As Russian troops encircle Kyiv, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has struck a defiant tone while allowing that his bravery may cost him dearly. In a video call with European Union leaders Thursday night, Zelensky told them, “This might be the last time you see me alive.”
In an address on Thursday an unshaven and casually dressed Zelensky had called himself “Target No. 1” but said Ukrainians “are not afraid of anything.”
And in a short video Friday night, he appeared with troops in Kyiv.
Zelensky, a former comedian, even managed to inject a bit of levity into the grim situation, making light of an apparent missed phone call with Italy’s prime minister.
U.S. officials say Kyiv could be captured by Russia in short order, though invading forces are reportedly facing more resistance than they had expected. Russian officials signaled they would be open to some form of negotiations Friday, but such talks seemed unlikely given Putin’s clear aim to topple Zelensky. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov referred to the democratically elected Ukrainian government as “the current puppet regime” and said it would be brought “to justice.”
In remarks Friday, Putin sounded as detached from reality as he did when he declared war, labeling Ukrainian leadership “drug dealers” and “neo-Nazis” — a particularly outrageous claim considering Zelensky is Jewish.