Canadian envoy urges stronger relations with Ukraine after comedian voted president

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A former Canadian overseas minister who monitored Ukraine‘s presidential election is urging Canada to “freshen” its relationship with the European nation whereas expressing some reservations about its new chief.

Lloyd Axworthy, who led a crew of 160 unbiased Canadian displays for 2 rounds of voting, mentioned the election of a brand new Ukrainian president represents an opportunity for Canada to redouble its assist for a strategically vital nation.

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But chatting with reporters on Wednesday following his return to Canada, Axworthy hinted at some issues with new president-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a comic whose solely political expertise is taking part in Ukraine’s president on TV.

These included Zelenskiy’s attraction to populism, his refusal to have interaction with the media throughout the marketing campaign, and questions over whether or not he’ll cave to Russia to finish the five-year battle ravaging jap Ukraine.

After avenue protests drove Russian-friendly president Viktor Yanukovych from energy in 2014, Russia invaded and annexed Ukraine’s southern Crimean Peninsula and aggressively backed separatists in Ukraine’s jap provinces.

WATCH: Comic Volodymyr Zelenskiy celebrates landslide win in Ukrainian presidential race

“(Zelinskiy) talked about desirous to discover a peaceable answer to the border conflicts in two or three weeks,” mentioned Axworthy, who cited some Ukrainians as worrying about concessions. “That’s a fairly daring assertion.”

Canada has lengthy had an curiosity in Ukrainian affairs due to the massive Ukrainian diaspora in Canada. Extra not too long ago, Ukraine has been in the course of a tug-of-war between Europe and NATO on one aspect and an assertive Russia below President Vladimir Putin on the opposite.

The 41-year-old Zelenskiy handily defeated incumbent Petro Poroshenko on Sunday, securing 73 per cent of the vote within the second spherical of the presidential election regardless of providing little in the best way of insurance policies or positions.

READ MORE: Comic Volodymyr Zelenskiy set to win Ukraine election, Petro Poroshenko concedes

On the similar time, the media have been minimize off from him — that means Zelenskiy was largely in a position to keep away from questions on what he stood for or how he deliberate to take care of Ukraine’s many challenges.

Whereas Axworthy mentioned chopping off media entry to leaders has turn out to be extra widespread, together with within the U.S. with President Donald Trump, his crew nonetheless flagged techniques utilized by Zelenskiy’s marketing campaign as a priority.

“We drew consideration to the very fact that there have been some actually disturbing trendlines within the media and information subject, feedback about probably not needing to have press conversations and briefings and so forth,” he mentioned.

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“It sounds very aware of what we’re receiving south of us and from many different governments, who see limiting press freedom or entry as one of many ways in which they will achieve larger management.”

And with out mentioning Zelenskiy by title, Axworthy mentioned with leaders backed by populist actions, “there’s all the time a threat that they might find yourself making an attempt to restrict the constitutional and the democratic rules which we’re all interested by selling.”

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Regardless of these issues — or maybe due to them — Axworthy mentioned Canada has a brand new alternative to take a look at its relationship with Ukraine.

That features working with Zelenskiy and his new crew, whoever they’re, and partnering with allies to broaden “the democratic agenda” earlier than the Kremlin below Putin tries to dig its claws in.

“I believe Mr. Putin has only one fundamental ambition, and that’s to destabilize Ukraine and convey them below their orbit and likewise not have it as a frontline-border instance of a democratic system working,” Axworthy mentioned. “Canadians need to get mobilized round it as effectively. This might be a vital relationship for us to have in Europe, in Euro-Asia in truth, and to work collectively on a variety of joint points.”

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A lot of the discuss main as much as the election was over fears Russia would attempt to intervene, which Axworthy mentioned was a problem, notably throughout the first spherical of voting in March.

“I discover that some Canadian media aren’t being attentive to it a lot as a result of they suppose it’s form of crying wolf, nevertheless it isn’t,” he mentioned. “There was actually persevering with outbursts of internet sites with hate and mobilization and protests.”

These efforts did appear to be “phased out” throughout the second spherical of voting, Axworthy mentioned, saying: “There was no actual must form of prop up one candidate or one other. I believe the election was going the best way they needed.”

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The previous Canadian minister didn’t elaborate, however did reward Ukrainian officers, who’ve been coping with Russian misinformation for 5 years, for having developed varied measures to detect interference.

Worldwide observers have mentioned Zelenskiy’s election was respectable and the results of a free and honest vote, an evaluation that Axworthy echoed, describing the conduct of the votes themselves “an indication of a bona fide democracy at work.”

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