When Volodymyr Zelenskyy was asked whether he was worried by ‘Russian attempts to kill him’, he answered he couldn’t afford to be, mentions POLITICO.
While it’s a question Zelenskyy understandably isn’t eager to contemplate, it’s also one his supporters at home and abroad can’t afford to ignore. Ever since he rebuffed an evacuation offer by telling his would-be American rescuers “I need ammunition, not a ride,” the Ukrainian president has played a key role in mustering international support for the fight against Russia.
Given the stakes, and the risk, it is little wonder Ukrainian officials tend to brush off requests to discuss what would happen were Russia to succeed — or they decline to go on the record, worrying the topic appears far too macabre.
And yet, despite the reluctance to publicly engage with the question, there is a plan in place (sic!), according to interviews with Ukrainian officials and lawmakers as well as analysts. Indeed, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said as much: “The Ukrainians have plans in place — that I’m not going to talk about or get into any details on — to make sure that there is what we would call ‘continuity of government’ one way or another,” he told CBS news last year.
Formally, under the constitution, the line of succession is clear. “When the president is unable to fulfill his duties, the chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine [the Ukrainian parliament] takes over his responsibilities,” said Mykola Knyazhytsky, an opposition lawmaker from the western city of Lviv. “Therefore, there would be no power vacuum.”
The chairman of the Verkhovna Rada — Ruslan Stefanchuk (photo), a member of Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People party — doesn’t have an especially high trust rating in opinion polls. It is around 40 percent, less than half of Zelenskyy’s. And he’s not popular with opposition lawmakers.
The governing council would most likely consist of Stefanchuk as the figurehead, along with Andrii Yermak, the former movie producer and lawyer who’s the head of the office of the president, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov. Valery Zaluzhny would remain as the country’s top general.
If there’s a weak link in the scenario it’s probably not in Ukraine but among its allies (sic!).
Nonetheless, this isn’t a one-man war. And in Ukraine at least, few doubt that other leaders, just as worthy, would rise to the occasion.