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"National exit poll" showed the victory of Volodymyr Zelensky in the first round. It was a major victory: the candidate himself gained as many votes as his closest competitors combined. Zelensky celebrated his victory at the headquarters of the "Parkovy" center, better known as the "Yanukovych’s helipad."

Photo: Max Levin

The bar counter was filled with dozens of bottles of alcohol, people were sitting on velvet sofas, and massive security guards conducted face control. The atmosphere in the nightclub of the "Parkovy" was relaxed and free-and-easy. The DJ played dance music, guests and journalists drank French merlot or Italian prosecco, those who were hungry had French fries, grilled vegetables, or skewered chicken. Merlot, prosecco, and beer were served for free, but you had to pay for cocktails. You could also play table football here, and a ping-pong championship was also arranged. The winner was expected to be surprised.

All this entourage looked more like a glamorous social gathering than the headquarters of a presidential candidate. In the end, it was a celebration, as would be revealed later in the evening.

Photo: Max Levin

The pre-party officially began at 10 a.m., but the climax of the event was expected to be closer to 8 p.m. At that time, the results of the exit poll would be announced. Before that, in the headquarters, one could meet actors from Zelensky’s comedy show and politicians who publicly supported the candidate, some prominent figures attended the event included former Finance Minister Oleksandr Danilyuk, MP Sergei Leschenko, and former Minister of Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine Aivaras Abromavicius. They communicated with the press, while the presidential candidate did not show up.

In a conversation with, Danyluk was trying to convince the journalists that Zelensky did not promise him a seat in his government, but he was consulting him on how to improve the country. The fact that Zelensky had no experience in politics was not embarrassing for the ex-minister. 

"The president is the leader of the nation, most of what he can do depends on his team," Danyluk said.

Photo: Max Levin

Around 5 pm, MP Mustafa Nayem posted on social media that the headquarters of Yulia Tymoshenko and Vladimir Zelensky were negotiating to unite the efforts in the second round of presidential elections. Zelensky’s consultants shrugged their shoulders.

"Do you believe it yourself? I do not believe in it, I believe that it does not make sense, as long as there is no voting result," Sergey Leshchenko answered the question of

Rumors would be debunked when a presidential candidate appears at the headquarters. 

"I'm not going to form a coalition with anyone. This is some kind of bogus," Zelensky would answer.

Tymoshenko, who was sure that she would not be a friend, rather a rival of Zelensky, refuted the talk of a coalition.

Photo: Max Levin

Since journalists could not make their way to the elusive presidential candidate, it was the responsibility of the staff members to communicate with the press — the head of the "green" (the official color of Zelensky’s campaign) headquarters, Ivan Bakanov, the political consultant Dmitry Razumkov, and the head of "Zeteam" (Zelensky Team) Alexander Kornienko. They lined up a queue of journalists eager to get the crumbs of information and answers.

For example, when would Zelensky present his team? Or whether he would present them before the election at all? Razumkov said that they would present their team before the second round, and the heads of regional administrations would be approved through a selection process.

Photo: Max Levin

Dmitry Razumkov emotionally responded to the question about the lack of political experience of Zelensky and argued that in the current system, it was more of a plus for the candidate.

"We don’t need such political experience that our opponents possess, because the experience was used for the gains of the politicians themselves, but not for the society," Razumkov stated.

Ivan Bakanov believed that Zelensky’s managerial experience was enough to lead the country. The head of the headquarters emphasized that "he is a very educated person, he reads a lot, travels around the world and sees how some processes occur in the West. He built his business from scratch".

According to Bakanov, Zeteam was considering the possibility of joining forces with other candidates from the first round. "I think Vladimir Alexandrovich is thinking about some kind of alliances. It is normal when a person agrees about something, trying to bring the country together so that we have legitimate authority. Potential alliances could be formed with any force. The question is what you are united around" he said. 

They did not like the question about oligarch Igor Kolomoisky at the headquarters. Political strategist Razumkov stated that the oligarch would get what he deserved (whatever it was). 

"There should be no difference whether this is the oligarch Kolomoisky or a teacher Marya Ivanovna. Everyone should be equal before the law. If Kolomoisky has to be responsible for something within the framework of the current legislation - I can guarantee you, President Zelensky will not influence law enforcement agencies or the judicial system to save someone," Razumkov said.

Photo: Max Levin

The king of the party appeared at the headquarters (at least in the part that was intended for journalists) at twenty to eight. As promised, a surprise was awarded to the winner of the ping pong championship, a journalist for RBC-Ukraine, it was 11:10 in his favor. As a prize, Zelensky promised to give an interview to RBC-Ukraine.

Photo: Max Levin

After the game, Zelensky was cordoned off by security guards who were trying to get rid of annoying journalists. The candidate must get to the press center by 8 PM.

Foreign journalists managed to break through the deadpan guards and asked about priorities and major issues.

"Corruption is the biggest problem in Ukraine. The second biggest problem in Ukraine is war," Zelensky answered in English, although he was helped to translate the question.

Photo: Max Levin

Together with journalists and security guards, Zelensky came to the hall, where huge screens were installed. The "1+1" channel would announce the results of exit polls from minute to minute. The candidate was carefully staring at the screen - as soon as the clock struck 8, the first results appeared. Zelensky got 30.1% of the votes, while the incumbent - 18.5%. There was a deafening cry in the hall. Zelensky kissed his wife Elena. Tears appeared in his eyes for a minute. He quickly recovered and thanked his team, journalists, and continued to troll the president.

"There were a lot of exit polls, but only one winner. I want to thank all the Ukrainians who voted today "not for fun" Zelensky said.

His communication with the press lasted for three minutes. He managed to answer that he did not come to the debate on Public TV because he was busy with a concert in a town near Kyiv and that he would support the European course. Apparently, he was in a hurry to broadcast to the channel "1+1."

Photo: Max Levin

The guards again deftly took Zelensky to the cordon and squeezed him to the exit. 

The Russian channel "Rain" managed to get to the candidate.

Photo: Max Levin

Zelensky was escorted to the exit of the club, the guards closed the door in front of the journalists. The guards did not just get rid of the press, they did not even let Danyluk and Leshchenko pass.

"I'll see you in five years", Leshchenko joked.

When the door was still open, Zeteam went to the part of the building where journalists were not allowed to. Apparently, Zelensky spent most of his time there.

Photo: Max Levin

Although the briefing was scheduled to be held at 8.30 PM, Zelensky went to the press at 10:30 PM. This time, the press conference lasted for five minutes.

Zelensky was initially indignant at Poroshenko’s statement about him as Kolomoisky’s puppet. "I have only one question, I think he will get it. So are you a puppet of Svinarchuk (Poroshenko’s ally suspected of corruption), or is Svinarchuk your puppet?" Zelensky asked to convey the question to Poroshenko.

At the briefing, he promised to present his team by the end of the second round. He assured that he was not afraid of the press and that he was ready for a debate with Poroshenko. "I want all journalists to understand that I am an open person, an open person. I am ready for an interview, I just have very little time in my life."

Zelensky promised that if he lost, he would not conduct a protest in Maidan. After a brief briefing, Zelensky was again rescued by the guards.

Photo: Max Levin

Both "press conferences" of Zelensky were like running a short distance: he came, he saw, he ran away.

After Zelensky’s press conference, journalists were heated up with quizzes and music competitions. The program included stand-up comedian Valery Zhidkov. Jokes like "They say when dreaming is crap, this is about money. Can you imagine the monotonous dreams of Poroshenko?" caused giggles, but not laughter. He did not understand the target audience.

At midnight, representatives of the headquarters once again went out to the journalists. They talked about their work on ballot stations. In general, the progress of the elections was satisfying. Preliminary calculations of the green headquarters gave Zelensky the lowest result among all exit polls - 25%. But they were proud that Zelensky won in most regions.

Photo: Max Levin

It was his party.

We would have to dance.

Diana ButskoDiana Butsko, Journalist
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