Ukraine’s President is dubbed an ‘idol’ after Churchill’s address to the UK

aption: Exclusive: Ukrainian says President is'our idol' after Churchill's speech to UK Parliament. Images: AFP/REX

A Ukrainian volunteer was recruited by the President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who delivered a rousing speech to the British Parliament (Image: AFP/REX/

A volunteer with the Ukraine Defense Forces described Volodymyr Zelenskyy as a “true leader” as the President remains in Kyiv after Churchill’s address to the British Parliament.

Andrii Shelestov, 33, spoke to from his home in the capital, where he, his wife and their mother are staying in the face of the Russian invasion of their country.

In an unprecedented address by a foreign leader to Parliament yesterday, Mr Zelenskyy conjured up Winston Churchill when he said: “We will fight in the woods, in the fields, on the shores and in the streets.”

Despite advancing Russian forces and reports of death squads out to kill him, the defiant leader has stayed in Kyiv and even revealed his whereabouts in a video.

Andrii, a software developer by trade, said: “He is a true leader.

“To be honest, I didn’t vote for him, I voted for the other guy. I thought the other guy was more patriotic but now I see I was wrong.

“He has proven to be the true leader we want in this war. He inspires people, I can say that without a doubt. He really inspires a lot of people who didn’t vote for him, he’s an idol now. He was called a clown before the war, now at least he’s called an iron clown.’

Andrii volunteered on the first day of the invasion and was assigned to the Territorial Defense Forces south of the city, where he participated in patrols and kept watch.

He intends to stay, even if his position is overwhelmed, which could mean supporting the armed resistance as much as he can.

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A little over two weeks ago, he lived a comfortable life that included touring art galleries and museums during a city break in London, before his world changed overnight when Putin’s forces launched an unprovoked assault on the country.

“We want to win the war, we want to defend the city and we want to live freely,” said Andrii. “I’m trying to help build our army as best I can to help our armed forces.

“We are not ready to give up. The Russians probably expected us to greet them as liberators, when in reality every one of us, even Russian-speaking Ukrainians, hates their guts.

“They don’t want to be told how to live and what to do. We are ready to fight as hard as we can for our country and our freedom.”

Members of Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces examine new weapons, including NLAW anti-tank systems and other man-portable anti-tank grenade launchers, in Kyiv March 9, 2022 amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by GENYA SAVILOV/AFP) (Photo by GENYA SAVILOV/AFP via Getty Images)

Members of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces in Kyiv inspect new armor (Image: AFP via Getty)

A member of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces holds an NLAW anti-tank weapon on Wednesday, March 9, 2022, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine. Authorities on Wednesday announced a new ceasefire to allow civilians to flee towns around the capital Kyiv and the southern cities of Mariupol, Enerhodar and Volnovakha, Izyum in the east and Sumy in the northeast. Previous attempts to set up safe evacuation corridors have largely failed due to attacks by Russian forces. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Ukrainian soldiers handle one Anti-tank weapon systems in Kyiv prepare to face advancing Russian troops (Image: AFP via Getty)

In northern Kyiv, refugees were photographed swarming across a destroyed bridge in search of safety.

However, the city has so far held back against Kremlin forces, which have subjected civilian areas to shelling, air and missile attacks as they approached its districts.

Andrii said people are getting on with their lives as best they can, which includes volunteers distributing flowers to mark International Women’s Day.

His wife stocked up on cat food for half a year and he sometimes manages to do his paid work in software and hardware development.

“Life isn’t as good as it used to be,” said Andrii.

“Although we recently received fresh bread, sausage and fish from our local shops and yesterday was International Women’s Day, someone donated a few thousand flowers.

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“Our local territorial defense distributed flowers to women on the street.

“The situation is calm at the moment, we don’t have much bombing or shelling.

“People can walk the streets and it looks almost normal, apart from the fact that many non-entertainment and non-essential shops are closed and those that are open, like grocery and drug stores, have long lines.”

Russian forces have launched bloody attacks on key Ukrainian cities, but progress has been held up by stubborn Ukrainian resistance.

Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told parliament this afternoon that Moscow has so far only managed to achieve one of its original goals in the military campaign that began 14 days ago.

KYIV, UKRAINE - MARCH 9: Ukrainians wave flags during the live performance of the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra in Independence Square where the sound of sirens announcing the Russian attacks is increasing from time to time due to the ongoing Russian attacks in Kyiv, Ukraine Hear are March 09, 2022. (Photo by Emin Sansar/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Ukrainians wave flags during a live performance by the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra in Independence Square (Image: Emin Sansar/Anadolu Agency via Getty)

A member of the Territorial Defense Forces waits for military exercises amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine in Kyiv, Ukraine March 9, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

A member of the Territorial Defense Forces during military exercises in Kyiv amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine (Image: Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

It had been expected that Russia would launch an intensified attack on Kyiv, including the kind of bombing that has resulted in devastated neighborhoods and atrocious conditions in other cities.

But Air Marshal Edward Stringer told Sky News this afternoon that Moscow may now enact Plan B, which includes advancing on the city with “some form of acceptable solution”.

Civilian evacuations took place in several parts of the country today, including from towns near the capital, with the number of those fleeing the country rising to 2.2 million, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

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Justin Scacco

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