‘I want to remain human’: Volodymyr Zelenskyy on the price of war and the future of Ukraine

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War has a approach of robbing you of your humanity, leaving you bitter and hole.

As the chief of a rustic whose folks face a barrage of dying and distress on daily basis, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is acutely conscious of his personal wrestle to keep his humanity.

“I do not enable myself to get used to it,” he mentioned.

“I dwell with the concept that I’m not prepared to get used to struggling, to get used to war.”

Firefighters work to put out a fireplace in an vitality infrastructure facility broken by a Russian missile strike in Zhytomyr, Ukraine on October 18, 2022. (State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Reuters)

In his interview this week with Canadian journalists (my CBC News colleagues Briar Stewart and Radio-Canada’s Marie-Eve Bédard, and CTV’s Paul Workman), the former comic and actor turned world chief delivered a tour-de-force efficiency.

Eloquent, forceful and gusty, but additionally gracious and at occasions relaxed, Zelenskyy known as out Iran for promoting “kamikaze” drones to Russia — the variety getting used to wreck Ukraine’s electrical energy grid. He known as on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Europe to cease dealing with Moscow with child gloves over the occupation of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear energy plant.

He additionally provided some exceptional moments of reflection — glimpses of the man behind the workplace and the depth of the anger and resentment his folks would possibly carry into an eventual peace with Russia.

During an interview interrupted by stories of missile and drone strikes, and the thud of anti-aircraft rockets launching, Zelenskyy mentioned he finds the vitality to hold going after greater than seven months of war in his willpower to not to lose himself — to not change into consumed by the war.

“I want to remain human, simply an atypical human, regardless of the indisputable fact that I’m a president,” he mentioned, including that he tries, (each time his safety element permits it) to get exterior and even drive, to take pleasure in some vestiges of a standard life.

In an interview with an American journal earlier than the war, he described the presidential palace as a gilded cage. Since the onset of main hostilities, it has change into a fortress ringed by sandbags, its neatly manicured lawns cut up by trenches.

‘The society is not going to forgive them’

Zelenskyy mentioned that when he does discover area to chill out, he tries to be taught what is going on on in the wider world. That, he mentioned, inevitably leads to ideas about what life may be like after the war.

He mentioned he is undecided what type of relationship his folks and nation could have with Russia after the war.

“They took too many individuals, too many lives,” Zelenskyy mentioned. “The society is not going to forgive them.”

Much will probably be settled on the battlefield and a lot will rely, he mentioned, on whether or not Ukraine’s territory is restored.

Tatiana Alexeyevna mourns over the coffin of her son Col. Oleksiy Telizhenko throughout his funeral in Bucha, close to Kyiv, Ukraine on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022. In March, Col. Oleksiy was kidnapped by Russian troopers from his residence in Bucha. Six months later, his physique was discovered with indicators of torture buried in a forest not removed from his village. (Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press)

Ukraine’s future, and its prospects for a steady relationship with its Russian neighbours, rely “on the price paid for the return of our lands,” Zelenskyy mentioned.

But he additionally acknowledged he wonders how — in spite of everything the dying and destruction, all the toxic rhetoric coming from the Kremlin, its vows to wipe Ukraine off the face of the earth — Ukrainians can ever overlook, or forgive.

“It will probably be the selection of our society whether or not to speak to them, or not to speak in any respect, and for what number of years, tens of years or extra,” he mentioned. “How a lot it would take, after this war, till these societies will begin speaking once more.

“But nobody is aware of that.”

There’s one factor about Ukraine’s post-war political path he feels assured of now, he mentioned: his fellow residents’ willpower to flip towards Europe, quite than again towards Moscow.

WATCH: Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanks Canada for its help

‘We’re like kin’: Zelenskyy on Ukraine’s relationship with Canada

In his first sit-down interview with Canadian media since Russia’s invasion, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy mentioned his nation’s relationship with Canada is greater than a partnership.

“The folks will get safety, the folks will get European civilization, the folks will get peace, safety, borders, salaries,” he mentioned. “Investors will not be scared however will make investments cash in a rustic that is not at war. That’s what these folks will get. It’s not us, it is all of us.”

When Russian President Vladimir Putin started his war, he tried to justify the invasion partially by claiming Ukraine subjected its ethnic Russian residents to discriminatory therapy.

Ukraine has legal guidelines to take care of collaborators. But as Ukrainian forces liberate extra territory, Zelenskyy is confronted with the query of whether or not reconciliation is feasible with these Ukrainian residents who supported the occupation. 

“If some of them want to keep a citizen of the Russian federation, effectively, no drawback,” he mentioned. “Nobody’s going to persecute that particular person. This particular person could go to the Russian federation and dwell there. That’s so simple as that.”

For Ukraine and Zelenskyy, peace, forgiveness and reconciliation appear to be hazy, distant notions at this level.

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