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The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Institute notified Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Monday that he is the next recipient of the Reagan Freedom Award, as he fights a “tyrant” who is “trying to glue the Soviet Union back together.”
Zelenskyy will receive the Reagan Freedom Award for his “indomitable stance for freedom and democracy” as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues for a twelfth day – an award the foundation said it plans to give him “in person someday.”
In an interview with Fox News Digital, the foundation’s executive director John Heubusch said it shared the news of the award with Zelenskyy by letter, which was delivered by Chairman Fred Ryan during a meeting with Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is seen in a Zoom call with U.S. senators on Saturday, March 5, 2022. (Sen. Marco Rubio)
“It is a very big deal, and not something that is given annually, but, rather, at events and moments like we’re seeing here, when a world leader steps forward with the kind of courage Ronald Reagan would admire, to fight for freedom,” Heubusch told Fox News. “And that’s precisely what President Zelenskyy is doing.”
“We look forward, after he is victorious here in fighting Putin and Russia, to giving him that award in person someday,” Heubusch said.
The award is considered the “highest civilian honor” bestowed by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Institute, and is given to those who have made “monumental and lasting contributions to the cause of freedom worldwide.”
In May 1992, President Reagan gave the award to former General Secretary and President of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev.
President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev outside the villa Fleur D’Eau at Versoix near Geneva, on Nov. 19, 1985. (AP)
“How times have changed, right?” Heubusch told Fox News Digital. “Because, Gorbachev, who dismantled the former Soviet Union, was one of the first world leaders to receive the award, personally from Ronald Reagan in 1992.
“Thirty years later, Zelenskyy is fighting a tyrant who is trying to glue the Soviet Union back together,” Heubusch said. “So what goes around, comes around.”
On June 12, 1987, Reagan challenged Gorbachev to deliver on international peace and progressive policies. His challenge was heard around the world during a speech that marked a turning point in the Cold War.
“General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here, to this gate,” Reagan said. “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”
The award has also been given to then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the late Colin Powell; Yitzhak Rabin, former prime minister of Israel; former President of Poland Lech Walesa; Bob Hope, the ambassador of “Goodwill”; former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher; and former President George H.W. Bush, among others.
One characteristic all award recipients have in common, Heubusch told Fox News, is “a willingness to fight for freedom.”
“Any one word that people associate with Reagan is the word freedom,” Heubusch told Fox News Digital.
Zelenskyy was sworn in as the president of Ukraine on May 20, 2019, and has become the “face of Ukraine’s resistance against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invading forces,” the Reagan Foundation said, adding that while he was a “political novice with no military background, President Zelenskyy has earned the respect of Ukraine and those around the world by refusing to flee the capital, urging Ukrainians to resist, and crafting a successful communications strategy that has won over European leaders and citizens.”
“I would say, isn’t it interesting, that President Zelenskyy, a former entertainer, was frowned upon and underestimated? So, too, was a guy named Ronald Reagan — a former actor who, some even in his own party, frowned upon. And look how both stories have turned out,” Heubusch said.
“Both were men of incredible courage and were willing to do anything to fight for freedom — Zelenskyy is proving that now and doing so every single day.”
Meanwhile, Heubusch, on behalf of the Reagan Foundation & Institute, said their “hope is that the U.S. will do everything it conceivably can to support Zelenskyy, and that definitely includes the cessation of any goods or services, including oil and gas, from Russia.”
“We also believe that, right now, we’re in the middle of a little ‘too little, too late,’ and our hope is that the Biden administration pours it on, because if they don’t Ukraine could go in the way of the former captive nation.”
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signs application for the membership of Ukraine in the European Union on Monday Feb 28, 2022 in this photo released by Parliament of Ukraine. (Reuters )
Heubusch also warned that “the Chinese, right now, are taking copious notes.”
“They are watching the world’s reaction to what’s happening in Ukraine, and that makes it all the more important that Zelenskyy is successful here and all the more important that we support him,” Heubusch said.
Heubusch told Fox News Digital that, in the long term, he believes that Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people “are going to be victorious.”
“But it is going to be a very long struggle,” he said. “And I think the sooner that we can get them everything they need, the closer we are to the moment where this all ends.”