Zelenskyy says Putin is afraid of humor, calling comedy a 'powerful weapon' for spreading truth

Zelenskyy says Putin is afraid of humor, calling comedy a 'powerful weapon' for spreading truth
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in his office in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, April 9, 2022.Evgeniy Maloletka/Associated Press
  • Zelenskyy in a new interview with the Atlantic said Putin is "very much" afraid of humor.
  • He said humor is a "powerful weapon" for telling the truth, which Putin fears.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a new interview with the Atlantic said that Russian President Vladimir Putin fears humor "very much" because it's an effective, accessible tool for spreading truth.

"Jesters were allowed to tell the truth in ancient kingdoms," but Putin "fears the truth," he said.

"Complex mechanisms and political formulations are difficult for humans to grasp. But through humor, it's easy; it's a shortcut," Zelenskyy added, describing comedy as a "powerful weapon."

Zelenskyy, a former TV star and comedian, said he doesn't think "normal people" can "survive" without humor.

"Without a sense of humor, as surgeons say, they would not be able to perform surgeries—to save lives and to lose people as well," he said. "They would simply lose their minds without humor."


Ukraine has often turned to comedy as a means of fighting Russian propaganda, sharing memes that discredit or ridicule false information or narratives spread by the Kremlin. Ukrainians have also turned to humor as a means of coping with the hardships that come with fighting and living through a war.

Humor is an "outlet for releasing excessive aggression so that we are not engulfed in fear," Kyiv resident Olexander Lisenko told Al Jazeera last month.

Zelenskyy in his interview with the Atlantic said that for Ukraine to have a secure future then Russians need to be confronted with the facts about their own history and what they've done to Ukraine. Russia has been widely accused of committing war crimes in Ukraine. President Joe Biden earlier this week described Russia's brutal actions and tactics in Ukraine as "genocide," employing politically charged term that's rarely used by US presidents in making allegations against other countries.

Russia has vehemently denied involvement in atrocities in Ukraine, pushing conspiracy theories in the process. The Russian government, for example, claimed that images of dead civilians in Bucha, Ukraine, were staged or fabricated after its troops withdrew from the town. But satellite imagery showed the bodies of dead civilians scattered in the streets weeks before Russian soldiers pulled out.

Zelenskyy said Russians "are afraid to admit guilt," describing them as "alcoholics [who] don't admit that they are alcoholic."


Russia has gone to extraordinary lengths to censor information on the war, and those that protest or speak out risk prison time or worse. Putin's opponents have a history of winding up dying in violent ways, or landing behind bars. Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Putin's most prominent critic, in late March tweeted, "Words have power, Putin is afraid of the truth, I have always said that."