Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told university students across Canada via video link Wednesday that his country remains committed to democracy for almost four months after the Russian invasion.
“We have already surprised people,” said Zelensky, who spoke through a translator. “We have come together to do the impossible and we will prevail against all odds for a free and democratic future.”
The University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy is hosting the event, which focuses on how Canadian universities can help Ukraine during the conflict, which NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said recently last for years “.
Zelensky, introduced by Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s finance minister, received questions from students across Canada, raising a number of issues. He talked about how the international community could better support the besieged country and what prompted him to leave acting public service.
“I wanted to share my energy, my strength, my experience, my openness,” Zelensky told a crowd of students and scholars across Canada who welcomed him with enthusiasm.
Anya Broytman, an incoming student at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Policy at the University of Toronto, said she was amazed at how approachable and genuine President Zelensky is and how spontaneous and humorous he is in his reactions.
Broytman asked the first question on Wednesday – a question that made Zelensky smile and his audience laugh. He noted that Zelensky had been compared to so many famous leaders, including the fictional Harry Potter. He asked who he considered to be role models and where he got his inspiration from.
Zelensky said he drew strength and inspiration from ordinary Ukrainians, but acknowledged the comparisons.
“We know who Voldemort is in this war and we know who Harry Potter is,” he said, “so we know how the war will end.”
Such are the reactions that set Zelensky apart from Putin, said Breitmann, who was born in Moscow. “Any such interaction with Putin is carefully written,” he said.
CLOCKS The President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the Canadian students:
Breitman said she welcomed the opportunity to ask a question to Zelensky as a way to support friends living in Russia who oppose Putin but cannot do so openly without fines, arrest, imprisonment “or worse.”
“I love the opportunity to be here for them,” he told CBC News. “I know the world is very bitter at the moment, and that’s understandable, but I just want everyone to know that Putin is not representing the whole of Russia.”
While Zelensky said he was grateful for international support, including weapons, he said information had proved to be a powerful weapon for Ukraine – especially thanks to the internet and social media.
“We can bridge the gap between our countries and other countries, between government and society,” he said. “For us, the internet is a kind of weapon because we can show what is happening.”
“Showing the world the details – which cities have been conquered, how many victims, how many victims -” means freedom, “Zelensky said.
“Information … can sometimes strike a bigger blow than certain types of weapons,” he said.
Zelensky urged people not to “get tired of the war” and to continue to mobilize their communities in action.
“We need weapons, we need financial support, we need humanitarian aid and we need permanent 24/7 sanctions pressure,” he said. “No matter how many times I repeat it, it will never be too many as long as the war is in progress.”
Students from the University of Calgary, the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Montreal, Prince Edward Island University, the University of Alberta and the University of Manitoba were coordinated.
They were also coordinated from across Ontario, including Western University, Queen’s University, University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University. Students from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia are also participating.