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Sandbags and soldiers as Ukraine leader gives interview under siege -Breaking


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO. Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the Ukrainian president, speaks during an interview for Reuters following Russia’s invasion in Ukraine. Interview held in Kyiv (Ukraine), March 1, 2022. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

By Aleksandar Vasovic

KYIV, Reuters – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zilenskiy frequently eschews the office trappings when dealing with the media. He has granted access to journalists who have beaten him at table-tennis and held long-term peacetime press conferences inside a food court.

The extraordinary circumstances surrounding his interview with CNN and Reuters on Tuesday afternoon were forced upon him.

It was not playful, but the message from the comedian actor wasn’t funny. There were also no dramatic scenes in unusual settings away from the Bankova presidential palace in the center of Kyiv.

Reuters reporters drove in a van from the capital to get to the site. This building looked to be an unassuming Soviet-era administrative center teeming mostly with young, heavily-armed soldiers.

The bottom windows were blocked by sandbags, so the blinds had to be pulled down. Bright lamps from the television crews shined through the darkness. The background was created by moving the presidential standard and flag of Ukraine closer together.

Zelenskiy appeared with his entourage along a corridor. After greeting reporters with a handshake, smile and a nod, he stood at the top of a short flight of marble steps to relay his message.

The 44-year old, who was tired and unashamed, yet impassioned throughout the speech, urged the international community not to forget Ukraine.

As he did throughout all his appearances on social media since the invasion started seven days ago, he wore an olive-coloured T shirt, pants, and combat shoes.

He was convinced that he was the president of war and the most important target for the invading Russian troops, which are now encroaching upon the capital. He answered, “I sleep and work.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin directed the “special military operations” on Thursday to dearm Ukraine and capture the terrorist elements that he claims are ruling the 44-million-strong country. He also wanted to crush Ukraine’s hopes for closer relations with the West.

Although Zelenskiy was mostly businesslike and defiant in his approach, emotions did come through when he addressed the problems of Ukraine’s younger generation and revealed that he hadn’t seen his children for over two days.

Zelenskiy answered when asked how long he would keep his country afloat: “We are not giving up, we fight, our nation will continue fighting until the very end. We are protecting our homeland, this is where we live. We are doing this for the future of our children.

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