Zelensky explains why he carries a gun
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has told a local television channel that he and his staff would have died fighting, rather than allowing themselves to be taken captive, had Russian troops breached his Kiev headquarters in the early days of the conflict.
“I know how to shoot,” Zelensky said in an interview that was aired on Saturday by Ukraine’s 1+1 channel. The Ukrainian leader claimed that he carries a handgun, but dismissed a reporter’s suggestion that he might have used his pistol to kill himself rather than be captured.
“No, no, no,” Zelensky said. “It’s not [to shoot] myself. To shoot back, surely.”
Zelensky explained that it would have been a “disgrace” if he had been taken captive by Russian forces, referring to the conflict’s initial stages. After Moscow launched its military operation in February 2022, Ukrainian officials claimed that Russian special forces attempted to infiltrate Kiev and to breach the presidential headquarters on Bankova Street.
“I think if they had gone inside, into the administration, we would not be here,” Zelenskiy said in the interview. “No one would have been taken prisoner because we had a very serious defense prepared… We would have been there to the end.”
Zelensky said that some of his Western partners recommended that he flee Kiev, but he allegedly declined a US evacuation flight to defend the capital.
According to The Times, however, Zelensky and his associates allegedly spent almost two months in a bunker after the outbreak of the conflict, instead of the planned two weeks. The British newspaper claimed the secrecy around the bunker was so high that those who accompanied the head of state underground had to sign a special non-disclosure agreement, and were banned from revealing any details about the shelter’s design, location, amenities, or even the food that they were given.
In the early days of the conflict, Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly told Israel’s then-prime minister, Naftali Bennett, that he was not seeking to capture Kiev or kill Zelensky. The Kremlin has neither confirmed nor denied Bennett's claim.
“I knew Zelensky was under threat, in a bunker,” Bennett said of his March 2022 meeting with Putin in Moscow. He claimed the Russian president assured him that Zelensky wasn’t a target.
Bennett then allegedly “immediately” called Zelensky to reassure him “Putin is not going to kill you.” According to Bennet just “two hours later, Zelensky went to his office and took a selfie,” in which the Ukrainian president proclaimed “I’m not afraid.”