Ukrainian reservists take part in military exercises in Chernihiv, Ukraine December, 2018
Valentyn Ogirenko / Reuters

In a 2015 episode of the Ukrainian television program Servant of the People, president-elect Vasyl Holoborodko practices for his inaugural meeting with Angela Merkel. Holoborodko is played by the comic actor Volodymyr Zelensky, who won Ukraine’s real-life presidential election in a landslide last May.

“Shake her hand gently,” Holoborodko’s adviser chides him. “She should dominate. The handshake decides how much aid Germany’s central bank will give us.” Ukraine’s dependence on German and EU goodwill is a given, as is the Ukrainian president’s duty to submit. Such is the lot of one of Europe’s poorest countries.

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