Two weeks with Volodymyr Zelensky

Against a black background, the now familiar profile of the Ukrainian president is on the cover of the American weekly Time. Since the start of the war in Ukraine on February 24, thousands of journalists have called on him and his team. A restricted entourage made up of people “from the world of entertainment, as well as former bloggers and journalists renowned before the war”, as journalist Simon Shuster of Time.

The latter, who had already met Volodymyr Zelensky three years ago after one of his shows in kyiv, when he was still only this humorist who wanted to become president, spent nearly two weeks, at the end of April, next to him, on Bankova Street, in the presidential building.

In the presidential district, the streets are filled with checkpoints and barricades, says the journalist, “Civilians’ vehicles are not allowed to approach, and soldiers ask pedestrians for secret passwords that change daily, usually strings of nonsense words, like ‘coffee cup suit‘, which Russians would find difficult to pronounce”.

haunted by the dead

The American journalist notes that Zelensky has not lost his sense of humor. A “means of survival”, says the president. But the two months of war that have just passed “have seasoned him, he gets angry more easily and is much less afraid of taking risks. […] Images of dead civilians continue to haunt him. So are the daily calls for his troops, hundreds of whom are trapped underground, running out of food, water and ammunition.”

On April 8, while the bodies of civilians were still being exhumed in Boutcha, a town northwest of kyiv inaccessible to the Ukrainian army for almost a month, images of the carnage at the Kramatorsk station, where Russian missiles killed at least 50 people and injured more than a hundred others, including children, reach Volodymyr Zelensky. An image still haunts him, says the American journalist. “We saw a woman decapitated by the explosion, says the Ukrainian president. She wore brightly colored clothes that stuck in my memory.

That day, he still had this image in mind when he took part in one of the most important meetings, the one with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, who had just arrived by train in kyiv to offer it an accelerated accession procedure. “Ukraine has been waiting for this for decades. As that moment finally arrived, President Zelensky couldn’t help but think back to that decapitated woman.” recount Time.

While civilians are still trapped underground or under ruins, while Russians are still committing war crimes, while their bombs are razing entire cities, Volodymyr Zelensky, “the actor-turned-president must do everything to stay in the center of international attention and convince foreign leaders to help his country now, at all costs”.

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