Ukraine’s top leaders under Zelenskyy: What to know


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Defying all expectations, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has bravely led his nation in a fierce resistance against Russia’s unprovoked military aggression.  

Zelenskyy has remained defiant, declaring to Russia the world that he is staying put, providing a much-needed morale boost to his troops citizens as they face invasion from one of the world’s largest militaries. 

In this photo, Feb. 27, 2022, taken from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to the nation in Kyiv, Ukraine.  
(Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

“Not hiding, I’m not afraid of anyone,” Zelensky said in a social media post Monday evening from his presidential offices in Kyiv.  

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Still, questions linger about Ukraine’s fate if something were to happen to Zelenskyy, who has reportedly survived three assassination attempts. Who, for instance, would take Zelenskyy’s place, what would it mean for Ukraine’s fight against Russia? 

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken confirmed to CBS News’ Face the Nation on Sunday that Ukraine’s government has a contingency plan in place if Zelenskyy is killed. 

“The Ukrainians have plans in place – that I’m not going to talk about or get into any details on – to make sure that there is what we would call ‘continuity of government’ one way or another,” Blinken said, without providing further details. 

In this March 8, 2022, image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office posted on Instagram, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks in Kyiv, Ukraine. 

In this March 8, 2022, image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office posted on Instagram, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks in Kyiv, Ukraine. 
(Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

The Ukrainian Constitution outlines that the speaker of the parliament succeeds the president if anything were to happen to them in office. However, the succession line beyond speaker of the parliament remains unclear. Complicating matters further is that Ukrainian officials have not publicly discussed succession, saying they want to focus on fighting. 

Here is a look at some of Ukraine’s top leaders: 

Ruslan Stefanchuk, Ukraine’s Speaker of Verkhovna Rada

Ruslan Stefanchuk, 46, is the Chairman, or Speaker, of the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, a position he has held since October 2021. Before that, Stefanchuk was Zelensky’s representative in the Rada. 

Newly appointed Parliament Speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk, a lawmaker from the ruling Servant of the People party, reacts during a session of parliament in Kyiv, Ukraine October 8, 2021.

Newly appointed Parliament Speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk, a lawmaker from the ruling Servant of the People party, reacts during a session of parliament in Kyiv, Ukraine October 8, 2021.
(REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko)

The New York Times described Stefanchuk as a “pro-Western politician former top aide to Mr. Zelenskyy.” 

Denys Shmyhal, Ukrainian Prime Minister

Denys Shmyhal, 46, has served as the Ukrainian Prime Minister since March 2020. His previous positions in government included Deputy Prime Minister – Minister Development Territories of Ukraine Governor of Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast in Western Ukraine. 

Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal, right, stands with Ruslan Stefanchuk, left, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as he signs an application for the membership of Ukraine in the European Union on Monday Feb 28, 2022.

Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal, right, stands with Ruslan Stefanchuk, left, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as he signs an application for the membership of Ukraine in the European Union on Monday Feb 28, 2022.
(Ukraine Presidential Office/EYEPRESS)

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk previously described Shmyhal as “an excellent manager.” 

As prime minister, Shmyhal was responsible for overseeing the Ukrainian government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.   

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukrainian Foreign Minister 

Dmytro Kuleba, 40, has served as Ukraine’s Foreign Minister since March 2020. One of the youngest diplomats in Ukraine’s history, Kuleba in Ukraine’s foreign ministry for over a decade worked to foster closer relations with Europe. 

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba speaks during a joint press conference with Italian Foreign Minister following their meeting in Kyiv on February 15, 2022. 

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba speaks during a joint press conference with Italian Foreign Minister following their meeting in Kyiv on February 15, 2022. 
( Sergey Dolzhenko/pool/AFP Via Getty Images)

Kuleba has appealed to the international business community to cease operations with Russia. In a recent op-ed for The Washington Post, Kuleba said “history will judge each one of us later on how we faced” the threat of Russia’s “hateful expansionism.” 

“Ukraine will prevail – light will win over darkness, as President Volodymyr Zelensky said,” Kuleba wrote. “We are holding our ground.” 

Kuleba has also authored the book, “The War for Reality: How to Win in the World of Fakes, Truths, Communities.” 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's speech is streamed live on a big screen in front of Parliament during a rally in support of Ukraine on March 4, 2022, in Tbilisi, Georgia. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s speech is streamed live on a big screen in front of Parliament during a rally in support of Ukraine on March 4, 2022, in Tbilisi, Georgia. 
(Photo by Daro Sulakauri/Getty Images)

Khrystyna Holynska, a professor of Public Policy at the Kyiv School of Economics, wrote in a piece for the RCorporation that Zelenskyy’s cabinet is likely keeping its plans for continuity of government secret to reduce the risk of a government collapse. 

Zelenskyy vowed that Ukraine would fight Russia’s invasion in its cities, fields riverbanks. 

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“We will not give up we will not lose,” he told Britain’s packed House of Commons via video, evoking the “never surrender” speech that Winston Churchill gave during the darkest days of World War II. 



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Polthrottles up support for Ukraine with offer to hover fighter jets


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Poloffered to give its entire fleet of MiG-29 fighter jets to the U.S. in exchange for a chance to buy American F-16s as part of a deal to bolster the Ukrainian air force while upgrading the Poles’ with NATO aircraft.

“The authorities of the Republic of Poland, after consultations between the President the Government, are ready to deploy – immediately free of charge – all their MIG-29 jets to the Ramstein Air Base place them at the disposal of the Government of the United States of America,” the Polish Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday. “At the same time, Polrequests the United States to provide us with used aircraft with corresponding operational capabilities. Polis ready to immediately establish the conditions of purchase of the planes.”

The Poles also requested any other NATO member countries that have MiGs of their own take similar action. Those may include Bulgaria Slovakia.

Polish Air Force MiG-29 pilot Adrian Rojek performs during the Radom Air Show at an airport in Radom, PolAugust 23, 2015. 
(REUTERS/Kacper Pempel)

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Ukrainian defense officials for days have been asking for help with supplies ranging from helmets to ammunition fighter jets – a request that Polappeared ready to fulfill almost two weeks into Russia’s invasion of its smaller neighbor.

Undersecretary of State Victoria Nulsaid during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Tuesday that the announcement was “a surprise move by the Poles.”

“To my knowledge, it wasn’t pre-consulted with us that they planned to give these planes to us,” she said. “But as you know, we have been having consultations with them for a couple of days now about this request from the Ukrainians to receive their aircraft, were they to donate them, whether we would be able to support backfill in their own security needs.”

Earlier Tuesday, a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers sent a letter to President Biden urging him to support a deal with Poland.

Ukrainian pilots have been trained on the Soviet-era MiG jets. Poland, which joined NATO in 1999, aims to replace its fleet with used F-16s train its pilots to fly them.

Poland, which joined NATO in 1999, aims to replace its fleet with used F-16s train its pilots to fly them.

Poland, which joined NATO in 1999, aims to replace its fleet with used F-16s train its pilots to fly them.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

UKRAINE SAYS IT SANK THE RUSSIAN WARSHIP THAT ATTACKED SNAKE ISLAND: ‘WE F—— HIT THEM!’

Polhas 28 MiG-29s that it plans to hover. According to the CIA’s World Factbook, “Ukraine has a broad defense industry capable of…maintaining upgrading Soviet-era combat aircraft.”

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told reporters in London earlier Tuesday that despite the decision, “neither Polor NATO are parties” to the war in Ukraine.

Russia meanwhile has warned that it will view support of Ukraine’s air force as an escalation of the conflict that it may retaliate.

The United Kingdom, which has an advanced air force of its own, said it would support Poland’s move as war rages in Eastern Europe.

Members of the Ukrainian military arrive to reinforce a forward position on the eastern frontline near Kalynivka village on March 08, 2022, in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Members of the Ukrainian military arrive to reinforce a forward position on the eastern frontline near Kalynivka village on March 08, 2022, in Kyiv, Ukraine.
(Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

“We would protect Poland,” British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told the UK’s Sky News Tuesday. “We’ll help them with anything that they need.”

President Biden said during his State of the Union address last week that the U.S. allies would defend “NATO territory with the full force of our collective power – every single inch.” 

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Almost two weeks into the invasion, Russia has failed to assert air superiority over Ukraine. Defense forces claim to have shot down 48 Russian aircraft, an additional 80 helicopters seven UAVs.

Ukraine’s military has released figures detailing its own losses.

Fox News’ Liz Friden The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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Putin tells Russia’s moms ‘I understyour worry’ amid invasion of Ukraine


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Russia’s Vladimir Putin sought to assuage the concerns of his country’s military moms Tuesday, 12 days into his invasion of Ukraine, while doubling down on the claim that his full-scale attack is a defensive move.

“I’d like to address the mothers, wives, sisters, brides girlfriends of our soldiers officers who are in battle now,” he said in a televised address, according to a translation from Russian. 

“I know how worried you are for your loved ones,” he continued. “You can be proud of them just as the whole country is proud feels for them.”

His speech came a day after a group of mothers accused the Russian military of using their sons as “cannon fodder” in the war with Ukraine.

Vladimir President Vladimir Putin ordered Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine only eight months after TIME magazine billed President Biden as ready to take on the Russian leader. 
(Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

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“We were all deceived, all deceived,” a woman shouted at Sergey Tsivilev, governor of the Kuzbass region in Siberia, on a video translated by the Telegraph shared to social media. “They were sent there as cannon fodder. They are young. They were unprepared.”

Putin claimed Russian troops, which he sent in last month in a stalled bid to topple the government in Kyiv, have deployed for a defensive “special military operation.”

He also claimed that “conscripted soldiers” played no role in combat operations in Ukraine vowed not to mobilize additional reserves. 

However, just days into the invasion last month reports emerged that conscripted soldiers had been forced to sign military contracts were cut off from communications with their families.

Just days into the invasion last month reports emerged that conscripted soldiers had been forced to sign military contracts were cut off from communications with their families.

Just days into the invasion last month reports emerged that conscripted soldiers had been forced to sign military contracts were cut off from communications with their families.
((AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool))

UKRAINE SAYS IT SANK THE RUSSIAN WARSHIP THAT ATTACKED SNAKE ISLAND: ‘WE F—— HIT THEM!’

Olga Larkina, the director of Russia’s Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers, spoke to Russian investigative news outlet Meduza, describing how Russian conscripts – those fulfilling military enlistment requirements – had been pressured, or at times even forced to sign contracts to become soldiers for the Russian military.

“Mothers are telling us that their sons have been calling them saying they’re being forced to sign contracts. We believe it’s wrong to force a conscript to become a contract soldier,” Larkina said, according to the translated article. “The parents who have gotten in touch have told us their sons were just taken by military officers, stamped, that’s it — now they’re contract soldiers.”

Putin disputed those characterizations Tuesday.

Two men carry a woman as people flee from advancing Russian troops whose attack on Ukraine continues in the town of Irpin outside Kyiv, Ukraine, March 8, 2022. 

Two men carry a woman as people flee from advancing Russian troops whose attack on Ukraine continues in the town of Irpin outside Kyiv, Ukraine, March 8, 2022. 
(REUTERS/Thomas Peter)

“The set goals will be achieved only by professional soldiers,” he said. 

Last week, Ukrainian propaganda targeted Russian mothers as well – in a bid have them use their leverage to dissuade soldiers from fighting.

“Russian mothers are losing their children in a completely foreign country,” Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video. “Think of this number: almost 6,000 Russians died, Russian military, in six days of war.”

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Separately, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry claimed it would return Russian prisoners if their mothers came to pick them up in the country’s besieged capital, Kyiv.

The number of Russian dead is disputed. U.S. officials said Tuesday it may be around 3,000, while Ukraine says it’s about four times that amount. The Kremlin said about 500 troops died as of last week.

Fox News’ Stephanie Pagones, Jon Brown Louis Casiano contributed to this report.



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Russia news: 4M Ukrainian refugees may flee to neighboring countries in coming months


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An estimated 4 million Ukrainian refugees who fled Russian attacks to neighboring countries may need assistance in the coming months, according to the U.N.

More than 2 million people have already left Ukraine since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, according to data released Tuesday from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The U.N. estimates that 12 million people within Ukraine will need relief protection while 4 million Ukrainian refugees who have left to neighboring countries may need protection assistance in the coming months, a Ukraine situation update from the UNHCR released Wednesday states.

A man looks up from his cot, at a reception center for displaced persons from Ukraine at the border crossing in Korczowa, Poland, Saturday, March 5, 2022. (Olivier Douliery, Pool Photo via AP)

“At the borders I saw an exodus of people, mostly women children, along with older refugees people with disabilities,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Wednesday. “They arrived shocked deeply impacted by the violence their arduous journeys to safety. Families have been senselessly ripped apart. Tragically, unless the war is stopped, the same will be true for many more.”

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More than 1 million Ukrainian refugees who have left the country fled to Polsince March 6.

“At the borders with Ukraine, I saw an unmatched outpouring of spontaneous solidarity by communities humanitarians from across each country: local responders were busy, mountains of donations had been built, all effectively organized by border guards, local authorities communities,” Grandi said.

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The agency estimates that an additional million Ukrainians have been displaced internally.

Ukrainians crowd under a destroyed bridge as they try to flee by crossing the Irpin River on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, March 5, 2022.

Ukrainians crowd under a destroyed bridge as they try to flee by crossing the Irpin River on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, March 5, 2022.
(AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

More than 72,000 internally displaced Ukrainians have arrived at 14 locations, mostly in western Ukraine, as of Wednesday. At least 21% of those individuals will continue “moving further,” UNHCR said in the situational update.

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Millions of other Ukrainians are living in war-torn areas because they “are stranded, unwilling or unable to leave, due to security risks, destruction of bridges roads, as well as lack of resources or information on where to find safety accommodation,” the situational update states.

The main issues reported among internally displaced persons in refugee centers include overcrowding, lack of separation by gender or space for family units with privacy, according to the agency, which noted that displaced women girls face increased risks of gender-based violence.



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