Who Is Volodymyr Zelenskyy?

David Reavill
4 min readJun 3, 2024

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President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine.

He’s one of the most recognizable people in today’s world. Nearly every day, you see Zelenskyy on television. With his distinctive green shirt and camo pants, he has become a regular on TV news, especially in America.

But as famous and well-known as he is today, many analysts feel that his most critical days lie ahead of him. In just 12 days, Zelenskyy will preside over a “Peace Summit.” Aimed at ending the Russo-Ukraine War, this Summit was initiated by Zelenskyy, and if successful, it would be the crowning accomplishment of his career. However, as we’ll see, the aims and objectives of this Summit go far beyond the current conflict to the very heart of this enigmatic man.

So just who is Volodymyr Zelenskyy?

Educated as a Lawyer, it was acting that catapulted Zelenskyy to national prominence — and a man named Ihor Kolomoyskyi. One of the wealthiest men in the world (he was number 799 on the Forbes richest list in 2015), Kolomoyskyi’s chief interests were in banking and finance. He also owned a TV Production company called 1+1 Media Group, and it was this group that was key in Zelenskyy’s rise to prominence.

Kolomoyskyi and Zelenskyy hit it off. Zelenskyy starred in several television shows produced by 1+1 Media, including their most popular show, “Servant of the People” (sometimes translated as “Servant of the Nation”).

Now, Kolomoyskyi was one of those oligarchs who plagued the former Soviet Union following the decline of the USSR. They rose to wealth and power in the power-vacuum that was created after the fall. As an oligarch, Kolomoyskyi came into the sights of the new leader of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin. One of Putin’s chief goals was to eliminate all the oligarchs’ influence throughout Russia and the rest of Eastern Europe. Kolomoyskyi was squarely in Putin’s cross-hairs.

Servant of the People” hit the airwaves in 2015 and quickly became Ukraine’s most popular TV Program. The show revolves around its main character, a former High School Teacher who becomes the President of Ukraine. Zelenskyy played the President.

It became apparent that Kolomoyskyi had more in line for his budding television star when, just three years after the show began, he formed a new Ukrainian Political Party named, you guessed it, “Servant of the People.”

The timing of all this was exquisite: the Political Party was formed in March 2018; nine months later, in December, Zelenskyy announced that he was running for the Presidency, and four months after that, in March 2019, Zelenskyy was elected with an incredible 73% of the vote. That’s one year from forming a political party to a landslide election victory, a remarkable feat.

What platform carried Zelenskyy to such a stunning victory? Peace with Russia! Zelenskyy promised the Ukrainian people he would settle the brewing dispute with his neighbor to the north. Unfortunately, like so many campaign promises, this one fell to ashes less than three years later when fighting broke out between Russia and Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

Zelenskyy’s world was suddenly falling apart — with Russia and his old friend Kolomoyskyi. Things between the two had been going south for some time, as Kolomoyskyi had sought refuge outside of Ukraine. In July 2022, Kolomoyskyi was stripped of his Ukraine citizenship, something that many legal scholars deemed unconstitutional. A year later, in September 2023, Zelenskyy ordered the Security Service of Ukraine to arrest Kolomoyskyi. At this writing, Kolomoyskyi remains in jail pending trial.

However, the Kolomoyskyi arrest is far from the only constitutional crisis that has plagued the Zelenskyy Administration. Currently, the status of the Zelenskyy Presidency is under question. According to the Ukraine Constitution, Article 103:

“Regular elections of the President of Ukraine are held on the last Sunday of March of the fifth year of the President’s term of authority.”

https://www.refworld.org/legal/legislation/natlegbod/1996/en/42875

That means that elections were due on March 31, 2024. However, Zelenskyy declared martial law and would not allow elections on that date. An extension was granted, but that, too, ran out in May. So, while Zelenskyy may occupy the Presidential office, his exact status is questioned. Under the Ukraine Constitution, he is no longer the legitimate President.

And that brings us to the importance of the Peace Summit. It’s critical for Zelenskyy, if he is to continue acting as leader of his country, that he obtains some sort of international endorsement- like an endorsement that would come from a multinational peace conference. If leaders of the world would join a meeting organized and led by Zelenskyy, their attendance would be an implicit endorsement. He could use such an endorsement to extend his rule. Although it might not meet the strict “constitutional requirement,” in this topsy-turvy world, it may be enough to give Zelenskyy cover to continue in his current role.

Thus, the more countries that attend, the better for Zelenskyy’s gambit to remain in power. That’s also why we’ve seen the fiery reaction to President Biden’s decision not to attend. That was a significant blow to the Summit’s credibility. President Xi’s decision to skip the summit also drew a rebuke from Zelenskyy.

Zelenskyy performs a delicate balancing act and needs all his supporting cast to fall in line. With each country that bows out, Zelenskyy loses credibility, and his grip on the reins of power in Ukraine lessens. The following 12 days may show us how long he can remain Ukraine’s (unelected) leader.

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David Reavill

David Reavill writer + finance +iconoclast + hiker + Pennsylvania #valueside daily podcast + medium + meditate valueside.com/links