Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had an income of about $623,000 in 2020, according to his financial disclosure submitted to the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption in Ukraine. But posts on social media claim, without evidence, that he has a monthly income of $11 million.
In late February, Ukraine was invaded by Russia, putting the country and its president, Volodymyr Zelensky, in the spotlight of Western media covering the war and its global impact.
In an effort to undermine Zelensky’s credibility, some posts on social media claim, without providing evidence, that Zelensky is corrupt and has a monthly income of $11 million. Different versions of the claim add that Zelensky makes an $11 million monthly profit from the war in Ukraine.
“This, ladies and gentlemen, is what corruption looks like,” reads the caption of a Facebook post that shares a meme that claims Zelensky has an income of $11 million a month and a net worth of $596 million. The post offers no proof for those claims.
A Twitter user claims, “Zelensky making $11 million per month as long as the conflict goes on. Do you think he’ll negotiate peace soon?” The tweet shares a post that says, “Zelensky has 1.4 Billion dollars. More than Will Smith, Chris Rock, and Dave Chapelle combined. We are to believe that he made that as a comedian in the poorest nation in Europe?”
“Why is Zelenskyy a billionaire?” reads a tweet from a Twitter account affiliated with Russian state media.
But we could find no evidence he’s earning $11 million a month from his career before becoming president or from the war, and the available sources on his finances show income nowhere near such an amount.
The Ukrainian news outlet Ukrinform reported that Zelensky’s financial disclosure for 2020 submitted to the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption in Ukraine showed he received a salary of 336,000 hryvnias (Ukrainian currency), royalties in the amount of 4.6 million hryvnias and 13.4 million hryvnias from the 2020 sale of real estate.
In U.S. dollars, those figures total about $623,000, StopFake, a Ukrainian fact-checking website, reported in April. The exchange rate now is lower.
Zelensky earns a salary of roughly $930 per month as president of Ukraine — which is an annual salary of $11,160 per year — and he has a net worth of about $25 million, according to the website Celebrity Net Worth. That salary mirrors the figure on his 2020 financial disclosure.
One Twitter user repeats the claim, “Zelensky making $11 million per month as long as the conflict goes on,” and offers a source for the claim: “Details in Pandora Papers.”
The Pandora Papers are documents published in 2021 by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists that revealed the offshore financial dealings of hundreds of global politicians. The papers reported that Zelensky and his close associates were the beneficiaries of a network of offshore companies and real estate holdings.
As StopFake reported, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project published a story in October 2021 based on the Pandora Papers, finding that “Zelensky and his partners in comedy production owned a network of offshore companies related to their business based in the British Virgin Islands, Cyprus, and Belize.”
“But,” StopFake said, “OCCRP investigative reporters found no direct evidence that Zelensky was openly involved in high-value real estate deals during his tenure as President of Ukraine. In addition, even this independent investigation did not turn up Zelensky’s alleged billion-dollar fortune or any other sources of income that could be connected to him.”
Before becoming a politician, Zelensky rose quickly in the entertainment industry, starting as a comedian at age 17 and joining KVN, a Russian comedy competition and game show.
He later formed Kvartal 95, a comedy group that toured with KVN from 1998 to 2003. Kvartal 95 became a company that produced television shows and films.
From 2015 to 2019, Zelensky starred in a satirical television comedy series, “Servant of the People” — in which he played the president of Ukraine.
Fluent in Russian, Ukrainian and English, Zelensky also appeared in several Russian-language films and dubbed Ukrainian voiceovers for several movies.
Most of Zelensky’s finances come from his work in the entertainment industry. Zelensky had a 25% stake in Kvartal 95 — his largest liquid asset — before transferring his shares in the business to his partners after he was elected president. “It is believed he would receive those shares back” at the end of his term, Celebrity Net Worth reported.
It’s also worth noting that Zelensky is not on any recent lists of the 100 richest Ukrainians, according to Forbes Ukraine or other news outlets in the area.
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.
“Fake: Zelensky’s Fortune Estimated at $850 Million.” Stop Fake. 27 Apr 2022.
“Golden hundred 2021. NV magazine published the annual ranking of the Top 100 richest Ukrainians — a complete list.” NV. 6 Nov 2021.
Hijazi, Wendy (@wendysone1). “Zelensky making $11 million per month as long as the conflict goes on. Do you think he’ll negotiate peace soon? Details in Pandora Papers. Have you ever seen a world leader like Boris Johnson take a stroll through a war zone?” Twitter. 10 Apr 2022.
“KVN” webpage. TVTropes.org. Accessed 19 Jul 2022.
Rose (@Rose42397943). “Zelensky making $11 million per month as long as the conflict goes on. Do you think he’ll negotiate peace soon?” Twitter. 13 Apr 2022.
Semenova, Thaisa. “Wealth of 100 richest Ukrainians highest since 2014.” Kyiv Post. 5 Nov 2021.
Sender, Courtney. “The Uncanny Prescience of ‘Servant of the People.’” The Atlantic. 6 Apr 2022.