Three surprising facts about Volodymyr Zelensky – From voice of Paddington to comedian

Ukraine: Translator breaks down during Zelenskyy TV appearance

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A video clip has now gone viral of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky issuing an emotional appeal where he urged Russians to make their voices heard against Vladimir Putin’s decision to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Since then Mr Zelensky has made a number of stirring appeals to the Ukrainian people, drawing plaudits from around the world for his leadership.

During his most recent address to the public, on Sunday, Mr Zelensky asked Ukrainians to remain undeterred in the face of increased Russian aggression.

He said: “We will fight as long as it takes to liberate the country. If children are born in shelters, even when the shelling continues, then the enemy has no chance in this – undoubtedly – people’s war. To victory! Glory to Ukraine.”

The speech is one of several the 44-year-old has used to rally his country following last Thursday’s invasion by Russia.

However, despite his growing stature on the world stage Mr Zelensky has only worked in politics for several years.

So, what was he known for beforehand? Here’s three surprising facts about the Ukrainian President.

1.) He used to be a touring comedian

Originally, Mr Zelensky studied law at the Kyiv Economic University but decided to pursue a career in comedy instead.

In fact, at the age of 17 he joined Ukraine’s KVN TV comedy league.

After forming his own comedy troupe called Kvartal 95, he went on to have success touring a number of ex-Soviet states – including Moscow.

He then returned back to his country of birth when the team began producing television programs for Ukrainian TV.

2.) He acted as Ukraine’s President in a TV show

In 2015, Mr Zelensky starred as the lead character of Servant Of The People – a TV comedy series.

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He played as Vasyl Petrovych Holoborodko, a school teacher who wakes up to find that a rant he made against corrupt politicians went viral and catapulted him to the presidency.

The show proved so popular that Kvartal 95 created its own political party named after the show, with Mr Zelensky himself announcing his candidacy to become President of Ukraine in 2018.

3.) He’s the voice of Paddington in Ukraine

On Sunday it was brought to the attention of those outside Ukraine that the incumbent President voiced the character Paddington Bear when the film was released in the country.

Hugh Bonneville, who played the bear’s foster father Henry Brown in the UK version of the 2014 film, tweeted about it on Sunday.

He said: “Until today I had no idea who provided the voice of Paddington Bear in Ukraine,” he wrote. “Speaking for myself, thank you, President Zelensky.”

Mr Zelensky has warned that the next 24 hours will be “crucial” in the conflict, with negotiators for Kyiv and Moscow meeting for peace talks later on Monday.

Although he does not expect a breakthrough from the discussions Mr Zelensky said he would attend because of the “small chance to end the war”.

The negotiations are being held on Ukraine’s border with Belarus.

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