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How Zelenskiy’s team of TV writers helps his victory message hit home – The Guardian

Influences from Churchill to Tolkien are woven in to the Ukrainian president’s compelling video addresses

On day 50 of Russia’s invasion, Volodymyr Zelenskiy made his nightly address to the Ukrainian people. Vladimir Putin had confidently expected to seize Ukraine in five days, Zelenskiy said, standing outside his neo-classical administration building in central Kyiv. Putin was now “making friends with reality”, he added mordantly, hailing the bravery and staunchness of his citizens.

There was a reference to Russia’s flagship Moskva, which Ukraine says it audaciously sank last Wednesday with two lethal Neptune missiles. The warship has become a meme and symbol of national defiance, ever since Ukrainian soldiers stationed on Snake Island in the Black Sea told it in the first days of the conflict to “go and fuck yourself”.

Zelenskiy avoided the F word. He praised those who “have shown that Russian ships can” – dramatic pause – “go to the bottom of the sea”. He also paid tribute to the men and women who had driven Russian troops from the north, stalled them in the south and heroically defended Mariupol. As usual, he ended his speech with: “Slava Ukraini” – Glory to Ukraine.
On the battlefield, Ukraine’s fortunes have been mixed. Russia’s armed units have been forced to withdraw from the Kyiv region after failing to seize the capital. But they have made significant advances along the Sea of Azov, carving a land corridor from Crimea to separatist-controlled territory in the east, where a Russian offensive is imminent.

On the information front, however, Ukraine has offered a masterclass in message. Zelenskiy’s speeches to his people, and his addresses to foreign parliaments around the world, have galvanised international support and shored up morale at home. They have been gripping viewing, an unvarnished real-time video blog from Europe’s bloody frontline.

The writer of them is a 38-year-old former journalist and political analyst with fewer than 200 followers on Twitter. In an interview conducted via WhatsApp, Dmytro Lytvyn told the Observer the ideas behind the speeches were Zelenskiy’s: “The president always knows what he wants to say, and how he wants to say it.”

He added: “In the speeches, emotions are most important. And of course the president is author of emotions and the logic of the words.” Other world leaders “might learn how to do it”. In other words they might emulate Zelenskiy’s punchy combination of frankness and emotional power.

Lytvyn is part of the president’s inner team. He and his colleagues have been living and working at Bankova – Ukraine’s equivalent of the White House or Downing Street – since the first days of the invasion. A one-time columnist with the Levyy Bereg weekly news magazine, named after the left bank of the Dnipro River, Lytvyn was reluctant to say more. “I don’t usually comment on this topic,” he said.

Serhiy Leshchenko, another former journalist turned wartime Zelenskiy adviser, described Lytvyn as a literary and artistic assistant: “He collects the president’s ideas each day. He works as a mind or sense collector.” One day the theme might be the barbarism of Russian soldiers, the next Ukraine’s urgent need for defensive weapons.

Lytvyn has been in the thick of Ukrainian politics for sometime. He was a political analyst for Servant of the People, Zelenskiy’s political party, and a bitter opponent of Petro Poroshenko, Zelenskiy’s predecessor as president. One former colleague said Lytvyn’s attacks on the country’s post-2014 leadership after the pro-European Maidan uprising had split Ukrainian society. “I’m not a fan. But he’s smart,” the colleague added.

Writing on Facebook at the beginning of the war, Lytvyn made several shrewd points about Putin. “His imagination is poor, so he always mirrors something … We have to understand that objective reality does not control Putin. The west’s sanctions will not affect him. He seeks isolation.” Putin’s implacable goal was to change the state and Ukraine’s “political reality”, he posted.

Lytvyn’s method certainly works. Polls show 95% of Ukrainians believe their country can repel Russia’s invasion, despite Kyiv’s inferiority in terms of tanks, troops and aviation. And 78% believe Ukraine is moving in the right direction. Zelenskiy’s personal ratings, depressed at the beginning of February, have skyrocketed.

Orysia Lutsevych, manager of the Ukraine forum at foreign policy thinktank Chatham House, said Zelenskiy’s previous career as an actor and comedian was key to his success. Viewers were used to seeing him in different roles on television and were therefore able to accept him as “commander-in-chief in a T-shirt” – a feat that eludes more conventional politicians.

“They know he can transform. He’s like metamorphosis Zelenskiy,” she said. “He’s a modern-day statesman who came from entertainment. He’s in his element. People around him understand the power of narrative during a war. After the horrors of Bucha, it’s important to have a galvanising story. The sinking of the Moskva is a powerful symbol.”

Lutsevych said Zelenskiy and his co-writers had created a sense of “historical mission”, which linked Ukraine’s current struggle with previous battles against Moscow. They were also well versed in pop culture, presenting the war as “light versus darkness”. In this Lord of the Rings-style drama, Russian soldiers were “orcs” and Putin an invisible Sauron.

Many of Zelenskiy’s senior advisers come from television, and worked with him at Kvartal-95, his production studio. Their attempts to win global support are helped by the clear-cut nature of Russia’s invasion. Ukraine is the victim. It is fighting for survival. This makes Zelenskiy the leader of what political scientist Ivan Krastev calls a “romantic constellation”.

Zelenskiy is at ease in front of a camera, whether speaking into his iPhone or addressing citizens from his bunker. When he was elected in 2019, he had few concrete political ideas. He tried to distinguish himself from his predecessors by giving lengthy press conferences. These days, his interactions are snappier. Lutsevych said his daily speeches “resonate well”.

They are also immaculately tailored to particular audiences. Addressing the House of Commons on day 13 of the invasion, Zelenskiy likened Ukraine’s struggle against Russia to Great Britain’s against Hitler. “We will fight until the end, at sea, in the air. We will continue fighting for our land, whatever the cost … We will fight in the forests, in the fields, on the shores, in the streets.”

For Brits, then, Zelenskiy invoked Churchill. For the Greek parliament it was Mariupol – home to many ethnic Greeks – and for the Finns, Molotov cocktails, hurled against Soviet invaders. Speaking to Australians, Zelenskiy cited MH17, the Malaysian Airlines plane shot down by Russia in 2014. Talking to the US Congress, he likened the bombardment of Ukraine to Pearl Harbor and 9/11.

Zelenskiy matches this lofty rhetoric with concrete requests. He has called for Ukraine to be given anti-aircraft systems, MiG fighter jets, tanks, and armoured vehicles. He wants further sanctions against Moscow, including a complete oil embargo. At times he can be reproving. Germany’s president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, was told last week not to visit Kyiv because of his close ties to Russia.

Ihor Todorov, professor of international relations at Uzhhorod university in western Ukraine, said Zelenskiy could be emotional and undiplomatic. His early presidency often resembled Servant of the People, the hit Ukrainian TV sitcom where Zelenskiy played a history teacher who becomes president by accident. The war transformed Zelenskiy, as it did Stalin in 1941, he said.

“Zelenskiy has responded well to the situation,” he said. “A lot of people who didn’t vote for him two years ago recognise this.” He added that the president’s wife, Olena, had much to do with the passionate tone of his addresses, and that other people were also involved, including Yuri Kostyuk, one of the scriptwriters on Servant of the People.

So is Zelenskiy Ukraine’s answer to Churchill? No, said Tordorov: “To compare Zelenskiy to the cult of Winston is too much.” Lutsevych agreed. “Churchill was a lot more charismatic and ego-driven,” she said. “But Zelenskiy is quite effective.”


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Tattoo Artist, Entrepreneur, and Oil Painter Kirby van Beek Makes a Mark in the Industry

Kirby van Beek, a talented tattoo artist, entrepreneur, and oil painter, has emerged as a prominent figure in the world of tattooing, showcasing his expertise in black and grey realism. Known for his distinctive designs and captivating portraits with a dark twist, Kirby has established himself as a highly regarded artist, earning recognition both locally and internationally.

Kirby’s journey as a tattoo artist began at the age of 18 when he taught himself the art form while simultaneously pursuing his education in forensic science. During this time, he displayed unparalleled dedication, working at a morgue during the week and honing his tattooing skills during weekends and spare hours. Kirby’s passion for tattooing led him to work at various tattoo studios in the Netherlands, solidifying his experience and expertise in the field.

About Kirby van Beek:

Kirby van Beek is a talented tattoo artist, entrepreneur, and oil painter based in [City]. Renowned for his expertise in black and grey realism, Kirby’s distinctive designs and captivating portraits with a dark twist have earned him a prominent position in the industry. With a passion for tattooing and oil painting, Kirby aspires to become a globally recognized artist, leaving a lasting impact on the world of art.

«The things I love most about tattooing is meeting different clients and getting to know them on a personal level during a long tattoo session,» says Kirby. «There is nothing more rewarding than tattooing individuals who appreciate my art so much that they choose to wear it on their skin for life.»

Specializing in realistic black and grey tattoos, portrait tattoos, and horror tattoos, Kirby’s work has garnered attention both nationally and internationally. His talents have been showcased at several tattoo conventions abroad, and his captivating designs have been featured in prominent tattoo magazines. Additionally, he has been recognized by esteemed publications such as LINDA magazine in the Netherlands and the local newspaper BN de Stem. Furthermore, Kirby’s exceptional skills led him to participate as a tattoo artist in the Dutch version of MTV’s Just Tattoo of Us.

Looking ahead, Kirby aspires to become a world-renowned tattoo artist and oil painter, with a particular focus on portrait tattoos and dark horror tattoos.

His ultimate goal is to reach clients and famous individuals around the globe, sharing his unique artistry and leaving an indelible mark on the industry. In the future, Kirby envisions opening an art show to showcase his diverse body of work.

To learn more about Kirby van Beek and explore his captivating portfolio, visit his official Instagram page (@kirbyvanbeek) or his website

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DJ Khenya Takes Center Stage at Blue Marlin Ibiza, Spreading Joy and Connection

The music of DJ Khenya pulsates with rhythm and emotion. A rich mélange of sun-kissed sounds that blend percussive beats with indie and deep house. The artist’s journey to Ibiza has laid the foundation for a musical expression that communicates joy and connectivity. Taking the reins at Blue Marlin Ibiza, Khenya’s vibrations will inspire dance floor dreamers to move and let go.

From the stage at Blue Marlin Ibiza, DJ Khenya has shared experiences alongside some of the most influential names in the music industry. When asked about the impact of these experiences, the artist responded humbly: «The truth is I feel lucky. I have total admiration for them as they are a source of inspiration for me.»

The energy at Blue Marlin Ibiza is unlike any other, according to DJ Khenya. He describes the place as «a life experience,» synonymous with summer and with all the ingredients to feel in a state of bliss when you’re there. He thanks the team for being like a family to him and for everything they’ve done.

This summer, DJ Khenya will take his audience on a journey filled with unforgettable emotions. He comments, «My goal is to transmit uplifting and unforgettable sensations. My audience is what sets my heart on fire, and I want them to feel my desire to make them dance.»

The path that led DJ Khenya to become a DJ began in Havacia, Cuba, where he grew up in an environment where rhythm, dance, and poetry are like the air we breathe. With son and salsa running through his veins, his first experience at an electronic music party in the early 2000s marked a shift in his life. Khenya recalls hearing ‘The Underground’ by Celeda and says, «It was a different Cuba, and I loved it. I think from that moment, something changed inside me. A seed had been planted, and life would take me in that direction.»

Having traveled the world and now based in Ibiza, DJ Khenya reflects on how these experiences have shaped his identity as an artist. He comments, «Traveling the world is a privilege that every human being should have, especially an artist because when you have these experiences, you can understand different ways of life and the musicality of each place. Creativity is born from that knowledge, and I still have a lot to learn in that sense.»

This summer, DJ Khenya promises to take Blue Marlin Ibiza to new heights with his unique music and his desire to make everyone dance. The experience is guaranteed to be a celebration of life, joy, and connection through music.

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Oliver Rouz: Weaving Ink and Inspiration into a Legacy

Born on February 13th, 1988, Oliver Rouz’s path to success is one marked by determination, passion, and the pursuit of creative endeavors. From a young age, Oliver exhibited a profound love for various forms of creativity, which ultimately led him to become one of the country’s most celebrated tattoo artists.

During his school years, Oliver’s artistic talent set him apart. His favorite cartoon characters became his canvas as he tirelessly recreated them in his own style. However, drawing was merely a pastime during his teenage years, a source of pleasure until music took center stage in his life.

In 2005, Oliver formed the «Fairy Tale Jelissa Rose» band, a pivotal moment that expanded his horizons. Immersed in the music community, he developed a newfound fascination with tattoos and ink artistry, spurred by the band’s association with the tattoo culture.

A serendipitous encounter with Artem at the «Quick Silver» shop in Moscow in 2010 marked a turning point. Artem’s influence led Oliver to consider a life-altering decision. By 2012, Oliver, now ignited by a passion for tattoos, made a bold move to another city, all while nurturing his tattoo aspirations.

Artem’s transformation into a tattoo artist himself inspired Oliver further. As fate would have it, an opportunity arose in 2012 for them to collaborate and open their tattoo studio in Moscow. This venture required Oliver’s dedicated efforts, alongside his commitment to saving funds to fuel their creative endeavor.

Oliver’s tattooing prowess flourished within a year, prompting a return to his hometown to establish several home-like studios. Yet, he recognized that true growth beckoned him back to Moscow. Thus, in 2017, he joined Good Hands Tattoo, laying the foundation for his continued ascent.

Oliver’s indomitable spirit and devotion to his craft bore fruit, as evidenced by his stint at Black Point studio, born out of a collective dream. His trajectory exemplifies the power of dedication, leading him to become a recognized tattoo luminary within the nation.

Oliver’s journey, however, extends beyond tattooing. From his early affinity for music, highlighted by the formation of his punk rock band at 14, to his involvement in the music industry and flirtation with global recognition, his story embodies the resilience required to navigate creative industries.

A pivotal moment arrived in 2021 when Oliver, undeterred by previous setbacks, chose to channel his creative energy into designing game art. Leaving behind a stable job, he invested his savings of around $5,000 to embark on a transformative journey. Guided by Hexeth’s interview and tutorials, Oliver delved into the realm of game design.

Fueled by dedication and a newfound purpose, Oliver’s creative expression culminated in designing elements for popular games like CS:GO and RUST. Through unwavering commitment and rigorous self-education, he harnessed the potential of his artistic flair.

Today, Oliver Rouz’s name resonates as a testament to the potential of human determination. His path from a young artist with a penchant for creation to a revered tattoo and game artist serves as an inspiration to countless dreamers. Oliver’s legacy continues to evolve, as he pushes the boundaries of his craft and inspires others to chase their passions unrelentingly.

For more information and to view Oliver’s work, visit his Instagram profile: @oliverrouz.

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