Ukraine's Zelenskyy taps celebrities for roles as special adviser and charity ambassador

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has appointed former Ukrainian soccer great Andriy Shevchenko as a special adviser and British actor Mark Strong as an ambassador to the charity that the Ukrainian president set up to raise money for Ukraine, his office announced.

It was not clear what Shevchenko's duties as adviser to the president would entail but the former star striker for Ukraine and squads across Europe suggested it would expand on his work as ambassador of United24, a charity created by Zelenskyy to collect donations for his nation after Russia’s invasion in 2022.

“My role hasn’t changed that much but I’m going to work even harder now," he said after playing in an all-star golf match preceding the Ryder Cup outside Rome on Wednesday. "It’s an important job helping my country abroad through soccer and charity events and keeping people talking about Ukraine.”

Strong, who starred in the “Kingsman” movies, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and “Deep State” TV show, was appointed as an ambassador of United24. Zelenskyy thanked him for his support of Ukraine since the invasion, according to the president's website.

“It is an honor for me to become a voice for Ukrainian children on the world stage, so that they can have a better future,” Strong said.

The charity has raised $470 million from more than 110 countries, the president said. Other ambassadors include Barbra Streisand, actors Liev Schreiber and Ivanna Sakhno, historian Timothy Snyder and business mogul Richard Branson.

Shevchenko started and ended his career with Dynamo Kyiv. He joined AC Milan in 1999, winning a series of trophies with the Serie A club, including UEFA Champions League in 2003. He won the Ballon d’Or the following year as Europe’s best football player.

In 2006, he signed with Chelsea for a then-British record fee of around 30 million pounds (now $31.7 million) and returned to Kyiv three years later after not living up to his reputation. He retired from playing in 2012 after a 17-year career and went on to coach the Ukraine national team.

Shevchenko spoke to reporters in Italian after playing in the match that included tennis great Novak Djokovic, fellow soccer player Gareth Bale and Formula One driver Carlos Sainz.

“As long as the war lasts I have to help in any way I can, because our people are really suffering,” Shevchenko said. "That’s my job.”

___ AP Sports Writer Andrew Dampf in Guidonia Montecelio, Italy, and Brian Melley in London contributed to this report.