Zelensky said there were operational differences between today’s Russian forces and the Nazis during World War II, but said it was Moscow’s persistent lies that separated the two.
“The Russian forces managed to be more pessimistic than the Nazis 80 years ago,” he said. “At that time, the invaders did not say that it was the residents of Mariupol and the defenders of the city who bombed and killed themselves.”
Russia declared its goal to be full control of the eastern regions that include Donbass as part of its “special military operation”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly claimed, without supporting evidence, that his plans are aimed at “discrediting” Ukraine and freeing oppressed Russian sympathizers.
Zelensky, who was elected a Democrat and a Jew, flatly rejected these accusations.
“If the Russian invaders succeed in realizing their plans, at least in part, they will still have enough artillery and aircraft to destroy the whole of Donbass,” he said. “Just as they destroyed Mariupol.
“The city, which was one of the most developed in the region, is simply a Russian concentration camp amidst the ruins,” he added.
Mariupol was one of the worst-hit cities during the Russian war in Ukraine and remains in dispute as Russia has been unable to fully control it – despite Putin’s claims of victory earlier this month.
A senior defense official told reporters on Friday that Russia was trying to control the Donbass River by pressing it from the north, through Izyum, through Mariupol in the south, and through its former eastern strongholds.
“But they are facing heavy Ukrainian resistance. So we think this progress has been slow and uneven,” the official said. “We believe and assess that they are behind schedule in what they were trying to accomplish in the Donbass.”
Congress this week revived a World War II-era program that was instrumental in helping defeat the Nazis by removing certain criteria to allow Allies to receive military aid more efficiently.
The Lend-Lease Program would provide easier defense options for lending to Kyiv as well as to “Eastern European countries affected by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”
Zelensky defended this step and said: “I am sure that now the Lend-Lease Agreement will help Ukraine and the entire free world to defeat the ideological successors of the Nazis, who started a war against us on our land.
“The lend-lease and other programs that support Ukraine are tangible evidence that freedom can still defend itself against tyranny,” he added.