Jun 28, 2019

Checking in on Ukraine's TV star turned president

Dave Lawler, author of World

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

Minneapolis mayor to Trump: “Weakness is pointing your finger” during a crisis

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey fired back at President Trump on Friday, after the president accused the mayor of weak leadership amid violence sparked by the killing of an unarmed black man by a white police officer.

Driving the news: Trump made his accusations in a pair of tweets early Friday, saying he would bring the national guard into Minneapolis if Frey couldn't “bring the City under control.” 

Updated 51 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 a.m. ET: 5,840,369 — Total deaths: 361,066 — Total recoveries — 2,439,310Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 a.m. ET: 1,721,926 — Total deaths: 101,621 — Total recoveries: 399,991 — Total tested: 15,646,041Map.
  3. Public health: Hydroxychloroquine prescription fills exploded in March.
  4. Business: Many poor and minority families can't afford food or rent.
  5. 2020: Trump courts Asian American vote amid coronavirus — The RNC issued proposed safety guidelines for its planned convention in Charlotte.
  6. Vaccine: How the U.S. might distribute a coronavirus vaccine once we have one.
  7. What should I do? When you can be around others after contracting the coronavirus — Traveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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In photos: Protests over George Floyd's death grip Minneapolis

The Third Police Precinct burns in Minneapolis on Thursday night. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Demonstrators demanding justice burned a Minneapolis police station and took control of the streets around it last night, heaving wood onto the flames, kicking down poles with surveillance cameras and torching surrounding stores.

What's happening: The crowd was protesting the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man whose life was snuffed out Tuesday by a white Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on his neck for about eight minutes.