KYIV -- Ukrainian journalists report that comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a political novice whose TV image as an everyman has him leading all polls going into this weekend's presidential election, has a 15-room villa in Italy that he failed to disclose in his public asset declaration.
Kyiv-based Slidtsvo.Info reported on March 28 -- just four days before Ukraine's presidential election -- that the 41-year-old Zelenskiy paid an Italian company 3.8 million euros ($4.3 million) in 2017 for the luxurious home, which sits roughly 600 meters from the beach in Forte dei Marmi.
In a post on Instagram, Zelenskiy's campaign called the report "fake" and an attempt to "discredit" the candidate days before the election.
The Tuscan seaside town has been dubbed Italy's "Moscow province" by some Russian media for being a favored destination of such Russian oligarchs as Oleg Deripaska and Roman Abramovich, according to the Slidstvo.
Zelenskiy's public asset declaration says he is the owner of four apartments in Kyiv and a country home outside the capital, as well as apartments in Yalta, on the Crimean Peninsula that was annexed by Russia in 2014, and in the United Kingdom. But the declaration fails to mention the villa in Italy, which, according to the journalists, he owns with his wife, Olena.
Zelenskiy currently stars in the popular television comedy series Servant Of The People, where he portrays a regular schoolteacher who becomes president.
That a successful businessman who runs an entertainment company and stars in a hit television show makes millions of dollars is unsurprising. But polls suggest Ukrainians deeply distrust their politicians and government, so secrecy around the villa could undermine the antiestablishment image of transparency that Zelenskiy has projected throughout his campaign.
Slidstvo.Info is an award-winning group of journalists known for their documentary film Killing Pavel, which uncovered new details about the July 2016 car-bomb killing of journalist Pavel Sheremet in Kyiv.
News of Zelenskiy's villa broke shortly after the release of the last presidential polls allowed ahead of the election, so it is difficult to say how the news will affect the vote just days away.
Pollster Rating Group on March 28 showed Zelenskiy with 26.6 percent of the vote, followed by President Petro Poroshenko tied with former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko at 17.2 percent.
A Democratic Initiatives Foundation poll the same day put the comic in the lead with 27.6 percent, followed by Poroshenko at 18.2 percent and Tymoshenko at 12.8 percent.
A record 44 candidates registered for the presidential election, 39 of whom remain on the ballot. If no candidate wins 50 percent of the vote -- which is most likely, polls suggest -- the top two will face each other in a runoff set for April 21.
Zelenskiy, who has run an unorthodox campaign built around social media and his celebrity, will spend the last days before the election performing with his comedy troupe, Kvartal 95.
Season three of his popular television show, Servant Of The People, aired on March 27. On March 30, he will narrate a television documentary about another actor who ran for -- and won -- the presidency: Ronald Reagan.