KYIV, Ukraine – When Russian missiles bombarded the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Friday, President Volodymyr Zelensky appeared to be missing. The Italian prime minister even told his parliament, in a shaky voice, that Mr Zelensky had missed a planned call with him.
Later, when Russian forces announced they had cut the city off from the western part of the country and captured strategic positions north of Kyiv, the Ukrainian leader appeared with a message:
“We’re here,” he said in a video recorded Friday night, standing in front of the presidential building flanked by his top advisers. “We are in Kyiv. We are defending Ukraine”.
On Day 2 of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Mr. Zelensky was still standing and seemingly unstoppable in the information war with his country’s giant neighbour.
The charismatic leader, 44, who said on Thursday that his country’s intelligence services believe he is Russia’s “number one target” and his family a second, said he would not back down.
“Our military is here, our civil society is here, we are all here,” he said in the video, holding his own camera and wearing an army green shirt. “We are defending our independence, our state, and we will continue to do so.”
Mr. Zelensky also signaled an openness to diplomacy to end the war, even as he sought to rally his country. He imposed martial law and banned men aged 18 to 60 from leaving the country so they could enlist. The capital is preparing for street battles from Friday night to Saturday, when Russian forces are closed.
On Thursday alone, Zelensky’s government handed out 70,000 AK-47 assault rifles to the public, an aide in the video told The New York Times, and radio stations were broadcasting instructions on how to make the Molotov cocktail. .
“The president will stay until the last minute,” said David Arakhamia, a leader of Zelensky’s Servant Party in parliament.
And so Mr. Zelensky, a comedian who became president after playing a role on television, presented himself as a commander-in-chief determined to not go anywhere.
He even dared to hurl some sarcasm at the Italian prime minister, Mario Draghi, for publicly expressing concern about him. The reason why Mr. Zelensky missed the phone call, the Ukrainian leader said in a post on TwitterDid everyone die in the fierce fighting nearby.
“Next time, I will try to reschedule the war to talk to #MarioDraghi at a particular time,” said Mr. Zelensky. “Meanwhile, Ukraine continues to fight for its people.”
But he did have time to talk to President Biden and other European leaders, urging increased sanctions on Russia and its president, Vladimir V. Putin, and building on it. “anti-Putin coalition”.
Mr. Zelensky’s bravery in the face of Russia’s deadly threat went unnoticed by the Biden administration. Jen Psaki, a White House spokeswoman, told reporters Friday that he is “an important partner” and “we support him”. She declined to answer questions about the steps, if any, that authorities might be planning to rescue him from Russian capture.
Anna Kovalenko, a former aide to Mr Zelensky, said his disappearance was a tactic used by the Russians to portray Mr Zelensky as a coward, reducing trust in the government and causing people to lose hope. hope.
“The enemy is trying to convince people that without the government, there is nothing left for them,” she said. “But of course there is. And he’s been on the air and playing this video, and we’ve seen where he is, who’s with him, and he’s protected by the state. “
Understanding Russia’s Attack on Ukraine
What is the root cause of this invasion? Russia considers Ukraine to be within its natural sphere of influence, and it is extremely worried about Ukraine’s proximity to the West and the prospect of it joining NATO or the European Union. Although Ukraine is also not included in this category, it receives financial and military aid from the United States and Europe.
Mr Putin, who opposed the Ukrainian government on Monday night in a fiery speech denying the former Soviet republic’s right to independence, on Friday said Kyiv was being ruled by a “gang of addicts”. drugs and neo-Nazis”. Ukrainians hostage.
However, many Ukrainians have expressed anger at what the Kremlin is trying to do to their country of 44 million people.
“Putin has stated that we do not exist as a people, as a nation, as a nation,” Kovalenko said. “Well, the whole country is resisting. In fact, Ukraine should erect a monument to Putin because he united the whole country against him,” she said, adding that any political controversy had been set aside.
Mr Zelensky’s spokesman, Sergei Nikoforov, said he was still trying to negotiate with the Kremlin, which has refused to deal directly with him.
“Ukraine was and still is ready to talk about a ceasefire and peace,” Nikoforov said on Facebook. “This is our permanent position.”
He said that the government in Kyiv had agreed to Mr. Putin’s proposal for talks, that both sides were consulting on the negotiation process and that “the sooner the talks start, the better the chances are.” society to resume normal life”.
But if the negotiations fail, Mr. Zelensky and his team have made it clear that they will never run away.
In the closing hours of Friday night, Mr Zelensky appealed to his people again in another video, posted on his social media channel Telegram, warning them of difficult times ahead.
“Tonight the enemy will use all their forces to break our resistance,” he said. “It is despicable, cruel and inhumane. Tonight they are going to storm. We all have to understand what awaits us ahead.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/25/world/europe/zelensky-speech-video.html In the video, a Zelensky defiant president says, ‘We’re here’