The Atlantic Daily: Zelensky Says the Worst May Be Ahead of Us
Ukraine can win—but it needs more help from allies, President Volodymyr Zelensky told our staff writer Anne Applebaum and editor in chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, during a sit-down in Kyiv.
On Tuesday night, our staff writer Anne Applebaum and our editor in chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, interviewed President Volodymyr Zelensky at his compound in Kyiv.
“Soldiers with flashlights led us through a maze of sandbagged corridors to a harshly lit, windowless room adorned only with Ukrainian flags,” Jeff and Anne write. “There was no formal protocol, no long wait, and we were not told to sit at the far end of an elongated table. Zelensky, the comedian who has become a global icon of freedom and bravery, entered the room without fanfare.”
In a wide-ranging conversation, they discussed what Ukraine needs (military resources), what it has endured so far in the fight against Russia, and the importance of humor even amid tragedy. It is worth reading in full, but here are four key takeaways from their dispatch.
1. Zelensky believes Ukraine can win the war—but it needs supplies.
“Now is not yet the time of victory,” Zelensky told Anne and Jeff. “When some leaders ask me what weapons I need, I need a moment to calm myself, because I already told them the week before. It’s Groundhog Day. I feel like Bill Murray.”
“I come and say that I need this particular weapon. You have it and here it is; we know where it is stored. Can you give it to us? We can even fly our own cargo planes and pick it up; we can even send three planes per day.”
2. He warned of a looming Russian attack this weekend.
Jeff and Anne write that “many Ukrainians are going to spend the holy season under siege, hiding in basements. Others will not live to see the holiday at all.” Early this morning, Russia bombed Kyiv again. “This is not Christian behavior at all, as I understand it. On Easter they will kill, and they will be killed,” Zelensky said, referring to a battle Moscow is believed to be planning in Donbas.
3. He spoke about humor in dark times.
“Without a sense of humor, as surgeons say, they would not be able to perform surgeries—to save lives and to lose people as well. They would simply lose their minds without humor,” the former comedian and actor said. Ukrainians “can see what a tragedy we have, and it’s hard to live with it. But you have to live with it … You can’t be serious about what Russian politicians and [Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a Moscow ally,] say every day. If you take it seriously, you might as well go and hang yourself.”
4. Ukraine’s battlefield wins are shadowed by colossal loss.
“There will be no complete victory for people who lost their children, relatives, husbands, wives, parents,” Zelensky said. “They will not feel the victory, even when our territories are liberated.”
A personal moment: This’ll be my last Daily. Don’t worry, I’m not going far: I’ll be writing for our Ideas section starting in May. You’ll be in good hands. An excellent lineup of my colleagues will be taking the helm of this newsletter starting next week.
Before I go, I wanted to take a moment and say thank you. We lived through so much together over the past three-ish years (you don’t need me to list it all). We asked questions and tried to make sense of everything that was happening around us. On my hardest days, when the news cycle felt unrelenting, your notes of encouragement kept me going. Thank you all so much for reading, and for welcoming me into your inbox. It was an honor. Please stay in touch!
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