Ukraine can protect itself and Europe from Russian forces, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a formal address on the official presidential website on Saturday night.
“Ukraine will definitely be able to protect Europe from any Russian forces, and it doesn't matter who commands them,” Zelensky stated. “The security of Europe's eastern flank depends only on our defense. And that is why every manifestation of support for our defense is support for your defense, everyone in the free world.”
“Ukrainian soldiers, Ukrainian guns, Ukrainian tanks, Ukrainian missiles are all that protect Europe from such marches as we see today on Russian territory.”Volodymyr Zelensky
Although Zelensky did not name Russian President Vladimir Putin directly, he did seem to address him, stating that the “man from Moscow” was afraid and in hiding.
Zelensky’s statement comes following an attempted coup against Russia by the Wagner Group, a Russian paramilitary organization and network of mercenaries that have been instrumental in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Internal Russian conflict: Prigozhin's Wagner Group vs. the Russian Army
Wagner’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, accused Moscow of lying about the justifications for invading Ukraine. He released a video on Friday in which he accused the Defense Ministry of deceiving Putin and the public, and called for an armed rebellion to remove Defense Minister Sergei Shogui from power.
Prigozhin and 25,000 Wagner troops took control of the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and threaten to March on Moscow on Saturday morning.
Following a chaotic 24 hours and a de-escalation deal brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, the Wagner Group announced its intention to turn back from Moscow to avoid bloodshed.
Zelensky responded to the internal Russian conflict in his online presidential address and in a Twitter post, in which he called Russia weak and vowed to protect Ukraine and Europe.
Everyone who chooses the path of evil destroys himself. Who sends columns of troops to destroy the lives of another country and cannot stop them from fleeing and betraying when life resists. Who terrorizes with missiles, and when they are shot down, humiliates himself to receive…— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) June 24, 2023
“Russia's weakness is obvious. Full-scale weakness. And the longer Russia keeps its troops and mercenaries on our land, the more chaos, pain, and problems it will have for itself later. It is also obvious. Ukraine is able to protect Europe from the spread of Russian evil and chaos.”
Zelensky thanked his soldiers and stated that the longer Russian troops remained in Ukraine, the more devastation would befall Russia.