Ukraine President’s heartfelt plea to Australia for Russia invasion help
Posted On May 1, 2022
The man who’s become the symbol of Ukrainian resistance and an international icon spoke about the horrors he has seen, the threat to Europe of a nuclear attack, the war’s effects on his family and what it feels like to have a target on his head, in a wide-ranging in-person interview with 60 Minutes.
“I have to be only very thankful to (the) Australian people that you helped us already. And it’s true. But we need more. It’s also true,” he said, switching to English for a direct message to the nation.
The former comedian and TV star did his best to express the importance of the waves of support that have come from the international community, including Australia, to his country’s months-long fight to repel a much larger army some thought would triumph in weeks or days.
“I think you understand my feelings to you,” Mr Zelenskyy told 60 Minutes reporter Tom Steinfort in an Australian-exclusive interview that aired on Sunday night.
“That is the main thing. You have to know that Ukraine will always remember.
“It will be written in our historical books about your help. Thanks a lot.”
His comments came at a key point in the war for Ukraine’s survival. Russia has publicly stepped back from its attempt on the capital of Kyiv, where restaurants and cafes are reopening in a return to something approaching normal.
But the horrors continue as Vladimir Putin redoubles efforts to seize a great swathe of land in the east, bombarding towns such as Mariupol, where thousands of civilians have been trapped with little food, water or medicine for weeks.
Ukrainian officials have expressed fears that what’s found in the strategically important southern port city will be worse than the shocking images out of Bucha.
There, on the outskirts of Kyiv, bodies were found laying in the streets and the sounds of excavators digging more graves sometimes drowned out mourning in the local cemetery.
“I felt pain, I felt an anger, I felt a desire for revenge,” Mr Zelenskyy said of his visit to Bucha.
“And then after that came a lack of understanding. How could you do something like that to people, to humanity? How could you torture that many people?”
It was on that visit to Bucha, more than at any other time, that the emotional impact of the war appeared to show on the president’s face.
“I’m not afraid to show some sort of weakness, you’re right,” he told 60 Minutes.
“You can lose your humanity and I want not to lose it. I want to keep my humanity and that is why I’m watching all of it. I’m looking at photos.
“Getting used to a war is the worst possible habit.”
Mr Zelenskyy warned Russia’s willingness to capture nuclear power plants, such as the one at the site of the Chernobyl disaster, showed “you can’t expect anything from the leadership that they will not be using nuclear weapons.”
International coverage of Ukraine’s efforts to fight off Russian forces has often focused on Mr Zelenskyy, the importance of his decision to stay in Kyiv even when it came under heavy bombing, and the inspirational role his nightly social media addresses have.
But he’s quick to emphasise that it’s his people, and soldiers, who are fighting and suffering the most. That’s even true when it comes to the failed attempts on his life and the targets on the heads of his wife, Olena, and kids, who are subject to special security measures.
“Ten assassination attempts means that there’s only 10 people willing to have me killed,” he said, from the makeshift bunker with blacked out corridors in case of more Russian bombing that has become his home.
“That’s not bad, when people are being tortured, when the bodies of people are found in the wells.
“I think considering all of that. My situation is not that horrible, but I’m afraid for those people.”
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He said his daughter, Oleksandra, 17; and son, Kyrylo, nine; “understand everything” about what’s happening to their country, from what they are fighting for to the knowledge that “we will be victorious”.
“I’m proud of Ukraine and Ukrainians,” he said.
“Because Ukraine without Ukrainians is another country. (It) is all about our people. “I’m very proud that I’m Ukrainian and I’m very proud that the world at least understood that we are strong people and we are always ready.”