Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in an interview with the TIME magazine, opened up about his close brush with being captured or killed by Russian troops in the initial days of the Russian invasion.
In the early hours of February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the decision to invade Ukraine and “denazify” the neighbouring nation. The move came after weeks of troop build-up and drills in Belarus and other border regions of Ukraine.
In an exclusive interview with the American news magazine, Zelenskyy said that the military informed him that teams of Russian strikers had parachuted into the capital city of Kyiv in order to kill or capture him and his family. His chief of staff Andriy Yermak confirmed this, adding: “Before that night, we had only ever seen such things in the movie.”
The comedian-turned-politician also spoke of how he and his wife Olena Zelenska broke the news of the war to their kids. “We woke them up,” said Zelenskyy, speaking of his 17-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son. “It was loud. There were explosions over there,” he said, reminiscing the early hours of February 24 when the bombing started in Kyiv.
Late that night, as the President’s family sheltered with him in the presidential compound, Russian troops made two attempts to get into the premises, said the news report, quoting Oleksiy Arestovych, a veteran of Ukraine’s military intelligence service.
The report also touched upon the President’s quote — “I need ammunition, not a ride” — that made headlines worldwide.
The 44-year-old President’s advisors said that though the British and American forces offered to evacuate the President and his core team to a safer neighbouring country (eastern Poland was an option), the proposal was not given much thought. Against the advice of his bodyguards, he chose to stay at the compound which was surrounded by private homes, which made the presidential office vulnerable to snipers and bombers.
Zelenskyy said that by then, he had understood his role in the war. “You understand that they’re watching,” he says. “You’re a symbol. You need to act the way the head of state must act.”