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15 Feb, 2024 19:55

Zelensky’s top adviser admits he has a brother in Russia

People can’t be held responsible for their family members, Mikhail Podoliak has said
Zelensky’s top adviser admits he has a brother in Russia

Mikhail Podoliak, the fiercely anti-Russian aide to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, admitted on Thursday that his own brother is a Russian citizen and lives in Moscow.

Ukrainian media first reported the whereabouts of Vladimir Podoliak last April, claiming he was an officer in the Russian military intelligence. The issue came up again this week, because the new commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s military, Aleksandr Syrsky, is Russian-born.

“If a person is 60 years old – I am 51 – should I be responsible for other people?” Podoliak told the Ukrainian outlet Strana. “People who in the Soviet Union chose to live in another country, and I don’t communicate with them, should I be responsible for them?”

Asked about the claim by former Russian official Alfred Koch – a Yeltsin-era deputy PM who now lives in Germany – that his brother was a “KGB colonel,” Podoliak said he could not confirm any association between his relative and Russian intelligence. Last year, when the question first came up, he claimed his brother had been with the FSB but “long since retired.”

Speaking with the Strana portal, Podoliak laughed off the suggestion he might have been recruited by Russian intelligence himself, asking whether it’s possible he was doing the recruiting instead.

“I will not and do not want to be responsible for other adults, just like Syrsky, just like any other person born in the USSR,” he added.

Syrsky was appointed last week to replace Ukrainian-born General Valery Zaluzyny as the head of Kiev’s armed forces. The former Soviet officer had switched allegiances to Ukraine in 1991, though his parents and siblings live in Russia to this day.

Lviv-born Podoliak is known for intemperate public statements, from insulting the intelligence of China and India and attacking Elon Musk to lashing out at the International Olympic Committee and justifying the killing of Russian civilians.

He was a journalist until 2020, when he was hired as an adviser by Andrey Yermak, the movie producer who became Zelensky’s campaign manager and later chief of staff.