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Ukrainians may be tiring but won’t compromise with Putin, Zelenskyy’s chief of staff says
18:30, 06.04.2024 |
2568 | 0

Andriy Yermak, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's powerful chief of staff, scrolled through the photos on his cell phone to find a snap of his 77-year-old mother sporting a Ukrainian trident tattoo in the country’s yellow and blue on her upper right arm.

He chuckled as he explained the tattoo artist cautioned that the ink may start fading after a few years. “She said to him: 'Look I don’t have that many years left, I’m sure they’ll last.' ”

His point was that Ukraine is as doughty as his mom. “People may say they are tired, but if you ask them whether they want to compromise with Russia, they are emphatic and say no,” he said. "And the fact that people remain in Ukraine with their families is confirmation that in general the mood of the people is still strong.”

This question of shaky morale pervaded POLITICO's wide-ranging interview with Yermak, along with discussions of the futility of attempting a negotiated settlement with Russia and Ukrainians' lack of appetite for a sweeping troop mobilization.

Yermak knew there was no point in sugar-coating the toll that more than two years of Russian President Vladimir Putin's onslaught have taken — even though he insisted there was still a profound faith that Ukraine would ultimately prevail.

“We know people are flagging and we hear it from regional governors and from the people themselves. And that’s why my president, why we go to some of the most dangerous places — our security people hate it — because the president and his chief of staff can’t be afraid, and the main goal is for Ukraine to win, and we tell people: ‘Your name will be in the history books.’”

“Of course, it is only natural that people are tired — two years is a long time,” he went on, speaking as the country girds itself for a Russian offensive that is expected to start at the end of next month or early June. “But people still believe in our victory.”

“Sometimes in life everyone has to have the same mission,” he added. And this is one of those times, the 52-year-old believes.

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