The Ukrainian president is honored for his fight for freedom / Mathias Döpfner: “He is an inspiration to his countrymen and the entire democratic world”
When the U.S. offered to fly Volodymyr Zelensky out of Kyiv, the Ukrainian president responded, “The fight is here. I need ammunition, not a ride.” By adopting a fearless and unyielding stance right from the start of the Russian invasion, the 44-year-old head of state has not only become the figurehead for his countrymen’s fierce resistance, but also a beacon in the fight for freedom in Europe. He has inspired millions of people around the world.
For his tireless and selfless dedication, Volodymyr Zelensky will be honored with the 2022 Axel Springer Award. The company confers this annual award to personalities who have had an exceptional and innovative hand in shaping the cultural landscape, lived up to their social responsibility or changed markets. In 2022, no one is a more worthy recipient than the president of the nation literally fighting on the front lines for everything we believe defines a free society.
After studying law, Zelensky, whose grandfather was the only one of four brothers to survive the Holocaust, became one of his country’s most popular entertainers. In a case of life imitating art, he played a teacher who is suddenly elected president of Ukraine in the TV series “Servant of the People” – just as Zelensky was in 2019. He has always advocated strong ties with Europe and encouraged the country’s free-market development. Since the Russian invasion, he has stepped up as a crisis manager, simultaneously motivating his compatriots and admonishing timorous players on the international stage.
Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Axel Springer SE: “While others would flee, governing their country’s fate from exile, Zelensky, father of two, remains where his people are suffering and fighting. In the face of Putin’s ever advancing troops, Zelensky broadcasts, ‘I am here.’ All the while, he is filming himself at the heart of embattled Kyiv and exposing as lies the Kremlin’s disinformation campaign live on his mobile phone camera. The president’s authentic touch in using social media, for instance, to publicly call for support not only opens up a new dimension in political communications but is also extremely effective. Each and every day, the free world is more and more willing to help Ukraine.”
Döpfner adds: “Freedom always was and always will be at the core of what we at Axel Springer stand for. Putin has declared war on that freedom. Defending it calls for courage, fortitude, optimism, and chutzpah – all qualities that Volodymyr Zelensky personifies. That makes him an inspiration, not only to his Ukrainian countrymen but to the entire democratic world. We are honored to confer the Axel Springer Award on Volodymyr Zelensky.”
The Axel Springer Award is a prestige award without prize money. Volodymyr Zelensky is the seventh recipient to date. Previous honorees are Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook founder and CEO), Sir Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the World Wide Web), Jeff Bezos (Amazon founder and CEO as well as owner of the Washington Post), economist and author Shoshana Zuboff, Elon Musk (founder and CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, among others), and last year, BioNTech founders Özlem Türeci and Uğur Şahin.
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