“But they didn’t know us,” he said in a late-night video address in April, as the war entered its 50th day. “And they didn’t know how brave Ukrainians are, how much we value freedom.”
He could have talked about himself. No one knew how a 44-year-old man who had catapulted himself from the entertainment world to the presidency would react to an invasion by the vast Russian army.
His response was forceful – and convincingly public. Zelenskyy introduced his country put up an unexpectedly fierce resistance. Every evening he calls on the Ukrainians to fight with a video speech on social media. So far there have been 100 – one for each day of the war – in nightly reminders that he didn’t escape, that Ukraine actually survived.
Trained as an actor, his voice can be soothing, a deep, intimate whisper when facing the camera directly. Or vigorously, rising in moral outrage when he condemns recent Russian atrocities and insists that those responsible be punished.
Over the days and weeks, a dark beard has grown from his unshaven face. He has lost his boyish looks. The swellings of sleepless nights as Russian troops marched on the capital were replaced by renewed determination as the invasion faltered.
Since the beginning of the war he has dressed in various shades of army green, most commonly with a plain T-shirt. The impression he leaves is clear: he’s fresh out of the fight and right back to it.
A tireless and skilled communicator, Zelenskyy has spoken via video link to the United Nations, the British Parliament, the US Congress and about two dozen other parliaments around the world, as well as the Cannes Film Festival and the American Grammy Awards. Rarely has a man without a tie approached so many VIPs. He has also given interviews to journalists. He held a press conference in the safe Kiev subway.
But his nightly video address was his favorite channel to inform and inspire his fellow citizens.
It often begins with a lavish salute to Ukrainians as “the free people of a brave country” or “the invincible people of our great country.” It invariably ends with a defiant “Glory to Ukraine.”
He tells them about the world leaders he spoke to during the day and his efforts to get those leaders to send more and better weapons to impose ever tougher sanctions on Russia.
He speaks about the anger and pain of his fellow Ukrainians about the devastation of the country and the unspeakable deaths. “My heart breaks because of what Russia is doing to our people,” he said March 16, after Russian bombs killed hundreds sheltering in a theater in Mariupol.
He applauds their courage and says he never tires of thanking all those fighting for Ukraine’s future. The fact that the country did not fall within a few days, as Russia had expected, he said on April 14, is because millions of Ukrainians have “made the most important decision of their lives – to fight”.
He has also tried to reach Russian audiences, as on April 1 when he switched from Ukrainian to Russian to urge Russians to keep their sons out of the war.
“We don’t need any new deaths here,” he said. “Take care of your children so they don’t become villains, don’t send them to the army. Do whatever you can to keep them alive. At home.”
To justify the invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin says he is saving Ukraine from the Zelenskyi government’s “drug addicts and neo-Nazis.” He ignored Zelenskyy’s calls for a meeting.
As early as June 2019, shortly after Zelenskyi was elected president, Putin was asked why he had not congratulated the new Ukrainian leader. In a condescending reply, Putin seemed to write off the actor-turned-president.
“Well, it’s one thing to play someone and another thing to be someone,” Putin said. “It is important to have the courage and the character to take on responsibility. He hasn’t shown his character yet.”
For 100 nights this character has been shown to Ukrainians and the world. And to Putin.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.
https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/06/03/100-speeches-in-100-days-of-war-zelenskyy-rallies-ukraine/ 100 speeches in 100 days of war: Zelenskyj demonstrates Ukraine