Zelensky Earns Praise in Unexpected Role

Show business skills have helped, but president's actions have won over many
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 27, 2022 6:00 PM CST
Zelensky Earns Praise in Unexpected Role
Volodymyr Zelenskyy takes a selfie at the first congress of his party in 2019.   (AP Photo/Zoya Shu, File)

A former comedian and actor, President Volodymyr Zelensky's latest role couldn't be more serious: uniting the people of Ukraine in fighting off the Russian invasion. He's receiving positive reviews from his people and from abroad. The communication skills from his previous career and his ability to move audiences have helped, the Washington Post reports. But it's his actions, too, as Zelensky has refused to flee as Russian forces bear down on the capital. "This man did not jump away to some other country like previous presidents,” said a 31-year-old mechanic in Kyiv who signed up to fight. "He can show us the way." Other assessments of the job Zelensky is doing have addressed:

  • His courage: "I need ammunition, not a ride," Zelensky said to an offer to evacuate. He and his country "are teaching the rest of the world a lesson about freedom, resolve and love of country," Rep. August Pfluger writes in USA Today. And Zelensky's lesson is taking hold, the Texas Republican says. "His courageous leadership has emboldened many countries formerly friendly with Russia like Hungary and Kazakhstan to denounce Putin and side with freedom," Pfluger writes.
  • His wartime leadership: Zelensky's messaging has been consistent since the fight began. Speaking their language, he appealed directly to the Russian people to protest the invasion. He's projected determination. "He will never acquiesce when he thinks something is wrong," an adviser said. A Ukrainian political analyst said that although Zelensky wasn't looking for a fight, "he is acting exactly how a president should act in the wartime regime."
  • His call to arms: "You are indomitable," Zelensky told the nation in an address Thursday after 16 of its cities already had come under fire. "You are Ukrainians." He's stoked his people's pride in country. A 61-year-old woman who was lukewarm toward Zelensky before no longer is. "The people have really come together, and such a unity can't possibly be defeated," she said.
  • The change: "We're watching Shecky Greene transform into Churchill," fellow comedian Jon Stewart said, evoking an old-timey nightclub act and Britain's inspirational leader during World War II. "What this dude is doing, it is incredibly moving," Stewart said.
  • The reality: Zelensky's approval ratings had been falling before the invasion, and there had been doubts about whether Zelensky and his aides were prepared for such a test; some of his advisers joined the government from his comedy studio, per the New York Times. He didn't do much to fortify border defenses and had played down the chances of an attack. One woman told Politico that Zelensky "has some shortcomings," but she added: "We must unite. I support him very much at this moment. Because he is the nation's leader."
(More Russia-Ukraine war stories.)

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