The Ukrainian President, Viktor Zelensky, has emerged as a global hero throughout Russia's 11-week invasion of Ukraine, as his own compatriots, as well as people all over the world, have rallied behind him in his attempt to dethrone Russian President Vladimir Putin. The former comedian enjoys the support of a number of foreign leaders, including UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who offered more armored vehicles, drones, and anti-tank weapons to Ukraine just a few weeks ago, among other things.
According to a recent survey of 2,001 adults conducted by the Center for Insights in Survey Research, approximately 94 percent of Ukrainians strongly favor or somewhat approve of Zelensky's work as leader.
The results, however, presented a different story before Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, with only 31 percent of Ukrainians backing their leader as of December 2021, according to the last available data.
According to Volodymyr Ishchenko, a research associate at the Institute of East European Studies at Freie Universität Berlin, Zelensky had suffered a "major political setback" and was on the verge of being forced from power prior to the outbreak of war.
Using examples from his own country, the expert recounted how the Ukrainian leader initiated a media crackdown in 2021 and then attempted to arrest his predecessor, ex-President Petro Poroshenko, whom he defeated in the 2019 presidential election, on treason charges in January this year.
The following is what Mr Ishchenko had to say to Express.co.uk: "Zelensky attacked not just this element of Ukrainian politics, but he also reportedly decided to arrest Poroshenko, who was the leader of a more nationalist opposition to Zelensky, before the end of the year."
The fact that Zelensky was on the verge of being deposed before the Russian invasion dealt him a "major political setback" (Image: GETTY)
Ukraine has been devastated as a result of Russian strikes (Image: GETTY)
"That, unfortunately, failed badly, and Poroshenko was just allowed to walk free." Poroshenko's popularity has only grown as a result of his actions.
It was actually predicted that Poroshenko would defeat Zelensky in the elections if they were held in February 2022, according to some of the most recent polls conducted before the invasion.
"And that was a major political setback to Zelensky, especially when you consider how convincingly he defeated Poroshenko in 2019."
In February of last year, Zelensky began sanctioning television and media companies in Ukraine that supported the opposition.
He accused individuals targeted of being supported by the Kremlin and stated that the move was necessary in order to stop "propaganda financed by the aggressor countries" from spreading.
Boris Johnson is in Kyiv, where he is meeting with Vladimir Zelensky (Image: GETTY)
Besides cracking down on opposition parties, Putin imposed sanctions against several of them, including pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk, the former leader of the party Opposition Platform – For Life.
Medvedchuk, who had been placed under house arrest in May of last year, managed to get away during the invasion and was apprehended again last month.
"Zelensky began to censure and target such political parties," Mr Ishchenko explained.
"Within a year, he had sanctioned virtually all of the major opposition media outlets," says the author.
"This has received little or no attention in the Western media — almost none at all.
Ukrainian legislator Viktor Medvedchuk has been arrested (Image: GETTY)
"It was a significant attack on the opposition media," says the author.
The political expert noted that Zelensky was making "a lot of enemies," citing, for example, his dispute with Ukrainian businessman Rinat Akhmetov as one example.
In November of last year, the Ukrainian leader accused the millionaire of preparing a coup against him, which Mr Ishchenko alleges had been preoccupying Zelensky up until the Russian invasion.
"As a result, Zelensky was losing popularity and gaining a large number of opponents."
Military statistics in Russia and Ukraine are explained (Image: EXPRESS)
"He actually began to make it known to a large number of people that he was fighting Akhmetov.
As a matter of fact, he accused Akhmetov of plotting a coup d'état against Zelensky."
"At the same time as the Western media was hyping the impending Russian invasion, Zelensky was thinking about a coup d'etat by Akhmetov," the author writes.
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