Zelensky vows to resist as more strikes hit Ukraine
France24

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has recalled the intense first days of the war in Ukraine when Russian troops came close to capturing him and his family.

Russian president Vladimir Putin announced the invasion and sent troops across the border on 24 February 24 and Zelensky has now described in an interview with TIME how memories from this day exist in a "fragmented way."

Zelensky said he and his wife Olena Zelenska had to tell their 17-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son that the bombing had begun, before sunrise, and break it to them that they would have to flee their home.

"We woke them up,” Zelensky said. “It was loud. There were explosions over there.”

Soon enough, it became apparent that Zelensky was a target as a Russian strike team had parachuted into the country's capital, Kyiv, on orders to kill or capture the Ukrainian president and his family.

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“Before that night, we had only ever seen such things in the movies,” said Andriy Yermak, the President’s chief of staff who detailed how the presidential guard attempted to secure the compound with anything they could get their hands on. For example, a gate at the rear entrance was closed up with police barricades and plywood boards.

Family and friends of Zelensky broke security protocols to be at his side in the presidential compound to show their support.

In the hypothetical circumstance that Zelensky is killed, then the Speaker of Parliament, Ruslan Stefanchuk would take over the country, and he himself couldn't quite believe the turn of events when the war started.

“Maybe these words sound vague or pompous,” Stefanchuk said. “But we sensed the order of the world collapsing.”

Stefanchuk drove down to parliament rather than fleeing to safety in order to conduct a vote to impose martial law across Ukraine.

On the first night of the Russian invasion, the lights were turned off in the compound and bulletproof vests along with assault rifles were handed out to Zelensky and his aides as gunfire ringed in the surrounding area.

With "automatics for everyone," Oleksiy Arestovych, a veteran of Ukraine’s military intelligence service said the scene was a "madhouse," and noted how Russian troops attempted to storm the compound twice while Zelensky's wife and children were still in there.

While offers of evacuation came in from the US and the UK, Zelensky remained resolute in leading from his country and not from afar and made headlines when he famously decline the offer, telling the Americans: "I need ammunition, not a ride."

However, Zelensky's security were also concerned about the current safety risks of their location, “The place was wide open,” Arestovych explained. “We didn’t even have concrete blocks to close the street.”

Rather than going to a secure bunker and leaving Kyviv, Zelensky decided to film himself outside on the second night of the invasion as Ukrainian soldiers fought nearby.

"We’re all here. Defending our independence, our country," he said in the 40-second clip posted on his social media, with his aides by his side.

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