What to know about Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s TV president turned wartime leader

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, center, during a visit with Ukrainian forces near Donetsk. (Presidential Press Service/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Just a few years ago, Volodymyr Zelensky was a comedian and actor playing Ukraine’s president on television. Now, he’s a real-life wartime leader directing his country in its fight against a Russian invasion.

Though Zelensky says he has become the Kremlin’s “target No. 1,” he has earned the respect of much of the Ukrainian public by refusing to flee the capital. Instead, he has walked the streets of Kyiv and urged Ukrainians to resist, while crafting a successful communications strategy that has won the hearts and minds of European leaders and voters.

While acknowledging that Moscow has vastly superior forces that it has not yet deployed, Western officials say Zelensky’s leadership has firmed up Ukrainian resolve. Here’s what you need to know about the president.

Who is Olena Zelenska, Ukraine’s first lady and Volodymyr Zelensky’s wife?

War in Ukraine: What you need to know

The latest: Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees Friday to annex four occupied regions of Ukraine, following staged referendums that were widely denounced as illegal. Follow our live updates here.

The response: The Biden administration on Friday announced a new round of sanctions on Russia, in response to the annexations, targeting government officials and family members, Russian and Belarusian military officials and defense procurement networks. President Volodymyr Zelensky also said Friday that Ukraine is applying for “accelerated ascension” into NATO, in an apparent answer to the annexations.

In Russia: Putin declared a military mobilization on Sept. 21 to call up as many as 300,000 reservists in a dramatic bid to reverse setbacks in his war on Ukraine. The announcement led to an exodus of more than 180,000 people, mostly men who were subject to service, and renewed protests and other acts of defiance against the war.

The fight: Ukraine mounted a successful counteroffensive that forced a major Russian retreat in the northeastern Kharkiv region in early September, as troops fled cities and villages they had occupied since the early days of the war and abandoned large amounts of military equipment.

Photos: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground from the beginning of the war — here’s some of their most powerful work.

How you can help: Here are ways those in the U.S. can support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.

Read our full coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war. Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for updates and exclusive video.

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