Volodymyr Zelensky, a comic actor with no political experience who played an accidental Ukrainian president on TV, was sworn in as president on Monday. During his inauguration ceremony, Zelensky announced he is "dissolving the Verkhovna Rada," or parliament, setting up snap elections. Parliamentary elections had been scheduled for October, but Zelensky campaigned on cleaning out parliament of lawmakers he accused of corruption and self-enrichment. "People must come to power who will serve the public," he said on Monday.
Zelensky, 41, crushed outgoing President Petro Poroshenko in last month's presidential runoff election, earning 73 percent of the vote. In his inaugural address, Zelensky said his top priority is ending the five-year-old conflict with Russian-back separatists in Eastern Ukraine. "I'm ready to do everything so that our heroes don't die there," he said. "I'm ready to lose my popularly and, if necessary, I'm ready to lose my post so that we have peace." Zelensky gave his address in Ukrainian, but he switched to Russian to express his conviction "that for this dialogue to start, we must see the return of all Ukrainian prisoners."
Zelensky has released few details of his governing agenda, but he laid out a broad vision for Ukraine in his address. "We must become Icelanders in football, Israelis in defending our land, Japanese in technology," he said, and "Swiss in our ability to live happily with each other, despite any differences." Although he was trained as a lawyer before becoming a TV star, Zelensky gave a nod to his fame as a comedian. "Throughout all of my life, I tried to do everything to make Ukrainians laugh," he said. "In the next five years I will do everything so that Ukrainians don't cry." Peter Weber
House of Cards actor Kevin Spacey said at a Netflix event in Paris on Monday that the 2016 election gives him confidence his show's storyline — in which he plays a congressman (and murderer) who becomes president without running for office — hasn't gotten too ridiculous to be convincing:
"We just need to remember that he's a a fictional character. And that some of the candidates running appear to be fictional characters.
There is a parallel election happening on the show... Sometimes I leave the set and I go to my hotel room and I wonder whether we have gone too far. Have we crossed the Rubicon? Is there something we have done that feels unreal and unbelievable and crazy? And then I turn on the television and I watch the news, and I think that we haven't gone far enough." [BuzzFeed]
In the show, President Josiah Bartlet decides against speaking about cancer in his SOTU address, but not before Lowe's character writes an epic introduction of the initiative. Obama's real life announcement was less soaring and Sorkin-esque, and also did not include a decade deadline.
Click here to watch Lowe's delivery of the cancer cure lines that didn't make it into the fictional SOTU, and watch Obama's comments here. Bonnie Kristian