As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said, when Russia invaded his country 100 days ago, no one expected him to survive the attack. World leaders advised him to leave.
“But they didn’t know us,” he said in a late-night video address in April, 50 days into the war. And they did not know how brave we Ukrainians are, how much we value freedom.”
He could speak for himself. No one knew how the 44-year-old who had leapt himself from the entertainment world to the presidency would respond to the invasion of the massive Russian army.
His response was strong and very public. Zelensky led his country in setting up an unexpectedly fierce resistance. Every night he calls the Ukrainians to fight with a video speech on social networks. So far he’s done 100, one for each day of the struggle. They are nightly reminders that he did not flee and that Ukraine survived.
His voice, trained for his role as an actor, can be reassuring, a deep, secret whisper as he looks straight into the camera. Or powerful, she rises angrily as she condemns recent Russian atrocities and insists that those responsible be punished.
Over the course of the days and weeks, a dark beard appeared on his unshaven face. He lost his youthful appearance. The dark circles after sleepless nights as Russian forces advanced into the capital, Kyiv, gave way to a new design as the invasion stalled.
From the beginning of the war, he wore various colors of military green, and most of the time he wore a simple shirt. The impression he gives is clear: he’s out of the fight and he’s about to get back in.
Skillful and diligent, Zelensky speaks via videoconference at the United Nations, the British Parliament, the US Congress and about two dozen other parliaments around the world, as well as at the Cannes Film Festival and at the Grammy Awards. Rarely is a man without a tie addressing so many personalities. He also gave interviews to journalists and held a press conference in the Kyiv metro security.
But his late-night speeches were his favorite channel to inform and inspire his countrymen.
It usually begins with a profuse greeting to Ukrainians along the lines of “the free people of a brave country” or “the indomitable people of our great country”. But it always ends with “Glory to Ukraine”.
He talks about the world leaders with whom he dealt during the day and his attempts to get them to send him more and better weapons, so that they impose more restrictive sanctions on Russia.
It points to the anger and pain of his fellow citizens at the destruction of the country, and for the countless dead. “My heart breaks for what Russia is doing to our people,” he said on March 16, after bombs from Moscow killed hundreds of people who had taken shelter in a theater in Mariupol.
He acknowledges their courage and says that he never tires of thanking all those who are fighting for the future of Ukraine. On April 14, she said, if the country did not fall within days as Moscow predicted, it was because millions of Ukrainians “have made the most important decision of their lives: to fight.”
He also tried to communicate with the Russian public, as happened on April 1, when he switched from Ukrainian to Russian to urge his neighbors to keep their children away from the war.
“We don’t need more deaths here,” he said. “Take care of your children so that they don’t become evil, and don’t send them to the army. Do whatever you can to keep them alive. At home.”
In his speech on Friday, on the 100th day of the war, Zelensky said that many words and numbers are now associated with the war, but “there are three words, after eight years, for which we have been fighting for 100 days: ‘peace’. ,” Victory ,” “Ukraine.” Glory to Ukraine!
Justifying the invasion that began on February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin said it was saving the country from “drug addicts and neo-Nazis” in Zelensky’s government. Since then, he has ignored invitations from his Ukrainian counterpart to meet.
In June 2019, shortly after Zelensky’s election, Putin was asked why he did not congratulate the new leader. In a condescending response, the Russian president seemed to belittle the actor-turned-president.
“Well, to play the role of one person and to play the role of another is one thing,” Putin said. “The important thing is to have the courage and the character to take responsibility. So far he hasn’t shown that character.
For 100 nights, that character was visible to Ukrainians and the world. So does Putin.