Who Is Volodymyr Zelenskiy?

Who Is Volodymyr Zelenskiy?

Over the past three years, voters in every region of the world have turned to political candidates and parties that offer transformative change. The list includes Brazil's Bolsonaro, Mexico's Lopez Obrador, Italy's Five Star Movement and Lega, Pakistan's Imran Khan and, of course, Donald Trump.

As Ukraine moves toward presidential elections this spring, a similar wildcard figure has emerged. Meet Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a comic actor known to millions as the guy who plays Ukraine's president on television. Zelenskiy is now preparing a run for the real job, and outsiders better take him as seriously as his establishment rivals do.


Here's what you need to know:

The TV star: Zelenskiy became a TV star in Ukraine about 15 years ago. He has used his show "Evening Block" to mock politicians for many years. On a show called "Servant of the People," Zelenskiy played a school teacher who becomes Ukraine's president after his online tirade against corruption goes viral.

The man of the people: To separate himself from politicians he derides as pompous elites, Zelenskiy makes a point of never wearing a jacket. After announcing his candidacy, he pledged to hire a full team of campaign workers who have no political experience. He posts artfully amateurish videos of himself on his Facebook page talking about his hopes for Ukraine's future.

The nationalist?: Zelenskiy's supported the 2014 Maidan protests against Russian-backed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. After Russia invaded Crimea, Zelenskiy shut down his largest business in Russia and refused to perform there in the future.

The peacemaker?: He has pledged to solve problems based on public polling rather than his own convictions–and to sit down with Vladimir Putin to end the war in Ukraine's eastern provinces if voters told him to. This makes some in Ukraine, particularly the more anti-Russian western regions, nervous because Zelenskiy's first language is Russian and he still has business ties there. This leads some to suspect that Zelenskiy might sell out Ukrainian interests, especially because he has also expressed disdain for attempts to move Ukraine closer toward Europe.

The puppet?: Rivals have accused Zelenskiy of being the frontman for an exiled Ukrainian oligarch, Ihor Kolomoisky, who wants to avoid criminal charges of plundering the assets of a privatized bank. It remains unclear who'll pay for Zelenskiy's campaign.

The media man: Supporters and critics alike credit the on-camera experience and media savvy of Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump for much of their political success. Zelenskiy is likewise a master of media, and therefore a formidable opponent for establishment politicians. He's also using social media much more effectively and aggressively than his rivals.

The bottom line: Ukraine's conflict with Russia has essentially been frozen for the past several years, and its March election offers voters a chance to decide how they want their country to move forward. Zelenskiy has a legitimate outside shot at winning the presidential election, and his appeal for voters in pro-Russian regions means he's a candidate that outsiders—in Europe, Russia, and elsewhere—should be watching closely.

Over the next decade, Walmart's $350 billion investment in U.S. manufacturing has the potential to:

  • Support more than 750,000 new American jobs.
  • Avoid more than 100M metric tons of CO2 emissions by working with suppliers to shift to U.S. manufacturing.
  • Advance the growth of U.S.-based suppliers.
  • Provide opportunities for more than 9,000 entrepreneurs to become Walmart suppliers and sellers through Walmart's annual Open Call.

Cyber is a tool, and sometimes a weapon. Whether espionage for commercial gain or indiscriminate attacks on critical infrastructure, actions taken in cyber space affect you directly, potentially upending even the most mundane realities of everyday life.

Join GZERO Media and Microsoft for a live conversation on cyber challenges facing governments, companies, and citizens in a Munich Security Conference "Road to Munich" event today, May 18.

Event link: gzeromedia.com/globalstage

More Show less

A year and a half after millions poured into the streets of Santiago to protest inequality and the vestiges of the Pinochet dictatorship, Chileans voted this weekend to elect the 155 people who will rewrite the country's constitution.

The question now is not whether the people want change — clearly they do — but rather how much change their representatives can agree on. Overall, the new text is widely expected to beef up the role of the state in a country where a strong private sector made Chile one of Latin America's wealthiest yet also most unequal nations.

Here are a few things to bear in mind as the constitutional rewrite process kicks off.

More Show less

A big reason the Chinese leader is pushing harder than ever to annex Taiwan is actually quite small. The self-governing island has an outsize manufacturing capacity for semiconductors – the little chips that bind the electrical circuits we use in our daily lives. Cell phones, laptops, modern cars, and even airplanes all rely on these tiny computer wafers. Taiwanese chip manufacturer TSMC alone makes more than half of the chips outsourced by all foreign companies, which means your iPhone likely runs on Taiwanese-made semiconductors. What would happen to the world's semiconductor chips if China were to take control of Taiwan?

Watch the episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: What could spark a US-China war?

Will there be a ceasefire in Gaza? Fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas/Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants in the Gaza Strip has now entered its second week. Over the weekend, Israel intensified its bombing of the Gaza Strip, which included targeting a building that houses Al-Jazeera and AP, two foreign media outlets, causing their reporters to hastily flee the premises (Israel has so far not substantiated its claim that Hamas intelligence operatives were working in the building.) At least 42 Gazans were killed in a single Israeli strike Sunday, bringing the Palestinian death toll above 200. Meanwhile, Hamas continued to fire rockets at southern and central Israel, resulting in several casualties. On Monday, for the first time since the violent outbreak, US President Joe Biden voiced support for a ceasefire driven by the Egyptians and others. However, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, has said that the operation will "take time," and a truce is off the table until Hamas' military capabilities are significantly degraded. Civilians on both sides continue to suffer.

More Show less

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Happy week to you. I thought we would do a quick take as we often do talk a little bit today about the latest in the fighting between the Israelis and the Palestinians, still going on. Thousands now of Hamas' rockets raining down on Israel, hundreds of Israeli air sorties, also tanks and artillery hitting Gaza, as well as some violence locally in the West Bank and a fair amount across Israel Proper between Arabs and Israeli Jews living in the country.

I'm pretty optimistic at this point, if you can even use that word, that this is not going to escalate further in the near term. In other words, this doesn't become a ground war. A couple of reasons. First, the Israeli defense forces over the weekend put out a statement showing how much they had already done to degrade Hamas' military capabilities. And historically, they don't do that until they're ready to show success and wrap up their military operations in relatively short order. So that implies a quick pivot, at least to opening negotiations with the Palestinians as to a ceasefire.

More Show less

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. And I thought I'd talk a little bit today about the latest in Israel, Palestine. It's obviously been driving headlines all week. And of course, on social media, there's no topic that we all get along and agree with each other more than Israel, Palestine. It's an easy one to take on. Yeah, I know I'm completely full of crap on that. But I thought I would give you some sense of what I think is actually happening where we're going. So first point, massive fight, big conflict between Hamas in Gaza and the Israeli defense forces. Not only that, but also more violence and a lot of violence breaking out between Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews. Extremists on both sides taking to the streets and fairly indiscriminate violence, in this case, worst since 2014.

More Show less
150,000: A deadly cyclone is set to make landfall in COVID-stricken India and has already prompted the evacuation of 150,000 people along the coast of Gujarat, India's third largest state. Dozens of people have already been killed there due to high winds and heavy rain.
More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

Beyond SolarWinds: Securing Cyberspace. Watch on Tuesday, May 18, 2021 10am PT/ 1pm ET

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

Beyond SolarWinds: Securing Cyberspace | Watch on Tuesday, May 18, 2021 10am PT / 1 pm PT

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal