If the molehill won't come to Terrence, then Terrence will come to the molehill. The situation with the debates between Ukraine’s presidential aspirants Petro Poroshenko and Volodymyr Zelensky remains tensed and uncompromising – the candidates failed to agree on the date of the debates. But both of them have found a much more interesting platform for debating – the Élysée Palace of the French President. Emmanuel Macron had a meeting with Zelensky and after that, he met with Poroshenko. Before landing in Paris, Poroshenko has visited Germany; Chancellor Angela Merkel called his opponent a “non-system politician,” and explained his success with a pan-European trend.
Interestingly, on the eve of the visit, the French Le Monde gave slightly different characteristics to Zelensky. Newspapers called him “young and inexperienced.” Petro Poroshenko was hinted at his secondary positions, the outlet also called him the one who is resigning.
“Ukraine’s presidential candidates have both submitted to drug tests as the country’s elections increasingly resemble a political circus in the final weeks of the campaign,” writes the British The Guardian in an article “Ukraine president takes up comedian’s drug test challenge.”
There are some foreign outlets that analyze the situation in more depth: “Poroshenko also has been repeatedly accused of turning a blind eye to corruption. In addition, the exposure of a military embezzlement scheme that allegedly involved top Poroshenko associates as well as a factory controlled by the president has badly dented his popularity. Poroshenko has denied any links to the scheme. In an apparent bid to deflect criticism, Poroshenko on Thursday signed a decree to appoint members of the High Anti-Corruption Court — a longtime demand of both the United States and the European Union,” The Washington Post explains.
And we go back to France, the already quoted Le Monde convinces: the meeting on the Élysée Palace was considered necessary in order to convey to both candidates about Europe’s continued support of Ukraine.
April in Paris
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian side is convinced that Macron needed a meeting with the candidates not only to swear allegiance to the chosen course. It was a kind of a “bride show” for Zelensky.
The meeting of Macron and Poroshenko was held behind the closed doors, and its public part was a kind of a joint press conference. No doubt, Macron knows how to behave before the journalists, no matter how strong are the emotions are inside. As for the conversation between Macron and Zelensky, it was quite an informal meeting. Only half an hour was allotted to Zelensky and his team, but the meeting lasted 1 hour and 15 minutes. The press service of the candidate reported that they have discussed some nuances of the second round.
Zelensky himself later said to Radio Liberty: “Very cool, warm atmosphere; our meeting was very productive. I have met with the real leader of a united Europe. And I liked it,” Zelensky stated. “What did we talk about? About life, about crucial things. We talked about ending the war in Donbas,” he added, answering questions from media representatives.
It is noteworthy that both guests of the Élysée Palace interpret their stay there in their own favor. Petro Poroshenko needs to demonstrate that he is still a president, and Volodymyr Zelensky shows that he is already the president.
“The president of one of the advanced countries wants to personally meet Zelensky. Who is Zelensky? This is a surprise for the Ukrainian elections. He wants to personally shake hands with the winner in the first round. But this is just a friendly meeting, and Macron will not speak in support of Zelensky,” political experts Taras Semenyuk suggests
“Sincere friendship” and “political tactlessness”
In general, the experts emphasize: a double rendezvous with candidates who are at the forefront of the struggle for the presidency is something unusual for Western diplomacy. As a rule, Western politicians meet with the winner in order to define the relationship strategy. In such a format, a somewhat dismissive attitude towards Ukraine could be seen; being a third world state, it is unable to cope with its own elections on its own. Ukrainian experts are outraged by the order of meetings at the Élysée Palace. The fact that Poroshenko was hosted after Zelensky was the verge of “political tactlessness,” Viktor Nebozhenko, the director of the Ukrainian Barometer sociological service, is convinced.
The protocol filming on the porch of the Elysée Palace prompted the Ukrainian president to share a photo on Twitter with his French colleague: “I am pleased to meet with Ukraine’s sincere friend Emmanuel Macron.”
About an hour later, Poroshenko’s meeting with Macron came to an end. “Took adieu,” Alla Lazareva, a journalist who lives and works in France, commented on Facebook. In her photo, you can see how two “sincere friends” hug before Poroshenko’s departure.
At a joint briefing with Petro Poroshenko, which took place a few hours before the events in Paris, Angela Merkel has openly stated: “Regardless of the election result, I want to say that we will work for the positive development of Ukraine.” Did Macron think the same?