, because a reversal of the (very valid) nationalisation of this bank will create a knock-on effect for everyone in the country, including a potential suspension of cooperation with the IMF, and that will have an effect on the currency. Another disturbing moment was when the President singled out a major media outlet for criticism, in a moment that smacked of authoritarianism. Taking a pop at the very well-respected Novoye Vremya group, Zelenskyy noted their main shareholder as not Ukrainian. As if that matters a jot.
As the press conference reached its ninth hour, a showman’s trick unfolded. All of a sudden an “expert” made himself known to the gathering and announced that this was now, officially, the longest press conference by any president in history; a record previously held by Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko (8 hours, for the “record”). The “expert” then proceeded to present the new recordholder with a certificate that he happened to have on his person “just in case” such a thing came to pass. Obviously pre-arranged, and a bit crass, but what can we expect from the comedian-turned-head of state?