Since the start of the invasion, air traffic over Ukraine has been limited to fighter jets, drones, bombers, and cruise missiles. The train has become the President’s primary means of long-distance travel. From the outside, his carriage is indistinguishable from a regular passenger car. Inside, my expectations of a high-tech command center on wheels, or at least a well-stocked bar, did not pan out. There was no internet on board, and the amenities were modest. A first-class ticket on Amtrak would offer more space to stretch out.
But Zelensky says he enjoys the train. It gives him time to read, and the experience reminds him of his childhood. When he was growing up, his father worked as a systems manager in the copper mines of Mongolia, and the trips to visit him would take eight days on the railroad from their hometown of Kryvyi Rih in central Ukraine, passing all the way through Russia and Siberia. He remembers the journeys fondly—the vast expanses of the Soviet empire rolling by, the glasses of tea served in metal cup holders embossed with the hammer and sickle. It is among the many ironies of his predicament that Zelensky was raised in the empire whose revival he is now fighting to stop.
For most of his life, he felt nostalgia for the culture and history Ukraine shared with Russia. “There were these amazing Soviet comedies,” Zelensky told me. Among his heroes growing up were filmmakers like Leonid Gaidai, whose works were heavily censored but still charming and often hilarious; one depicted Ivan the Terrible swapping lives with a superintendent at a Soviet apartment building. “These are the classics of my generation, but I’m incapable of watching them now,” the President says. “They revolt me.” Memories of his youth are now colored by the atrocities that Russian forces committed this year in service of Moscow’s imperial ambitions.
This reporting is strange after reports that Zelensky himself acts like the former Soviet Union after having banned media, his opposition party, and the Ukrainian church in his country.
Time magazine goes on to describe the individuals and groups that Zelensky is reaching out to and the World Economic Forum is tops on the list. The former actor has a focus on the international organizations and the media:
Zelensky has dialed into the World Economic Forum in Davos and the NATO summit in Madrid. He has granted interviews to talk-show hosts and journalists and held live chats with students at Stanford, Harvard, and Yale. He has leveraged the fame of entertainment superstars to amplify his calls for international support. Jessica Chastain and Ben Stiller visited his fortified compound. Liev Schreiber agreed to become an ambassador for Ukraine’s official fundraising platform. Sean Penn brought an Oscar statuette to Kyiv and left it with Zelensky. Once, the President allowed a team of technicians to create a 3D hologram of his likeness, which was later projected at conferences around Europe. “Our principle is simple,” says Andriy Yermak, the President’s chief of staff. “If we fall out of focus, we are in danger.” The attention of the world serves as a shield.
The effect has been a kind of virtual omnipresence that has at times grown tedious for some of Zelensky’s own citizens. “We’re always looking for new formats,” says Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the presidential adviser who oversees the TV marathon beaming Zelensky’s message into Ukrainian homes. “But sooner or later people get tired of the flood of news.” And they have started tuning out.
The article omitted any mention of Joe Biden or his administration and their actions behind the scene. Is the producer of Zelensky’s operations Biden or someone who is running Biden?
Ukraine has a sad story. This region is between European nations and Russia. The people there are beautiful and strong but they have suffered greatly over the centuries. During the Obama years the US installed leadership and took it away from Russian-related leaders.
Now an actor in Ukraine is the Time person of the year – perfect.