President Volodymyr Zelensky went on Facebook on Nov. 19 to criticize ex-Prime Minister and leader of the 24-member Batkivshchyna faction in parliament Yulia Tymoshenko.
Tymoshenko had supported Zelensky since the beginning of his term in May, but on Nov. 13 announced that her party was going into opposition to the president over the recent land market law passed in parliament.
Zelensky wasn’t having it.
“There is a longstanding Ukrainian tradition: Every five years, Yulia Tymoshenko goes into opposition to the incumbent president, imitating concern for the people,” Zelensky wrote on his Facebook page.
The bill that Tymoshenko opposes lifts Ukraine’s moratorium on selling farmland. It was supported by 240 lawmakers of the 226 needed to pass. Batkivshchyna and three other political parties in parliament ignored the vote. Among them was the 27-member European Solidarity faction led by former President Petro Poroshenko, who used to support lifting the ban during his presidential tenure, though the parliament prolonged the moratorium four times during his presidency.
Ukraine is the only European country where buying and selling farmland is forbidden. In 2018, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the ban violates human rights.
Tymoshenko has been an outspoken critic of lifting the moratorium.
“We want the Constitutional Court to explain to us whether such a law on the sale of agricultural land, passed without a referendum, is constitutional,” she said on Nov. 13.
On Nov. 18, Tymoshenko appeared on “Freedom of Speech,” a Ukrainian political talk show that airs on the ICTV channel, where she continued criticizing the law. Tymoshenko also said she gave Zelensky a list of potential appointees who can bring substantial investments to Ukraine but he refused them.
A day later, Zelensky took his dissatisfaction to Facebook, writing that Tymoshenko wasn’t completely honest.
“She brought a list of her people to be appointed on the ‘fruitful’ positions, and in exchange she promised to have her faction vote for all the bills together with the Servant of the People party,” wrote Zelensky, hinting that Tymoshenko wanted to get control of government agencies with long histories of corruption in exchange for supporting the president’s party.
The president wrote that his team declined the offer. Then, he added a controversial joke.
“But look how the ‘opposition’ looks right now. Such a frame! Do you know why? Because now she isn’t getting the ‘sweet’ stuff,” said Zelensky, apparently hinting at Tymoshenko losing weight.
Tymoshenko wasn’t shy in her response.
“I remind you that there is another longstanding tradition. Once every five years, a Ukrainian president feels he hit the jackpot but later everything goes according to the same script,” she wrote on Facebook, referring to the EuroMaidan Revolution that took down corrupt pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014, and to Poroshenko’s failed attempt to get re-elected.
“Waiting to see you perform at corporate parties…You can bring your own piano,” added Tymoshenko referring to Zelensky’s past as entertainer and a TV skit in which he pretended to play the piano with his genitalia.
Tymoshenko, a political veteran, twice served as the country’s prime minister and was jailed by Yanukovych in 2011, spending three years in prison for allegedly exceeding her authority in signing gas contracts with Russia.
Tymoshenko was freed in 2014 after Yanukovych was ousted and was once again elected to parliament, spending most of her tenure in opposition to Poroshenko.