Verdict first

Jakob Hanke reports from Ukraine:

Ukraine’s President-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy has rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s offer to give passports to Ukrainians, instead saying Russians could gain Ukrainian passports.

Last week, Putin made residents of the breakaway “republics” in the east of Ukraine eligible for a fast track to Russian citizenship. A day or two later, he suggested that his government could make Russian citizenship more accessible to all Ukrainians.

“We know perfectly well what a Russian passport provides,” Zelenskiy wrote in a Facebook post late Saturday, “the right to be arrested for a peaceful protest” and “the right not to have free and competitive elections.”

Zelensky… said one of the differences between Ukraine and Russia is that “we Ukrainians have freedom of speech, freedom of the media and the internet in our country.”

Well said. By the way, Zelensky is not merely a “comic” or “actor.” He’s a successful producer, director, media manager and show businessman. His skills and experience are not limited to play-acting.

“We will provide Ukrainian citizenship to representatives of all peoples who suffer from authoritarian and corrupt regimes. In the first place — the Russians, who today suffer probably the most,” he added.

That would be fine, although I’m not sure Zelensky will be able to deliver on this promise. But even if it’s just an idea, it was worth bringing up. It’s good rhetoric, but it didn’t stop at that point. Zelensky ended his post with a different rebuke to Putin. Last October, the Russian dictator said that Russia would only use nuclear weapons if attacked, with deadly results:

“And we, as victims of aggression, will go straight to paradise as martyrs, while they will simply pop off,” Putin said, causing the audience to laugh. “Because they won’t even have time to regret,” he said.

That was quite a hissy fit on live TV. Alluding to Putin’s outburst, Zelensky wrote that – eventually – all state officials would have to give an account to the Almighty:

No one will go straight to Paradise. First there will be Judgment.

I was impressed. For a moment, I even thought of the great Ukrainian preachers who contributed so much to Russian literature in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

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