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Expired: Why is Zelensky No Longer Ukraine's Legitimate President?

© AFP 2023 / GENYA SAVILOVUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivers his speech during the UNITED24 fundraising platform summit in Kiev on May 23, 2024.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivers his speech during the UNITED24 fundraising platform summit in Kiev on May 23, 2024. - Sputnik International, 1920, 26.05.2024
Volodymyr Zelensky’s presidential term ran out on Monday with no new elections scheduled under the pretext of the martial law introduced by the Kiev regime shortly after Russia launched its special military operation.
Volodymyr Zelensky's term in office ran out on May 20, so speaking of his legitimacy makes no sense, Andrey Yakovlev, chairman of the Yakovlev and Partners Moscow Bar Association, told Sputnik.
In turn, President Vladimir Putin has said that Russia will proceed from the fact that Zelensky's legitimacy as Ukrainian head of state has expired.

What Does Ukrainian Constitution Stipulate?

According to Yakovlev, Ukraine’s Constitution does not contain any other instruments to extend the legitimate five-year term of the president, except for early elections, in line with a 2014 Constitutional Court ruling.

"This means that in order to amend the Constitution, it is the Ukrainian parliament (Verkhovna Rada) that should introduce a relevant bill, which should be based on the Constitutional Court’s verdict regarding the legitimacy of the document. Lawmakers should have put the issue to the vote to authorize the president to continue exercising his powers in some period or under some circumstances – something they never did," Yakovlev said.

On the other hand, he went on, it was impossible to try to amend the Constitution because Article 157 stipulates that the document cannot be changed under martial law or a state of emergency.

"The martial law in the country was introduced on February 24, 2022, by a presidential decree and then ratified by the parliament’s overwhelming majority. Thus, Kiev cut off its path to changing Ukraine’s Constitution," Yakovlev pointed out. He added that currently, there is sort of legal absurdity in Ukraine, in which the constitutional norms and steps made by Zelensky and the parliament exclude the possibility of changing the Constitution and giving the president legitimacy.

The 2015 martial law legislation, cited by Kiev to defend the president's mandate, contradicts the Constitution, which directly refers to the preservation of the parliament’s legitimacy and makes no mention of the president’s status. Apparently, the Constitutional Court never checked the legislation, per Yakovlev.
Even if Zelensky may be "recognized" by some, any act signed by him after May 20 - without any clarification from the Constitutional Court - is unlikely to have legal force, the chairman of the Moscow Bar Association argued.
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He was echoed by Alexander Ignatov, executive director of the Russian Public Institute of Electoral Law, who recalled in an interview with Sputnik that Article 103 of Ukraine’s Constitution determines the presidential term to be five years.

Moreover, there is a 2015 decision by Ukraine’s Constitutional Court on the interpretation of this provision, "which clearly and unambiguously states that the only term for which the president of Ukraine can be elected is five years, regardless of any circumstances, conditions and exceptions," Ignatov noted.

At the same time, Article 5 of the Constitution obliges the president and the parliament to act in accordance with the law, prohibiting, in particular, the usurpation of power, according to the expert.

Who Decides on Zelensky's Legitimacy?

When asked on what can be said about Zelensky’s legitimacy, Ignatov emphasized that "the final assessment of the issue, in fact, should be given, as President Putin said, by the legal system of Ukraine."
The expert recalled that under the country’s Electoral Code, the expiration of the presidential term envisages the next election, which can only be held on one day - on the last Sunday in March of the president’s last year in office.

"I repeat once again that the issue must be finally resolved by the country’s legal system and the people of Ukraine as the holder of sovereignty - the only source of power under the same Constitution," Ignatov underlined.

Does Anyone See 'Expired President' Zelensky as Legitimate?

Alexander Dudchak, a leading researcher at the Institute for CIS Studies, has, meanwhile, told Sputnik that Ukrainian authorities have, in principle, been illegitimate since February 22, 2014, when a bloody coup carefully orchestrated by the West occurred in Kiev.
"Why was the Kiev regime recognized at the time? This was quite accurately formulated by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Moscow only contacts Kiev because Ukrainian authorities have millions of people under their control. But now all the deadlines have really expired,” Dudchak pointed out, recalling that even in Ukraine, Zelensky is nicknamed the “expired president."

According to the expert, Zelensky is legitimate only for the West. "But Russia is not obliged to follow the lead of those who do not observe the laws, and who have been destroying international law for decades. Moscow doesn’t consider Zelensky a head of state, albeit a puppet one," Dudchak underscored.

Commenting on Putin’s remarks about Moscow’s possible peace talks with Kiev, the expert said: "There is no one to negotiate with in Ukraine, which is also the case with the West."
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"If a regime remains on any Ukrainian territory that the West will see as a successor to the current government – the Zelensky regime or that of similar functionaries whom the collective West could put in power – it would be a constant threat to Russia because the West will pump this territory with weapons," Dudchak said.

He concluded by stressing that "It’s all the same to Russia who will finally be at the helm of Ukraine because Moscow focuses on continuing to implement the main goal of its special military operation – to rid the world of the neo-Nazi threat posed by the Kiev regime."

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