Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky issued a video message Friday to honor American Veterans Day, thanking American taxpayers for billions of dollars in support of his country and Americans who have volunteered to fight against the Russian invasion.
November 11 has been reserved in America to honor military veterans since the end of World War I but formally became the holiday of Veterans Day in 1954. Americans traditionally celebrate with commemorations honoring their local communities of veterans and addresses from political leaders.
Under leftist President Joe Biden, America has become Ukraine’s most pivotal ally in the war against Russia. Russia first invaded Ukraine in 2014, when Biden was vice president, colonizing the Ukrainian Crimea region, but Washington largely ignored the conflict for eight years. As of this February, when Russian leader Vladimir Putin greatly expanded his invasion into the heart of the country, America has invested nearly $20 billion in funding the Ukrainian military in its war against Russian forces.
On Thursday, Biden National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan announced another military aid package worth $400 million to Kyiv including “missiles for Hawk air defense systems, as well as four U.S. Avenger air defense systems equipped with Stinger missiles.”
Zelensky acknowledged these contributions Friday in an English-language message posted to his social media networks:
For almost 250 years the men and women of the United States armed forces have prevailed against tyranny. Your example inspires Ukrainians today to fight back against Russian aggression.
On behalf of all Ukrainians, Happy Veterans Day and thank you for your service. pic.twitter.com/gnEPi6ZeKf
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) November 11, 2022
“For almost 250 years, the men and women of the United States armed forces have prevailed against tyranny, often against great odds. Your example inspires Ukrainians today to fight back against Russian tyranny,” Zelensky said, adding “a special thanks to the many American veterans who have volunteered to fight in Ukraine and to the American people for the amazing support you have given Ukraine.”
“With your help, we have stunned the world and are pushing Russian forces back,” he promised.
In response to the escalation by Russian forces in February, Zelensky in March established the “International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine,” a formal office for processing and approving the participation of foreign volunteers in the country to fight Russia. While the Ukrainian military has not revealed in-depth statistics on its foreign fighters, Americans are believed to be a sizable number of those who joined the war. Ukraine has also enjoyed significant assistance from American humanitarian aid workers and nonprofits.
Outside of formal military and humanitarian support, Zelensky, a former television actor, has become a popular personal cause among Hollywood celebrities. The Ukrainian president has produced a steady stream of content featuring high-profile actors and other artists from America who have made stops in Kyiv in a show of solidarity. Most recently, Zelensky welcomed far-left actor Sean Penn – who has previously supported Russia-allied human rights abusers such as Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez – who loaned him his Oscar trophy as a sign of support.
“I feel terrible. It’s just a symbolic, silly thing, but if I know this is here with you, then I’ll feel better and stronger for the fight,” Penn said handing over the award and asking Zelensky to return it when the war is over.
Over the summer, Zelensky welcomed actor Ben Stiller and hosted a video chat with comedian Jimmy Fallon to discuss “options for cooperation” in the war. Actress Jessica Chastain and Star Wars personality Mark Hamill have also made public exchanges with Zelensky throughout the past year.
As of Friday, Ukrainian officials are claiming an “important victory” in Kherson, a southern region north of Crimea. The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed on Friday that the nation’s troops had “redeployed” out of part of the region, moving across the Dnieper River beginning Wednesday. According to Russian news outlet RT, the departure was made to protect Russian forces and enhance “defense,” but RT admitted such a move left the city of Kherson largely undefended.
“Russian troops have used artillery, aviation and mines to keep Ukrainian forces 30 to 40 kilometers away from Dnieper crossings,” Lieutenant-General Igor Konashenkov, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, said on Friday.
Ukrainian officials insisted the move was a retreat and a sign that international support for its troops was working.
“Kherson is returning to Ukrainian control and units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are entering the city,” the Ukrainian Defense Ministry claimed on Friday.
Observers viewed the redeployment in Kherson as a notably moral defeat for Russia because Putin had announced the “annexation” of Kherson – along with three other regions, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, and Luhansk – in September. In a victory speech alongside separatist leaders from the regions, Putin announced the colonization moves were necessary to combat the “Satanic” West and gender ideology, among other alleged threats.
“The destruction of this Western hegemony is irreversible, the world will never be the same,” Putin proclaimed at the time. “We are fighting for our culture, for our language so that it’s impossible to cancel it and remove it from history.”
Russian officials have for months claimed that Russian troop presence in the annexed regions was legitimized by requests from separatist leaders there.
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