This backgrounder explains the significance and risks of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. See each question and answer included in this backgrounder on the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the bottom of this post.

Who Is Volodymyr Zelensky?

Ukraine’s recent history is plagued with corruption and political turmoil. Zelensky was seen as an outsider when he came to power in 2019. Far from the series of corrupt politicians who ruled over Ukraine since its independence in 1991, Zelensky was a comedian and sitcom star. He came to national prominence in a sitcom where he portrayed a fictional Ukrainian president.

Although Zelensky won the presidency in a landslide in 2019, many expected him to be little more than a puppet for the corrupt oligarch who bankrolled the new president’s campaign. He proved to be more than that.

President Zelensky has demonstrated his capacity to master the optics of this crisis with his use of social media and public statements since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. His experience as a showman and entertainer before the presidency undoubtedly helped in this regard. In that light, Zelensky may be the perfect foe to counter Russia’s notorious misinformation campaigns that play a prominent role in achieving its geopolitical objectives. But the young president has also proven himself as more than detractors expected after coming to office.

Zelensky has pursued oligarchs rather than become a pawn of them during his presidency. He also courted political figures in both Russia and the United States to pursue his own country’s interests. Many may recall the frequent corruption ties among some of former President Donald Trump’s advisors and their links to Ukraine, not to mention the former US President’s second impeachment due to his intermingling of US politics with foreign actors. Zelensky was the foreign actor.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has galvanized public support in Ukraine and around the world for Zelensky. One month ago, President Zelensky’s approval rating in Ukraine stood at 25%. This week it is at 91%.

Since the outbreak of the war, Zelensky has issued public statements saying intelligence sources suggest he is the primary target for Russian troops, and his family is second on that list. There is little reason to doubt the truth of that intelligence.

Zelensky remains in Ukraine.

On March 2, the head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council announced they foiled an assassination attempt on Zelensky. The assassination attempt was to be carried out by Chechen special forces.


Learn more about the background and facts behind the Russian invasion of Ukraine through this set of backgrounds and explanations. Subscribe to the blog to stay up to date when new backgrounders are posted.

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JB Shreve is the author of "How the World Ends: Understanding the Growing Chaos." He has been the host of the End of History podcast since 2012. He has degrees in International Relations and Middle East Studies. His other books include the Intelligence Brief Series. Regular posts and updates from JB Shreve are available at