How Volodymyr Zelensky went from comedian to Ukrainian anti-corruption president

Born in the then Soviet Union, Kryvyi Rih (also known as Krivoy Rog) – the largest city in central Ukraine and the seventh most populous in the country – Volodymyr Zelensky, before he was elected president in May 2019, was best known as an actor and comedian as well as the founder of the production company Studio Kvartal 95. It was through a series of improbable, almost cinematic events that Zelensky succeeded in becoming President of Ukraine. Let’s go, shall we?

Zelensky served as President of Ukraine before becoming one

Other TV shows and movies produced by Kvartal 95 Studio included servant of the people, a Ukrainian political satire comedy television series created and produced by Zelensky himself. The actor-turned-politician also starred there as Vasyl Petrovych Holoborodko, a high school history teacher in his thirties who is unexpectedly elected president of Ukraine after a viral video filmed by one of his students show him making a profane diatribe against the government. corruption in his country.

The series aired from 2015 to 2019 and was hugely popular in the country. Shortly after, a real political party with the same name as the TV show was launched in March 2018 by employees of Kvartal 95 Studio. Let’s take a minute to pause here and process things. Zelensky’s fictional presidential character led him to create his own real political party, also named Servant of the People – promoting the same messages as the original series character. It’s safe to say that Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger have nothing on the man.

He then announced his candidacy for the 2019 Ukrainian presidential election on the evening of December 31, 2018, alongside former President Petro Poroshenko’s New Year’s speech. Previously seen as a political underdog, Zelensky had since become a frontrunner in the opinion polls for the election. As we know, he ended up winning the election with 73.2% of the vote in the second round, beating Poroshenko.

This is where things get interesting – Zelensky identifies as a populist, which means he has positioned himself as an anti-establishment and anti-corruption figure. This position is part of the reason why Russia is currently invading Ukraine.

“You don’t need experience to be president. You just need to be a decent human being.

An anti-corruption and anti-oligarch president

After being sworn in on May 20, 2019, and becoming Ukraine’s first Jewish president, Zelensky introduced a key initiative on reintroducing criminal liability for illegal enrichment. Although ultimately rejected on June 6, a similar bill proposed by a group of MPs was added to parliament’s agenda. Around the same time, it was announced that the president’s third major initiative – which aims to lift the immunity of lawmakers, diplomats and judges – would be introduced after Ukraine’s July 2019 parliamentary elections.

In January 2021, Parliament passed a bill updating and reforming Ukraine’s referendum laws, which the country’s Constitutional Court had declared unconstitutional in 2018. Fixing the referendum law had been one of the campaign promises of Zelensky.

As a native Russian speaker, Zelensky was supported by millions of Russian-speaking Ukrainian voters who had felt disenfranchised by previous administrations. It is this same alienation that Russia (or more precisely its president, Vladimir Putin) has tried to exploit by supporting pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists. The mere fact that Ukraine is a democracy threatens the Kremlin, and Russian officials have often accused Zelensky of being a Western “puppet”.

Although he successfully suppressed Ukraine’s oligarchic elite – which was still heavily criticized by his opposition as an attempt to bolster his presidential powers behind a facade of populist rhetoric – Zelensky failed to deliver on his biggest campaign promise: end the long-simmering crisis. war between government forces and Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The conflict turned critical after Russia officially recognized the breakaway territories Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic. This decision paved the way for the invasion a few days later.

Where is the Ukrainian president now?

Although he was slow to get on with it, seeming too calm when he first spoke publicly about an impending invasion of his people on January 19, Zelensky has now transformed into a warlord. which (at least for now) is supported by Ukrainian society. , including his opponents.

“No Ukrainian president has ever faced a total invasion on his territory,” said Kyiv-based political analyst Valentyn Gladkykh. BNC News. “Having encountered an unprecedented threat, Zelenskyy showed his best side.”

The president vowed to stay in Kiev as missiles pounded the capital and Russian forces pushed in. On Tuesday, March 1, Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said in a marathon broadcast on Ukrainian television channels that officials had recently been informed that a unit of Kadyrovites (forces Chechen elite special forces) was on his way to kill Zelensky. After Ukrainian officials were tipped off by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), Chechen special forces were killed on Saturday (February 26th) in the outskirts of Kiev, Danilov revealed.

“We are well aware of the special operation that was to take place directly by the Kadyrovites to eliminate our president. And I can say that we received information from the FSB, which today does not want to participate in this bloody war,” Danilov said. “And thanks to this, the Kadyrov elite group was destroyed, which came here to eliminate our president.”

Faced with few options as the Russian offensive intensifies, for now Zelensky remains defiant.

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