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‘This is our land. This is our history’: my appeal to the people of Russia

27 February 2022

12:40 AM

27 February 2022

12:40 AM

I come today with an appeal to all citizens of Russia. Not as President. I am appealing to the people of Russia as a citizen of Ukraine.

We share more than 2,000km of border. Around it, today, is your army: almost 200,000 soldiers; thousands of military units. Your leadership has approved their movement towards us. Towards the territory of another country. This step can become the start of a huge war on the European continent. The whole world is talking about what can happen any day now. A reason can appear at any moment. Any provocation. Any spark. A spark that has the potential of burning everything down.

You are told that this flame will bring freedom to the people of Ukraine. But the people of Ukraine are already free. They remember their past and are building their own future. They are building it, not destroying it, as you are told every day on TV. Ukraine in your news and Ukraine in reality are two completely different countries. The most important difference is that ours is real.

You are being told that we are Nazis. But how can a nation be called Nazist after sacrificing more than 8 million lives to eradicate Nazism? How can I be a Nazi, when my grandfather survived the whole war as part of the Soviet infantry, and died a colonel in an independent Ukraine? You are told that we hate Russian culture. But how can a culture be hated? Any culture? Neighbours are always enriching each other culturally. Yet, that does not make them one entity, and does not separate people into ‘us’ and ‘them’. We are different, but that is not a reason to be enemies. We want to build our own history. Peacefully, calmly, and truthfully.

You are told that I am ordering to attack Donbas. To shoot. To bomb without question. Although there are questions: To shoot who? To bomb what?

Donetsk? Where I have been dozens of times? I have seen their faces and eyes.

Artema? Where I’ve walked with friends before?

Donbass Arena? Where I have rooted with the locals for our boys during the Euros?


Shcherbakova Park? Where we drank together after our team lost?

Lugansk? The home of my best friend’s mum? The place where his father is buried?

Note that I am now speaking in Russian, yet no one in Russia understands what these names, streets, and events mean. This is all foreign to you. Unknown. This is our land. This is our history. What are you going to fight for? And against whom?

Many of you have visited Ukraine before. Many of you have relatives in Ukraine. Some of you studied in our universities. Befriended Ukrainians. You know our character, you know our people, you know our principles. You know what we cherish the most. Look inside you, listen to the voice of reason, of common sense. Hear our voices. The people of Ukraine want peace. The Ukrainian authorities want peace. We want it, and we will do everything in our power to make it happen.

We are not alone. It’s true, Ukraine is supported by many countries. Why? Because we are not talking about ‘peace at any cost.’ We are talking about peace, and about principles, justice, about everyone’s right to define their own future, of safety, and everyone’s right to live without the threat of war. All of this is important to us. All of this is important for peace. I know this is also important for you. We know that we don’t want war. Not cold, not hot and not hybrid war.

But, if we are threatened, if someone is trying to take away our country, our freedom, our lives or the lives of our children, we are going to defend ourselves. Not attack, defend. By attacking us, you are going to see our faces. Not backs, our faces.

War is distressing, and it has a high price, in all meanings of the word. People lose their money, reputation, quality of life, freedom, and most importantly, people lose their loved ones. Lose themselves. A lot of things are always lacking in war. But pain, dirt, blood, and death are all in abudance. Thousands, tens of thousands of deaths.

You are told that Ukraine is a threat to Russia. This was not true before, not now, and won’t be in the future. You want security guarantees from Nato. We also want guarantees of our security. The security of Ukraine – from you. From Russia, and from other guarantors of the Budapest memorandum. Today, we are not part of random security alliances. The security of Ukraine is tied to the security of our neighbours. That is why we are now talking about the security of all Europe. But our main goal is peace in Ukraine, and the safety of our citizens. Of Ukrainians. We are determined to let everyone know about this, including you. War is going to deprive everyone of guarantees. No one will have guarantees of security.

Who is going to suffer from this most? The people.

Who doesn’t want this more than anyone? The people.

Who can prevent all this from happening? The people.

If these people are among you – and I am sure they are. Public figures, journalists, musicians, actors, athletes, scientists, doctors, bloggers, stand-ups, Tiktokers, and more. Ordinary people. Ordinary, simple people. Men, women, old, young, fathers, and most importantly – mothers. Just as much as the people in Ukraine, no matter how much they try to convince you of the opposite.

I know that my announcement will not be aired on Russian television. But the citizens of Russia have to see it. They need to know the truth. And the truth is, that this needs to stop, before it’s too late. And if the authorities of Russia don’t want to talk to us, for the sake of peace, maybe they will talk to you.

Do the people of Russia want war? I would like to be able to answer this, but the answer depends only on you: the citizens of the Russian Federation. Thank you.

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Volodymyr Zelenskyy is the president of Ukraine. This piece is an edited transcript of his appeal to the Russian people.


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