Until this week, Ukrainians seemed to see President Volodymyr Zelensky as beyond reproach, a national hero who stayed in Kyiv despite the risk to his personal safety to lead his country against invading Russian troops.
Comments he made to The Washington Post justifying his decision to not share with Ukrainians details of repeated U.S. warnings that Russia planned to invade have punctured the bubble, triggering a cascade of public criticism unprecedented since the war began.
People tweeted their experiences of chaos and dislocation after an invasion for which they were unprepared, describing how they might have made different choices had they known what was coming. Public figures and academics wrote harsh critiques on Facebook of Zelensky’s decision to downplay the risk of an invasion, saying he bears at least some responsibility for the atrocities that followed.
In the interview with The Post, published Tuesday, Zelensky cited his fears that Ukrainians would panic, flee the country and trigger economic collapse as the reason he chose not to share the stark warnings passed on by U.S. officials regarding Russia’s plans.
“If we had communicated that . . . then I would have been losing $7 billion a month since last October, and at the moment when the Russians did attack, they would have taken us in three days,” Zelensky said.