Ukraine’s president has become an unlikely sex symbol across the world after standing up to Vladimir Putin against the odds.
Volodymyr Zelensky has won a legion of fans for his good looks as the public swooned over his video addresses to foreign powers.
The ex-comedian turned politician turned war leader was also backed for his bravery in staying in Kyiv to help his forces bash back waves of Russian attacks.
The president has come a long way in a short space of time, having been a comedy actor before winning a landslide victory in the Ukraine elections of 2019.
Zelensky’s only previous political role was in TV show ‘Servant of the People’ playing a history teacher who is unintentionally elected as the president, after a video of his character giving an anti-corruption rant goes viral.
He also appeared on the Ukrainian version of Dancing with the Stars in 2006, which he won convincingly with stunning footage showing him in jiving in a pink suit with flared trousers.
Ukraine’s president has become an unlikely sex symbol across the world after standing up to Vladimir Putin against the odds
Volodymyr Zelensky has won a legion of fans for his good looks as the public swooned over his video addresses to foreign powers. He is pictured with his wife
The ex-comedian turned politician turned war leader (pictured with his wife and children_ was also backed for his bravery in staying in Kyiv to help his forces bash back waves of Russian attacks
Despite his lack of experience and time in office, he has proved a global hit during the invasion, which has seen him continue to stand up to Russian aggression despite being massively outgunned.
Men and woman were quick to compliment the leader for his good looks and said this and his bravery had attracted them to him.
One woman posted on her Twitter account this week: ‘Am I the only girl swooning for President Zelensky? His fearless passion is sooo hot.
Another wrote online: ‘Sorry if this is inappropriate, but… I never noticed before – Zelensky is hot. Standing up to Russian aggression really brings out his eyes.’
One continued: ‘I haven’t wanted to mention it because it’s not important but Zelensky looks hot as hell.’ Meanwhile a man posted: ‘Is Volodymyr Zelensky kind of hot?’
‘He looks sleepy, but he’s watching his country collapse. Get some sleep and wake up next to him with his compact body and those eyes?’
Another put: ‘Imma say it. Zelensky is hot.’ One man said: ‘Zelensky was already the hottest world leader (close between him and [Canadian Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau). Homie is off the charts hot now.’
And one more added: ‘Zelensky has MUCH more sex appeal than Trudeau. He should take up his rightful place as the world leader sex icon.’
Mr Zelensky, 44, was born in Kryvyi Rih, a large city in central Ukraine, to Jewish parents before they moved to Erdenet in Mongolian for four years.
He was expecting to move to Israel to study after passing his exams, but his father refused to let him go, instead sending him to study law at Kryvyi Rih Institute of Economics.
A poster for ‘Servant of the People’, in which Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky played the leading role
Aged just 17 he started comedy and joined the Russian show KVN and won KVN’s Major League in 1997 and spent time across former Soviet countries – including Russia – touring.
By this point married to screenwriter Olena Zelenska, with whom he has two children, he moved into film and television and starred in Love in the Big City, the sequels and Office Romance. Our Time.
But he began showing an interest in politics from 2014 when the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture suggested it would ban Russian artists from the country.
In 2015 he played the president of the country in the TV series Servant of the People, which also railed against corruption in the leadership.
Zelensky took power for real in 2019 after winning a landslide victory against Petro Poroshenko, who is now embroiled in a series of scandals from his time in office.
Like his character, he ran on an anti-corruption campaign and trounced the pro-Russia incumbent by taking 73 percent of votes.
Poroshenko lost to the television star across all regions of the country, including in the west where he traditionally enjoyed strong support.
It was an extraordinary outcome to a campaign that started as a joke but struck a chord with voters frustrated by poverty, corruption and a five-year war.
Mr Zelensky, 44, was born in Kryvyi Rih, a large city in central Ukraine, to Jewish parents before they moved to Erdenet in Mongolian for four years
By this point married to screenwriter Olena Zelenska, with whom he has two children, he moved into film and television and starred in Love in the Big City, the sequels and Office Romance. Our Time
But he began showing an interest in politics from 2014 when the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture suggested it would ban Russian artists from the country. He is pictured with his wife last year
At his campaign HQ, as the exit polls came out, Zelensky said: ‘I will never let you down. While I am not formally president yet, as a citizen of Ukraine I can tell all post-Soviet countries: ‘Look at us! Everything is possible!’
But despite his landslide victory, uncertainty remained about how Russian-speaker would lead Ukraine, and tackle its biggest threat across the border in the from of Russia and its president.
Since taking power in 2019, he has had to manage forces pulling his country in drastically different directions.
On the one hand, Ukraine has been developing is relationship with the US, NATO and the EU. On the other, Russia and Putin have been desperate to stop the former Soviet state slipping further away.
All the while, he has been seeking to keep his countrymen calm, and has displayed measured leadership in the fact of growing challenged.
But in recent months, he has faced the biggest challenge of his premiership – the threat of a Russian invasion – and has also seen the widespread support he enjoyed in 2019 all-but dissolve.
Just last week, as if to show defiance, Zelensky declared Wednesday would be a ‘day of national unity,’ calling on the country to display the blue-and-yellow flag and sing the national anthem.
Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and some 14,000 people have been killed in fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russia separatists in the country’s east, which continues to this day.
While he has made efforts to keep the US on his side, Zelensky had also found himself downplaying the threat to avoid panic among his own citizens.
Pictured: Ukrainian comedian, and Presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelensky reacts at his campaign headquarters following a presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, on April 21, 2019
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky holding the Bulava, the Ukrainian symbol of power, during his inauguration ceremony at the parliament in Kiev on May 20, 2019
In his campaign, Zelensky vowed to reach out to Russia-backed rebels in the east who were fighting Ukrainian forces, and make strides toward resolving the conflict. The assurances contributed to his landslide victory.
But Putin made no secret of his displeasure over Ukraine growing closer to to the West, while distancing itself from Russia and its Soviet past.
The Russian president was angered when Viktor Medvedchuk – Ukraine’s most prominent pro-Russia politician – was placed under house arrest and charged with high-treason.
What’s more, Medvedchuk’s three TV stations have been blocked for allegedly spreading misinformation. The oligarch is close Putin, who is the godfather of one of his daughters.
But while Zelensky makes efforts to reduce the influence Russia has on Ukraine, the country’s large pro-Russian population cannot be ignored.
To make matters worse, the incumbent whom Zelensky defeated in 2019 has boldly returned to the country to face charges of treason and stir up opposition to him.
In the past 20 years, Ukraine has endured two significant uprisings – one that forced the rerun of a fraud-ridden presidential election and the mass, bloody protests that drove the Kremlin-friendly president to flee the country in 2014. Fistfights have broken out in parliament. Political alliances often shift and parties morph into new entities.
‘The biggest risk for Ukraine and the biggest risk for the sovereignty of our state, is destabilisation within our state,’ Zelensky said last month.
But before the invasion, Ukrainians had little confidence that Zelensky can ensure that stability.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky attends drills held by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine in the settlement of Kalanchak near the border with Crimea, February 12, 2022
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive for a meeting on Ukraine with German Chancellor at the Elysee Palace, on December 9, 2019 in Paris
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits the front-line positions of Ukrainian military in Donbass, Ukraine in December
According to a January poll by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, only 30 per cent of the country’s people wanted him to run for a second term and even fewer – 23 per cent – would vote for him.
‘Zelensky promised to end the war and defeat corruption, but this did not happen,’ said Anatoly Rudenko, a 48-year-old driver in Kyiv. ‘Prices are rising, corruption has not gone away and we have begun to live even poorer.’
‘The miracle did not happen. The situation is only getting worse,’ said Tatyana Shmeleva, a 54-year-old economist.
‘Zelensky made a mistake by starting a confrontation with all the oligarchs of Ukraine at once, who control the main political forces, parties, TV channels. This is a very dangerous, very risky game,’ said Vladimir Fesenko, head of the Penta analytical centre.
Among the oligarchs Fesenko mentioned are Poroshenko, the confectionery tycoon who preceded Zelensky as president and now faces treason charges for allegedly facilitating coal sales that financed the eastern rebels.
Another is industrialist Rinat Akhmetov, from Ukraine’s east who controls an opposition faction, and a third is Viktor Medvedchuk.
These oligarchs are not unified – Medvedchuk and Akhmetov are affiliated with rival opposition factions, while Poroshenko’s presidency was marked by strong antipathy toward Russia.
But many observers believe Moscow is trying to exploit any opposition to Zelensky.
‘There are no open pro-Russia forces that are able to legally come to power in elections, which means that the Kremlin must look for hidden allies and conduct secret negotiations with several Ukrainian players at once,’ Fesenko said.
Russia ‘is pulling economic, energy, political strings, trying to find `flexible’ political forces.’
‘What does Putin want? His task is very simple – it is the destabilisation of our state. Can he do it militarily? No, he cannot. To do this, he needs internal destabilisation,’ Ukrainian Security Council head Oleksiy Danilov said.
Petro Poroshenko (pictured) was on the verge of tears while praising ‘ordinary people’ who joined the army to push back the Russian onslaught
Members of the Territorial Defence Forces of Ukraine load ammunition after receiving weapons to defend the city of Kyiv today
The stand-in soldiers load guns as they sit on the floor wearing jeans and hoodies ahead of the fierce fight
Shooting drills were underway at the base of the Separate Territorial Defence Battalion of Zaporizhzhia, Zaporizhzhia Region, southeastern Ukraine, today
But analyst Volodymyr Sidenko of the Razumkov Center said ‘the scenario of collusion between one of the Ukrainian oligarchs and the Kremlin looks unlikely, since there are no conditions for the formation of stable Russian-Ukrainian business chains.’
Ukraine’s next parliamentary election will be held in 2023 and all opinion polls show the ruling pro-presidential Servant of the People party may lose control of parliament.
This would complicate Zelensky’s ambitions for another term in 2024, so the political landscape could change drastically. But the current tensions may work in his favour in the long term.
‘Threats from Russia can paradoxically help Zelensky – he is just trying to unite everyone who stands for an independent and European Ukraine,’ said Grigory Khoronenko, a programmer in Kyiv.
The British intelligence report – that claimed Russia could seek to install politician Yevheniy Murayev as Ukraine’s president – gave no scenario about how that plan might work.
Murayev once was part of Medvedchuk’s opposition party, but split and formed a party of his own that has no seats in parliament.
And even Zelensky’s strongest critics acknowledge his landslide victory is proof that democracy is still functioning, despite the rampant corruption.
The UK report sparked wide speculation about Russia’s possible nefarious intent, but many Ukrainians brushed it off as far-fetched.
‘I perceive the British version about Murayev with scepticism; this may be something Russia deliberately threw in… to create a fake smokescreen and hide the real players that the Kremlin is oriented toward,’ Fesenko said.
But despite his waning popularity, Zelensky is still president, and on Friday, Ukraine’s national security council imposed a five-year sanction against a television channel owned by Murayev.
William Taylor, the US ambassador to Ukraine under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, told the Los Angeles Times that if Ukraine’s political and business leaders were called to Zelensky’s office, ‘they would come’.
‘They said explicitly, ‘He’s the president, he’s the one we’ve got right now. If there’s another election that will come in a couple of years, that will be different, but for today, he’s the one we have, and we need to support him,” Taylor said.