Who is Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian President lauded across the world?

International Affairs Editor Rageh Omaar looks at the impact of President Zelenskyy "arguably one of the greatest communicators of all time"

In a past life he was a comedian, a darling of social media, and an actor who once only played the part of Ukraine's President on a popular television show.

Now, as Russia's invasion continues, Volodymyr Zelenskyy channeled British wartime leader Winston Churchill, telling MPs from the UK that Ukraine would "fight until the end".

In an unprecedented, rallying address to the House of Commons, President Zelenskyy said: "We will continue fighting for our land, whatever the cost. We will fight in the forest, in the fields, on the shores, in the streets."

He has received plaudits for his steadfast refusal to leave Kyiv, despite receiving an offer from the US to be airlifted out. There are even reports he has survived numerous assassination attempts by Russia.

But before he became the embattled President, prepared to fight an invader with the weight of the world on his shoulders - who was Volodymyr Zelenskyy?

The Comedian

He was born to Jewish parents in a Russian speaking part of Ukraine in 1978, the grandson of a soldier who had fought the Nazis as part of the red army.

Aged seventeen, he won a local comedy competition, and later began acting in Russian language films.

Zelenskyy was a comedian, actor, and social media star before entering politics, seen here in 2018

A major break came in 2015, when he played the role of a Ukrainian President in a TV series, Servant of the People.

He was also a social media star, with 4.2 million Instagram followers by the time he was elected President in 2019.

The populist

At the end of 2018, Zelenskyy launched a campaign - fought mainly online - to topple then President Petro Poreshenko.

He focused on his difference to other candidates rather than on concrete policy proposal - although he did pledge to serve only one, five year term in office.

Despite having no prior political experience, he won a landslide victory with almost 75% of the vote.

During the campaign, then President Poreshenko described Zelenskyy as a "candy wrapper", and said he was a "puppet" of a Ukrainian oligarch, Ihor Kolomoisky.

Zelenskyy's team denied this - although investigations show he had travelled frequently to meet with Kolomoisky, an exiled billionaire accused of stealing $5 billion from Ukrainian account holders at his bank.

The President at war

Since the beginning of this crisis Zelenskyy has been petitioning the West for more support, and has said that sanctions alone will not be enough to deter Vladimir Putin.

In a sombre call with European leaders late in February, he told them "this might be the last time you see me alive."

It's believed that Russian troops are aiming to take Kyiv and depose of his government - with daily and heavy shelling of the city - installing a pro-Moscow puppet administration in its place.

ITV News Global Security and Defence Editor Rohit Kachroo sent this report as Russian forces entered Kyiv

He's declared martial law and banned men between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving the country.

The government has been broadcasting instructions on how to make petrol bombs, and has handed out over 18,000 machine guns to defend the capital.

The fighter?

'Candy wrapper' or not, Zelenskyy says he's ready to fight to defend Kyiv and his presidency.

On Saturday morning, street fighting broke out as Russian forces advanced into the city.

He has apparently refused a US offer to evacuate, saying "The fight is here."

"I need ammunition, not a ride."

His comments came after the leader of Ukraine's opposition party, Kira Rudik, praised him for staying in the capital - and said she'd fight on herself.

Opposition MP Kira Rudik praised President Zelenskyy in this interview with ITV News - and said she was prepared to fight herself

"I have been criticising the hell out of him for the last two and a half years, but right now he's really stepping out, and he's doing what the President should do," she said.

"He's moving the country forward and tells Putin exactly where to go."

Of course, Ukrainian soldiers are putting up a stiff resistance in the city, and Zelenskyy could yet leave to establish his government elsewhere.

But for now, this comedian-turned-President is ready to fight, as the world looks on.