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TIME has published an article detailing the issues Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is facing in relation to the ongoing war with Russia, including the situation on the front, international support, and Ukraine’s fight against corruption. The article’s subheading on TIME’s cover reads: "The Lonely Fight of Volodymyr Zelensky [sic]".
Details: Simon Shuster, the author of the feature, wrote that public support for Ukraine in the US has been dwindling for the past several months, and Zelenskyy’s most recent visit to Washington, DC, has failed to change that.
During the visit, Zelenskyy felt "exhaustion" from the "persistent need to convince his allies that, with their help, Ukraine can win," Shuster wrote. "Nobody believes in our victory like I do. Nobody," Zelensky told TIME in an interview after his trip. He said this "takes all your power, your energy".
When Shuster asked a member of Zelenskyy’s team during his latest visit to Kyiv how the Ukrainian president was feeling, they replied without hesitation: "Angry."
The article goes on to say that Zelenskyy’s "usual sparkle of [...] optimism, his sense of humor, his tendency to liven up a meeting in the war room with a bit of banter or a bawdy joke" have not survived into the second year of the full-scale war. "Now he walks in, gets the updates, gives the orders, and walks out," a longtime member of the president’s team told Shuster.
Another unnamed member of Zelenskyy’s team said that most of all, Zelensky feels betrayed by his Western allies, who, he feels, left him without the means to win the war, only the means to survive it.
"But his convictions haven’t changed. Despite the recent setbacks on the battlefield, he does not intend to give up fighting or to sue for any kind of peace. On the contrary, his belief in Ukraine’s ultimate victory over Russia has hardened into a form that worries some of his advisers. It is immovable, verging on the messianic," Shuster wrote.
He also said some in Zelenskyy’s team are convinced that the president "deludes himself". "We’re out of options. We’re not winning. But try telling him that," one of Zelenskyy’s closest aides told Shuster.
The article also recounts the problems Ukraine might face this winter if Russia renews its attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, and the challenges the Ukrainian military might face with the arrival of winter.
But, Shuster wrote, Zelenskyy "has refused to accept that". "Freezing the war, to me, means losing it," Zelenskyy told Shuster.
Zelenskyy’s close aide told Shuster: "We’re not moving forward," meaning the Ukrainian forces.
Some front-line commanders, he continued, have begun refusing orders to advance, even when they came directly from the Office of the President. "They just want to sit in the trenches and hold the line," the aide said. "But we can’t win a war that way."
"I brought up these allegations to a senior military officer, and he responded that there's not much room for commanders to question higher-ups' orders. At one point in early October, he said, the political leadership in Kyiv demanded an operation to ‘retake’ the city of Horlivka, a strategic outpost in eastern Ukraine that the Russians have held and fiercely defended for nearly a decade. The answer came back in the form of a question: With what? ‘They don’t have the men or the weapons,’ says the officer. ‘Where are the weapons? Where is the artillery? Where are the new recruits?’," the author states.
‘In some branches of the military, the shortage of personnel has become even more dire than the deficit in arms and ammunition. One of Zelenskyy’s close aides tells me that even if the US and its allies come through with all the weapons they have pledged, ‘we don’t have the men to use them.’," it is said in the publication.
The article also outlines the problems involving the fight against corruption. In particular, the author writes, "in recent months, the issue of corruption has strained Zelenskyy’s relationship with many of his allies." Instead, the White House has prepared for Ukrainians a list of anti-corruption reforms aimed at the very top of the state hierarchy.
"Those with means sometimes bribe their way out of service, often by paying for a medical exemption. Such episodes of corruption within the recruitment system became so widespread by the end of the summer that on 11 August Zelenskyy fired the heads of the draft offices in every region of the country," the author asserts.
He notes that this decision was to demonstrate his commitment to the fight against bribery. But the move, the author quotes an unnamed officer, backfired as recruitment almost stopped without leadership. Dismissed officials also proved difficult to replace, partly because the reputation of draft offices was tarnished. "Who wants that job? It’s like putting a sign on your back that says: corrupt," said the source of the author of the material.
"At the start of the Russian invasion, Zelenskyy’s mission was to maintain the sympathy of humankind. Now his task is more complicated. In his foreign trips and presidential phone calls, he needs to convince world leaders that helping Ukraine is in their own national interests, that it will, as Biden put it, ‘pay dividends.’ Achieving that gets harder as global crises multiply," the author notes.
According to Detektor media, Simon Schuster, a native of Moscow, worked in Russia and Ukraine for more than 15 years, reporting from both countries. He lives in New York, but now spends a lot of time in Kyiv.
In April 2022, the journalist spent two weeks in the President's Office, where he talked with Zelenskyy and his entourage. After that, he wrote an article about the Ukrainian president for the May issue of Time, and a photo of Zelenskyy appeared on the cover.
In June 2022, it was reported that Time correspondent Simon Schuster plans to release a book about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. It is planned for 2023 and will be called "When the World Is Watching: Volodymyr Zelensky and the War in Ukraine".
The head of the Office of the President, Andrii Yermak, first posted on Telegram recommending this article in Time, but later deleted the post.