After appealing to the Russian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy only received silence in return. He therefore decided to deliver a speech to the people of Russia and to the people of the world; not as the President of Ukraine, but as he put it, as a citizen of Ukraine.
Zelenskyy spoke about the shared 2000km border with Russia that is today breached by almost 200,000 soldiers and thousands of military units. This situation could trigger a widespread war on the European continent. The area is now a smouldering keg that could potentially burst into a catastrophic conflagration.
Zelenskyy reiterated that the people of Ukraine do not need the Russian army to bring them freedom, as they were told. The Ukrainians are free and have been free, living peacefully and building their own future. They have their own culture and are proud of it. The people of Russia were told that the Ukrainians hated Russian culture, but how can culture be hated?
Zelenskyy spoke about mutual cultural enrichment that unites people. There is no, as he put it, “us and them”. Sure enough, it is diverse and unique cultures that should unite nations, not divide them.
The President then mentioned specific cities and places which he was supposedly intent on attacking without question. He categorically denied this, pointing out that places like Donbas, Donetsk, Artema, Donbass Arena or Lugansk were part of his life, imbued with memories and personal affection.
They were as special to him and his people, as they were insignificant to the Russians who have probably never heard of these places. It is this land, this heritage, this history, that belongs to the people of Ukraine.
Zelenskyy spoke directly to the Russian citizens, pointing out how many have visited Ukraine and have family there. Many have studied at Ukrainian universities, making friends and sharing common values and knowledge. Russians and Ukrainians want peace.
Ukraine is supported by many countries because it represents the right to build one’s own future, in peace within the safety of their borders, without the threats of aggression. Peace, principles, justice and self determination are sacrosanct. That is why the Ukrainians do not want war. They want to live harmoniously among their own people, sharing the culture and heritage with their neighbours and the world.
Zelenskyy, however, made it as clear as daylight that when attacked they will not sit back and accept. They will defend themselves at the risk of losing their lives and livelihoods. The President stressed that, although his main goal would always be to fight for peace in Ukraine, it was the security of all Europe that was actually at stake. Destruction and devastation would be inevitable and the ones to suffer will be the people, the common everyday people. It is this reason that should prompt ordinary people to become the bulwark of a peaceful society. People from all walks of life should rise up and show the world that peace is the only solution.
The president ended his riveting speech with a powerful interrogation:
“Do the people of Russia want war? I would like to be able to answer this. But the answer depends only on you: the citizens of the Russian Federation.”