How the war in Ukraine obscured an uncomfortable truth

Around this time last year — with Russia on the brink of launching its full-scale invasion — Ukrainians’ confidence in their president to handle the military threat massing on their doorstep was low.

Former comedian Volodymyr Zelensky’s popularity ratings were tanking as he battled allegations of unmet campaign promises to tackle endemic corruption.

At the time, one of the major complaints against Zelensky was that he’d let pledges to reform the judicial system slide — a delay that threatened to derail Ukraine’s aspirations of joining the European Union.

For Ukrainians, it was an emotive issue. It is worth recalling that becoming part of the bloc was the main motivation of thousands of protesters taking to the streets in freezing temperatures during the 2013-2014 Revolution of Dignity — also known as the Maidan.

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Then on February 24, Russia’s total invasion blasted these concerns into the background. Almost overnight, that dark cloud over Zelensky vanished as he defied critics, and miraculously pivoted into the role of heroic wartime president and global symbol of defender of the free world.

His popularity ratings surged — and have stayed high ever since — currently hovering at around 84%

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