Appearing in his Kyiv office for the first time since the start of the Russian invasion, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivered a defiant speech, pledging to repel invading troops and rebuild the country.
Zelensky delivered the speech on Monday evening as talks between Russia and Ukraine produced no breakthrough and President Vladimir Putin appeared to soften his tone. Noting that as the conflict entered its 12th day, the former TV star turned president extolled what he called Ukrainian unity, condemned Russian military actions and predicted a post-war future bearer for the country.
“You know, we used to say: Monday is a hard day,” Zelensky began in his speech from the beleaguered capital. “There is a war in the country. So every day is Monday.”And now we’re used to the fact that every day and every night is like that.”
Despite having the largest army in Europe, Russian military forces did not take the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. But the conflict is claiming increasingly heavy civilian casualties, with the United Nations estimating that 1.7 million people have fled the country.
Zelensky said that “everyone”, including non-military Ukrainians, who protested against the invasion “contribute to our victory”, which he said “will definitely be achieved”. In an apparent jab at Putin’s assertion that Ukraine and Russia are one civilization, Zelensky said, “and whoever repeated, ‘We are one people’ – certainly did not expect a such a powerful reaction.”
After the invasion began, Zelensky took refuge in a bunker, where he gave media interviews and lobbied world leaders for their support. Speaking on Monday, Zelensky said he would stay in Kyiv.
“I’m not hiding,” he said. “And I’m not afraid of anyone. As much as it takes to win our Patriotic War.”
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Monday that except for advances in southern Ukraine, Russian troops “have made no noticeable progress in recent days” and have turned to long-range strikes.
“So it’s bombing, missile strikes, long-range artillery, in inner cities where they’re not yet, at least not on the ground in significant numbers,” Kirby said. He said the strikes will kill and injure more people.
In his speech, Zelensky highlighted the destruction caused by Russian troops to civilian infrastructure, including a bread factory and a church built in 1862. He also said that Russian troops had mined a road that was to be used to transport food. food and medicine in Mariupol, a city in southern Ukraine.
Zelensky said his government would continue to participate in negotiations after concluding the third round on Monday in Belarus. In the meantime, Zelensky said he is already looking forward to the end of the war.
“We know that the hatred the enemy brought to our cities with bombing and shelling will not stay there,” he said. “There will be no trace. Hate does not concern us. Therefore, there will be no trace of the enemy. We will rebuild everything. We will make our cities destroyed by the invader better than any city in Russia.
Newsweek contacted the US State Department for further comment.