KYIV, Ukraine (NewsNation Now) — It was an unconventional rise to the political sphere. Prior to his Ukrainian presidency, Volodymyr Zelenskyy had no political experience.
He was, however, a prolific entertainer in both Ukraine and Russia. He portrayed himself as principled and anti-establishment in his TV show “Servant of the People.”
He also lacked a platform as a presidential candidate but embodied a populist approach with an anti-war message. Zelenskyy vowed to reach out to Russia-backed rebels in the east who were fighting Ukrainian forces.
His message of trying to resolve the conflict led to a landslide presidential victory in 2019, in which he won 70% of the vote.
SLIDESHOW: Photos of Volodymyr Zelenskyy
But soon after his win, Zelenskyy became a leader that embraced the old and the new. He looked forward while continuing to acknowledge Ukraine’s historic past. During a speech on the 30th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence, he vowed to embrace the country’s culture and not allow Russia to own it.
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Zelenskyy has demanded greater security from Europe, including full isolation of Russia. He wants oil embargoes, airspace closures and disconnection from the international payment system called SWIFT.
On Friday, Russian troops bore down on Ukraine’s capital while Zelenskyy grimly predicted that the conflict would soon intensify.
Amid reports of hundreds of casualties — including shelling that sliced through a Kyiv apartment building and pummeled bridges and schools — there were also growing signs that Russia may be seeking to overthrow Ukraine’s government, which U.S. officials have described as Putin’s ultimate objective. It would be his boldest effort yet to redraw the world map and revive Moscow’s Cold War-era influence.