Jewish lawmaker starts impeachment push against Ukraine’s Jewish president

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — A Jewish lawmaker in Ukraine has initiated impeachment proceedings against the country’s Jewish president.

Vadim Rabinovich, who leads Ukraine’s largest opposition party, announced the move Wednesday against Vlodymyr Zelensky over the closure of three television channels that allegedly are funded by Russia.

The closure Tuesday of channels 112, ZIK and Newsone was a “political reprisal against critical media” leading to “a personal dictatorship in Ukraine,” Rabinovich, a former news mogul and co-chair of the Opposition Platform-For Life party, warned in a statement.

On Wednesday, Zelensky said freedom of the press and of expression is not under any danger in Ukraine, but that his steps regarding the three channels had “a clear justification due to the funding from Russia and cooperation with terrorist organizations.”

Ukraine and Russia have been involved in a bloody territorial dispute along their shared border and in areas in eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russian separatists, which the Ukrainian government considers terrorist groups.

Zelensky’s centrist party, Servant of the People, has only a 43% share of the Verkhovna Rada, the national parliament.

Yet impeaching Zelensky, a television actor who won the presidency by a landslide in 2019, will be an uphill battle for his rivals despite his plummeting approval ratings, which have dropped from 73% in October 2019 to 41% last month.

Rabinovich, whose party has only 13% of the seats in parliament, would need the support of nationalist opposition parties, which are hostile to Russia. They are unlikely to punish Zelensky for shuttering allegedly pro-Russian media.