Woman With Same Name As Zelenskyy Relative Harassed, Arrest Fear

  • A Moscow woman shares her name with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s mother-in-law.
  • Olga Vitalyevna Kiyashko said pro-Kremlin journalists had harassed her because of this.
  • Kiyashko, who has no relatives in Ukraine, said she fears arrest in a case of mistaken identity.

A Russian woman who shares a name with a relative of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said she is being harassed by pro-Kremlin media because of it, The Moscow Times reported.

Olga Vitalyevna Kiyashko, who lives in Moscow, has known for a long time that she has the same name as Zelenskyy’s mother-in-law, she told the independent Russian media outlet Mediazona. Until recently, it hadn’t caused her any problems.

On April 15, however, Kiyashko received WhatsApp messages from her neighbors showing surveillance footage of two men asking about her. It later transpired that they were journalists.

The duo also visited another Moscow apartment where Kiyashko is officially registered but doesn’t live and persistently rang the doorbell, she said. “I tensed up,” Kiyashko told Mediazona.

While browsing online, Kiyashko found that Russian media was widely reporting on an investigation claiming to have uncovered properties in suburban Moscow belonging to the Zelenskyy family.

One article, published on the website of the pro-Putin Tsargrad TV, claimed that Zelenskyy failed to declare the two Moscow properties during his presidential campaign — potentially breaking Ukrainian law. Other pro-Kremlin media outlets repeated this false claim, including a leading Russian propagandist, The Moscow Times reported.

But these properties belonged to Kiyashko, who does not have family in Ukraine or any relation to Zelenskyy. She told Mediazona that simple fact-checking could have distanced her from the Ukrainian president’s mother-in-law.

“The fact that [Zelenskyy’s] mother-in-law was born in 1953 and I was born in 1965 doesn’t confuse anyone,” she told Mediazona. “Whoever sent them is deliberately creating a fake. They probably know full well that I’m not her and she’s not me.”

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his wife Olena Zelenska in November 2019.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his wife Olena Zelenska in November 2019.

AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, FILE

The false reports, Kiyashko said, are making her fearful she might become entangled in “some kind of plan” and be arrested in a case of mistaken identity. 

“I’m beginning to fear for myself, even though I’m a fearless person,” Kiyashko said, adding that she had attended anti-war rallies after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Last week, jailed Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny accused Russian soldiers of killing a man in Ukraine because he shared the same last name as him. 

Navalny said on Twitter that, in Bucha, a dead man’s body was found next to a passport identifying him as Ilya Ivanovich Navalny. “Everything indicates that they killed him because of his last name,” Navalny wrote.

He added that he didn’t know if this man was related to him and that a “completely innocent person” was killed because of the shared name.

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