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May 28, 2023
europe news Russia Ukraine Vladimir Putin Volodymyr Zelenskiy World news

Standing up to Putin: how Russian threat has toughened up Ukraine’s Zelenskiy

Actor turned president has had profound political transformation in the face of Russian aggression

In 2019, Volodymyr Zelenskiy rode a protest vote to victory in Ukraine, telling his supporters he would jail corrupt politicians and negotiate directly with Vladimir Putin to end Russia’s war in east Ukraine. Nearly three years later, Zelenskiy is staring down the threat of a Russian invasion, while he rallies western powers to his side and calls for aid. “We know what it means to defend one’s own state and land with weapons in hand,” he said during an address last week to the Kyiv Jewish Forum.

Under pressure from Putin, Zelenskiy has undergone a profound political transformation. One thing is clear: he is no longer the same dove that he was on the campaign trail. Russia is pushing Ukraine toward Nato, he says, and a membership action plan is now central to his foreign policy. This month, Zelenskiy toured the frontline outside Donetsk. Wearing a flak jacket and helmet, he chatted with service personnel who will be the first line of Ukraine’s defence should tanks from Russia begin to roll.

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