MOSCOW (AFP) — Russian TV on Wednesday will begin broadcasting a popular comedy series starring Ukraine’s actor-turned-president Volodymyr Zelensky, as new efforts are underway to de-escalate the war in east Ukraine.
The Russian premiere of “Servant of the People,” on the entertainment channel TNT, comes two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin and Zelensky met in Paris for their first face-to-face talks.
Zelensky, 41, is a former comedian and TV actor who shot to fame in ex-Soviet Ukraine by portraying a schoolteacher in “Servant of the People” who becomes president when his expletive-laden tirade goes viral.
In April, the celebrity secured a shock election win after capitalizing on Ukrainians’ despair over mainstream politics, war with Kremlin-backed separatists, poverty and corruption.
He named his party after the show.
The series opened in Ukraine in 2015, becoming one of the most popular TV shows in the war-scarred country.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that Putin was unlikely to watch the show.
“He does not have time,” he told reporters.
TNT — owned by Gazprom Media, the media arm of Russian gas giant Gazprom — said the TV series offered a satirical look at modern politics and ties between people and authorities in Ukraine.
In the show, Zelensky’s Russian-speaking character, President Vasyl Goloborodko, roots out corruption, takes on powerful oligarchs and lifts the country’s economy out of the doldrums.
In a statement released on the eve of the Russian premiere, the channel said that “Servant of the People” was a “utopia that had nothing to do with Zelensky’s Ukraine.”
According to Gazprom Media, 38.5 million Russians watch TNT every week.
The show has previously been available to Russians on a video streaming service.
© Agence France-Presse