The Ukrainian president has led the nation to victory after victory since Russia invaded more than nine months ago, bolstering his people with frequent speeches.
WASHINGTON — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been selected as TIME’s 2022 Person of the Year because he embodies the spirit of Ukraine, according to the magazine.
Zelensky’s Selection was announced Wednesday on NBC’s “Today” show.
“This year’s choice was the clearest in living memory,” TIME editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal wrote in a letter about the decision. “Whether the battle for Ukraine fills one with hope or fear, Volodymyr Zelensky moved the world forward in a way we haven’t seen in decades.”
Zelensky, a former comedian and TV star, rose to fame in the West when Russia began taking steps to invade his neighboring country.
As the early days of the war unfolded, Zelensky offered forceful but often reassuring and warm messages to his people, speaking publicly in frequent speeches even as assassins attempted to take his life.
His trademark olive green shirt became a staple in his frequent addresses to the Ukrainian people and in photographs of him commanding the Ukrainian armed forces.
He has also become a frequent virtual guest of senior Western leaders, appearing on video conferences before the US Congress and the United Nations in an attempt to secure resources and support for his troops.
Before Russia invaded Ukraine earlier this year, analysts both inside Moscow and in the west believed the war could be short-lived, with Russia crushing Ukraine’s defenses. But within days of the outbreak of the conflict, Ukrainian troops demonstrated that this would not be the case.
Even before the massive mobilization of arms from allies like the US, Ukrainian forces were able to stop Russia from taking the capital city of Kyiv.
In the months that followed, Ukraine held Russia in a battlefield stalemate before launching a counteroffensive in late summer that saw them retake miles of the Russian-occupied area for months.
In the most recent high-profile release, as Russia abandoned Kherson, Zelensky made an unannounced trip to the city days after it was recaptured. She told TIME that her security was against the trip because there were no guarantees of her safety in a newly vacated area.
“They have been busy for nine months, without electricity, without anything. Yes, they have had two days of euphoria for their return to Ukraine. But those two days are over,” he said on TIME’s profile about him. “They are going to go into a slump now, and it will be very hard. The way I see it, it is my duty to go there and show them that Ukraine is back, that it supports them. Maybe it will give them enough momentum to last a few more days. But I’m not sure. I do not lull myself to such illusions.
Zelensky was not the only person considered for the honor. Notable figures such as Elon Musk, Xi Jinping, the Supreme Court, Liz Cheney, MacKenzie Scott, protesters in Iran, Ron DeSantis and Janet Yellen were on the shortlist for Time’s 2022 Person of the Year.
The title, awarded at the end of the year by the editors of TIME, is not necessarily an honor. It is the magazine’s attempt to spotlight the person who has had the most influence in the world over the past year, and has been increasingly used in recent years to spotlight those whose year in review appears to be an example of greatest influence in the future.
Last year’s honoree was Elon Musk, who continued to dominate the headlines this year and was also on the shortlist for 2022.
The cover depicting Zelensky features a portrait of his face, surrounded by the faces of Ukrainians and the country’s symbols, including its blue and yellow flag.