Ukrainian elites given ultimatum
Ukrainian officials who fled the country amid fears of a Russian invasion have 24 hours to come home and return to their posts, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Monday.
Speaking to the press following a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Zelensky urged the MPs to return to Ukrainian soil.
The president directed his message to the 23 lawmakers who were reported to be outside the country by Kiev-based publication Ukrainskaya Pravda. Among these are 13 individuals from the pro-Russian Opposition Platform – For Life faction, and five from Zelensky’s own ruling Servant of the People party. He did not name names, but demanded that they all return to their posts.
The departure of multiple officials coincides with mounting fears of a Russian invasion, following US President Joe Biden’s warning last week that an incursion by the Kremlin could happen at any time.
“And on my own behalf, I would like to ask that, within 24 hours, they … return to the state,” Zelensky declared, warning that the authorities would “draw serious conclusions” should the absent officials fail to heed his request.
The Ukrainian also addressed his speech on Monday to the country’s elites, as the past week has seen a steady stream of business tycoons, oligarchs, and entrepreneurs leaving Ukraine to go abroad. Whilst he noted that the state cannot and will not influence commerce, Zelensky urged the businessmen to “return to their enterprises, to the tens of thousands of people who work for them and for the state.”
Despite claims to the contrary, some of the accused have denied that they have fled. On Monday, three Ukrainian businessmen – Vadim Novinsky, Boris Kolesnikov and Aleksander Yaroslavsky – hit back at Ukrayinskaya Pravda’s reports that they had left Ukraine for a prolonged period.
“On February 10th, I flew to Munich, and I’m returning this afternoon. It was planned, due to personal matters,” insisted Novinsky, who says he intends to attend a meeting in parliament on Tuesday. “Nobody is running away. I know many people and I can say for sure that no one is panicking enough to warrant running away”.
Former Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Kolesnikov completely denied that he had left Ukraine, posting on Facebook that he was still in Kiev, while Yaroslavsky said he went to London to visit his son’s concert.
In the same speech, Zelensky also condemned the White House’s recent decision to temporarily relocate US diplomats to Lviv, the largest city in western Ukraine.
“It is a big mistake that some embassies are moving to western Ukraine,” Zelensky said. “Ukraine is one. It is integral. Should something happen, God forbid, it will happen everywhere.”