My hero of the year – Volodymyr Zelenskyy

For many Ukrainians, this year’s Christmas will be held by candlelight Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Congress yesterday. In what may have been his first outing outside Ukraine since the war started 300 days before, Zelenskyy didn’t don a suit for the occasion. Ever the role player, he turned up on Capitol Hill wearing his signature khaki fatigues.

I watched President Zelenskyy’s speech to Congress in the early hours (UK time). I couldn’t help welling up at times. Here was a man once dismissed as a comedian that once pretended to be a president and incredulously became the real thing. Now he is standing on the world stage. Leading the fight for peace against Putin and Russia’s generals.

The war in Ukraine is not just about Putin’s manic ambition for recreating the USSR with all its threats to the rest of the world and its suppression of internal dissent. It is not just about a bitter, bloody and deathly conflict. Tens of thousands of Ukrainians have been killed. One in four of Ukraine’s population has been displaced. Several towns, cities, and villages have been destroyed. Maybe 70,000 or more Russian soldiers have died.

It is a fight for freedom. Zelenskyy’s nation is fighting a proxy war against a dictator on behalf of the rest of the free world.

Zelenskyy stood unfazed as Congress repeatedly rose to give him standing ovations, to whistle and cheer.

He deftly addressed his speech to the American people, among whom support is diminishing. Support is lowest among Republicans, including some sceptical members of Congress.

He told representatives:

Against all odds and doom and gloom, Ukraine is alive and kicking. Ukraine holds its lines and will never surrender.

Just like the brave American soldiers which held their lines and fought back Hitler’s forces during the Christmas of 1944. Brave Ukrainian soldiers are doing the same to Putin’s forces this Christmas.

Zelenskyy addressed the need for funding and hardware from the west:

Your money is not charity. It’s an investment in the global security and democracy.

Your support is crucial. We have artillery, yes. Thank you. We have it. Is it enough? Honestly, not really.

That drew ironic laughter. Zelenskyy doubled down of the importance of a war far from American soil:

This battle will define in what world our children and grandchildren will live. Next year will be a turning point. Ukraine holds its lines and will never surrender.

The struggle will define in what world our children and grandchildren will live and then our children and grandchildren.

And Zelenskyy had a message for Russian citizens:

The Russian tyranny has lost control over us. I know one more very important thing. The Russians will stand a chance to be free only when they defeat the Kremlin in their minds.

Towards the end of his speech, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy presented House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris a Ukrainian flag signed by frontline troops in Bakhmut, where “every inch was soaked in blood”:

This flag is a symbol of our victory in this war. We stand, we fight and we will win because we are united – Ukraine, America and the entire free world.

Britain should continue to back this war. Rishi Sunak, forever an accountant lacking in vision, is reviewing how much support for Ukraine is costing Britain. This is not a time to walk away from nation that supports a free world. Where soldiers and citizens are laying down their lives for a free world.

It is a time to ensure that tyranny doesn’t win.

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at andybodders.co.uk. He is Thursday editor of Lib Dem Voice.

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9 Comments

  • Daniel Howitt 22nd Dec '22 - 11:15am

    A man who has the courage to stand against Russia and show it for what it is.

  • Joseph Gerald Bourke 22nd Dec '22 - 4:24pm

    President Zelenskyy is deserving of accolades for the manner in which he has inspired the Ukrainian people and brought together a coalition of International support to resist invasion by an immensely powerful foe.
    The war in Ukraine has brought into sharp focus the need for the Liberal democracies of this world to protect the hard-earned rights and freedoms that have been won at such cost in human suffering over the centuries.
    The celebrations and optimism that followed from the tearing down of the Berlin wall did not extend to Russia. The 1990s were a period of economic chaos for most ordinary working Russians. The advent of the 21st century was a turning point, at least for those west of the Urals, with Russia experiencing economic growth and much needed stability for the first decade of the new century, on the back on abundant natural resource exports.
    The Putin regime has now thrown Russia into chaos once again and Ukraine has been given no choice but to defend itself against an aggressive and especially brutal neighbour.
    We do not yet know how this war will end whether with a military defeat of one side or the other, or some form of brokered peace settlement. We do know (lest we had forgot) that the right to live free in this world has to be defended generation after generation and Ukraine stands at the forefront of that defence this Christmas.

  • Zachary Adam Barker 22nd Dec '22 - 10:29pm

    My hero too. And and an elected Head of State to boot.

  • Hear hear

  • Strangely the Ukrainians we know here do not have a high opinion of him. They cannot explain why but I think they feel that he has co-operated with Russia in the past.
    Hopefully they will start changing their minds about him as they will need him to inspire them when this is over.

  • My heroes of the year are Doddie Weir (and family), Rob Burrow (and family), and Kevin Sinfield.

    As for politicians of all hues, I learned long ago that getting them to put their money where their mouths are is an accomplishment very rarely achieved.

  • Mick Taylor 24th Dec '22 - 8:42am

    @David Raw. In the UK you’d certainly be right, but there are a couple of countries in the EU where politicians do what they say they will. In Greece Mr Mitsoutakis seems likely to get himself re-elected next year precisely because he did carry out his manifesto pledges, even though many people don’t really like him and in Luxembourg our very own Xavier Bettell was re-elected as he had put his manifesto into law, including legalising cannabis, providing free public transport and introducing same sex marriage. I have written elsewhere that our leaders could learn from these examples, but they wouldn’t because they are Europeans. And David, lest you forget, your own Scottish colleagues had to write a new manifesto after the first coalition with Labour because they had put it all into practice. I don’t think it helps to join in the running down of politicians most of whom try their best for the people they represent and get scant thanks for it.

  • Peter Hirst 25th Dec '22 - 1:16pm

    It is interesting to reflect whether the conditions created the man or did they arise to allow him to surface. Whatever the answer he has showed true grit and has a become a role model who will surely inspire many generations and not just in his native Ukraine.

  • Peter,

    I think reputations can be determined by a small number of decisions you make at key junctures in the course of life . When Russian paratroopers seized the Hostomel airport just outside Kyiv in February 2022 and a Chechen assassination squad was in the City with the aim of killing Zelenskyy and decapitating his cabinet; he made the decision to stay rather than accept the American offer of facilitating an escape to Warsaw.
    Contrast that with Yanukovych who fled with what loot he could grab in 2014 in the face of protests even though as President he still had command of the Army and police.
    The decision Zelenskyy made took personal courage and kept his country from falling into the hands of a corrupt and cruel regime intent on subjugating the Ukrainian populuation for their personal gain.
    The decision to stand and fight was vindicated by the express support of the great majority of the Ukrainian population. Whatever the outcome of their struggle, Zelenskyy will have earned International respect as a war leader who has rallied his people to resist a criminal regime in the Kremlin, much as de Gaulle did in leading Free France against Nazi Germany in World War II.

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