Volodymyr Zelensky: What to Know About the Ukrainian President
With the Russian invasion of Ukraine still underway, and Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky has been praised for his courage.
While the U.S. has offered to help evacuate Zelensky from Kyiv, he reportedly said, “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride,” according to a U.S. intelligence official.
Just days ago, when multiple cities were under attack in Ukraine, Zelensky said, “This night we have to stand firm. The fate of Ukraine is being decided right now.”
Zelensky, 44, is a former actor/comedian, who has been president for Ukraine since 2019.
Earlier this week, he told Ukrainians during a televised speech that Russia “has identified me as target No. 1 and my family as No. 2."
He stressed, “They want to destroy Ukraine politically by destroying the head of state.”
Zelensky also had a message for Russians, saying, “I know that Russian TV won't show my speech. But citizens of Russia need to see it. They need to see the truth. The truth is you need to stop before it's too late.”
He also asked Russians to reject President Putin’s call for war. He said, “We don't need war. Not a cold one, nor a hot one, nor a hybrid one.”
Hours after his speech, Russia attacked Kyiv with missile strikes.
In 2018, Zelensky gave up acting to begin his career in politics. He even played a Ukrainian president on the satirical series “Servant of the People,” which may have played a role in his out-of-nowhere election as the sixth president of the country.
During his inauguration, he said, “Throughout my entire life, I’ve tried to do everything so Ukrainians smiled. In the next five years, I will do everything so that you, Ukrainians, don’t cry."
Months into his presidency, Zelensky was involved in a scandal involving then-President Trump, who withheld $400 million in aid to Ukraine after Zelensky declined to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Zelensky seems to have a better relationship with President Biden. He recently tweeted that they spoke on the phone about “strengthening sanctions, concrete defense assistance, and an antiwar coalition.”
Biden just approved $350 million in military aid for Ukraine.
Before acting and working as a comedian, Zelensky earned a law degree in 2000.
More than 10 years before he entered politics, Zelensky was a contestant on the Ukraine version of “Dancing with the Stars.” His showbiz past also includes providing the voice of Paddington in the Ukranian versions of "Paddington" and "Paddington 2."
Though Russian President Vladimir Putin has tried to smear the Ukrainian government as “Nazis,” Zelensky is Jewish, with family members who were killed during the Holocaust.
In 2020, while visiting Israel, Zelensky told then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a story of four brothers who served in WWII. “Three of them and their parents and families were shot dead by Nazi occupants who invaded Ukraine. The fourth brother was fighting at the front. He survived WWII, contributing to the victory over Nazism and its inhumane ideology,” he said.
He continued, “Two years after the war, he had a son, and in 31 years, he had a grandson. In 40 more years, that grandson became president and he is standing before you today, Mr. Prime Minister.”
For information on how to help those suffering in Ukraine and elsewhere, visit RedCross.org.