Zelensky Visits Japan for G7 Summit, Seeking Military Aid
KYIV, Ukraine — President Volodymyr Zelensky’s decision to embark on a flurry of overseas trips amid final preparations for a Ukrainian counteroffensive was met with support from some residents of the capital, Kyiv, on Friday, just hours after it came under attack for the 10th time this month.
The president’s recent travel — he visited four European capitals over the weekend and Saudi Arabia on Friday, and will attend a Group of 7 meeting Japan this weekend — stood in contrast to much of the first year of the war, when Mr. Zelensky’s choice to stay in Ukraine became a symbol of defiance and solidarity.
Now, residents interviewed on the streets of Kyiv said they had been heartened by the warm reception Mr. Zelensky had been receiving abroad at a time when continued support from allies was critical.
“I think that it’s amazing, because he builds bridges between all countries,” said Neonila, a 76-year-old retired sanitation worker, who like many interviewed for this article requested that only her first name be used because of fears of reprisal.
At each stop on his diplomatic tour, Mr. Zelensky has worked to shore up support and ask for more weapons for the fight against Russia’s aggression. His whirlwind trip to Germany, France and Britain last weekend reaped billions of dollars in new military aid.
“His every visit is ending positively,” Neonila said as she bought vegetables at a stall in the city center. “We are given something.”
While few people interviewed in Kyiv seemed opposed to the travel, some questioned Mr. Zelensky’s motives.
The trips are good for the president’s “ratings,” said Liudmyla, 75, as she sat on a Kyiv park bench in the sun with a friend.
“He’s building an image for himself, for the future elections,” she said.
Kateryna Papusha, who was sitting next to her baby daughter’s stroller in the park, said she backed the travel because some foreign leaders were unable or afraid to visit Ukraine.
“I am supportive of his visits abroad, because every visit is quite productive,” she said. “There are some agreements, some support, some help for Ukraine.”
Being close to someone involved in the fighting has made her pay special attention to the announcements of new weapons pledges, Ms. Papusha added.
Most Ukrainian men have been barred from leaving the country since the war began, and the toll of nearly 15 months of fighting has been felt across the country. Volodymyr Pylypenko, 45, who was wounded fighting in eastern Ukraine, said Friday that he did not closely track Mr. Zelensky’s movements.
“I am more concerned about the situation on our front,” he said, smoking a cigarette as he stood outside a hospital.
But that doesn’t mean he thinks a wartime president should stay put, he said. Since a general is commanding the armed forces, he said, Mr. Zelensky can handle the foreign politics.
“If he does something good for Ukraine, it’s only a plus,” Mr. Pylypenko said.
Valentyna Horbachiova, 65, expressed a sense of urgency, saying the overseas travel was “very needed right now” — especially given the recent attacks on Kyiv.
“If he will be traveling more and talking to people high up, maybe peace will be established here, maybe we will be supported,” she said while waiting to pick up her grandchildren from school.
For Mr. Zelensky to stay in the capital out of solidarity would do nothing, said Ms. Horbachiova, who described “awful” attacks she had witnessed from her 18th floor apartment.
“What would change if he sits here? We wouldn’t be shelled?” she asked. “We would be shelled just as much — maybe even more if they knew that he was here.”
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