Ukraine’s president admitted to the Washington Post that he withheld information from the CIA about the impending Russian invasion to avoid widespread panic. Since then, it has drawn a barrage of criticism.
A first catch in Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s previously flawless communication? In the center of a River interview given to the Washington Post and published on Tuesday, August 16, Ukraine’s president admitted to not informing his people about the upcoming Russian invasion, or at least minimizing its impact. “If we had spread chaos among the population before the invasion, the Russians would have eaten us up,” he justified himself to the American daily. The head of state says he fears general panic and a massive exodus from the country.
But also a fatal economic collapse. “If we had communicated (about the invasion, ed.), I would have lost $7 billion a month since last October, and when the Russians attacked, they would have beaten us in three days,” he said. Volodymyr Zelenskyi points out that in the weeks leading up to the war, Ukrainians withdrew large sums from their accounts, knowing “that this would adversely affect the country’s economy”. In his opinion, raising the threat of war would only have exacerbated this phenomenon.
A reasoned decision a posteriori
However, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has served as Ukraine’s providential man from the start of the conflict, rejects any large-scale cover-up. He assures that the Ukrainians had “access to all available information” about the upcoming wars and recalls that the Russian army has been rounding up men and equipment at the borders for the past six months. He admits that he himself never thought of a war of this magnitude. The only important “detail” that the President of Ukraine did not share: information from the CIA that the Russians would land at Hostomel airport in order to quickly reach Kyiv and remove it from power.
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But afterwards the head of state is satisfied with his position and believes he made the right decision, because the Russian troops did not manage to reach the capital. “When the invasion started, we were as strong as we could be,” he told the Washington Post. “Some of our compatriots left, but most stayed and fought for their homeland. And as cynical as it sounds, these are the people who stopped the Russians.”
outcry on social media
However, these statements did not satisfy the Ukrainian population, who since the interview was published have criticized their president for prioritizing the country’s economic health. Many on social media believe that if the government had properly prepared the population for war, many lives could have been saved. Some shared their experiences of war and chaos, stating that if they had been warned of its magnitude, they might have experienced this invasion differently. Public figures have also directly attacked President Zelenskyy, accusing him of some responsibility for the atrocities committed by the Russians.
For example, the editor-in-chief of news site Ukrainska Pravda, Sevgil Musaieva, felt “personally offended” by the head of state’s justifications because she believed they were questioning the intelligence of the Ukrainian people. She claims she would not have fled the war if she had been warned. “How dare someone who killed Mariupol, Butcha and Kherson say that an evacuation would have overwhelmed the country,” protested journalist Bohdan Butkevich, pointing to the places where Russia is accused of abuse. “He didn’t want to put the country in a state of war because he was afraid of losing power,” he said.
For Ukrainian author Kateryna Babkina, refusing to warn civilians in threatened areas was even “a strategic miscalculation” and “a crime”. Some, on the other hand, preferred to defend Zelensky, believing that everyone knew war was approaching and that a presidential declaration would have had little effect.
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