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As fears of an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine loom, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said early Thursday morning his request to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin went unanswered by the Kremlin, part of a speech in which Zelensky pleaded with the Russian public for peace and urged Russia to avoid war “before it is too late.”

Key Facts

Zelensky said he attempted to speak with Putin directly, but “the result was silence,” according to translations from the New York Times.

“The Ukrainian people want peace,” Zelensky said during the overnight speech, delivered in his native language of Russian, the Times reported.

Zelensky rebutted Putin’s message to the Russian public that an invasion would liberate the Ukrainian people, stating they are already free and wish to coexist independently from Russia: “Neighbors always enrich each other culturally,” he said, adding, “that doesn’t make them a single whole.”

Zelensky also denied Putin’s assertions that the Ukrainian government is propped up by Nazis, asking, “can a people support Nazis that gave more than eight million lives for the victory over Nazism?”

Crucial Quote

Zelensky said Ukraine will resist an invasion should Russia cross the border: “The people of Ukraine and the government of Ukraine want peace,” he said, according to the Associated Press’ translation of his plea. “But if we come under attack, if we face an attempt to take away our country, our freedom, our lives and lives of our children, we will defend ourselves. When you attack us, you will see our faces, not our backs.”

Key Background

Some 80% of the more than 150,000 Russian troops positioned near the Ukrainian border are ready to invade, a senior U.S. defense official told reporters Wednesday. The Biden Administration believes Putin has likely made up his mind to invade the neighboring country, and a devastating full-scale invasion could begin in hours if Putin gives his go-ahead, though Russia continues to deny it aims to invade Ukraine.

What To Watch For

President Biden is scheduled to meet with other G7 leaders virtually to discuss the conflict Thursday morning at 9 a.m.

Source: Forbes

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