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PROFILE - Vladimir Zelenskiy: From comedian to Ukraine's president

Zelenskiy who played president on popular TV show gears up to lead 44-million strong country

Jeyhun Aliyev   | 22.04.2019
PROFILE - Vladimir Zelenskiy: From comedian to Ukraine's president


Ukrainian comedian Vladimir Zelensky won Sunday's runoff election by a landslide, exit polls showed.

Zelensky, candidate of the Servant of the People Party, secured 73.2% of the votes, while his rival Petro Poroshenko trailed at 25.3%.

Zelensky, 41, who played the president on a popular TV show, faced Poroshenko, 53, the country’s incumbent president, in a runoff on Sunday as no candidate surpassed the 50% threshold during the first round of election in Ukraine.

In the TV series, he played the role of a history teacher who becomes president after fighting corruption and changing the Cabinet.

Some 30 million voters were registered to cast ballots. Some 5 million people living in Donbas, and Crimea -- annexed by Russia -- were not able to vote.

Latest by May 1, Ukraine's election commission should reveal the name of the new president of the country.

The two top candidates met last Friday for a debate at Olympiyskiy stadium in capital Kiev where several thousand people had gathered. Tens of millions watched it on television.

"I am not your opponent - I am your sentence!" Zelenskiy told the incumbent president during the debate, accusing him of "stealing five years of Ukrainian lives" while being in power.

Zelenskiy went on to say: "I am a result of mistakes and promises," taking a dig at Poroshenko.

The debate ended without a handshake.

Who is Vladimir Zelenskiy?

Zelenskiy was born on Jan. 25, 1978 to a family of an engineer and a mathematician in Krivoy Rog city in the central Dnipropetrovsk region of Ukraine.

He obtained a degree in law from the Kiev National Economic University -- although he never worked as a lawyer.

During his student years, Zelenskiy joined a theater group.

In 1997, he led a cabaret team which performed at the highly competitive KVN humor television show.

In 2003, Zelenskiy became head of Kvartal 95 company in Ukraine specializing in creating entertaining media content.

The same year, Zelenskiy married his high school friend, Elena Kiyashko. The couple has a son and a daughter.

He became an author, creator, director and anchor of "Vecherniy Kvartal" project, which premiered on the state TV-channel Inter in 2005, and became one of the highest-rated shows in Ukraine.

In 2015, the first season of the TV series Servant of the People was aired on television and became an instant hit. The third season went on air just before the first round of elections.

The actor with no political experience declared he will compete for the post of the country's president on a New Year eve in 2018 on a TV show, and since began his political campaign.

Zelenskiy has widely used social media networks, interacted directly with citizens during TV shows and cabaret concerts, as well as used short video clips, polls and surveys in his campaign.

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