Volodymyr Zelenskyy

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Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Володимир Зеленський
The world must officially recognize that Russia has become a terrorist state - address by the President of Ukraine. (51941720577) (cropped).jpg
Zelenskyy in 2022
6th President of Ukraine
Assumed office
20 May 2019
Preceded by Petro Poroshenko
Personal details
Born (1978-01-25) 25 January 1978 (age 46)
Kryvyi Rih, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union
Political party Independent [1]
Other political
affiliations
Servant of the People (2018–present)
Spouse
(m. 2003)
Children2
Parent
Residence Mariinskyi Palace
Alma mater Kyiv National Economic University (LLB)
Occupation
  • Politician
  • actor
  • comedian
Signature Autograph-VolodymyrZelensky.svg
Website president.gov.ua/en

Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy [lower-alpha 1] [lower-alpha 2] (also romanized as Zelensky or Zelenskiy; [lower-alpha 3] born 25 January 1978) is a Ukrainian politician and former actor who has been serving as the sixth president of Ukraine since 2019.

Contents

Born to a Ukrainian Jewish family, Zelenskyy grew up as a native Russian speaker in Kryvyi Rih, a major city of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast in central Ukraine. Prior to his acting career, he obtained a degree in law from the Kyiv National Economic University. He then pursued a career in comedy and created the production company Kvartal 95, which produced films, cartoons, and TV shows including the TV series Servant of the People , in which Zelenskyy played a fictional Ukrainian president. The series aired from 2015 to 2019 and was immensely popular. A political party with the same name as the TV show was created in March 2018 by employees of Kvartal 95.

Zelenskyy announced his candidacy in the 2019 presidential election on the evening of 31 December 2018, alongside the New Year's Eve address of then-president Petro Poroshenko on the TV channel 1+1. A political outsider, he had already become one of the frontrunners in opinion polls for the election. He won the election with

During his presidential campaign, Zelenskyy promised to end Ukraine's protracted conflict with Russia, and he has attempted to engage in dialogue with Russian president Vladimir Putin. [9] His administration faced an escalation of tensions with Russia in 2021, culminating in the launch of an ongoing full-scale Russian invasion in February 2022. Zelenskyy's strategy during the Russian military buildup was to calm the Ukrainian populace and assure the international community that Ukraine was not seeking to retaliate. [10] He initially distanced himself from warnings of an imminent war, while also calling for security guarantees and military support from NATO to "withstand" the threat. [11] After the start of the invasion, Zelenskyy declared martial law across Ukraine and a general mobilisation of the armed forces. Zelenskyy was named the Time Person of the Year for 2022. [12] [13] [14] [15]

Early life

Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy was born to Jewish parents on 25 January 1978 in Kryvyi Rih, then in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. [16] [17] [18] [19] His father, Oleksandr Zelenskyy, is a professor and computer scientist and the head of the Department of Cybernetics and Computing Hardware at the Kryvyi Rih State University of Economics and Technology; his mother, Rymma Zelenska, used to work as an engineer. [20] [21] [22] His grandfather, Semyon (Simon) Ivanovych Zelenskyy  [ uk ], served as an infantryman, reaching the rank of colonel in the Red Army (in the 57th Guards Motor Rifle Division) during World War II; [23] [24] Semyon's father and three brothers were killed in the Holocaust. [25] [26] [27] [28] In March 2022, Zelenskyy said that his great-grandparents had been killed after German troops burned their home to the ground during a massacre. [29]

Before starting elementary school, Zelenskyy lived for four years in the Mongolian city of Erdenet, where his father worked. [17] Zelenskyy grew up speaking Russian. [30] [23] At the age of 16 he passed the Test of English as a Foreign Language and received an education grant to study in Israel, but his father did not allow him to go. [31] He later earned a law degree from the Kryvyi Rih Institute of Economics, then a department of Kyiv National Economic University and now part of Kryvyi Rih National University, but never worked in the legal field. [17] [32]

Entertainment career

At age 17, he joined his local team competing in the KVN comedy competition. [33] He was soon invited to join the united Ukrainian team "Zaporizhzhia-Kryvyi Rih-Transit", which performed in the KVN's Major League, and eventually won in 1997. [17] [34] [35] That same year, he created and headed the Kvartal 95 team, which later transformed into the comedy outfit Kvartal 95. From 1998 to 2003, Kvartal 95 performed in the Major League and the highest open Ukrainian league of KVN, and the team members spent a lot of time in Moscow and constantly toured around post-Soviet countries. [17] [34] In 2003, Kvartal 95 started producing TV shows for the Ukrainian TV channel 1+1, and in 2005, the team moved to fellow Ukrainian TV channel Inter. [17]

In 2008, he starred in the feature film Love in the Big City , and its sequel, Love in the Big City 2 . [17] Zelenskyy continued his movie career with the film Office Romance. Our Time in 2011 and with Rzhevsky Versus Napoleon in 2012. [17] Love in the Big City 3 was released in January 2014. [17] Zelenskyy also played the leading role in the 2012 film 8 First Dates and in sequels which were produced in 2015 and 2016. [17] He recorded the voice of Paddington Bear in the Ukrainian dubbing of Paddington (2014) and Paddington 2 (2017). [36]

Zelenskyy in Prague in 2009 Zelenskii.jpg
Zelenskyy in Prague in 2009

Zelenskyy was a member of the board and the general producer of the TV channel Inter from 2010 to 2012. [32]

In August 2014, Zelenskyy spoke out against the intention of the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture to ban Russian artists from Ukraine. [37] Since 2015, Ukraine has banned Russian artists and Russian media and art from entering Ukraine. [38] In 2018, the romantic comedy Love in the Big City 2 starring Zelenskyy was banned in Ukraine due to the film not following the Law of Ukraine on cinematography. [39]

After the Ukrainian media had reported that during the Russo-Ukrainian War Zelenskyy's Kvartal 95 had donated 1 million to the Ukrainian army, some Russian politicians and artists petitioned for a ban on his works in Russia. [40] [41] [lower-alpha 4] Once again, Zelenskyy spoke out against the intention of the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture to ban Russian artists from Ukraine. [37]

Kvartal 95 performing in 2018 KVARTAL 95 Vadim Chuprina.jpg
Kvartal 95 performing in 2018

In 2015, Zelenskyy became the star of the television series Servant of the People , where he played the role of the president of Ukraine. [32] In the series, Zelenskyy's character was a high-school history teacher in his 30s who won the presidential election after a viral video showed him ranting against government corruption in Ukraine.

The comedy series Svaty ("In-laws"), in which Zelenskyy appeared, was banned in Ukraine in 2017, [42] but unbanned in March 2019. [43]

Zelenskyy worked mostly in Russian-language productions. His first role in the Ukrainian language was the romantic comedy I, You, He, She , [44] which appeared on the screens of Ukraine in December 2018. [45] The first version of the script was written in Ukrainian but was translated into Russian for the Lithuanian actress Agnė Grudytė. Later, the movie was dubbed into Ukrainian. [46]

In October 2021, the Pandora Papers revealed that Zelenskyy, his chief aide, and the head of the Security Service of Ukraine Ivan Bakanov operated a network of offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands, Cyprus, and Belize. These companies included some that owned expensive London property. [47] Around the time of his 2019 election, Zelenskyy handed his shares in a key offshore company over to Serhiy Shefir, but the two men appear to have made an arrangement for Zelenskyy's family to continue receiving the money from these companies. [47] Zelenskyy's election campaign had centred on pledges to clean up the government of Ukraine. [47]

2019 presidential campaign

Zelenskyy and then-president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, April 2019 Debates of Petro Poroshenko and Vladimir Zelensky (2019-04-19) 02.jpg
Zelenskyy and then-president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, April 2019

In March 2018, members of Zelenskyy's production company Kvartal 95 registered a new political party called Servant of the People – the same name as the television program that Zelenskyy had starred in over the previous three years. [48] [49] Although Zelenskyy denied any immediate plans to enter politics and said he had registered the party name only to prevent it being appropriated by others, [50] there was widespread speculation that he was planning to run. As early as October 2018, three months before his campaign announcement and six months before the presidential election, he was already a frontrunner in opinion polls. [51] [49] After months of ambiguous statements, [50] [49] on 31 December, less than four months from the election, Zelenskyy announced his candidacy for president of Ukraine on the New Year's Eve evening show on the TV channel 1+1. [52] His announcement up-staged the New Year's Eve address of incumbent president Petro Poroshenko on the same channel, [52] which Zelenskyy said was unintentional and attributed to a technical glitch. [53]

Zelenskyy's presidential campaign against Poroshenko was almost entirely virtual. [54] [55] He did not release a detailed policy platform [56] and his engagement with mainstream media was minimal; [54] [lower-alpha 5] he instead reached out to the electorate via social media channels and YouTube clips. [54] In place of traditional campaign rallies, he conducted stand-up comedy routines across Ukraine with his production company Kvartal 95. [58] [59] He styled himself as an anti-establishment, anti-corruption figure, although he was not generally described as a populist. [56] He said he wished to restore trust in politicians, "to bring professional, decent people to power" and to "change the mood and timbre of the political establishment". [48] [49] [60] On 16 April 2019, a few days before the election, 20 Ukrainian news outlets called on Zelenskyy to "stop avoiding journalists". [54] Zelenskyy stated that he was not hiding from journalists but that he did not want to go to talk shows where "people of the old power" were "just doing PR" and that he did not have time to satisfy all interview requests. [61]

Prior to the elections, Zelenskyy presented a team that included former finance minister Oleksandr Danylyuk and others. [62] [57] During the campaign, concerns were raised over his links to the oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi, [63] a billionaire businessman who had gained control of the 1+1 Media Group in 2010. The group operates eight Ukrainian TV channels and broadcast the Servant of the People TV series from 2015 until 2019, featuring Zelenskyy in a comedian role as a national president.

President Poroshenko and his supporters claimed that Zelenskyy's victory would benefit Russia. [64] [65] [66] [67] On 19 April 2019 at Olimpiyskiy National Sports Complex presidential debates were held in the form of a show. [68] [69] [70] In his introductory speech, Zelenskyy acknowledged that in 2014 he voted for Poroshenko, but "I was mistaken. We were mistaken. We voted for one Poroshenko, but received another. The first appears when there are video cameras, the other Petro sends Medvedchuk privietiki (greetings) to Moscow". [68] Although Zelenskyy initially said he would serve only a single term, he walked back this promise in May 2021, saying he had not yet made up his mind. [71]

Zelenskyy stated that as president he would develop the economy and attract investment to Ukraine through "a restart of the judicial system" and restoring confidence in the state. [72] He also proposed a tax amnesty and a 5-per-cent flat tax for big business which could be increased "in dialogue with them and if everyone agrees". [72] According to Zelenskyy, if people would notice that his new government "works honestly from the first day", they would start paying their taxes. [72]

Zelenskyy achieved a plurality of the electorate (30%) in the first round of elections on 31 March 2019. [73] In the second round, on 21 April 2019, he received 73 per cent of the vote to Poroshenko's 25 per cent, and was elected President of Ukraine. [74] [75] Polish president Andrzej Duda was one of the first European leaders to congratulate Zelenskyy. [76] French president Emmanuel Macron received Zelenskyy at the Élysée Palace in Paris on 12 April 2019. [77] On 22 April, U.S. president Donald Trump congratulated Zelenskyy on his victory over the telephone. [78] [79] European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker and European Council president Donald Tusk also issued a joint letter of congratulations and stated that the European Union (EU) will work to speed up the implementation of the remainder of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. [80]

Presidency

Who will suffer the most from this? People. Who does not want this more than anyone? People. Who can prevent this? People.

Are these people present among you? I am sure there are. Public figures, journalists, musicians, actors, athletes, scientists, doctors, bloggers, stand-up comedians, Tik-Tokers and many more. Regular people. Regular, normal people. Men, women, the elderly, children, fathers, and most importantly, mothers. Just like people in Ukraine. Just like the authorities in Ukraine, no matter how much they try to convince you otherwise.

I know that they will not show this appeal of mine on Russian television. But the citizens of Russia must see it. They must know the truth. And the truth is that this needs to stop, before it is too late. And if the Russian leadership does not want to sit down at the table with us for the sake of peace, then perhaps, they will sit down at the table with you.

Do Russians want war? I would very much like to answer this question. But the answer depends only on you, the citizens of the Russian Federation.

The speech was widely described as "emotional" and "astonishing". [167] [168]

2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine

Verkhovna Rada chairman Ruslan Stefanchuk, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal after signing of the application for membership in the European Union during the war on 28 February 2022 Zaiavka Ukrayini na chlenstvo u Ievropeis'komu Soiuzi, 1.jpg
Verkhovna Rada chairman Ruslan Stefanchuk, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal after signing of the application for membership in the European Union during the war on 28 February 2022
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visiting a military hospital for soldiers fighting in the Kyiv Oblast, 13 March Volodymyr Zelenskyy paid a visit to the wounded defenders of Ukraine undergoing treatment at a military hospital (51937554922).jpg
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visiting a military hospital for soldiers fighting in the Kyiv Oblast, 13 March

First phase: Invasion of Ukraine (24 February – 7 April)

On the morning of 24 February, Putin announced that Russia was initiating a "special military operation" in the Donbas. Russian missiles struck a number of military targets in Ukraine, and Zelenskyy declared martial law. [169] Zelenskyy also announced that diplomatic relations with Russia were being severed, effective immediately. [170] Later in the day, he announced general mobilisation. [171] On 25 February, Zelenskyy said that despite Russia's claim that it was targeting only military sites, civilian sites were also being hit. [172] In an early morning address that day, Zelenskyy said that his intelligence services had identified him as Russia's top target, but that he is staying in Kyiv and his family will remain in the country. "They want to destroy Ukraine politically by destroying the head of state", he said. [173] In the early hours of 26 February, during the most significant assault by Russian troops on the capital of Kyiv, the United States government and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan urged Zelenskyy to evacuate to a safer location, and both offered assistance for such an effort. Zelenskyy turned down both offers and opted to remain in Kyiv with its defense forces, saying that "the fight is here [in Kyiv]; I need ammunition, not a ride". [174] [175] [176]

More than 90% of Ukrainians supported the actions of Zelenskyy, [177] including more than 90% in western and central Ukraine and more than 80% in Russian-speaking regions in eastern and southern Ukraine. [178] A Pew Research Center poll found that 72% of Americans had confidence in Zelenskyy's handling of international affairs. [179]

Zelenskyy has gained worldwide recognition as the wartime leader of Ukraine during the Russian invasion; historian Andrew Roberts compared him to Winston Churchill. [180] [181] Harvard Political Review said that Zelenskyy "has harnessed the power of social media to become history's first truly online wartime leader, bypassing traditional gatekeepers as he uses the internet to reach out to the people." [182] He has been described as a national hero or a "global hero" by many commentators, including publications such as The Hill , Deutsche Welle , Der Spiegel and USA Today . [180] [183] [184] [185] BBC News and The Guardian have reported that his response to the invasion has received praise even from previous critics. [176] [186] During the invasion, Zelenskyy has been reportedly the target of more than a dozen assassination attempts; three were prevented due to tips from Russian FSB employees who opposed the invasion. Two of those attempts were carried out by the Wagner Group, a Russian paramilitary force, and the third by the Kadyrovites, the personal guard of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. [187] While speaking about Ukrainian civilians who were killed by Russian forces, Zelenskyy said: [188]

We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will punish everyone who committed atrocities in this war... We will find every scum who was shelling our cities, our people, who was shooting the missiles, who was giving orders. You will not have a quiet place on this earth – except for a grave.

On 7 March 2022, Czech president Miloš Zeman decided to award Zelenskyy with the highest state award of the Czech Republic, the Order of the White Lion, for "his bravery and courage in the face of Russia's invasion". [189]

Zelenskyy with Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki, Czech Prime Minister Fiala and Slovenian Prime Minister Jansa, Kyiv, 15 March Volodymyr Zelenskyy met with the heads of governments of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia in Kyiv. (51940875546).jpg
Zelenskyy with Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki, Czech Prime Minister Fiala and Slovenian Prime Minister Janša, Kyiv, 15 March

Zelenskyy has repeatedly called for direct talks with Russian president Vladimir Putin, [190] saying: "Good Lord, what do you want? Leave our land. If you don't want to leave now, sit down with me at the negotiating table. But not from 30 meters away, like with Macron and Scholz. I don't bite." [191] Zelenskyy said he was "99.9 percent sure" that Putin thought the Ukrainians would welcome the invading forces with "flowers and smiles". [192]

On 7 March 2022, as a condition for ending the invasion, the Kremlin demanded Ukraine's neutrality; recognition of Crimea, which had been annexed by Russia, as Russian territory; and recognition of the self-proclaimed separatist republics of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states. [193] On 8 March, Zelenskyy expressed willingness to discuss Putin's demands. [190] Zelenskyy said he is ready for dialogue, but "not for capitulation". [194] He proposed a new collective security agreement for Ukraine with the United States, Turkey, France, Germany as an alternative to the country joining NATO. [195] Zelenskyy's Servant of the People party said that Ukraine would not give up its claims on Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk. [196] However, Zelenskyy said that Ukraine was considering giving the Russian language protected minority status. [197]

Zelenskyy in the Kyiv Oblast following the recapture of the region by Ukraine, 4 April Working trip of the President of Ukraine to the Kyiv region 71.jpg
Zelenskyy in the Kyiv Oblast following the recapture of the region by Ukraine, 4 April

On 15 March 2022, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, together with Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala and Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša, visited Kyiv to meet with Zelenskyy in a display of support for Ukraine. [198] On 16 March 2022, a deepfake appeared online of Zelenskyy calling on Ukrainian citizens to surrender to Russia. The attack was largely deemed to have failed at its intended goal. [199] The video is considered to be the first use of deepfake technology in a global-scale disinformation attack. [200]

Zelenskyy has made an effort to rally the governments of Western nations in an effort to isolate Russia. He has made numerous addresses to the legislatures of the EU, [201] [202] UK, [203] Poland, [204] Australia, [205] Canada, [206] US, [207] Germany, [208] Israel, [209] Italy, [210] Japan, [211] the Netherlands, [212] Romania, [213] and the Nordic countries. [214] [215] [216]

On March 23, Zelenskyy was calling on Russians to emigrate from Russia so as not to finance the war in Ukraine with their taxes. [217] In March 2022, Zelenskyy supported the suspension of 11 Ukrainian political parties with ties to Russia: the Socialist Party of Ukraine, Derzhava, Left Opposition, Nashi, Opposition Bloc, Opposition Platform — For Life, Party of Shariy, Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine, Union of Leftists, and the Volodymyr Saldo Bloc. [218] [219] [220] The Communist Party of Ukraine, another pro-Russia party, had already been banned in 2015 because of its support to the Donbas separatists. [221] Zelenskyy has also supported consolidating all TV news stations into a single 24-hour news broadcast run by the state of Ukraine. [222]

Second phase: South-Eastern front (8 April – 5 September)

In April 2022, Zelenskyy criticized Germany's ties with Russia. [223] In May 2022, Zelenskyy said that Ukrainian men of conscription age had a duty to remain in Ukraine and that up to 100 Ukrainian soldiers were killed every day in the fighting in eastern Ukraine. He made the comment after he was asked about an online petition calling to lift a prohibition on Ukrainian men leaving Ukraine. [224] [225] As Zelenskyy ordered a general military mobilization in February 2022, he also banned men aged 18 to 60 from leaving Ukraine. [226] In early June 2022, Zelenskyy's adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said that up to 200 Ukrainian soldiers were killed in combat every day. [227]

Zelenskyy awarding a soldier near the front line in the Kharkiv Oblast, 29 May Robocha poyizdka Prezidenta na Kharkivshchinu 21.jpg
Zelenskyy awarding a soldier near the front line in the Kharkiv Oblast, 29 May

Zelenskyy denounced suggestions by former US diplomat Henry Kissinger that Ukraine should cede control of Crimea and Donbas to Russia in exchange for peace. [228] On 25 May 2022, he said that Ukraine would not agree to peace until Russia agreed to return Crimea and the Donbas region to Ukraine. [229] However, he later said he did not believe that all the land seized by Russia since 2014, which includes Crimea, could be recaptured by force, saying that "If we decide to go that way, we will lose hundreds of thousands of people." [230]

On 3 May 2022, Zelenskyy accused Turkey of having "double standards" by welcoming Russian tourists while attempting to act as an intermediary between Russia and Ukraine in order to end the war. [231] On 25 May 2022, Zelenskyy said that he was satisfied with China's policy of staying away from the conflict. [232] In August 2022, he said China had the economic leverage to pressure Putin to end the war, adding "I'm sure that without the Chinese market for the Russian Federation, Russia would be feeling complete economic isolation. That's something that China can do – to limit the trade [with Russia] until the war is over." According to Zelenskyy, since the beginning of the invasion, Chinese President Xi Jinping had refused to speak with him." [233]

On 30 May 2022, Zelenskyy criticized EU leaders for being too soft on Russia and asked, "Why can Russia still earn almost a billion euros a day by selling energy?" [234] The study published by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) calculates that the EU paid Russia about €56 billion for fossil fuel deliveries in the three months following the start of Russia's invasion. [235]

Zelenskyy visiting a school in Irpin in Bucha Raion on the occasion of Knowledge Day on 1 September 2022 Vidvidannia Prezidentom shkoli v Irpeni z nagodi Dnia znan' 11.jpg
Zelenskyy visiting a school in Irpin in Bucha Raion on the occasion of Knowledge Day on 1 September 2022

On 20 June 2022, Zelenskyy addressed African Union (AU) representatives via videoconference. He invited African leaders to a virtual meeting, but only four of them attended. [236] On 20 July 2022, South America's Mercosur trade bloc refused Zelenskyy's request to speak at the trade bloc's summit in Paraguay. [237]

Third phase: Counteroffensives and annexations (6 September – present)

Speaking about the 2022 Russian mobilization, Zelenskyy called on Russians to not submit to "criminal mobilization", saying: "Russian commanders do not care about the lives of Russians — they just need to replenish the empty spaces left" by killed and wounded Russian soldiers. [238] Following Putin's announcement of Russia annexing four regions of Ukrainian territory it had seized during its invasion, Zelenskyy announced that Ukraine would not hold peace talks with Russia while Putin was president. [239]

On 25 September 2022, Zelenskyy said that Putin's threats to use nuclear weapons "could be a reality." He added that Putin "wants to scare the whole world" with nuclear blackmail. [240] He also said that Putin is aware that the "world will never forgive" a Russian nuclear strike. [241] When asked what kind of relationship Ukrainians and Ukraine will have with Russia after the war, Zelenskyy replied that "They took too many people, too many lives. The society will not forgive them", adding that "It will be the choice of our society whether to talk to them, or not to talk at all, and for how many years, tens of years or more." [242] On 21 December 2022, Zelenskyy visited the United States on his first foreign trip since the war began. [243] [244] He met with President Joe Biden and addressed Congress delivering his full speech in English. The United States announced they would supply Patriot missiles to Ukraine as had been requested. [245]

Zelenskyy at the UN Security Council in New York City on 20 September 2023 Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden visit to USA and UNGA (53201842570).jpg
Zelenskyy at the UN Security Council in New York City on 20 September 2023

In May 2023, he visited the International Criminal Court in The Hague and said he would like to see Russian President Vladimir Putin stand trial for war crimes committed during the war in Ukraine, [246] including the crime of aggression. [247]

On 19 September 2023, in a speech to the UN General Assembly, Zelenskyy called on neutral countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia to abandon their neutrality and support Ukraine. [248] In October 2023, after the Hroza missile attack, he criticized countries supporting Russia, saying "all those who help Russia circumvent sanctions are criminals." [249]

Zelenskyy condemned Hamas' actions during the 2023 Israel–Hamas war and expressed his support to Israel and its right to self-defense. [250]

Political views

Economic issues

In a mid-June interview with BIHUS info  [ uk ] a representative of the president of Ukraine at the Cabinet of Ministers, Andriy Herus stated that Zelenskyy had never promised to lower communal tariffs, but that a campaign video in which Zelenskyy stated that the price of natural gas in Ukraine could fall by 20–30 per cent or maybe more was a not a direct promise but actually "half-hinting" and "joking". [251] Zelenskyy's election manifesto mentioned tariffs only once—that money raised from a capital amnesty would go towards "lowering the tariff burden on low-income citizens". [252] [253]

Foreign policy

Zelenskyy and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson paying tribute to fallen Ukrainian soldiers in Kyiv on 17 June 2022 Zustrich Prezidenta Ukrayini ta Prem'ier-ministra Velikoyi Britaniyi u Kiievi 31.jpg
Zelenskyy and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson paying tribute to fallen Ukrainian soldiers in Kyiv on 17 June 2022
Zelenskyy with Joe Biden, Rishi Sunak, Giorgia Meloni and Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the 2023 Vilnius summit Prime minister Rishi Sunak attends the NATO Summit in Lithunia (53040913570).jpg
Zelenskyy with Joe Biden, Rishi Sunak, Giorgia Meloni and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the 2023 Vilnius summit

During his presidential campaign, Zelenskyy said that he supported Ukraine's becoming a member of the European Union and NATO, but he said Ukrainian voters should decide on the country's membership of these two organisations in referendums. [254] At the same time, he believed that the Ukrainian people had already chosen "eurointegration". [254] [255] Zelenskyy's close advisor Ivan Bakanov also said that Zelenskyy's policy is supportive of membership of both the EU and NATO, and proposes holding referendums on membership. [256] Zelenskyy's electoral programme claimed that Ukrainian NATO membership is "the choice of the Maidan and the course that is enshrined in the Constitution, in addition, it is an instrument for strengthening our defense capability". [257] The program states that Ukraine should set the goal to apply for a NATO Membership Action Plan in 2024. [257] The programme also states that Zelenskyy "will do everything to ensure" that Ukraine can apply for European Union membership in 2024. [258] Two days before the second round, Zelenskyy stated that he wanted to build "a strong, powerful, free Ukraine, which is not the younger sister of Russia, which is not a corrupt partner of Europe, but our independent Ukraine". [259]

In October 2020, he spoke in support of Azerbaijan in regards to the Nagorno-Karabakh war between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenians over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Zelenskyy said: "We support Azerbaijan's territorial integrity and sovereignty just as Azerbaijan always supports our territorial integrity and sovereignty." [260]

In February 2022, he applied for Ukraine to join the European Union. [261] [262]

Zelenskyy has tried to position Ukraine as a neutral party in the political and trade tensions between the United States and China. In January 2021, Zelenskyy said in an interview with Axios that he does not perceive China as a geopolitical threat and that he does not agree with the United States assertions that it represents one. [263]

Russo-Ukrainian War

Zelenskyy and Russian president Putin meeting in Paris on 9 December 2019 in the "Normandy Format" aimed at ending the war in Donbas Normandy format (2019-12-09) 01.jpg
Zelenskyy and Russian president Putin meeting in Paris on 9 December 2019 in the "Normandy Format" aimed at ending the war in Donbas

Zelenskyy supported the late 2013 and early 2014 Euromaidan movement. During the war in Donbas, he actively supported the Ukrainian army. [32] Zelenskyy helped fund a volunteer battalion fighting on Donbas. [264]

In a 2014 interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda v Ukraine , Zelenskyy said that he would have liked to pay a visit to Crimea, but would avoid it because "armed people are there". [265] In August 2014, Zelenskyy performed for Ukrainian troops in Mariupol and later his studio donated ₴1 million to the Ukrainian army. [266] Regarding the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea, Zelenskyy said that, speaking realistically, it would be possible to return Crimea to Ukrainian control only after a regime change in Russia. [267]

In an interview in December 2018 with Ukrainska Pravda , Zelenskyy stated that as president he would try to end the ongoing war in Donbas by negotiating with Russia. [268] As he considered the leaders of the Donetsk People's Republic and the Luhansk People's Republic (DPR and LPR) to be Russia's "puppets", it would "make no sense to speak with them". [268] He did not rule out holding a referendum on the issue. [268] In an interview published three days before the 2019 presidential election (on 21 April), Zelenskyy stated that he was against granting the Donbas region "special status". [269] In the interview he also said that if he were elected president he would not sign a law on amnesty for the militants of the DPR and LPR. [269]

In response to suggestions to the contrary, he stated in April 2019 that he regarded Russian president Vladimir Putin "as an enemy". [270] On 2 May 2019, Zelenskyy wrote on Facebook that "the border is the only thing Russia and Ukraine have in common". [271]

Zelenskyy opposes the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline between Russia and Germany, calling it "a dangerous weapon, not only for Ukraine but for the whole of Europe." [272]

On 25 May 2022, Zelenskyy said that "Ukraine will fight until it regains all its territories." [273]

Zelenskyy has described the extensive environmental damage from the war as “an environmental bomb of mass destruction” and "an ecocide" (a crime in Ukraine) and has met with prominent European politicians and others to discuss the environmental damage. [274] [275] [276] [277] [278]

Government reform

Zelenskyy with NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg in June 2019 Volodymyr Zelensky visits Brussels 2019.jpg
Zelenskyy with NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg in June 2019

During the presidential campaign, Zelenskyy promised bills to fight corruption, including removal of immunity from the president of the country, members of the Verkhovna Rada (the Ukrainian parliament) and judges, a law about impeachment, reform of election laws, and providing efficient trial by jury. He promised to bring the salary for military personnel "to the level of NATO standards". [279]

Although Zelenskyy prefers elections with open list election ballots, after he called the snap 2019 Ukrainian parliamentary election his draft law "On amendments to some laws of Ukraine in connection with the change of the electoral system for the election of people's deputies" proposed to hold the election with closed list because the 60-day term to the snap election did not "leave any chances for the introduction of this system". [280]

Social issues

Zelenskyy and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, November 2021 The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi meeting the President of Ukraine, Mr. Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in Glasgow, Scotland on November 02, 2021 (2).jpg
Zelenskyy and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, November 2021

Zelenskyy opposed targeting the Russian language in Ukraine and banning artists for their political opinions (such as those viewed by the Government as anti-Ukrainian). [281] [282] In April 2019, he stated that he was not against a Ukrainian language quota (on radio and TV), although he noted they could be tweaked. [283] He also said that Russian artists "who have turned into (anti-Ukrainian) politicians" should remain banned from entering Ukraine. [269]

In response to a petition demanding equal rights for same-sex couples, Zelenskyy echoed the view that family does not depend on sex and asked the Prime Minister of Ukraine to review civil partnerships for same-sex couples. With regards to same-sex marriage, Zelenskyy cited a provision in the Constitution of Ukraine barring same-sex marriage, as well as a ban on wartime changes to the Constitution, ruling out an introduction of same-sex marriages during the ongoing war. [284] [285] Civil rights organizations praised the statement, though criticizing its vagueness, as Zelenskyy had avoided giving any details about legal proposals for civil partnerships. [286]

On 2 December 2022, Zelenskyy entered a bill to the Verkhovna Rada that would officially ban all activities of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) UOC in Ukraine. [287]

Personal life

Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Olena Zelenska in 2019 parliamentary election Volodymyr Zelenskyy voted in parliamentary elections (2019-07-21) 05.jpg
Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Olena Zelenska in 2019 parliamentary election

In September 2003, Zelenskyy married Olena Kiyashko, with whom he had attended school and university. [288] [289] Kiyashko worked as a scriptwriter at Kvartal 95. [290] The couple's first daughter, Oleksandra, was born in July 2004. Their son, Kyrylo, was born in January 2013. In Zelenskyy's 2014 movie 8 New Dates, their daughter played Sasha, the daughter of the protagonist. In 2016, she participated in the show The Comedy Comet Company Comedy's Kids and won ₴50,000. [17] The family lives in Kyiv. [289]

Zelenskyy's first language is Russian, and he is also fluent in Ukrainian and English. [291] [292] [293] [294] His assets were worth about ₴37 million (about US$1.5 million) in 2018. [295]

Achievements, awards, and recognition

Awards and decorations

In 2022, British newspaper Financial Times [296] and US magazine Time both selected Zelenskyy as Person of the Year. [297]

Species named after Zelenskyy

Ausichicrinites zelenskyyi , an extinct species of feather star described on 20 July 2022 by a group of Polish paleontologists, is named after Zelenskyy "for his courage and bravery in defending free Ukraine". [315] [316]

Selected filmography

The film premiere of I, You, He, She Evgenii Koshevoi, Vladimir Zelenskii.jpg
The film premiere of I, You, He, She

Films

Presidency of Volodymyr Zelenskyy
20 May 2019 present
Volodymyr Zelenskyy
YearTitleRole
2004 Three Musketeers writer; d'Artagnan
2009 Love in the Big City Igor
2010 Love in the Big City 2 Igor
2011 Office Romance. Our Time Anatoly Efremovich Novoseltsev
2012 Rzhevsky Versus Napoleon Napoleon
8 First Dates Nikita Sokolov
2014 Love in Vegas Igor Zelenskyy
Paddington (Ukrainian dub) Paddington Bear (voice) [317]
2015 8 New Dates Nikita Andreevich Sokolov
2016 8 Best Dates Nikita Andreevich Sokolov
Servant of the People 2 Vasyl Petrovych Holoborodko
2018 I, You, He, She Maksym Tkachenko
2023 Superpower himself; short interviews with Sean Penn

Television shows and appearances

YearTitleRoleNotes
2006 Dancing with the Stars (Ukraine) as contestant
2008–2012 Svaty ("In-Laws")as producer
2015–2019 Servant of the People Vasyl Petrovych Holoborodko
2022 64th Annual Grammy Awards Guest appearanceSpecial message, as President of Ukraine
2023 12th Annual NFL Honors Guest appearanceSpecial message, as President of Ukraine [318]

Publications

Notes

    1. In this name that follows Eastern Slavic naming conventions, the patronymic is Oleksandrovychand the family name is Zelenskyy.
    2. Ukrainian: Володимир Олександрович Зеленський, pronounced [woloˈdɪmɪrolekˈsɑndrowɪdʒzeˈlɛnʲsʲkɪj] .
    3. Zelenskyy's name lacks an established Latin-alphabet spelling, and it has been romanized in various ways: for example Volodymyr Zelensky or Zelenskyi from Ukrainian, or Vladimir Zelenskiy from Russian. [2] Zelenskyy is the transliteration on his passport, and his administration has used it since he assumed the presidency in 2019. [2] [3]
    4. Since 2015, Ukraine has banned Russian artists and other Russian works of culture from entering Ukraine. [38]
    5. From 21 January until 18 April 2019 Zelenskyy did not give interviews. [57]

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