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Putin says acting talent may not help Ukraine's new leader

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Saint Petersburg (AFP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that Ukraine's new leader Volodymyr Zelensky may be a talented actor but his former television role as a fictional president does not automatically give him the skills to be a real one.

"I don't know this person, I hope we meet some day," Putin said at an economic forum in Saint Petersburg when asked why he did not congratulate Zelensky on his inauguration day in May.

"It seems that he is a good specialist in his field, the field he worked before, a good actor," he said.

"But it's one thing to play somebody, and another to be somebody."

A political novice, Zelensky was a professional comedian before running as president and was best known for his role in the series "Servant of the People," where he plays a teacher who is unexpectedly elected head of state.

"To act, you need talent," Putin said in his first detailed comments on Zelensky since his inauguration.

"But to tend to state affairs you need other skills, a certain experience, knowledge. You need to see problems and find tools to solve them."

Putin insisted he was not saying that Zelensky "does not have these traits... but he has not proven himself in any way".

Zelensky was elected in April, taking over from former leader Petro Poroshenko, who led Ukraine after the previous pro-Moscow president was toppled in course of mass protests in 2014.

Zelensky campaigned on a ticket for much-needed reforms but many say he is compromised by ties to tycoon Igor Kolomoisky.

Putin said that Zelensky's rhetoric on Russia has been contradictory.

"He said one thing during the campaign, and another thing after the election. We have to wait and see."

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