Zelensky’s TV role as Ukrainian President before landslide election and Russian invasion

Zelensky urges Russians to speak out against Putin

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The former comedian, 44, has become a familiar face to people around the world since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began last month. Appearing in combat overalls during frequent video updates on the situation, he has marked himself out as an unlikely but inspiring wartime leader against the backdrop of Moscow’s unprovoked military aggression. Mr Zelensky has survived at least three assasination attempts over the past few weeks, but has still refused to leave Kyiv.

While the President is currently helping steel his nation’s resolve against Russian attacks, he previously entertained Ukrainians with his role on ‘Servant of the People’.

The sitcom about a schoolteacher who is accidentally elected as his country’s president was shown on Channel 4 last night.

In Episode 1 of the programme, Mr Zelensky’s character, ‘Vasiliy’ becomes Ukrainian leader after raging over corruption and politics in his country.

After one of his pupil’s uploads a video of his rant to YouTube and it goes viral, online crowdfunding provides the teacher with the necessary cash he needs to run for office.

In a remarkable ‘life imitating art’ moment, Mr Zelensky was then elected as Ukrainian President in a landslide victory in the country’s presidential election in April 2019.

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The leader took more than 72 percent of the vote in the second round, thrashing his opponent, the incumbent Petro Poroshenko.

In a speech to his supporters after being elected, Mr Zelensky said: “I will never let you down.”

Although he had a complete lack of political experience, Ukraine’s young leader trained as a lawyer.

The President ran for office under a political party with the same name as the show he starred in, ‘Servant of the People’.

Although he did not discuss many concrete policies during his campaign, Ukrainians were drawn to Mr Zelensky’s pledges to root out corruption.

He promised to curb the influence of powerful oligarchs in his country and also to “reboot” peace talks with Russia-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine.

He said at the time: “I think that we will have personnel changes.

“In any case, we will continue in the direction of the Minsk [peace] talks and head towards concluding a ceasefire.”

Today, Mr Zelensky put out his latest statement as he issued a fresh condemnation of the current war waged against his country by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Ukrainian leader hit out at the Kremlin’s proposals for humanitarian corridors to safely evacuate Ukrainians from the warzone, where thousands of civilians have been killed, according to the Ukrainian government.

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Earlier efforts to get refugees out of heavily bombarded areas failed due Russia breaking ceasefire agreements.

Putin has now tabled new exit routes from the conflict, including via Russia and its military ally Belarus.

Mr Zelensky branded Putin’s idea “completely immoral”, with his spokesman saying citizens should be able to leave their homes through Ukrainian territory.

Reuters quoted him as saying: “People’s suffering is used to create the desired television picture.”

The UK’s minister for Europe and North America, James Cleverly, also blasted Putin’s proposals for humanitarian corridors as “cynical beyond belief”.

He told BBC Breakfast: “Providing evacuation into the arms of the country that is currently destroying yours is nonsense.”

Moscow has tabled escape routes for four Ukrainian cities, Mariupol, Kharkiv, Sumy, and the capital Kyiv, according to Russian news agency Ria.

However, only the routes for the two smaller cities, Mariupol and Sumy, allow citizens to leave the conflict via Ukraine.

‘Servant of the People’ is available to watch on All 4.

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