Ukraine election produces colourful cast of new MPs

President Zelensky (L) with Servant of the People party allies, 21 Jul 19 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption President Zelensky (L) is heading for a secure majority in parliament

Ukraine's parliamentary election has produced a huge influx of new MPs, with President Volodymyr Zelensky's new anti-corruption party Servant of the People set for a historic victory.

Mr Zelensky, a popular TV comedian, turned fiction into fact by becoming president in April. He had played the part of a teacher who becomes president, in the hit comedy Servant of the People.

Now some other colourful characters have got elected. Here is a snapshot of some of them.

Svyatoslav Vakarchuk

Image copyright AFP

One of Ukraine's most successful rock stars, Mr Vakarchuk, 44, launched the Holos (Voice) party just two months before this election.

He has a doctorate in physics from Lviv University, but rock music is his passion, and he co-founded his band Okean Elzy at college.

The band gave some free concerts during the election campaign, but Mr Vakarchuk denied that that was any breach of the rules.

Famously the band also performed for free during the long Maidan winter protests in Kiev, which ended the rule of pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Okean Elzy performed in Hollywood, California, in 2017

Holos has attracted political newcomers - mostly young professionals in their 30s, the Kyiv Post daily reports.

Provisional results show the party scored 6.3%, enough to get into the Verkhovna Rada (parliament). Like the president's party, Holos is anti-establishment, seeking to empower a new generation of politicians untainted by corruption.

"I don't believe in professional politicians. It's a myth," the rock star says.

He had a brief spell as an MP in 2007-2008 but resigned in frustration.

He has described five broad priorities for his party: "the interests of Ukrainians above everything; our existential choice is Europe; everyone is equal before the law; a free economy without oligarchs [powerful tycoons]; and the authorities are accountable to the people".

Yana Zinkevych

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New to politics, Yana Zinkevych, 24, is in the European Solidarity party of ex-president Petro Poroshenko, who lost to Mr Zelensky in the April run-off vote.

When she was just 19 she set up a volunteer medical evacuation group called the Hospitallers' Battalion in 2014, when fighting broke out with Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

As a nurse, she gained prominence on the frontline. She says she has helped evacuate more than 200 wounded Ukrainian soldiers.

She has been a wheelchair user since December 2015, when she was involved in a traffic accident which landed her in hospital with life-threatening injuries for several months. She later got married, then divorced, and is now a single mother with a daughter, Bohdana.

In a recent interview, she said that as an MP she would continue helping medical volunteers and secure better funding for them. She plans to remain a commander of the Hospitallers' Battalion, which now has up to 150 active members.

Zhan Beleniuk

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This 28-year-old wrestling champion will be Ukraine's first mixed-race MP. He is in President Zelensky's party.

His parents met in Kiev where his father, a pilot from Rwanda, was studying at an aviation university.

When Zhan was 11, his father was called up for military service in Rwanda, where he was killed. "It was his duty, so he had to go," Zhan reportedly said.

Mr Beleniuk took up Greco-Roman wrestling when he was nine, and went on to win several European and world championship titles, plus a silver medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

He is keen to stress his Ukrainian identity: he has been photographed wearing a traditional Ukrainian shirt and has celebrated some of his victories by performing a traditional Ukrainian dance, the Hopak.

He rarely expresses political views. He admits that he was "not particularly patriotically minded" until the Maidan protests and the annexation of Crimea by Russia.

Asked about racism in Ukraine, he said it was not a problem for him, but added that he was "too light for Africa, too dark for Ukraine".

Halyna Yanchenko

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Ms Yanchenko, 31, oversees Mr Zelensky's anti-corruption policy and is in his party.

She took an active part in the Maidan protests and wanted to take up politics from an early age. She was elected to the Kiev City Council when she was just 26.

In 2014, she co-founded the Anti-Corruption Headquarters in Kiev - a group which investigates thefts of public funds.

A fluent English speaker, she spent a year in Texas on a US-sponsored student exchange programme. "This trip changed me. Americans are a young nation and they took a few decades to turn their Wild West into a centre of civilisation," she said in an interview. "I decided to use my knowledge, charisma and energy to implement change in my country."

She intends to continue fighting corruption as an MP. "To reduce corruption locally, we must send a message from the very top," she said.

Vitaliy Shevchenko of BBC Monitoring provided material for this piece.

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