He told ‘Russian conscripts’ to ‘listen to me very carefully’
Ukrainian soldiers examine their tanks at a military unit close to Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Monday. (AP/Andrew Marienko)
On an address early Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy predicted victory over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces in Ukraine and offered Russian troops a “chance to survive” by surrendering.
“The 19th day of our resistance is over. Historical war. Another difficult day, which is still approaching our victory. Approaching peace for Ukraine,” Zelenskyy began, according to his presidential office.
He noted that “the enemy is confused” and did not expect stiff resistance. “Their soldiers know this. Their officers are aware of this. They flee the battlefield. They abandon equipment.”
“We take trophies and use them to protect Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said. “Today, Russian troops are, in fact, one of the suppliers of equipment to our army. They could not imagine such a thing in a nightmare.”
He then addressed the Russian soldiers, urging them to surrender.
“Russian conscripts! Listen to me very carefully,” Zelenskyy warned. “Russian officers! You’ve already understood everything. You will not take anything from Ukraine. You will take lives. There are a lot of you. But your life will also be taken. But why should you die? What for? I know that you want to survive.”
“Therefore, I offer you a choice,” the president said. “On behalf of the Ukrainian people, I give you a chance. Chance to survive.”
“If you surrender to our forces, we will treat you the way people are supposed to be treated. As people, decently. In a way you were not treated in your army. And in a way your army does not treat ours,” Zelenskyy added. “Choose!”
He also praised the Russians “who do not stop trying to convey the truth” despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on protests and journalists who buck his government narrative. Zelenskyy specifically mentioned the woman who disrupted the Russian state television broadcaster Channel One.
He said he is “grateful … personally to the woman who entered the studio of Channel One with a poster against the war. To those who are not afraid to protest. As long as your country has not completely closed itself off from the whole world, turning into a very large North Korea, you must fight. You must not lose your chance.”
The president also warned that Russian military leaders will be held responsible for war crimes.
“Responsibility for war crimes of the Russian military is inevitable,” he said. “Responsibility for a deliberate humanitarian catastrophe in Ukrainian cities is inevitable. The whole world sees what is happening in Mariupol. Kharkiv. Chernihiv. Sumy. Okhtyrka. Hostomel. Irpin. In all our cities.”
Zelenskyy briefly addressed the peace talks with Russian negotiators, saying they appear to be “pretty good.”
“Our delegation also worked on this in negotiations with the Russian party. Pretty good, as I was told,” he said. “But let’s see. They will continue tomorrow.”