On day 50 of Russia’s invasion, Volodymyr Zelenskiy made his nightly address to the Ukrainian people. Vladimir Putin had confidently expected to seize Ukraine in five days, Zelenskiy said, standing outside his neo-classical administration building in central Kyiv. Putin was now “making friends with reality”, he added mordantly, hailing the bravery and staunchness of his citizens.
There was a reference to Russia’s flagship Moskva, which Ukraine says it audaciously sank last Wednesday with two lethal Neptune missiles. The warship has become a meme and symbol of national defiance, ever since Ukrainian soldiers stationed on Snake Island in the Black Sea told it in the first days of the conflict to “go and fuck yourself”.
Zelenskiy avoided the F word. He praised those who “have shown that Russian ships can” – dramatic pause – “go to the bottom of the sea”. He also paid tribute to the men and women who had driven Russian troops from the north, stalled them in the south and heroically defended Mariupol. As usual, he ended his speech with: “Slava Ukraini” – Glory to Ukraine.
On the battlefield, Ukraine’s fortunes have been mixed. Russia’s armed units have been forced to withdraw from the Kyiv region after failing to seize the capital. But they have made significant advances along the Sea of Azov, carving a land corridor from Crimea to separatist-controlled territory in the east, where a Russian offensive is imminent.
On the information front, however, Ukraine has offered a masterclass in message. Zelenskiy’s speeches to his people, and his addresses to foreign parliaments around the world, have galvanised international support and shored up morale at home. They have been gripping viewing, an unvarnished real-time video blog from Europe’s bloody frontline.