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Volodymyr Zelensky holds a press conference on Thursday. Photo: Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images

Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s TV star turned president, has now been in office for nearly 10 weeks.

Behind the scenes: Peter Wagner, head of the European Commission’s Support Group for Ukraine, has been in several meetings with Zelensky. He tells me Zelensky is “saying the right things” and connects easily with people, but has a “huge learning curve.”

  • Wagner says if Zelensky wins a large mandate in next month’s parliamentary elections, he may be able to avoid the factional disputes that plagued Petro Poroshenko's administration.
  • Wagner adds that Poroshenko lost to Zelensky in large part because voters were frustrated by his failure to tackle corruption. He says the early signs from Zelensky are “encouraging.”
  • As for whether Zelensky will have more independence from Ukraine’s powerful oligarchs, Wagner says it’s “too early, because it’s moving by the day.”
  • Wagner says it’s also too soon to characterize Zelensky’s stance toward Russia, which is still holding 24 Ukrainian sailors and has intensified its disinformation efforts in Ukraine.

In meetings, Wagner says, Zelensky comes across as well-briefed and makes an effort not to appear naive. “This is a smart person. You can see that this man, even if it was a while ago, studied law,” he says.

The bottom line: “Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. Let’s not forget, this is not Trump or Macron, who have been in the system, or around, or playing with it for decades,” Wagner says. Zelensky is just 41, and politics is entirely new to him.

Go deeper: Comedian known for playing president on TV wins Ukrainian election

Go deeper

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Large coronavirus outbreaks leading to high death rates — Coronavirus cases are at an all-time high ahead of Election Day — U.S. tops 88,000 COVID-19 cases, setting new single-day record.
  2. Politics: States beg for Warp Speed billions.
  3. World: Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases.
  4. 🎧Podcast: The vaccine race turns toward nationalism.

Technical glitch in Facebook's ad tools creates political firestorm

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: SOPA Images / Contributor

Facebook said late Thursday that a mix of "technical problems" and confusion among advertisers around its new political ad ban rules caused issues affecting ad campaigns of both parties.

Why it matters: A report out Thursday morning suggested the ad tools were causing campaign ads, even those that adhered to Facebook's new rules, to be paused. Very quickly, political campaigners began asserting the tech giant was enforcing policies in a way that was biased against their campaigns.

8 hours ago - Health

States beg for Warp Speed billions

A COVID-19 drive-thru testing center yesterday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. Photo: David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP

Operation Warp Speed has an Achilles' heel: States need billions to distribute vaccines — and many say they don't have the cash.

Why it matters: The first emergency use authorization could come as soon as next month, but vaccines require funding for workers, shipping and handling, and for reserving spaces for vaccination sites.