Zelenskyys bodyguard becomes sex symbol after keeping him safe from Putin

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has become an international icon of defiance in the year since Vladimir Putin ordered his army into Ukraine.

But it’s the man standing silently behind him in almost every photo that has become an unlikely sex symbol with a huge social media following – despite posting nothing himself.

Maksym Donets, the head of President Zelenskyy’s security team, goes everywhere the Ukrainian leader does – usually clad in the same nondescript army fatigues as his boss but always heavily-armed.

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Donets is so frequently seen in the background of official photos of Zelenskyy that some conspiracy theorists have convinced themselves that he’s some sort of body double for the president rather than his bodyguard.

Donets also looks after high-profile visitors such as US President Joe Biden and Boris Johnson – who insisted on walking around the streets of Kyiv during his first trip to the Ukrainian capital.

Andriy Yermak, the head of Zelensky's presidential office, told Newsweek:"At the end of the meeting Boris Johnson said, 'I'd like to walk'.

“[Zelensky] turned to the head of security and said that Mr. Johnson would like to take a walk in Kyiv," Yermak said. "And [Donets] replied, 'Well, let Mr. Johnson walk.'"

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Donets, 44, is used to his boss’s unpredictable demands with Iuliia Mendel, Zelensky's former press secretary, adding "The president is a very flexible person, he often wants to change the plans.

“So, for Donets it's always a challenge. He copes, and this shows he's really devoted and he's really professional."

It’s not so much his professionalism that’s gained him a TikTok following numbering in the millions though, so much as his air of quiet menace that suggests he’s equal to any threat that might appear.

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He was with Zelenskyyy in the early days, when a Russian snatch squad was sent into Kyiv to “decapitate” the Ukrainian leadership, and he has accompanied the president on grim tours of towns from which the Russians have retreated – leaving grisly evidence of war crimes.

"It's a dangerous place wherever they go," says British close protection specialist Simon Newton. "The threat is quite consistent throughout…If you're not flexible, unfortunately, you're not going to be very good at the job."

Donets has brains as well as muscle.

The New Voice of Ukraine newspaper reports that he graduated from the Kryvyi Rih Institute of Economics at the Vadim Getman National University of Economics, and uses his small amounts of free time studying for a law degree at the University of Kyiv.

Unfortunately for his legions of admirers, Donets is married.

Belarusian newspaper Nasha Niva reports that he is devoted to his wife, Natalya, and their son, Matvey.


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