“We are all here protecting our independence, our country and we are going to continue to do so,” the Ukrainian leader said on February 25.
On the hundredth day of that struggle, having survived more than a dozen Russian attempts to kill him and led his country to victory in Kyiv and other parts of the country, Zelensky posted another video that deliberately echoed the first.
“The leaders of parliamentary factions are here. The president’s chief of staff is here. Prime minister of Ukraine Shmyhal is here. Podolyak is here. The president is here,” he said. “Our team is much bigger. The armed forces of Ukraine are here. Most importantly, our people, the people of our country, are here. We have been defending Ukraine for 100 days. Victory shall be ours. Glory to Ukraine.”
While Russia has been making gains in eastern Ukraine, the reason they failed to secure the quick victory they had hoped for is that Ukrainians, inspired by the bravery of their leader, united to resist the invasion.
They have been fighting to preserve their democratic freedoms and prevent a tyrant from forcibly bringing them under his control.
For anyone who has grown complacent about democratic values in the West, this should be a reminder of how important they are. They are worth fighting and dying for.
But even during peacetime, these values – centred on equality, human rights and free speech – should be cherished and nurtured, lest our society succumb to illiberal ideas. Populists the world over have been working to subvert democracy. Putin succeeded and Donald Trump tried alarmingly hard.
So, as we mark the 70th year of our non-political head of state, designed as a unifying figure, we should always remember to retain a basic level of respect towards those with whom we disagree.
No matter how bitter the political divides in this country, they are as nothing compared to the difference between anyone who upholds democratic principles and a despot like Putin who uses violence and intimidation to enforce his will on others.