Zelensky’s offensive communications are at war against oblivion

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After video conferences in front of several national parliaments, on Wednesday, Volodymyr Zelensky, for the first time, addressed students from the Institut de Sciences in Paris. Should we see this new intervention as a sign of shortness of breath in the Ukrainian president’s contacts after two and a half months of war against Russia? response elements.

“Volodymyr Zelensky’s main weapon is his image,” said Arnaud Mercier, professor of information and communication at the University of Paris Pantheon Assas. After speaking before the US Congress, the European Parliament and many political bodies in the world, as well as lesser political bodies such as the Grammy Awards, to defend his country’s cause, the Ukrainian president chose to address, Wednesday, May. 11, for students – first. Those of Sciences-Po, Ecole Supérieure de Commerce de Paris (ESCP), Ecole Polytechnique and the National Institute of Public Service (INSP) more precisely. According to the University Institutions Liaison Service, the intervention was initiated by the Ukrainian embassy, ​​which contacted several French institutions with the aim of “addressing as many people as possible. This passes through students and major schools. It is necessary.”

It is not surprising that the Ukrainian head of state intervened with the students, when we learn that he hired a fleet of freshmen and fresh graduates from European or American universities to manage his image and communication. In short, his professional entourage consists mainly of “young people immersed in the post-Soviet culture, but they have the novelty of this generation very well-versed in social networks and new media. This dual culture gives them very powerful weapons of communication”, explained political communication researcher Alexandre Ayres to France International .

war of attrition

This intervention with students also offers two lessons on Volodymyr Zelensky’s communication strategy. The first is that “by addressing the youth, he knows that war will now be going on in a long time, Arnaud Mercier believes. Talking to the young elite is in such a way as to try to satiate the minds of future decision-makers in the future. So that they are forever marked with the stamp of the Ukrainian cause and even take Better decisions about it later.” The second, – no offense to the Science-Po students – also reflects shortness of breath in his communications. “Volodymyr Zelensky has scoured prestigious forums from the powerful US Congress to less influential parliaments like Taiwan. Now speaking in front of students, we see that he has made the rounds of decision-makers and returned to more modest goals. Science – School students may be the decision-makers of tomorrow, today not They have power over decisions made today in the dispute.”


In doing so, Volodymyr Zelensky seeks above all his strategy of occupying the media sphere at any cost. But by intervening at all costs, and without anything new to be brought up by the debate, “discourse becomes boring, the professor admits. By wanting to talk a lot, one becomes unheard.” On the seventy-seventh day of the war between Kyiv and Moscow, “the conflict has ended into a routine, and from the beginning there is no longer discontent with the fate of Ukraine, we feel lost and, in the end, the danger of inattention,” Arnaud Mercier notes.

Even the stones cry

In this context, there are only two possibilities, according to the expert: to have a classic political connection where one does not express oneself when one has an announcement to make, or to maintain a communication attack so as not to plunge into oblivion. “His communications unit had to judge between two dangers. It chose the least bad strategy.”


However, during his video conference with Science-Po students, it appears that the Commander at War tried to revamp the code for his interventions. Keen to establish a dialogue with the students, this time he gave himself up to the question-and-answer game, by asking a series of questions also to the young speakers, asking them in particular what they thought of the position of NATO or Russian aggression. Dressed in his now usual khaki military shirt, he also ventured into the personal terrain of feelings. “How do I live this war? I don’t know. I give everything I have – my mind, my time – for victory, the freedom of Ukraine. Because everything loses its meaning, even stones cry, when you lose,” replied the President of Ukraine: “Your children lose a reason to live.”


Universities infinite connection space

Finally, by speaking in front of an audience of students, the president opened up new communication horizons. “Connecting to universities also means opening new forums to plead one’s cause and finding an audience that is sure to like one’s cause. It is not impossible now to see it interfering in many other universities such as Yale, Berkeley, Stanford or Oxford,” concludes Arnaud Mercier.

Because the war is not over yet. On the ground, fighting is still intense in the south and east of the country. In Mariupol, hundreds of soldiers remain in Azovstal’s steel mills while the city is in control of the Russians. The latter seems to be moving away from the city of Kharkiv. Tuesday, May 10, US intelligence warned that the war in Ukraine could be prolonged and did not rule out a scenario of escalation or extension of the conflict to neighboring Transnistria.

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