ONE OF the first foreign leaders to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden was Volodymyr Zelensky — and no wonder. President Trump unjustly persecuted the Ukrainian president, demanding that he launch a politicized investigation of Mr. Biden in 2019, while holding up U.S. military aid and a White House invitation. Mr. Biden, in contrast, has been one of Ukraine’s best American friends, visiting the country five times while vice president and strongly supporting its battles against Russian aggression and domestic corruption.
Mr. Zelensky now needs that support more than ever. A former comedian elected on an anti-corruption agenda, the 42-year-old president has recently seen that cause badly damaged by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, which since August has issued several rulings hamstringing key reforms, including a registry of assets for government officials. Several of the judges were under investigation by the very anti-corruption agencies they neutered. According to Ukrainian experts, they also acted under the influence of Ukrainian oligarchs anxious to maintain the old networks of corruption.
Mr. Zelensky made some mistakes of his own, including pressuring the respected chief of Ukraine’s central bank to resign. Mr. Zelensky appeared to flounder in the search for responses to the court decisions. Then he contracted covid-19 and was hospitalized, though he has said his case is not serious. Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund and the European Union are threatening to withhold badly needed aid because of the backsliding.