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West could ditch Zelensky early next year – Putin

Ukraine’s backers are keeping the former comedian in place to act as a future scapegoat, the Russian leader has said

FILE PHOTO ©  Bernd von Jutrczenka / picture alliance via Getty Images

Ukraine’s Western backers will remove Vladimir Zelensky from power when he has pushed through all necessary “unpopular decisions” and outlived his usefulness, which could be next year, Russian President Vladimir Putin has predicted.

Zelensky remains in power in Ukraine despite his term in office having officially expired on May 20. He opted not to hold a presidential election, citing martial law imposed due to the conflict with Russia.

Putin has repeatedly stressed that the Ukrainian constitution does not provide for prolonging a president’s term, and explicitly states that elected lawmakers should retain their powers until a new parliament can be chosen by the Ukrainian people. On Thursday he reiterated, that the country’s laws clearly state that Zelensky’s “train has left” and that presidential power should be transferred to the speaker of the Verkhovna Rada.

“What are we even talking about? The West simply doesn’t want to replace him right now, the time has not come yet. I’ve already said it, but I think it’s obvious to anyone,” the Russian leader said at a press conference in Hanoi, Vietnam.

READ MORE: West has plan to replace Zelensky – Russian intelligence

“They will pin all unpopular decisions on him, including lowering the military age, and that’s it, then he will be replaced. I believe it will be sometime in the first half of next year,” he added.

Putin echoed фт analysis shared by the Russian foreign intelligence service (SVR) earlier in the day, which claimed Zelensky will be scapegoated for the country’s inevitable military defeat. “It is becoming increasingly evident that the White House will soon shut down ‘Project Zelensky’,” the SVR stated on Thursday, noting that retired General Valery Zaluzhny, the former top commander of the armed forces, is a likely candidate to replace him.

Last week, Putin noted in a keynote speech on Russian foreign policy that Zelensky remains of use to foreign sponsors only as long as he can enforce policies that will help Kiev prolong hostilities with Russia. The Russian president also said any agreements signed by Zelensky with foreign nations after May 20, such as the recent bilateral ten-year security deal with the US, can be easily discarded by other parties, since he no longer has any legal authority to represent Ukraine.

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