Zelensky: “I’m target number 1 for the Russians, I’m staying here.” The hypotheses of a government in Lviv or in exile

Of Giuseppe Sarcina and Paolo Foschi

Dramatic video message from the Ukrainian president: we were left alone to fight against the Red Army. The US is studying how to guarantee his safety, but Biden seems to rule out sending a military command to rescue him

The president of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky on the night of Thursday 24 February – the first day of the total invasion of his country – he presented himself in front of the cameras to ask once again for help from the West, to try to reassure his fellow citizens, but above all to announce: “I am the number one target of the enemy, my family is number two”.

The Russians are at the gates of Kiev, indeed, as the president himself reported, “squads of saboteurs have already entered the city “.

«Ukraine was left alone to fight against the Red Army» he added, «who is ready to fight with us? I see nobody. Who is ready to give Ukraine a guarantee of NATO membership? ».

In the last few hours, in the Pentagon as well as in the NATO command in Brussels, the conviction that Russia is growing Putin wants to “behead the Ukrainian government”
. Last night, Secretary of State Antony Blinken came out in a televised interview: “I think Putin will try to overthrow the government in Kiev.”

Zelensky challenged the Russians: “I will not go, I’ll stay in my place“.
However, Americans and Europeans are concerned not only for his personal safety, his ministers and family members, but also for due to the risk that the country will run out of recognized institutions. Washington and Brussels need a legitimate interlocutor. Otherwise, Ukraine could sink into chaos and it would be easier for Putin to take control of the territory.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki glossed over the point yesterday, but with an elaborate turn of phrase she hinted that Zelensky’s “security” issue is on the agenda. And probably Joe Biden talked about it with the Ukrainian leader himself in the phone call on Wednesday night, immediately after the Russian attack began.

We are still in the field of hypothesis. But apparently the US president has no intention of sending a military command to rescue Zelenskyshould the situation worsen quickly.

There would not be many possibilities then.

The Americans will try to persuade Zelensky not to barricade himself in the presidential palaceas Salvador Allende did in Chile in 1973 in order not to give way to the coup general Pinochet.

The Ukrainian president, on the other hand, he should leave Kiev and form an executive in another city, probably in Lvivclose to the Polish border. But it might not be enough to escape Putin’s tanks.

So Zelensky could take refuge abroad, in Poland itself for example, and to form a government in exile, trying to remain the point of reference for the Ukrainians and for a possible second phase of the conflict, which is also beginning to be talked about: the resistance, the guerrilla warfare against the invaders.


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