Zelensky, video appeals and selfies: Ukraine’s social hero (also)

Of Stefano Montefiori, our correspondent in Paris

The Ukrainian president’s Twitter followers have increased by 5 million since February 22. In the battle of the image, the former actor is infinitely more credible than the adversary. And he doesn’t beg for help, he demands it

If the shirt with the famous phrase – I need anti-tank ammunition, not a passage said to the Americans who offered him escape – it sells like hot cakes, because whoever pronounced it, Volodymyr Zelensky, is not a braggart or a fool, even if until a few years ago he wore the red nose of a clown.

Of all the leaders in the world, the one who never seems to act, not even when he responds a little to John Wayne, himself, Zelensky, the Jewish comedian who played the history teacher Holoborodko who became President of the Republic in Servant of the people, the amazing ukrainian tv series.

The latest news on the war in Ukraine

When Emmanuel Macron is photographed at the Elysée with the long beard and the sweatshirt of the paratroopers
, all accuse him of posing as an actor; if Volodymyr Zelensky hasn’t taken off his military green shirt since the day of the Russian invasion, no one dares to criticize him, and not just because he is actually under the bombs. The world almost sympathizes with the Ukrainian cause, but already Zelensky’s predecessor, Petro Poroshenko, was not so special: an oligarch campaigning with the Putinian-like slogan Language, army, faith did not arouse the same enthusiasm.

Zelensky wins the battle of communication because in an objectively incredible situation, among scenarios that evoke more a film about World War II than the Europe of the 21st century, it always seems real, he has no time to waste with the staging, and he takes selfies around Kiev
encouraging fellow countrymen and the world to fight for a better future.

aided also by the fact that on the other side of the fence in Moscow is an old hypochondriac dictator in a suit and tie who keeps his co-workers at ridiculous distances and delivers livid speeches about the glorious past and the bastards to spit like bugs, a man who still he entrusts his communication to pre-recorded speeches to be broadcast on television, such as Brezhnev. The former actor Zelensky appears on every occasion infinitely more credible than Putin, the opponent who actor never was, or perhaps the state always, from when he was an agent of the KGB to the Kremlin to praise the Russia of the tsars.

Zelensky’s insane solidity can also be seen in the many speeches he delivers abroad via videoconference: every time it makes the interpreters sob, who must also be accustomed to all kinds of rhetorical jokes, because he speaks of innocent people being slaughtered but does not discount anyone. He knows which are the sensitive points of the platea: with the American Congress he evokes September 11 and Pearl Harbor, with the English Parliament he cites Shakespeare and Churchill – We will fight to the end, at sea, in the skies. We will continue to fight for our land no matter what – but every time it curries the interlocutors, puts them before their responsibilitiesdoes not beg for help but demands it, demands from allies – who would rather get by with standing ovation and tear – at least a modicum of the courage shown by his compatriots in the streets of Kharkiv or in the shelters of Kiev.

Zelensky the same president who received a phone call from Merkel in the TV series:
– Congratulations, we have decided to accept your application for entry into the European Union
– Fantastic! Long last! Thank you on behalf of all Ukraine!
– Ukraine? Sorry, I must have the wrong number. I thought I called Montenegro.

So when Zelensky addresses the Bundestag he evokes a new Wall in the center of Europe, yes, but to accuse Germany of the Merkel doctrine (too compliant with Putin) of having helped to build it: The economy, the economy, always the economy !, Zelensky repeats to the German deputies, yet we have repeated to you for years that Nord Stream 2 was like a weapon. The Ukrainian president would have every reason to please Westerners in order to get the support he desperately needs, yet he never manages to humble himself: not when he turns to Moscow, nor when he speaks in Brussels, Washington, London, Berlin. Zelensky is not a braggart, nor a fool, nor a fanatic.

Authenticity surprises and conquers the world of social media
now prohibited in Putin’s Russia and completely mastered by the 44-year-old from Kryvyi Rih, an obscure metallurgical city in south-eastern Ukraine.

On Instagram Zelensky has 16 million followers (he already had 9 million before the invasion). On Twitter, the Ukrainian president had 450,000 on February 22, he has over five and a half million today. If soft power counted as much as tanks – but we’ll see it in a few months – Ukraine would have already won the war.


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