“Do Russians want war?"
Putin's war propaganda answered with dignity by the Ukrainian president
Vladimir Putin absurdly claims he has invaded Ukraine to protect Russian-speakers. Yet Russian speakers in Ukraine are far more free than Russian speakers in Russia.
A Russian speaker in Russia who thought of running for president would be imprisoned, as Alexei Navalny has been. A Russian-speaker, meanwhile, can run for president of Ukraine, and win. That has happened more than once.
Just before Russia began its full invasion of Ukraine, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelens’kyi, gave a moving and dignified speech in Russian to the Russian people. I tweeted it out as I listened to it.
This is not a translation of his dignified, thoughtful, and balanced speech; just a hasty set of notes made late on a terrible night. But as the Russian assault begins, on grotesque and Orwellian premises, Zelenskyi’s address was an important attempt at communication and reconciliation that deserves to be remembered; these notes are a gestures towards that.
Putin absurdly claims that he must invade Ukraine to denazify it. Zelens’kyi unlike Putin is a democratically-elected president. Zelenskyi unlike Putin does not support racists and white supremacists around the world. He interprets the Second World War from a Ukrainian perspective.
“How can you call us Nazis when we gave millions of lives in the Second World War?” It is a fair point. Ukrainian soldiers died in terrible numbers in the Red Army: more than Americans, British, and Frenchmen combined during the Second World War. He adds: “Tell it to my grandfather, who fought in the Soviet infantry and died as a colonel in independent Ukraine.” President Zelensky does not mention that his grandfather’s father and much of his family were murdered in the Holocaust.
President Zelensky says that Russian culture and culture in general should unite people, not divide them. Culture is about communication, not conflict.
He says that the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian government want peace, but will defend themselves.
President Zelens’kyi says that he trusts that there are Russians who will understand him and who also want to avoid the horror and sorrow of war. ask Russians to disregard war propaganda and to take responsibility.
“Do Russians want war? I would very much like an answer to that question. It depends upon you, citizens of the Russian Federation.”
(The speech can be found here. The Russian portion begans at 2:00.)