Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the Russian people on Wednesday to stop their leadership from sending troops across the border and into his country, recording an emotional video appeal that underscored the close ties between the two nations.
Zelensky said Moscow had approved the movement of nearly 200,000 troops into Ukrainian territory, along with thousands of armored vehicles lined up at the border. He said an incursion risked becoming “the start of a big war on the European continent.”
“You are being told this is a plan to free the people of Ukraine,” Zelensky said. “But the Ukrainian people are free.”
“Ukraine on your news and Ukraine in real life are two completely different countries — and the main difference is that ours is real,” Zelensky said. “You are told that we are Nazis. How could a people that lost more than 8 million people in the fight against Nazism support Nazism?
“How could I be a Nazi?” Zelensky, who is Jewish, asked, noting that his grandfather spent the entire war as a Soviet soldier but died in an independent Ukraine.
Zelensky said Russians are being told that he is preparing an offensive to retake separatist territory in the Donbas region and “bomb it without question.” But, he asked, who he would be attacking?
“Luhansk? The house where my best friend’s mother lives? The place where the father of my best friend is buried?” Zelensky said.
“This is our land. This is our history. What are you fighting for and with whom?” he said. “Many of you have been to Ukraine. Many of you have relatives in Ukraine. Some have studied in Ukrainian universities. Some have made friends with Ukrainians. You know our character. You know our people. You know our principles.”
“The people of Ukraine want peace,” he said. “The government of Ukraine wants peace.”
He warned Russians that if their military invades Ukraine, his nation would defend itself.
“We know for sure we do not need a war, not a cold one, not a hot one, not a hybrid one,” he said. “But if these forces attack us, if you attempt to take away our country, our freedom, our lives, the lives of our children, we will defend ourselves. Not attack: defend. And in attacking, you are going to see our faces. Not our backs, our faces.”