Ukrainian president addresses nation after being taken to hospital with COVID-19

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addressed the nation in two videos on Thursday, his first appearance since being hospitalised after testing positive for COVID-19 this week.

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Sitting in a chair in front of a Ukrainian flag, Zelenskiy said he felt good and the government was working as normal. He also spoke about his administration’s standoff with the Constitutional Court over anti-corruption reforms.

The president, 42, was moved to hospital to self-isolate and not put others at risk, his office said.

Three other top officials, including the finance minister, the defence minister and Zelenskiy’s top aide were also reported to be infected.

“As you know, COVID-19 has not avoided me, but I feel good,” Zelenskiy said.

He then turned his fire on the Constitutional Court, which in October struck down anti-corruption legislation that is crucial for Ukraine to receive loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

A former comedian and actor, Zelenskiy compared the court to protagonists in the 2001 Hollywood heist movie Ocean’s Eleven.

“This is not Ocean’s Eleven, this is a remake made with the support of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine,” he said.

“But seriously, they could cancel major reforms and deprive us of very important financial support for us, and we, as a society and country, do not need such plot twists. Spoiler alert: they won’t succeed.”

Zelenskiy last month asked parliament to dissolve the court, which the court’s head denounced as a “constitutional coup”.

Ukrainian new coronavirus infections began spiking in late September and have remained consistently high in October and November, prompting the government to extend some restrictions until the end of the year.

On Wednesday, Zelenskiy’s Cabinet voted to impose a national lockdown at weekends to strengthen steps to curb the rapid spread of infection.

Ukraine registered a total of 500,865 coronavirus cases as of Thursday, with 9,145 deaths. [S8N2EG07O]

Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Jacqueline Wong, Michael Perry and Howard Goller