Tulsi Gabbard shared a viral video about Ukraine and the President, Volodymyr Zelensky.
So, who is he?
Volodymyr Zelenskyy is the sixth President of Ukraine, elected in 2019. Ukraine has a semi-presidential system, in which the head of state and head of government are separate. The prime minister serves as the head of government, and this role is filled by Denys Shmyhal (took office in March 2020).
The president serves as the head of state, whose duties include being the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and is the head of the National Security and Defense Council.
The president represents the country as a whole and is not a part of the executive branch. According to the Ukrainian Constitution, the president cannot head a specific political party.
Zelenskyy was born in 1978 in Kryvyi Rih, a southeastern region of what was known was the Ukrainian Soviet Republic. He is married to Olena Zelenskyy, and they have a son and a daughter.
According to a Sky News article, Zelenskyy studied law at Kyiv Economic University. He joined Ukraine’s KVN TV comedy league and then started his own team, Kvartal 95. After years of success, his comedy troupe started its own production company and started making shows for Ukrainian channel 1 + 1.
Right before he was president, he was an actor in a satirical TV show, “Servant of the People”, where he played a high-school teacher turned Ukrainian President. He then started his campaign a month after the show’s finale and ultimately won the election against Petro Poroshenko (served from 2014-2019).
He is linked with Igor Kolomoisky, who owns a 70% stake in the TV channel 1 + 1, which aired Zelenskyy’s show, “Servant of the People” and who supported his political campaign.
Kolomoisky is a Ukrainian billionaire and the former Governor of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast. Forbes lists his net worth at $1.8 billion, as of February 2022.
Kolomoisky and his family are currently barred from entering into the United States, according to the ICIJ. They are barred because Kolomoisky is accused of laundering money, and using the laundered money to purchase real-estate properties in the U.S.
Zelenskyy and Kolomoisky are also connected in the findings from the Pandora Papers. These papers are from approximately 600 journalists across the world and contain documents of offshore registrars and the people associated with the accounts. They were leaked to the International Consortium of International Journalists (ICIJ).
According to WorldCrunch, Ukrainian TV company Slidstvo.Info connected financial dealings of Zelenskyy’s production company Studio Kvartal 95 to Igor Kolomoisky’s bank, PrivatBank. The money passed through the Cyprus branch.
Gabbard also made three points in her viral video:
Ukraine is not a democracy.
This is true. The Economist Intelligence Unit rated Ukraine 86th in their 2021 Democracy Index,tied with Mexico. Ukraine is not labelled a democracy but a “hybrid regime”.
The president (Zelenskyy) shut down 3 TV stations who were critical of him.
This is true. According to DW, Zelensky shut down the “pro-Russian” TV stations, ZIK, NewsOne and 112 Ukraine.
He imprisoned the head of the opposition political party.
This is partially true. The head of the political party Opposition Platform—For Life, Viktor Medvedchuk, has been on house arrest and is facing treason charges. According to RT, EU officials have called on Zelenskyy to release Medvedchuk from house arrest.