Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy (Ukrainian: Володимир Олександрович Зеленський, pronounced [woloˈdɪmɪr olekˈsɑndrowɪdʒ zeˈlɛnʲsʲkɪj]; born 25 January 1978) is a Ukrainian politician, former actor and comedian who has been serving as the president of Ukraine since 2019.
Zelenskyy grew up in Kryvyi Rih, a Russian-speaking region in southeastern Ukraine. Prior to his acting career, Zelenskyy obtained a degree in law from the Kyiv National Economic University. He then pursued comedy and created the production company Kvartal 95, which produces films, cartoons, and TV shows including Servant of the People, in which Zelenskyy played the role of president of Ukraine. The series aired from 2015 to 2019 and was immensely popular. A political party bearing the same name as the television show was created in March 2018 by employees of Kvartal 95.
Zelenskyy announced his candidacy for the 2019 Ukrainian presidential election on the evening of 31 December 2018, alongside the New Year’s Eve address of President Petro Poroshenko on 1+1 TV Channel. A political outsider, he had already become one of the frontrunners in opinion polls for the election. He won the election with 73.2 per cent of the vote in the second round, defeating Poroshenko. Identifying as a populist, he has positioned himself as an anti-establishment, anti-corruption figure.
As president, Zelenskyy has been a proponent of e-government and unity between the Ukrainian-speaking and Russian-speaking parts of the country’s population. His communication style heavily utilises social media, particularly Instagram. His party won a landslide victory in a snap legislative election held shortly after his inauguration as president. During his administration, Zelenskyy oversaw the lifting of legal immunity for members of the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic recession, and some progress in tackling corruption. Critics of Zelenskyy claim that in taking power away from the Ukrainian oligarchs, he has sought to centralise authority and strengthen his personal position.
Zelenskyy promised to end Ukraine’s protracted conflict with Russia as part of his presidential campaign, and attempted to engage in dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Zelenskyy’s administration faced an escalation of tensions with Russia in 2021, culminating in the launch of an ongoing full-scale Russian invasion in February 2022. Zelenskyy’s strategy during the Russian military buildup was to calm the Ukrainian populace and assure the international community that Ukraine was not seeking to retaliate. He initially distanced himself from warnings of an imminent war, while also calling for security guarantees and military support from NATO to “withstand” the threat. After the commencement of the invasion, Zelenskyy declared martial law across Ukraine and general mobilisation.
Zelenskyy’s first language is Russian, and he is also fluent in Ukrainian and English. His assets were worth about 37 million hryvnias (about $1.5 million USD) in 2018.
Who is Volodymyr Zelenskyy wife and children?
In September 2003, Zelenskyy married Olena Kiyashko, with whom he had attended school.
Zelenska and her future husband were schoolmates, but they were not acquainted. Zelensky once said that he knew many of her classmates, but not Zelenska herself. They got acquainted much later — when Zelenska was studying at the Faculty of Civil Engineering at Kryvyi Rih National University.
The relationship between the couple developed gradually — they dated for eight years before getting married on 6 September 2003.
Who is Olena Zelenska?
Olena Volodymyrivna Zelenska (née Kiyashko; Ukrainian: Олена Володимирівна Зеленська (Кіяшко); born 6 February 1978) is a Ukrainian screenwriter who is the current First Lady of Ukraine as the wife of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. In December 2019, Zelenska was included in the list of the 100 most influential Ukrainians by Focus magazine, taking 30th place.
Olena Kiyashko was born in Kryvyi Rih on 6 February 1978. Zelenska studied architecture at the Faculty of Civil Engineering at Kryvyi Rih National University, but instead wrote texts for Kvartal 95, and ultimately became a writer.
On 20 May 2019, Zelenska became the first lady of Ukraine. On 18 November she appeared on the cover of the December issue of the Ukrainian edition of Vogue. In an interview with the magazine, she spoke about her first initiative – nutrition reform in Ukrainian schools.
At the initiative of Olena Zelenska, the reform of the school nutrition system started with a new school menu developed by chef Ievgen Klopotenko of CultFood. The reform is a complex program: from improving the quality, nutrition of food, and food safety to the provision of resources to schools. The updated school menu has 160 items: it includes both traditional Ukrainian dishes and popular dishes from different cuisines of the world. The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine approved new food standards, which took effect on 1 September 2021.
In December 2019, during a speech at the third Ukrainian Women’s Congress, Zelenska initiated Ukraine’s accession to the G7 international initiative on gender equality – the Biarritz Partnership. As a result, in September 2020, Ukraine received the official status of a member of the Biarritz Partnership, which combines the efforts of states to establish equal rights and opportunities for men and women.
On January 13, 2020, Volodymyr Zelensky included Olena on the board of the Art Arsenal, headed by Minister of Culture Volodymyr Borodiansky.
On 6 May 2020, Olena Zelenska initiated a long conversation with Ukrainians about being barrier-free. The project partners were the Ministry of Digital Transformation and the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine. The main goal of the initiative is to make the barriers that exist in Ukrainian society visible, and their removal – a priority at the state level.
On June 1, 2020, Zelenska and UNICEF in Ukraine signed a Memorandum of Understanding.
On 12 June 2020, Zelenska announced that she had tested positive for COVID-19. Four days later, she was admitted to hospital for observation with the COVID-19 infection being described as “moderate severity” that did not need mechanical ventilation. Zelenska was dismissed from hospital on 3 July 2020 with continued domestic treatment for bilateral pneumonia.
In June 2020, Olena Zelenska started an initiative to spread the Ukrainian language in the world and the introduction of Ukrainian-language audio guides in the most iconic places, in particular – in the largest museums in the world. As part of the initiative, 11 audio guides in Ukrainian were launched in 2020 in museums in Azerbaijan, Austria, Italy, Latvia, Turkey, and Montenegro, as well as in two bus routes of Lithuania. In 2021, First Lady Olena Zelenska presented her Ukrainian-language audio guide initiative to the museum of Mount Vernon (the home of the first U.S. President), and to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in California.
On 26 November 2020, she spoke at the Fourth Ukrainian Women’s Congress, a platform that brings together Ukrainian and international public figures, politicians, government officials, experts, and opinion leaders for equal rights for women and men.
On 27 November 2020, Zelenska initiated the signing of a declaration between large Ukrainian and international companies to remove barriers to business.
On 2 December 2020, it was announced that within the framework of Zelenska’s initiative “Without Barriers,” the Ministry of Digital Transformation and UNDP in Ukraine will create a convenient catalog of services for vulnerable groups. The catalog will be posted on the state portal “Action” in the category “Action. Without barriers.”
In April 2021, Olena Zelenska initiated the creation of the Barrier-Free Council.
On 23 August 2021, at the initiative of Olena Zelenska, the Kyiv Summit of First Ladies and Gentlemen was held. The theme of the first summit is “Soft power in new reality”. The aim of the event is to create an international dialogue platform that will help solve humanitarian problems around the world.
Olena Zelenska on the Fifth Ukrainian Women’s Congress
In September 2021, Zelenska takes part in the Fifth Ukrainian Women’s Congress.
As part of Zelenska’s initiative, in 2021, Ukrainian-speaking guides were launched at Versailles, Sagrada Família, Mount Vernon, Frederiksborg Castle, Hundertwasserhaus, Galata Tower in Istanbul, Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, the Archaeological Museum of Nessebar, etc.
The couple’s first daughter, Oleksandra, was born in July 2004. Their son, Kyrylo, was born in January 2013. In Zelenskyy’s 2014 movie 8 New Dates, their daughter played Sasha, the daughter of the protagonist. In 2016, she participated in the show The Comedy Comet Company Comedy’s Kids and won 50,000 hryvnias.
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