“The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride,” Zelensky told the Americans on their evacuation offer, according to a message posted by the Ukrainian Embassy in the UK, which added, “Ukrainians are proud of their President.”
Zelensky, 44, a former comedian turned politician, is fast acquiring the halo of a cult hero after he changed from civvies to a military uniform on Friday to fight for the defense of Kyiv. Posts and memes celebrating his courage and commitment have erupted on social media, with unflattering comparisons to leaders from the US and other countries, who are scrambled out by their security detail at the first hint of danger.
While US right-wingers like Dinesh D’Souza are pillorying President Joe Biden for retiring early each day and going off on a weekend break to Delaware in the middle of the crisis, the left is humiliating Donald Trump for his golf outings, reminding his fan base of how the obese former President bailed out of enlisting citing bone spurs.
By some accounts, the CIA warned Zelensky as early as January that he was in Russia’s crosshairs. CIA Director William Burns visited Moscow and Kyiv on January 17-18 to mediate between the two sides as Russia began its military buildup. In the pro-Russian narrative, Zelensky is regarded as a CIA stooge.
But Zelensky refused to believe that he and his family — wife Olena Zelenska, an architect and a screenwriter, a teen daughter and a young son — would be targeted. In fact, he remained sanguine right up to the moment of invasion, frequently berating US and its allies for being alarmist. He even rejected Washington’s advise not to leave Kyiv to attend the Munich Security Conference last week, with the US fearing Russia would spring a coup in his absence.
For once, the CIA has acquitted itself well so far, accurately predicting Russia moves down to the last detail, with the Biden White House aggressively releasing intelligence on an unprecedented scale to either shame or forestall the invasion. It now transpires the CIA has been working for months to avert the crisis, with Burns visiting Moscow in November 2021 for meetings with the Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev and head of the Foreign Intelligence Service, Sergey Naryshkin amid rising tensions.