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Ukrainian Presidential Hopeful Admits Russian Assets, Promise To Divest

Actor Volodymyr Zelenskiy

Ukrainian actor Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who has said he is running for president of Ukraine, has admitted that he has commercial interests in Russia and has said he will divest himself of them "in the near future."

In an interview with Ukrainskaya Pravda on January 20, Zelenskiy confirmed a January 18 report by RFE/RL that he is a co-owner of a Cyprus-registered firm called Green Family LTD, which owns the Russian filmmaking company Grin Films.

"Our company owns shares of that company," Zelenskiy said. "That is true."

He said that he has no direct relationship with Grin Films and had no role in the company's successful application for a grant from the Russian Culture Ministry.

He added that he has not worked in Russia since Moscow's 2014 annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea, although he acknowledged that his company had been receiving royalties from film projects since that time.

Ukraine's presidential election is scheduled for March 31.

Incumbent President Petro Poroshenko has been harshly criticized by the Ukrainian opposition for allegedly owning businesses in Russia.

In September, he claimed that a shipyard he used to own in Russia-annexed Crimea had been seized by Russian authorities and he does not own it anymore.

Poroshenko also said that he had shut down his chocolate factory in the Russian city of Lipetsk in 2014 after he became president.

The West has imposed sanctions on Russia and those doing business there in the aftermath of the annexation of Ukraine's Crimea.

Poroshenko has not yet officially announced he will seek a second five-year term but is widely expected to do so.

Poroshenko's main rival appears to be former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is credited in the most recent opinion polls with 12.7 percent.

The same poll conducted in December unexpectedly put the 40-year-old Zelenskyy in second place, with 9 percent, while Poroshenko came in third, with 8.6 percent.