Zelensky may have met secretly with Russians in Oman, MP alleges

14 January 2020

Zelensky may have met secretly with Russians in Oman, MP alleges

Ukrainian President Zelensky may have met secretly with top Russian officials during his visit to Oman on Jan. 5-8, Artur Herasymov, the co-chair of the European Solidarity parliamentary faction, alleged in the session hall the morning of Jan. 14. “The trip occurred either for personal or other reasons, which is why we are very interested in the mysterious charter plans that flew between Oman and Russia. It’s very indicative of secret negotiations,” Herasymov said from the tribune. Zelensky may have met with Vladislav Surkov, an aide to Russian President Putin who is widely recognized as overseeing the war in Donbas, Anatolii Amelin, the director of economic programs at the Ukrainian Institute for the Future, wrote on his Facebook page on Jan. 12. He cited reports by the texty.org.ua news site that Zelensky arrived in Muscat several hours ahead of two charter planes arriving almost simultaneously from Moscow, one ordered by Zelensky and another that is owned by Viktor Medvedchuk, who is widely recognized as Putin’s representative in Ukraine. The news site speculated that Russian officials arrived on Zelensky’s charter plane, and returned to Moscow the morning of Jan. 8 on Medvedchuk’s plane. Zelensky returned to Kyiv only in the evening, said the texty.org.ua news site, which is sponsored by the Global Investigative Journalism Network.


“A Bombardier charter plane, with the license plate 9H-VJN, arrived in Oman’s capital Muscat from Stockholm with a transfer flight in Moscow, practically simultaneous with a tacit flight conducted by a plane owned by Medvedchuk, which was also in Muscat the night of Jan. 7,” according to the texty.org.ua news site. “That makes it obvious that the charter for Zelensky was ordered ahead of the Ukrainian International Airlines Boeing catastrophe in Tehran. Yet instead of immediately departing Oman the morning of Jan. 8 after being informed of the tragedy, Zelensky waited for some reason. Our version is he waited for a meeting with someone from flew to Oman from Moscow on the very same plane, the Bombardier (9H-VJN), which flew Zelensky to Kyiv afterwards. According to investigators, only after the meeting did Medvedchuk’s plane fly Zelensky’s partners to Moscow, shortly after which Zelensky flew on that very same Bombardier (9H-VJN).”


The President’s Office has yet to confirm or deny the information, including whether Russian officials flew on the charter planes of Zelensky or Medvedchuk, according to the Telegram page of Taras Berezovets, among the founders of the Ukrainian Institute for the Future, which employs allies of former President Poroshenko, as well as his most vocal critics. “Surkov has a point man on the Ukrainian side, Andriy Yermak. For some reason, Yermak was the single official who was with Zelensky during his trip to Oman. There isn’t any confirmation of Zelensky meeting with Surkov yet. But if the information is confirmed, the situation with Zelensky will dramatically intensify. The opposition will grab at this to accuse the president of state treason,” Berezovets wrote on Jan. 13.


Zenon Zawada: Speculation over these reports erupted on Jan. 9 and had since died down before Herasymov reignited them this morning. This indicates Poroshenko’s team believes the reports to be credible and will use them as the main narrative in the daily political discourse of its attack campaign against Zelensky. Poroshenko still controls several key television and Internet media outlets to keep the allegations in the discourse (not to mention his MPs and media talking heads). Meanwhile, the silence of Zelensky’s spokespeople on these reports indicates they will play the waiting game in the hope they will evaporate gradually. (Ironically, the president took the same approach when he was exposed for meeting with Medvedchuk in secret.)


Indeed, it would be quite the scandal if Zelensky is confirmed to have met with Russian officials whose flight to Oman was on a charter plane he ordered, in what he alleged was a personal trip at personal expense. The scandal is even more sensational if he delayed his return flight to Ukraine for meetings that might have included Surkov. And reports that they might have been planning local elections in Donbas “at the earliest” – meaning this year, and likely without restoring control of the border – would be the icing on the cake for the pro-Western opposition, which needs new attack narratives against the president going into the spring.


If the Surkov meeting is ever confirmed to have occurred, it would support our view that Zelensky is going to great lengths to resolve the armed conflict in Donbas, which includes offering many concessions to the Russian side. It also confirms our view that he needs to reach a breakthrough – such as arranging elections in Donbas – by the summertime. In our view, this makes the most political sense for Zelensky, who needs to satisfy his core electorate of southeastern Ukrainian voters, who most want an end to warfare. They won’t care whom he met with and how, as long as he gets the results they want.

 

 

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