KYIV, Ukraine – President Volodymyr Zelensky’s decision to begin a crackdown on foreign travel amid final preparations for a counteroffensive in Ukraine has been met with support from some residents of the capital, Kyiv. , on Friday, hours after it was attacked for the 10th time. this month.
The president’s recent travel – he visited four European capitals over the weekend and Saudi Arabia on Friday, and will attend a Group of 7 meeting in Japan this week – is in contrast to most of the first year. in the war, when the choice of Mr. Zelensky’s stay in Ukraine has become a symbol of opposition and unity.
Today, residents interviewed on the streets of Kyiv said they were pleased with the warm reception Mr. Zelensky received abroad at a time when continued support from allies was critical.
“I think it’s amazing, because he built bridges between all the countries,” said Neonila, a 76-year-old retired sanitation worker, who like many interviewed for this article asked that only his first name will be used for fear of reprisal.
At each stop on his diplomatic tour, Mr. Zelensky worked to support and demand more weapons for the fight against Russian aggression. His whirlwind trip to Germany, France and Britain last week brought in billions of dollars in new military aid.
“Her every visit ends positively,” Neonila said as she bought vegetables at a stall in the city center. “We were given something.”
While some people interviewed in Kyiv seemed opposed to the trip, others questioned Mr. Zelensky’s motives.
The trips are good for the president’s “ratings,” said Liudmyla, 75, as she sat on a park bench in Kyiv during the day with a friend.
“He is building an image for himself, for the upcoming elections,” he said.
Kateryna Papusha, sitting next to her daughter’s stroller in the park, said she supports the trip because some foreign leaders are unable or afraid to visit Ukraine.
“I support his visits abroad, because every visit is productive,” he said. “There are some agreements, some support, some help for Ukraine.”
Being close to a person involved in the fight makes him pay special attention to the announcements of new weapons pledges, added Ms. Papusha.
Most Ukrainian men have been banned from leaving the country since the war began, and the toll of nearly 15 months of fighting has been felt across the country. Volodymyr Pylypenko, 45, who was wounded fighting in eastern Ukraine, said Friday that he had not closely followed Mr. Zelensky.
“I’m more concerned about the situation in front of us,” he said, smoking a cigarette as he stood outside the hospital.
But that doesn’t mean he thinks a wartime president should stay, he said. Because a general commands the armed forces, he said, Mr. Zelensky can handle foreign policy.
“If he has something good for Ukraine, it’s just an addition,” said Mr. Pylypenko.
Valentyna Horbachiova, 65, expressed a sense of urgency, saying that traveling abroad is “very necessary now” – especially given the recent attacks in Kyiv.
“If he travels and talks with the people above, maybe peace will be established here, maybe we will be supported,” he said while waiting to pick up his grandchildren from school.
For Mr. Zelensky to remain in the capital for the sake of unity is impossible, said Ms. Horbachiova, who described the “terrible” attacks she witnessed from her 18th-floor apartment.
“What will change if he sits here? Shouldn’t we be shot?” he asked. “We could be attacked too – maybe even more so if they knew he was here.”