Zelensky has led Ukraine as it has worked to hold off a full-scale Russian invasion of the country since late February, becoming a leader on the world stage. He has overseen a series of victories in the war that has largely halted Russia from advancing and allowed Ukraine to retake captured territory.
The Ukrainian president, who was formerly an actor who played the role of president in a television series, has become a regular fixture throughout the conflict, showing a serious but reassuring demeanor during frequent addresses to the Ukrainian people.
He has also served as the top representative for Ukraine to the rest of the world, pleading for NATO and countries like the United States to come to its aid to stop Russia’s aggression.
Other candidates named to the shortlist included the U.S. Supreme Court, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Tesla and Twitter CEO Elon Musk, who was last year’s Person of the Year.
The magazine has announced its Person of the Year, formerly called Man of the Year or Woman of the Year, annually since 1927 for the person who has done the most to influence the events of the year.
When Russia first invaded Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin hoped to take the country in three or four days, but his forces encountered stiffer-than-expected resistance from Ukrainian defenders rallied by Zelensky’s calls to fight to protect their country. The war has now continued for more than nine months.
Zelensky has remained in the country throughout the conflict despite repeated Russian attacks directed at military and civilian targets, including at the capital of Kyiv. The Biden administration offered to get Zelensky out of the country in February, but he refused, asking for ammunition instead.
He has repeatedly emphasized to the world why continued support of Ukraine is necessary to prevent Russia from advancing and has called on the international community to hold Russia accountable for many alleged war crimes and human rights abuses from Russian soldiers that have been documented.
Zelensky met with Time for an interview, discussing his experience leading the fight against Ukraine. He has often been compared to former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who rallied the United Kingdom during World War II, but Zelensky has rejected the comparison, noting the former British leader’s reputation as an imperialist.
He instead said he would rather be associated with author George Orwell, who wrote against authoritarianism, and comedian Charlie Chaplin, who used humor to criticize Adolf Hitler.
“I’ve raised the example of Charlie Chaplin, how he used the weapon of information during the Second World War to fight against fascism,” he said. “You see, there were these artists who helped society, because they had a lot of admirers, and their influence was often stronger than artillery.”
Zelensky has been key to dispelling Russian propaganda throughout the war, calling out false claims of genocide happening in Ukraine and Russian forces being liberators to the Ukrainian people.
He said in the interview that Russia’s invasion is only its latest attempt to take control of Ukraine, but he wants to ensure it is the last one.
“I have not finished this great, important action for our country,” he said. “Not yet.”