M.ith a moving speech, President Volodymyr Zelenskyi addressed the Ukrainian nation. In the appearance on Wednesday night, which could go down in the historical series of speeches warning of the outbreak of war, Zelenskyi said he still saw “a chance to stop the murderous mathematics of future war losses”. But the President and Commander-in-Chief also agreed to an attack by Russian troops around Ukraine. He asked: “Does Ukraine want war? No. Is she prepared for him? Yes. Will Ukraine stop fighting for peace through diplomatic channels? No way. If the worst comes to the worst, will Ukraine defend itself? Always.”
Political correspondent for Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania based in Warsaw.
Zelenskyi, who took office in the sixth year of the conflict with Russia over the Crimea and Donbass region, spoke mostly Ukrainian but addressed Russian President Vladimir Putin in Russian. He quoted a well-known word from Putin, according to which he had learned from the “fights” in his childhood to always strike first when a conflict was imminent.
“You cannot bring peace on tanks”
But other rules apply to war, said Zelenskyi. “This is not about hooligans in the backyard, but about a real war and millions of lives. And in war, unlike in a fight, all sides lose. ”In response to Russian claims that the Russians living in Ukraine must be“ protected ”by Moscow, he replied:“ You cannot protect by attacking. You can’t bring peace on tanks. “
At the same time, the head of state invoked the unity of his diverse nation. Christians, Jews and Muslims, residents of different regions and mother tongues should now stick together. Russia is allegedly preparing “maneuvers”, the rest of the world calls Russia’s actions “blackmail”. “Our principle is simple: Ukraine will never start a war first, but it will always fight to the last,” warned Zelenskyi.
Unlike 2014, the country has a “fabulous army” and a “fabulous society that is ready for a massive mobilization of volunteers”. Therefore, Ukraine is not afraid. It is “a nation of creators, not destroyers. We are not destroying other countries and peoples. But that doesn’t mean we let others destroy us. ”All Ukrainians would defend their country. “Because we don’t have anything else. Because we are not planning to flee. Because we’re not used to capitulating. “
“Much more needed than diplomatic concern”
Zelenskyi recalled his recent talks with the heads of state and government in Washington, Paris, Berlin and London. “You know the true motives of Russia very well.” Then he appealed to the partners: “How and with what will you help us if someone again disregards borders in the heart of Europe?” It was now “much, much more necessary than diplomatic concern”. In the event of Russian aggression, the world should not “avoid unpleasant questions” either. Selenskyj named the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, where some politicians are calling for Russia to be excluded, and the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
Finally, Zelenskyi turned to Russia. The people in Ukraine, “including the old people who are still alive and who liberated this country from the Nazis, do not understand why their peaceful lives of the last 75 years are now in danger of war again”. In the Minsk peace negotiations on eastern Ukraine, which have been going on for years, this week all participants – Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE – supported a complete ceasefire. “However, Russia has refused to support a joint statement.”
There the proposal arose to meet in eastern Ukraine in order to understand the situation as well as possible. “Mr. Putin!”, Zelenskyi finally exclaimed, “I am ready to suggest that you meet at any place in the Ukrainian Donbass where war is going on.” In the meantime, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov has replied that last days “there was no request for a conversation from Ukraine. A leading Moscow foreign policy official rejected Zelenskyi’s proposal as a “trick” and said he should speak directly to the leaders of the Moscow-controlled “People’s Republics” in eastern Ukraine.
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