Here is the full transcript of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's video address early on Feb. 24 local time warning that a Russian invasion could cause tens of thousands of deaths.
“Today I initiated a phone call with the president of the Russian federation. The result was silence. Though the silence should be in Donbass. That’s why I want to address today the people of Russia. I am addressing you not as a president, I am addressing you as a citizen of Ukraine. More than 2,000 km of the common border is dividing us. Along this border your troops are stationed, almost 200,000 soldiers, thousands of military vehicles. Your leaders approved them to make a step forward, to the territory of another country. And this step can be the beginning of a big war on European continent.
We know for sure that we don’t need the war. Not a Cold War, not a hot war. Not a hybrid one. But if we’ll be attacked by the [enemy] troops, if they try to take our country away from us, our freedom, our lives, the lives of our children, we will defend ourselves. Not attack, but defend ourselves. And when you will be attacking us, you will see our faces, not our backs, but our faces.
The war is a big disaster, and this disaster has a high price. With every meaning of this word. People lose money, reputation, quality of life, they lose freedom. But the main thing is that people lose their loved ones, they lose themselves.
They told you that Ukraine is posing a threat to Russia. It was not the case in the past, not in the present, it’s not going to be in the future. You are demanding security guarantees from NATO, but we also demand security guarantees. Security for Ukraine from you, from Russia and other guarantees of the Budapest memorandum.
But our main goal is peace in Ukraine and the safety of our people, Ukrainians. For that we are ready to have talks with anybody, including you, in any format, on any platform. The war will deprive [security] guarantees from everybody — nobody will have guarantees of security anymore. Who will suffer the most from it? The people. Who doesn’t want it the most? The people! Who can stop it? The people. But are there those people among you? I am sure.
I know that they [the Russian state] won’t show my address on Russian TV, but Russian people have to see it. They need to know the truth, and the truth is that it is time to stop now, before it is too late. And if the Russian leaders don’t want to sit with us behind the table for the sake of peace, maybe they will sit behind the table with you. Do Russians want the war? I would like to know the answer. But the answer depends only on you, citizens of the Russian Federation.”