Zelenskiy Takes Office As Ukrainian President

Zelenskiy Takes Office as Ukrainian President

Volodymyr Zelenskiy took the oath of allegiance to the Ukrainian people and assumed the office of the presidency on Monday

KIEV (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 20th May, 2019) Volodymyr Zelenskiy took the oath of allegiance to the Ukrainian people and assumed the office of the presidency on Monday.

In his very first address to the Ukrainian parliament members, the new head of state promised to do everything possible to establish peace in the Donbas region. He also called on members of the current government to resign and announced that he would dissolve the current convocation of the country's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, ahead of schedule.

Kiev police increased security measures in the government quarter on Monday morning ahead of the presidential inauguration. The streets were patrolled by police and the National Guard, and the roads adjacent to the parliament building were closed. Residents of the Ukrainian capital wanting to see the inauguration gathered in front of the parliament in Konstytutsii square and Mariinskyi Park. A large screen had been installed there, on which a parliament meeting dedicated to the inauguration was broadcast.

Zelenskiy, accompanied by security guards, came to Mariinskyi Park by foot. He briefly spoke with people in front of the Rada building, took photos with them and then he walked across Konstytutsii square to the parliament building.

The parliament meeting was attended by former Ukrainian presidents Leonid Kravchuk, Leonid Kuchma, Viktor Yushchenko and Petro Poroshenko, as well as by international delegations.

The inauguration ceremony was attended by the prime ministers of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Hungary and Georgia, as well as representatives of Bulgaria, Romania, Poland and Japan.

The United States, Canada, Turkey, Germany and Azerbaijan were represented at the inauguration by Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Defense Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan, Vice President Fuat Oktay, former President Christian Wulff and National Assembly Speaker Ogtay Asadov, respectively.

Kiev did not invite Russian officials to the event.

Zelenskiy was sworn in by the head of the Ukrainian Constitutional Court. He took the oath by placing his hand on Peresopnytsia Gospel, a manuscript that contains the first known example of old Ukrainian translation of the canonical texts, and on the cover of the Ukrainian Constitution.

"I, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, elected by the will of the people as the president of Ukraine, assuming this high office, do solemnly swear allegiance to Ukraine. I pledge with all my undertakings to protect the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, to provide for the good of the Motherland and the welfare of the Ukrainian people, to protect the rights and freedoms of citizens, to abide by the Constitution of Ukraine and the laws of Ukraine, to exercise my duties in the interests of all compatriots, and to enhance the prestige of Ukraine in the world," Zelenskiy said.

Zelenskiy signed the text of the oath and handed it over to the head of the Ukrainian Constitutional Court, who then announced that Zelenskiy had officially assumed the presidency. Afterward, Zelenskiy received the official symbols of power: the collar of the president, the official seal and the so-called bulava, a ceremonial mace.

But the ceremony was not without incident. After the chairwoman of the Ukrainian Central Election Commission, Tetiana Slipachuk, handed over the certificate to the new president, he proceeded to place it on the ceremonial pillow, which was held by a military guard of honor. When the military man stepped aside, the certificate fell to the ground but was picked up quickly and returned to its place.

After that, Zelenskiy addressed his deputies for the first time as head of state. They stood up and applauded, but when the president started his speech in Russian, they shouted "In Ukrainian!"

The president also said that every Ukrainian was responsible for the country's path to European integration.

"A European country starts with each of us. Yes, we chose the path to Europe, but Europe is not somewhere over there, Europe is here. And when Europe is here [in our heads], it will be here, in Ukraine," Zelenskiy said.

According to him, 65 million Ukrainians live around the world, and he promised to grant citizenship to anyone who was ready to build a new country.

At the same time, people, who watched the broadcast of the inauguration on the street, welcomed the president's speech by chanting "Zelenskiy" and "President" and vigorously applauding.

Zelenskiy began his first speech as president by calling on citizens to unite.

"We are all Ukrainians. There are no big and small [Ukrainians], there are no right and wrong [Ukrainians], we are all Ukrainians. From Uzhgorod to Luhansk, from Chernihiv to Simferopol, in Kharkiv, in Donetsk, in Dnipro and in Odessa, we are all Ukrainians, and we should be united because only then we will be strong," Zelenskiy said in his address at the Ukrainian parliament.

He called the task of achieving ceasefire in Donbas his top priority, noting that he was ready for anything, from making difficult decisions to even sacrificing his post, to achieve this goal.

"I am ready to do everything in order for our heroes to stop dying, and I am definitely will not make weak decisions. I am willing to lose my popularity, my ratings, and, if necessary, I will not hesitate to lose my position, as long as peace is restored," the sixth Ukrainian president said.

The president also declared his readiness for a dialogue to end the conflict in Donbas, but the first step for this, he said, would be the return of all Ukrainian prisoners of war.

"History is unfair, that is true. It was not us who started this war, but we will be the ones to end it, and we are ready for a dialogue. But I am confident that the first step toward establishing this dialogue will be to return all Ukrainian detainees," the president said.

Right at that moment, the leader of the nationalist Radical Party Oleh Lyashko demanded that the president speak Ukrainian.

"I see, deputy Lyashko, that you continue to divide people," Zelenskiy replied.

The new president then called on some representatives of the current government, including members of the government, to resign.

"I do not understand our government, which only throws its hands up in the air and says that it cannot do anything. That is not true: you can. You can take a piece of paper and a pen and free your seats in favor of all those who will think about future generations and not about the next election. I think people will appreciate it," Zelenskiy said.

He called on parliamentarians to dismiss the head of the Ukrainian Security Council, defense minister and prosecutor general. Zelenskiy also called on the parliament to abolish parliamentary immunity.

"I ask you to pass a law abolishing parliamentary immunity, a law establishing criminal liability for illicit enrichment and to eventually adopt a new electoral code. And please make [electoral] lists open," Zelenskiy said.

He added that lawmakers would have just two months to fulfill these tasks, and announced the dissolution of the Rada. Regular elections to the Ukrainian parliament have been planned for October 2019.

On Friday, the People's Front parliamentary group announced its withdrawal from the parliamentary coalition, thereby preventing the early dissolution of the parliament. In connection with this, the parliament speaker, Andriy Parubiy, announced that there was no more coalition in the current parliament.

The People's Front urged the parliament to begin consultations on a new coalition agreement. According to the law, if the Rada does not form a new coalition within 30 days, the president will have the right to dissolve the parliament ahead of schedule. However, according to the constitution, such a decision must be made no later than six months before the deputies' duties officially expire.

Despite this, the Head of the Kiev Center of Political Studies and Conflictology Mikhail Pogrebinsky believes that Zelenskiy's decision to dissolve the Verkhovna Rada is legal.

"If we talk about the statement on the dissolution of the parliament, then I think it is legal. But there are many deputies in the hall who believe that it is illegal, so they will go to court with this," Pogrebinsky told Sputnik.

Director of the Institute of Global Strategies Vadim Karasev believed that early elections to the Verkhovna Rada could still be held by mid- to late July, but deputies were likely to challenge the dissolution decision in the Constitutional Court.

According to him, this meant that there would be no political holiday in the country and no "dead" political season.