Oliver Carroll – The Independent April 22, 2019
Speaking with journalists on Monday afternoon, nearly a day after the comedian romped home with 73 per cent of the vote, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said it was “too early” to talk about a phone call to Kiev.
Russia would only open the doors of cooperation after judging “concrete actions” of the new president.
“We respect the Ukrainian elections, more so that the verdict was very clear,” he said. “But the legitimacy of these elections is still under question given that 3.5 million people were unable to vote.”
Mr Peskov was referring to the estimated populations living in eastern Ukraine’s conflict zone and under the control of Russian-backed armed formations.
In total, nearly 20 million voters took part in Sunday’s vote, with a higher-than-expected turnout at 63 per cent. International observers have described the elections as the cleanest in Ukraine’s history, with only minor violations recorded.
Earlier, the Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev warned against expecting an immediate warming of relations. Writing on social media, he said the election of Mr Zelensky was an indication that Ukrainians wanted to take a “common sense” attitude to relations with Russia. But he added that improving cooperation required “honesty and a pragmatic and responsible approach”.
Over the course of a minimalist election campaign, Mr Zelensky offered few clues about his political thinking.
But one area where he has been outspoken has been his explicit rejection of the soft ethnic-nationalism pursued by his opponent. Instead, the populist candidate has offered olive branches to the Russian-speaking populations of the southeast. He also suggested that Ukraine needed to be more sympathetic to the people living in the conflict zone in the east.
That approach seems to have helped him to achieve what no previous president has achieved: transcend traditional voting patterns split east-west on language and identity lines.
In the event, Mr Zelensky was supported with massive majorities in all regions of Ukraine. Mr Poroshenko was only able to claim one region, Lviv, in the west, with just over half of the vote.
That redrawing of the political map has created new problems for Moscow, who will find it difficult to present Mr Zelensky as a threat to ordinary Russians.