How Zelensky is Losing His Halo, May Soon Outlive His Usefulness for West

How Zelensky is Losing His Halo, May Soon Outlive His Usefulness for West

Ekaterina Blinova, 17.08.2022…

Western mainstream press previously lauded Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as a guardian of democracy. However, as ex-Donald Trump adviser Steve Cortes observes in his Newsweek op-ed, its tone is changing.

The Zelensky narrative used by western media "has palpably shifted" over the last few weeks, according to Steve Cortes, a US political consultant, market strategist and former Trump campaign adviser.

This shift particularly comes in relation to the latest CBS News report which alleged that "much of the billions of dollars of military aid that the US is sending to Ukraine doesn't make it to the front lines." Cortes also cites the New York Times' Thomas L. Friedman, who admitted earlier this month that "there is deep mistrust between the White House and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine — considerably more than has been reported."

Concerns also appear to be simmering over Zelensky firing his prosecutor general and intelligence chief on July 18 without explanations. "I have still not seen any reporting that convincingly explains what that was all about," Friedman wrote. "It is as if we don’t want to look too closely under the hood in Kiev for fear of what corruption or antics we might see, when we have invested so much there."

Similarly, German newspaper Die Welt once again shed light on Zelensky's offshore network schemes on August 3, as exposed by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) in October 2021. It also revealed Kiev's apparent role in cancelling a Ukrainian documentary "Offshore 95 – President Zelensky's Secret Deals" last year.

The press reports were also preceded by GOP Representative Victoria Spartz's push for more oversight of US aid to Kiev amid suspicions of corruption within the Zelensky cabinet.

Zelensky & Kolomoisky

Accusations of corruption are threatening to strip the Ukrainian president of his heroic "halo." On July 20, investigative journalist and managing editor of CovertAction Magazine, Jeremy Kuzmarov, provided details of Zelensky's longstanding ties to Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoisky.

Kolomoisky has been under FBI investigation for financial crimes, including money laundering, for the past few years. The Ukrainian oligarch is also known for funding and supporting notorious neo-Nazi and ultra-nationalist battalions including Azov*, Aidar, Donbas, Dnepr 1, and Dnepr 2, in 2014. According to Kuzmarov, these military units "were sometimes deployed as personal thug squads to protect Kolomoisky’s financial interests."

In January 2022, the US Department of Justice filed a civil forfeiture complaint alleging that Kolomoisky and his associate Gennadiy Bogolyubov, who owned Ukraine's PrivatBank, embezzled and defrauded the financial institution for $5.5 billion.

Judging from the Pandora Papers, Zelensky and his partners in his Kvartal 95 television production company founded a network of offshore companies in 2012 just as they started to cooperate with Kolomoisky's TV stations.

Four days after the release of Kuzmarov's exposé this year, reports emerged indicating that Zelensky had stripped Kolomoisky of his Ukrainian citizenship alongside another two Ukrainian oligarchs.

"I am not sure what is behind the decision to strip Kolomoisky of citizenship but it could be an attempt to improve Zelensky's public image and try and distance himself from his former backer because of the corruption scandals and legal problems Kolomoisky is facing," says Kuzmarov. "We see a similar thing in US politics, for example, when Barack Obama distanced himself from Tony Rezko, a highly corrupt backer of his in the state of Illinois (when Obama was a state senator) who was jailed for corruption."

According to the investigative journalist, "at this stage, Zelensky may feel he does not need Kolomoisky's support anymore especially given that he is being provided billions of dollars of weapons and aid from the US and West."

"[Kolomoisky] has only become a liability with the indictments he faces in the US," the journalist continues.

In addition, Zelensky fired his long-time associate State Security Service (SBU) head Ivan Bakanov, who is now subject of an investigation. In October 2021, Bakanov was mentioned in the Pandora Papers as Zelensky's partner in the offshore network.

"It could all be related, yes, that Zelensky is trying to distance himself from his former close associates who are being set up to take the fall for the corruption that Zelensky is implicated in too," says Kuzmarov. "Zelensky may feel that he has powerful protectors in the 'international community'."

Corruption Outside Ukraine

Meanwhile, the story of Ukrainian corruption appears to be bigger than Zelensky's apparent financial machinations and links to the oligarchy, according to Wall Street analyst Charles Ortel.

"For a blinkered mainstream press, Kolomoisky readily can be sold as a convenient scapegoat considering his deeply suspicious and repugnant history. That said, who are the true puppeteers inside Ukraine? Are they governments, billionaire investors or both?" asks Ortel. "Considering the many ways in which state-owned assets and aid ostensibly for Ukraine have already been plundered, the period from 1991 forward and more recently from 2004 and then 2014 forward may well be used for decades to demonstrate that there is no honor among thieves, and great danger for populations when political corruption is encouraged."

The Wall Street analyst alleges that Ukraine provided a certain financial bonanza for US dynastical families, including the Clintons and the Bidens, well before Zelensky came to power. As such, Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk, who is also the son-in-law of former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, generously donated to the Clinton charity, prompting suspicions of a "pay-to-play" scheme. Likewise, Republican lawmakers have long been looking into apparent influence peddling involving then-Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter, who sat on the board of Ukrainian gas firm Burisma and was reportedly paid a staggering $83,333 per month. According to Miranda Devine's book "Laptop from Hell," Burisma slashed Hunter's salary in half two months after his father ceased to be vice president.

Zelensky Not Indispensable for West

"With so many worries distracting voters in key nations, and given his status for a time as one-part Greta Thunberg scold and a second part Tony Fauci hero, Zelensky may believe he has secured a permanent 'White Hat' role, and that he never will be called to account for massive corruption to which he and many others seem connected," explained Ortel.

However, Zelensky shouldn't delude himself into believing that he is "indispensible" in the eyes of the western political establishment, according to the analyst. As such, Thomas L. Friedman's notion that the Biden administration and the Ukrainian president are not on the same page should come as a potential warning for Kiev’s man.

For his part, National Review's Jim Geraghty suggests that the NYT leak that the White House does not trust the Ukrainian president could mean two things.

"Possibility one is that the Biden administration just wants the Ukraine-Russia war to end, and Zelensky isn’t playing ball, so the administration is getting ready to leave Zelensky hanging out to dry," Geraghty wrote on August 2. "Possibility two is that the administration foresees the Ukraine-Russia war going badly, and is preparing to use Zelensky as a scapegoat."

In any event, the Biden administration appears to be laying the groundwork to argue, "We did everything we could to help the Ukrainians defend themselves, but in the end, they were too incompetent, too corrupt, and too beset by infighting," according to Geraghty.

"It is difficult to predict when Zelensky will outlive his usefulness and get cast aside but that day is coming, whether in retaliation by a vindictive erstwhile ally or in military action or otherwise," Ortel concludes.

*Azov Battalion is a terrorist group banned in Russia