Zelensky offered US evacuation flight but refuses to leave Kyiv: ‘I need ammunition, not a ride’

Ukrainian president has periodically released visuals addressing citizens to assure them he and his troops won’t flee

Divya Soundararajan
Saturday 26 February 2022 07:19 GMT

Zelensky tells Ukrainians he will remain in Kyiv to protect country

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has turned down the US government’s request to evacuate capital city Kyiv as it came under Russian attack.

Russia has waged war against Ukraine for three days now. On Saturday morning, heavy street fighting against Russian troops was underway in Kyiv as officials urged locals to take immediate shelter.

When the president was asked to evacuate at the behest of the United States government, he refused and said that he needed weapons to fight back, according to a senior US intelligence official.

“The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride,” Mr Zelensky is believed to have said.

The Ukrainian president has periodically released visuals addressing his citizens to assure them that he is not leaving his country.

The latest video released on Saturday showed Mr Zelensky standing in front of the “Chimeras house” across from the presidential office after surviving another night of assaults from Russia.

“Good morning everybody. Do not believe fake news. I am here,” Mr Zelensky said. “We will not lay down our weapons. We will defend our country. Our weapons are our strength. This is our land. Our country. Our children. We will protect all of them.”

In a similar video released on Wednesday from the streets of Kyiv, he had said: “Our troops are here, citizens are here. All of us are here protecting the independence of our country.”

“We are all here,” he said, surrounded by senior advisers and his prime minister. “And it will continue to be this way.”

There were rumours in Russian media that he had fled – but Zelensky insisted he was staying put.

Earlier, he told European leaders he was Russia’s “number one target” and warned he might not be seen again alive.

Russian troops reached the Ukrainian capital on Saturday and attacked a military base in the city. Heavy street fighting against Russian troops was underway in Kyiv as officials urged locals to take immediate shelter. Ukrainians have been asked to avoid going near windows or on balconies and be cautious against getting hit by debris or bullets.

The attack on Kyiv came just hours after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky had predicted Russian troops would mount a major attack on the city overnight.

Zelensky had said on Friday night that the “fate of Ukraine is being decided right now” as explosions rang out across the city and desperate families sheltered in underground stations. He added that Russia would be using all its might “to break our resistance”.

“This night we must persevere,” he said. “This night will be hard, very hard, but morning will come.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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