Time magazine has named Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy 2022’s “Person of the Year” for his courage in the face of Russia’s invasion and for inspiring Ukrainians to remain steadfast and resist Russia’s full-scale invasion, which it launched in late February.
Calling Zelenskyy’s decision to remain in Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv and rally his country “fateful,” Time’s Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal said on Wednesday that this year’s decision was “the most clear-cut in memory”.
On February 26, the Ukrainian embassy in the United Kingdom announced on Twitter that Zelenskyy had turned down an offer by the US to evacuate Kyiv.
“The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride,” they quoted him as saying, before adding, “Ukrainians are proud of their president.”
His words became a famous motto.
Refusing to leave at the outbreak of the war as Russian bombs rained down, the former comedian rallied his compatriots in broadcasts from the capital and travelled across his war-torn nation, the publication noted in bestowing its annual title.
Since Russia’s invasion began, the 44-year-old Zelenskyy has delivered daily speeches that are followed not only by Ukrainians but by citizens and governments around the globe.
He has appeared on the front lines and recently celebrated in the streets of Kherson when Ukraine pushed Russia from the critical southern city.
“His information offensive shifted the geopolitical weather system, setting off a wave of action that swept the globe,” Felsenthal wrote in announcing the winner.
“Whether the battle for Ukraine fills one with hope or with fear, Volodymyr Zelenskyy galvanised the world in a way we haven’t seen in decades,” Felsenthal added.
Zelenskyy’s response to the Russian invasion has transformed him from an embattled leader of a struggling European outlier to a global household name.
He has also become the standard-bearer of opposition to Russian leader Vladimir Putin, who himself was Time’s person of the year in 2007.
Zelenskyy, who was born in the southern industrial city of Kryvyi Rih in the heart of a mainly Russian-speaking region, has presented his country as the front line in a broader conflict.
His appeals to the West for military and financial support, at times echoing the words of British wartime leader Winston Churchill, have helped Ukraine first halt Russia’s advance and then recapture swaths of territory.
Zelenskyy shares the 2022 title with “the spirit of Ukraine,” which Felsenthal said was embodied by the “countless individuals inside and outside the country” who are fighting behind the scenes, which includes a range of people from chefs to surgeons.
Time’s cover artwork for the edition features Zelenskyy in his now iconic green fatigues, surrounded by dozens of individuals, including demonstrators bearing the Ukrainian flag, who together represent that spirit.
“The Russians need to understand … They will have no forgiveness. They will have no acceptance in the world,” Zelenskyy said in an interview published in the issue.
Time first presented its Person of the Year award in 1927.