In October, American comedian and TV host David Letterman traveled to Kyiv to interview President Zelensky for his Netflix show "My Next Guest Needs No Introduction." The conversation took place in the subway, considered the safest place in Kyiv. It was interrupted quite often, whether by trains passing by the station or by the air raid sirens. The second part of the interview was made remotely a few weeks later — Zelensky was in Kyiv, and Letterman was in New York. These are some of the president’s comments.
The war has become a habit for Ukrainians.
Unfortunately, it means that war has become a habit. Many Ukrainians have gotten used to it. And I say unfortunately because war shouldn't be a habit. Sometimes we are so accustomed to sirens that we disregard them. We don't pay attention and don't move to a shelter, as we are now here with you, to a subway, a bomb shelter, a basement. And to me sirens are a reminder that the war is not over. There was euphoria in the beginning when the Kyiv region was de-occupied. A euphoria: "The war is over." But it is not over just because your neighbor's not getting killed, your loved ones, or your relatives. Somewhere else, our military is getting killed, sacrificing their lives.
The Kremlin has defeated Russian society.
Sadly, in my honest opinion, they've (Kremlin) won over their own society. They managed to brainwash them. Unfortunately, it's true. That was the most important narrative so they can justify the invasion. They had to convince them, and keep them in that information bubble, that the Ukrainians don't exist, that Ukrainians are just some insignificant particles somewhere on the outskirts far away. That Ukrainians have no language, no heritage, no history. Nothing. That Ukrainians have separated from us (Russians) temporarily. Very primitive.
War doesn't seem to change Ukrainians. It just puts them in different conditions of existence.
I'm not sure if war changes us. I think we will be able to understand that after the war ends. It's just that the war puts us in different conditions. Different conditions of existence. In conditions in which you have to choose to either remain human or turn into an animal, a terrorist, a marauder, a rapist. I saw all that. We all saw the consequences of the Russian occupation. There is that.
The war is a choice. And it's a difficult choice to make because hatred towards your enemies overwhelms you daily. Hatred towards enemies who took away the life one had before, the one you spoke about. But you have to suppress your hatred. To know that it's the enemy and yet fight by the rules, as in staying human. And that is a hard choice. And I started loving the simple things since the beginning of the war. Children, life, mornings. Just wonderful. There are no sirens. Silence. Silence is a very important word.
Children are deeply immersed in the war.
We have no need to explain anything to our children. Trust me. And they know much more about the war than we do. I'm telling you this very frankly now. My son is nine years old. He knows the names of all the weapons. And he didn't learn that from me. They are deeply immersed in the war.
About the comedian's career
Humor is a part of one's being. A sense of humor is very important. It's important, and it helps one not to lose their mind. You know, there is this genre of drama and comedy. A tragicomedy. And all those people in trenches, those who are here, those passing by in a subway car, all these people on their way to work, all of us are working so that life continues. And we resort to humor to raise our spirits.
If Putin dies - the war will be over.
There would be no war (if Putin dies). The authoritarian regime is dangerous as it poses great risks because you can't allow just one person to have total control over everything. That's why when such a person is gone, institutions come to a halt. That's what happened back in the Soviet Union. Everything collapsed. And that's why I think if he's gone, it will be hard for them. They will have to deal with their international policy, rather than foreign issues.
The most valuable resource in Ukraine are Ukrainians themselves.
I've always wanted to support our people. And I have a clear understanding, very sober understanding, about the person, who is right now with the weapon in hand, fighting the enemy, advancing forward and saying, "I am not afraid, I can do it." I know that deep down, these people can be scared because they are human, and they have something they are afraid to lose. And I really want to tell these soldiers how proud we are of them, how dependent we are on them, how loving and caring we are towards them.
For us, the end of the war will be when we reclaim our lands and borders.
No one will tell you how long it will take. I am a responsible person. And I know how important it is for people when the war is going to end. Because that's the main question, that's why there should also be the main answer. And that's why I don't treat these things lightly. For us, the end of the war, no matter what's being said, whether someone believes it or not, the end of the war will be when we reclaim our lands and borders. It's not about freezing the conflict.
To have a shorter war, we need a more powerful aid.
The U.S. is the main supporter of Ukraine and without their support, it would be difficult for us. I mean very difficult. And by the way, when the war ends also largely depends on that support. To have a shorter war, we need more powerful aid. If the climate changes in politics, in Congress, it might indeed have a significant impact on the support of Ukraine. We know what we're fighting for. The most important thing is for U.S. society to be aware of that, too.
Ninety-eight percent of Ukrainians would rather stay without electricity as long as they are free from Russia.
The more they attack us, the more people want to come out of this with dignity and to come out of this victorious. That's why, when we did a survey, it showed that 98 percent of our country's population today would rather stay without electricity and water, as long as they are free from Russia. Russia holds control over famine, electricity, and water supplies. I think when you're not God, and you do this, then who are you? A Barbarian. These people in the Kremlin must decide whether they are barbarians or simply crazy. Neither one nor the other suits Ukraine.
Is there a threat of nuclear attack by Putin?
I had a meeting with him and I saw in him a desire to live. He loves his life so much. He even chooses to sit at that ridiculously long table. He is afraid of catching COVID or some other infection. This indicates that he is afraid of death, and he loves life because he understands that if he presses the button, the next step will be a response from some other country, aimed at him.
I will definitely hold the office of president until we win. And I'm not even thinking about what is going to happen after that. I would really like just to go to the sea. I'll be honest, David. I really want to go to the sea. To spend some time at the seaside after our victory. And I'd love me some beer.
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