In an interview on June 29, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky explained why he turned down offers to fly him out of Kyiv when Russia invaded.
Speaking to U.S. television network NBC, Zelensky spoke about the beginning of Russia’s invasion and the offers from western governments to assist him in evacuating Ukraine.
“At that moment, on the first day of the war, a lot of leaders called me and said ‘You have to go, you have to take a ride out of there’. It came from the heart, very directly and very openly, because they wanted to help. They said ‘we can give you airplanes, helicopters, cars or something more.’ And I said no, I don’t really need any cars. We need weapons and we’ll stay here.”
Describing that morning when he found out that Russia had launched its attack, Zelensky said: “I only thought about us, about our nation. I only thought of Ukraine. I immediately went to my office. I was ready and prepared, for want of a better expression. I didn’t waste time on reflecting.”
He added: “We immediately gathered our military committee and we were ready to fight back. The main thing was to make a decision, not delve into what might happen tomorrow or the day after. You need to think of what’s happening now.”
Zelensky has seen his approval ratings skyrocket during the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. According to a national poll conducted by the Ratings Sociological Group in March 2022, his ratings had almost tripled since December 2021, when just 31% of Ukrainians supporting him. Now, more than 90% of the population approves of its leader, the poll found.
As the war has raged on, Zelensky has regularly taken to Twitter to address Ukrainians and the rest of the world, reminding them of what is at stake through videos and fiery tweets.
Some 72% of Americans were found to have ‘a lot’ or ‘some’ confidence in Zelensky – higher than any other international leader recorded, according to a Pew Research survey. Trust in Zelensky among Americans was followed by faith in French President Emmanuel Macron, who came in second place with 55%, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (53%), and President Biden in fourth place (48%).
Zelensky has also garnered respect from world leaders, including Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whom he urged on June 28 to designate Russia as a sponsor of state terrorism.
Speaking as world leaders met for the G7 Summit, Zelensky called the missile attack on a shopping mall in the city of Kremenchuk on June 27 “one of the most brazen terrorist acts in European history,” adding that “only totally insane terrorists, who should have no place on earth, can strike such an object with missiles.” At least 60 people were injured in the attack, 38 were missing as of June 28 and 20 deaths have been confirmed so far.
The G7 nations condemned the attack as a war crime, with the UN Security Council set to discuss the attack on June 29 at the request of the Ukrainian government.
Zelensky urged Washington and G7 members “to recognize Russia as a state that sponsors terrorism,” adding that the designation “must be supported by the entire democratic world.”
If such a designation were to be made, it would have a far-reaching impact, including economic penalties on dozens of nations that continue to trade with Russia or have alliances with Moscow. It would also lead to the freezing of Russian assets and the banning of a variety of exports, both commercial and military.
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