KYIV – Ukraine’s president and prime minister told the nation in separate video addresses to remain calm amid Russia’s threatening military maneuvers that Western intelligence say could be an imminent major offensive.
Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said the greatest threats to Ukraine currently are internal threats.
“The only thing you really need today is not to succumb to hybrid provocations of the enemy, misinformation. The army is strong! The army is brave! That’s how we should be. Our soldiers must feel that behind them is also a force – a strong spirit, wise, united Ukrainian people!” Mr. Shmyhal said.
The overall theme of his nearly 3-minute video address resembled World War II-era U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt who said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced he signed a decree to designate February 16 a “Day of Unity” two days earlier in an 8-minute video address.
His message to the nation of more than 40 million coincided with an announcement the same day from U.S. officials who said Russia could start a full-scale invasion, according to Western media reports.
“We are told that February 16 will be the day of the attack,” Mr. Zelenskyy said. His spokesperson later said that Ukraine’s second war-time president since independence was being “sarcastic.”
Both Messrs. Zelenskyy and Shmyhal noted that Ukraine’s military might is far stronger than it was in 2014 when Russia first invaded, seizing 7 percent of territory, including the Crimean Peninsula and certain parts of the easternmost regions of Luhansk and Donetsk.
“We have one big European aim. . . . We want freedom and we are willing to fight for it,” Mr. Zelenskyy said.
In 2014, Ukraine had only 6,000 combat-ready troops. After of 8 years of war with Russia, Ukraine has increased its military to more than 260,000. That number is in addition to auxiliary units and modernized, purchased and donated weaponry. Most military experts say that Ukraine would still lose out in a full-blown renewed Russian invasion, but they will nonetheless inflict heavy casualties and losses on its more superior foe.
In the video address, Mr. Zelenskyy urged Ukrainian society to “consolidate.”
His decree also calls for boosting the newly formed territorial defense units assigned to each oblast with civilians to bolster an overall force that includes tens of thousands of reservists and over 10,000 recent recruits.