SpyCast 5.28.24
Ep 635 | 5.28.24

“Zelensky, Ukraine & Intelligence” – with Simon Shuster

Show Notes


Simon Shuster (X, Website) joins Andrew (XLinkedIn) to discuss President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Ukraine. Simon is a senior correspondent at TIME. 

What You’ll Learn


  • Zelenskyy’s career pre-Presidency
  • Reactions to the 2022 Russian invasion
  • Ukrainian public opinion of Zelenskyy
  • Zelenskyy’s relationship with Ukrainian intelligence 


  • Contagious courage 
  • Leadership styles, techniques, and unique skills

And much, much more …

Episode Notes

This week, Andrew was joined by Simon Shuster, senior correspondent at Time Magazine. He covers international affairs and has reported specifically on Russia and Ukraine for almost two decades. Simon’s new book The Showman: Inside the Invasion That Shook the World and Made a Leader of Volodymyr Zelensky explores the leadership of President Volodymyr Zelensky during Ukraine’s War with Russia, with a focus on intelligence. 

Reporting directly from the President's inner circle, Simon provides a fascinating first-person perspective on the man who has led Ukraine through one of their most turbulent eras. Tune in to learn more about the comedian-turned-president and some behind-the-scenes accounts from the war in Ukraine.


Simon was born in Moscow and emigrated to the United States just two years before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Simon’s family settled in San Francisco, a city home to one of the largest Russian American communities in the country. Can you guess which state has the largest percentage of Russian Americans out of their total population? That’s right, North Dakota with 2.5%! 

Quotes of the Week

“In researching [Zelenskyy’s] transformations as a person from comedian to politician to wartime leader, I also thought a lot about what qualities have remained consistent in him. And one of them for sure is this kind of, “go get ‘em” confidence … He just has this abiding confidence in his own ability to think on his feet, to not lose his balance, to just go into a new and unfamiliar space or a set of challenges and wing it, so to say.” – Simon Schuster. 




*Spotlight Resource* 

  • The Showman : Inside the Invasion That Shook the World and Made a Leader of Volodymyr Zelensky, Simon Shuster (William Morrow, 2024)


*Beginner Resources*



  • Our Enemies Will Vanish: The Russian Invasion and Ukraine's War of Independence, Y. Trofimov (Penguin Press, 2024) 
  • Conflict: The Evolution of Warfare from 1945 to Ukraine, D. Petraeus & A. Roberts (Harper, 2023) 
  • The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine, S. Plokhy (Basic Books, 2021)



Primary Sources 

*Wildcard Resource*

  • As Simon mentioned in this episode, President Zelenskyy won the Ukrainian version of one of Erin’s favorite shows, Dancing With The Stars, in 2006. 
  • Watch some of his winning dances with partner Olena Shoptenko here