Zelenskyy – Kremlin’s Most Important Target for Disinformation

Never before has the Kremlin’s propaganda machinery been concentrated on disseminating so many disinformation pieces about one person as is currently doing with Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The constant inflow of lies about the Ukrainian President, spread on a daily basis, shows that he is a thorn in the eye of Moscow’s regime and the main hurdle for the failure of the “three-day invasion” passing its 500th day and whose end is nowhere to be seen on the horizon

Never before has the Kremlin’s propaganda machinery been concentrated on disseminating so many disinformation pieces about one person as is currently doing with Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The constant inflow of lies about the Ukrainian President, spread on a daily basis, shows that he is a thorn in the eye of Moscow’s regime and the main hurdle for the failure of the “three-day invasion” passing its 500th day and whose end is nowhere to be seen on the horizon


Author: Matej Plavevski

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the authorities in Kremlin believed it would be over in three days and that Kyiv would fall, if not the first day, then definitely the second day. With such a plan, the “elite” troops of the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov – otherwise part of the Russian National Guard – together with the other Russian troops penetrated Ukraine from the north through Belarus, hoping to take over the Ukrainian capital city by means of “blitzkrieg”. The Chechen group, however, had another task apart from taking over Kyiv, assigned to them by their Kremlin bosses – to find and to kill the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Such a plan, as well known, did not succeed. Not only was Zelenskyy not killed, but neither was Kyiv conquered. Moreover, in the beginning of March 2022, Ukrainian military officials reported that the “elite” Chechen unit – tasked to kill Zelenskyy- was, destroyed by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, just like other elite and experienced Russian military units during the failed attack on Kyiv last Winter and Spring.

The movements of the warring sides on the front in the first 45 days of the invasion in the north of Ukraine (24 Feb.-7 Apr. 2022). Video: Immanuelle, Cdjp1, Bacon Noodles, & Physeters, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons


However, this failure to physically eliminate Zelenskyy was not the end of the Kremlin’s assassination efforts; only the tactics changed. Instead of an assassination for physical liquidation, the Kremlin initiated long-term and comprehensive action to undertake character assassination of the Ukrainian President. He became a constant target of disinformation attacks and conspiracy theories that the Kremlin and its supporters perpetually produced hoping to undermine his credibility in front of the Ukrainian citizens as well as in front of its own public in Russia, but even more importantly, in front of the Western allies of Ukraine whose support is crucial when it comes to its success on the battlefield.

The attempts to discredit Zelenskyy put into use all possible actual and false details of his life. Zelenskyy before becoming the sixth president of Ukraine was a TV celebrity who performed in TV comedies and acted in comedy films and television series. This part of his CV is skillfully abused by the Kremlin for discrediting him. On the other hand, the facts about Zelenskyy graduating law at the National Economic University in Kyiv are cleverly concealed, along with the fact that later in his life he got involved in acting and established his production house “Kvartal-45”.

In 2019 he announced his candidacy for the president of Ukraine, later convincingly defeating his main opponent, the President at the time, Petro Poroshenko, by winning up to 75 percent of the votes in the second round. At the beginning of his term, Zelenskyy took a stand against corruption and the establishment. In that period the criticism against Zelenskyy was internal and mainly directed towards his political inexperience bearing in mind the fact that he previously was not involved in politics. That criticism, however, did not resemble at all the current organized and persistent attacks initiated by the Kremlin after the invasion of Ukraine to date.

Results from the Presidential Elections in Ukraine in 2019. Tohaomg, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Early in the morning on 24 February 2022, just before the Russian tanks started entering Ukrainian territory, Zelenskyy addressed the citizens of Ukraine and Russia. That address, as well as his following addresses in the first days of the invasion, showed that he had leadership qualities and capacities to unite and lead his citizens: ”Don’t panic! We are strong and ready for anything. We will defeat everyone because we are Ukraine!” With these words and a series of other addresses, he managed to prevent general panic in a country attacked from all sides by a far stronger opponent. Andrew Roberts, the British reporter and historian, compared Zelenskyy with Winston Churchill, while the media described him as a “national” or “global hero“.

His address was a complete contrast to the hour-long confusing speech of Vladimir Putin a day after the invasion when he recognized the separatist regions of Ukraine as independent republics, thereby presenting senseless claims of “genocide” in Eastern Ukraine and tirades on “de-Nazification” used to justify the war.


Following the attack, all diplomatic relations with Russia were terminated and a state of emergency was proclaimed on the entire territory of Ukraine. All men in the age range 18-60 years old were prohibited from traveling outside the country that needed everyone who could help.

From the very beginning of the invasion, the Ukrainian Security Services determined that Zelenskyy, together with his family, was the target of Russian aggressors. He, however, still decided to stay in Kyiv. The US administration and the President of Turkey pulled strings so that Zelenskyy can be evacuated, offering him transport to a safe haven worried that Kyiv will not resist the attack of the powerful Russian Army. Zelenskyy responded:

The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.

Further on, in the course of the war, Zelenskyy was constantly present in the public with daily video addresses. He visited Bakhmut twice, the most fierce battlefield of more than thousand-kilometer-long front, and after the liberation of Kherson – the only regional centre that the Russians managed to occupy at the beginning of the invasion – he immediately went there, regardless of the fact that the city was still under the threat of artillery attacks from the Russian Armed Forces located on the other side of the Dnipro River. In addition, Zelenskyy visited the wounded soldiers in the hospitals, awarding orders and recognitions.

In 2022, Zelenskyy was declared Man of the Year by “Time” Magazine, and several public opinion polls of Ukraine ranked him as the best president the country had ever had. In the polls conducted at the beginning of the war, 90 percent of the Ukrainians supported his opinions, including 80 percent of the respondents who lived in the Russian-speaking regions.

The attacks against Zelenskyy originating from the Kremlin and its supporters spread throughout the entire world thereby arriving in North Macedonia quite frequently. Manipulative photographs, statements taken out of context, scenes from series where he played roles, claims that he is a Nazi or someone from his immediate family, and many other things are used to manipulate the public, including claims that he restricts the rights of the people, limits their freedom, does not provide for free expression of religion or free election of representatives in legislative bodies or even unsubstantiated claims that he is corrupt, greedy, caring only for his own interest to profit and become rich from the situation in Ukraine.


Zelenskyy and Nazism-related disinformation
One of the frequent pieces of disinformation about Zelenskyy is that he is a Nazi or that he is related to the Nazis. In order to show that Zelenskyy is Hitler, his photographs with the Pope are being shared followed immediately by a photograph of Hitler with some Catholic priest from 80 years ago. And that is the whole argumentation why Zelenskyy, allegedly, is a Nazi. In addition, edited photographs with Nazi symbols are added, including the use of false translation with an old video to show that he was dining with Nazis.

Truth be told, Ukraine banned the promotion and practice of Nazi ideology back in 2015, along with the dissemination of Communist propaganda.

The fact that he is Jewish is also used for disinformation purposes by spreading lies that Adolf Hitler also had Jewish blood.

Sergey Lavrov, Foreign Affairs Minister of Russia said the following about Zelenskyy:

If I remember correctly – I might not be right – well I think Hitler also had Jewish origin, so it means nothing. For a long time now we’ve been hearing the wise Jewish people say that the biggest anti-Semites are the Jews themselves.

Zelenskyy was born in a Jewish family, while his grandfather served in the Red Army fighting against the Nazis. Zelenskyy has lost 3 members of his family in the Second World War fighting the Nazis.

The attacks against Zelenskyy for alleged Nazism are afterwards transferred onto entire Ukraine.

We will persist in de-militarizing and de-Nazifying Ukraine and to bring to court those who committed numerous bloody crimes against civilians, including against the citizens of the Russian Federation, said Putin just before the invasion of Ukraine.

This kind of narrative is quite frequently used by Kremlin, adding that ”Neo-Nazis settled in Kyiv and took the entire Ukrainian people hostage”.

In July 2021, Putin published the article „On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians” where, by means of drawing historical parallels, he blames Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the leader of the Soviet socialist revolution and the first leader of the Soviet Union for the establishment of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1922, and that by doing so he planted the ”most dangerous time bomb in the Soviet system”. According to him, that time bomb exploded with the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. ”Ukraine’s ruling circles decided to justify their country’s independence through the denial of its past”. Putin simply minds that in contemporary conditions, some circles in Ukraine today call the Soviet rule of the country “occupation” (by the way, the Soviet rule was assessed similar by the Baltic states – Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia). With that, according to Putin, radicals and Neo-Nazis ”robbed the people of Ukraine” and are ”ready to sell their motherland for the sake of preserving their capital”.

Today, the term ”Nazi” in Russia is a term used for all those who are against the current Russian government and the rule of Putin. Zelenskyy is a hurdle on the road of such rhetoric.

Disinformation for personal gains and restriction of freedom
In the area of disinformation, one can encounter infantile statements such as “Zelenskyy is stealing Easter eggs”. More serious disinformation, with no arguments whatsoever, are those according to which he is abusing the financial assistance of the Allies for personal gains. To that end, a disinformation appeared about an imaginary billboard (erected in Milan) falsely claiming that it was used for fund-raising for his personal gain.

The suspicion that Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his accompanied staff are becoming wealthy illegally, which Kremlin started to spread after the invasion (as though corruption never existed previously in Ukraine), are frequently disseminated to discredit Zelenskyy himself, thereby entire Ukraine in the eyes of the international community, for the purpose of causing a rift between the West and Ukraine and discontinuation or at least a reduction of the military and all other aid that Ukraine’s defence depends on. The only problem is that Russia is consistently assessed as more corrupt than Ukraine according to the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International.

Intentional attacks about Zelenskyy banning the opposition, oppressing the Church, and refusing to hold elections are also frequent claims, including that he prosecutes Christians from Ukraine, as well as leading a religious war on another front.

On 2 December 2022, the Ukrainian Government presented a law that prohibits the operation of churches affiliated with Russia to prevent Moscow from “weakening Ukraine within”. Such a decisions was not well received by Russia. The former Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, described the authorities in Kyiv as ” Satanists” and ”enemies of God and faith”.

Ukraine consists of 72 percent of Orthodox Christians, 9 percent Catholics, 2 percent Protestants and others. Ukraine has two Orthodox churches – the Independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP). What is important to note about the UOC-MP is that it supports the occupation of Ukraine.

In some of the churches of UOC-MP, during the current invasion, the Kremlin’s propaganda is spread. There were even unpleasant events when a Ukrainian soldier was attacked by a member of the priesthood after which the local population, having protested in front of the church in the town of Khmelnytzkyi, demanded the pro-Russian priest to be removed, and the church to be taken over by the UOC.

Concerning Zelenskyy – especially lately – disinformation is spread about him wanting to hold onto the presidential power for himself thereby not allowing elections to take place. Fabricated words on this topic are attributed to him as to present him as an undemocratic person who wants to govern without elections.

In Ukraine, however, martial law was introduced throughout the entire country as a result of the Russian invasion. The Ukrainian Constitution does not provide for organizing elections in martial law conditions. Until the war lasts, the state of emergency will also last. In such conditions, elections are not possible. Regarding this kind of disinformation, statements surfaced claiming that he restricted the participation in the democratic process by banning the opposition. Such attacks, however, have twisted context. It is true that the Ukrainian Government suspended the operation of 11 political parties, and all were relatively small and marginal parties, but that happened after the Russian invasion and the parties were pro-Russian or parties that openly supported the Russian aggression.

* * *

#UkraineFacts, fact-checking service in Ukraine, up to date (July 2023) has fact-checked the truthfulness of 3,018 statements given by Zelenskyy. Most of them are attacks of the Ukrainian President and an enormous number of them are untrue. And this number will not stop increasing. Such a persistent and comprehensive propaganda attack demands, by rule, serious infrastructure that can only be secured by a state apparatus that already has the experience in executing discrediting and spreading disinformation on a global level – state apparatus such as that of the Kremlin.

Ukrainian President is the connection tissue that unites all national defense efforts against Russian aggression on all fronts. Zelenskyy is most deserving of the high morale of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, of diplomatic, military, and financial support enjoyed by Ukraine and received from the whole democratic world, as well as of the support of his politics provided by the citizens of Ukraine. The country’s efforts to defend itself from the aggression would have been completely different if Ukraine had been led by another leader. Because of that Kremlin will continue to do all that is within its power to ruin – even destroy – his credibility thereby diminishing and minimizing Ukraine’s international support. That is especially true if the situation on the front continues to develop unfavorably for the Kremlin.

All comments and remarks regarding this and other Vistinomer articles, correction and clarification requests as well as suggestions for fact-checking politicians’ statements and political parties’ promises can be submitted by using this form

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.