Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has, since the Russian invasion of his country in February, become an overnight hero in the eyes of millions of Americans who might have struggled to point to Ukraine on a map before the war began. Hailed by Republicans and Democrats alike as an icon of democracy and honesty, Zelensky’s pre-invasion image has become something many people are very eager to cover up.
Zelensky wealth scrutinized
Fact checkers have raced in recent days to deny claims that Zelensky is a billionaire. These fact checks admit, however, that they have not bothered to investigate his wealthy and offer evidence to support those denials.
This is interesting, because before he became a saint in February, the mainstream media was not afraid to point out that Zelensky has silently accumulated a huge amount of money in offshore accounts.
The Ukrainian president is a former comedian who starred in a comedy show about a humble teacher whose anger at government corruption propels him to the presidency.
After playing this role in the show, the actor made it a reality by winning the presidency in a landslide as an anti-corruption candidate in 2019.
If this all sounds too good to be true, that’s because it probably is. Ukraine has been plagued by very extensive corruption ever since it gained independence, and oligarchs wield much of the real power.
One of those oligarchs is Igor Kolomoisky, who owned the network that aired Zelensky’s show and is widely assumed to have orchestrated his subsequent victory in the 2019 election.
Oligarch ties questioned
Since taking office, Zelensky and his inner circle have been accused of money laundering and hoarding wealth in offshore accounts and properties. The Pandora Papers have at least proven the latter claims.
He has also been accused of working to protect Kolomoisky’s interests in Ukraine, and few would argue that corruption has lessened significantly during his time in office.
Zelensky may not be a billionaire, but the fact checkers aren’t bothering to confirm that before publicizing their assurances that the Ukrainian president is not as wealthy as some critics make him out to be.
The substance of those criticisms isn’t denied by the fact checks; Zelensky is still very wealthy and has been involved in some financial dealings that look quite suspicious for a president who ran as the anti-corruption and anti-oligarch choice.
There may be a tacit agreement in the mainstream media that acknowledging these inconvenient details now would imply approval for the Russian invasion of his country. Dealing with morally complicated figures tends to be difficult for them.
Like every other politician, Zelensky is not a saint and he has a history that deserves to be scrutinized, regardless of what the fact checkers would prefer.