Volodymyr Zelensky – the frontline President

The second book by Andrew L. Urban and Chris McLeod to examine Ukraine’s President in the context of the Russian invasion of February 2022, contrasts Zelensky, often at the front line leading his military with Russia’s Vladimir Putin anywhere but the front line – a symbolic but also dynamic difference.

Edited extracts:

After bearing the brunt of Russia’s bloody attacks for more than a year, Ukraine was fighting back. A much-vaunted offensive began to reclaim the occupied territories, slowly.  Zelensky was still prepared to go to the front lines despite the danger of getting within range of Russian strikes.

He addressed parliaments around the world more than 20 times and hosted visits form the leaders of more than 40 countries.

He addressed the United Nations multiple times, including in person at the General Assembly held at UN headquarters in the US on 19 September 2023 where he called for reform of the organisation that allowed Russia the veto on decisions.

Zelensky said Russia was an habitual aggressor, referring to Moscow’s military interventions in Moldova, Georgia and Syria, it’s increased control over Belarus and threats against the Baltic States.

“The goal of the present war against Ukraine is to turn our land, our people, our lives, our resources, into a weapon against you, against the international rules-based order,” he said.

Zelensky had seen first-hand the situation in the Donbas and Donetsk regions, he’d been to Kharkiv, Zaporazhye and Mykolaiv which had by then borne the brunt of the brutal assaults by Russia.

Putin had not been seen anywhere near the front lines and only ventured into occupied areas a year after the invasion. He ventured outside Russia a few times, to China (just before the invasion), Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan. He took part in various summits and met Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan at one of them.

Zelensky’s emotional speech to the US Congress drew much applause, particularly when  he presented a Ukrainian flag, said to  be from the front lines in Donbas, and signed by the troops, to the chamber.

He encouraged Ukrainian civil servants to also visit the front line to encourage and support the fighting soldiers, to whom he presented awards and gifts. “I just want to thank each of you, each serviceman, for protecting Ukraine on a daily basis,” he said. “Come back alive from the combat field.”

In newly liberated Izium, Zelensky raised the Ukrainian flag. Safe in Moscow, Putin was opening a giant new Ferris wheel.

As Zelensky was sharing a meal with his soldiers on the front line, 70 local councillors from various regions in Russia were signing a petition calling for Putin’s resignation. This protest started in St Petersburg, where councillors called for Putin to be indicted on charges of treason.

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