Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has shown the world his patriotism runs deep, by refusing to flee Kyiv and vowing to stay and fight for his nation.
Democrat President Joe Biden and other world leaders have been calling on Zelensky to run for safety and hide from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invading forces.
However, President Zelensky has rejected those calls, declaring that he is staying in the nation’s capital because “the fight is here.”
Zelensky declared that he is still in Kyiv in a video purporting to show the leader on the streets of the embattled city in the early hours of Saturday morning.
After reportedly shutting down a plea from the Biden administration to flee, Zelensky addressed apparent rumors of an evacuation from Kyiv amid a Russian assault.
Zelensky posted a video on his official Twitter account to shut down the rumors as fake news and propaganda aimed at sowing doubts among Ukrainians.
He confirmed that he is still on the ground of the Ukrainian capital.
“I’m here in the ground, we will not lay down our arms,” the president said according to a translation from state news agency Ukrinform.
“We will defend our state because our weapon is our truth.
“Our truth is that this is our land, our country, and our children.
“And we will defend all this.”
Zelensky’s video came just hours after the Associated Press reported that Biden had called on Zelensky to evacuate the city and leave his people behind.
According to the news agency, citing a “senior American intelligence official with direct knowledge of the conversation”, the Ukrainian president replied by saying: “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.”
Не вірте фейкам. pic.twitter.com/wiLqmCuz1p
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) February 26, 2022
Meanwhile, Russia has claimed that Zelensky has fled the capital for Lvov (Lviv) in Western Ukraine, claiming that the videos released by the Ukrainian president were recorded before his departure from Kyiv.
According to Russian state propaganda outlet Sputnik, the Speaker of the State Duma — the lower house of Russia’s parliament — Vyacheslav Volodin, said on Saturday morning: “Zelensky hastily left Kyiv.
“He was not in the capital of Ukraine yesterday.
“Together with his entourage, he fled to the city of Lvov, where he and his assistants were equipped with a place to live.”
Fighting is ongoing in Kyiv’s environs, and city mayor and former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko has claimed that 35 people were injured in fighting between Ukrainian forces and “sabotage groups” as of 6 a.m. local time on Saturday.
Health Minister Viktor Liashko asserted that since Russian strongman Vladimir Putin launched a “full-scale” invasion of Ukraine, there have been 198 civilians killed, including three children.
The health minister went on to claim that 1,115 people, including 33 children, have been wounded in the fighting.
Russia has so far refrained from confirming losses in any details, but an adviser to the Ukrainian President’s Office, Mykhailo Podoliak, claimed on Saturday morning that 3,500 Russian forces have been killed.
“As of this morning, 3,500 people have been killed and a little less than 200 prisoners [taken],” he said.
According to a report from the Moscow correspondent for Britain’s Daily Telegraph, Nataliya Vasilyeva, the spokesman for Russia’s Defence Ministry, Igor Konashenkov, claims that their forces have so far destroyed over 100 Ukrainian military targets.
Speaking this morning, Konashenkov reportedly said that 87 Ukrainian tanks, seven planes, and 9 helicopters had been destroyed.
Moscow also claims to have damaged or destroyed 14 military airfields, 19 command posts, and 24 missile defence systems.
The spokesman also doubled down on Russia’s assertion that they have not been targetting civilians, saying that “Russian troops are taking all the necessary measures to ensure the safety of civilians.”
The Ukrainian government, for its part, has said that they will launch an appeal with the International Criminal Court (ICC), accusing the Russian of committing “war crimes” with an alleged shelling of a kindergarten on Friday.
Aside from confirming that he is still on the ground in Kyiv, President Zelensky also said on Saturday morning that the “crucial moment” has come to decide whether Ukraine should be admitted into the European Union.
“It is a crucial moment to close the long-standing discussion once and for all and decide on Ukraine’s membership in the EU. Discussed with [European Council president Charles Michel] further effective assistance and the heroic struggle of Ukrainians for their free future,” Zelensky said.