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President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reassured Ukrainians on Wednesday that Kyiv would triumph over Russia and achieve a just peace “against all odds” even as the fate of crucial U.S. military and financial aid remained uncertain.
Zelenskyy delivered his defiant message in an unconventional early morning video that showed him walking through Kyiv on his way to pay tribute to fallen soldiers on Armed Forces Day in Ukraine.
“It has been difficult, but we have persevered,” said Zelenskyy, who filmed himself on a mobile phone as he walked from his office down the central Hrushevskoho street towards central Kyiv’s “wall of remembrance.”
“It is not easy now, but we are moving. No matter how difficult it is, we will get there. To our borders, to our people. To our peace. Fair peace. Free peace. Against all odds.”
His remarks appeared to address the uncertainty surrounding a $60-billion aid package being debated in U.S. Congress, which has been stalled for weeks.
Zelenskyy canceled plans on Tuesday to address U.S. lawmakers to directly appeal for the aid as Congress grapples with Republican demands to link the assistance to an overhaul of U.S. immigration and border policies.
Kyiv has heavily relied on assistance from its Western allies in its battle against Russia’s much larger army in the largest war in Europe since World War II, now in its 22nd month.
A proposed European Union military aid package has also faced opposition from some members of the bloc.
In one of the bleakest assessments yet by a senior Ukrainian official, Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said Tuesday that the delay of the U.S. aid posed a “big risk” of Ukraine losing the war.
Moscow controls about 17.5% of Ukraine’s territory, and Ukrainian forces are now confronting a new Russian offensive on the eastern front, with particularly intense fighting around the towns of Avdiivka and Mariinka.
In his video, Zelenskyy greeted people as he made his way through the slippery, winter streets.
He stated that Ukraine had no alternative but to liberate its territories occupied by Russia.
“These are our lands. These are our people. Is there an alternative? No. Nine years and 651 days of war are behind us. Victory is ahead. And how else? Could there be an alternative? We all know: no,” Zelenskyy said.
He was later seen paying his respects at the wall of remembrance created in 2014 to honor victims of Russia’s war against Ukraine. Moscow seized the peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and supported a militant insurgency in the east.
While the original panels were neatly structured with orderly military pictures, that changed after Russia’s invasion in February 2022. Grieving families placed hundreds of personal photos there.
Zelenskyy said the wall would help strengthen Ukrainians’ spirit against “fear, mistrust, despair, discord and thoughts of giving up.”
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