To take in a modern phenomenon of actors becoming leaders, the axiom “cometh the hour, cometh the man”, might as well be reworked into “cometh the comedian”. He may share a first name with a great Russian leader of medieval history and, ironically, also with his arch-enemy Putin. But the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has, struck out a brave course from his moorings as a TV actor to star in the compellingly tragic real-life drama of his homeland Ukraine being blasted to smithereens. The invading force has been raining hell from the skies, killing women and children as well, including in a theatre of refuge with one word clearly stencilled — “Children” — to make reading from the air easy.
Mr Zelenskyy’s emotional appeal to the US Congress, invoking the horrors of 9/11 as well as the World War II bombing of Pearl Harbour to remind Americans of threats to democracy and his Churchillian words portraying defiance to the UK Parliament earlier may not have convinced anyone to join his war. None of Ukraine’s allies, including the US, would risk a direct confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia by declaring a no-fly zone over Ukraine or putting feet on the ground. But the West is rushing weapons — 800 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, 100 grenade launchers, 20 million rounds of ammunition and innumerable drones from the US alone — to bolster the heroic defence of Ukraine that has taken military strategists by surprise over the last three weeks.
Mr Zelenskyy’s speeches exhorting his troops and his fellow citizens to resist the invasion have made him a folk hero though it must be said that the war will continue to take its toll on people and places. All the tactical errors that his Army has made may not, however, convince Mr Putin of the futility of war as he eggs them on even as talks keep providing occasional glimmers of hope. Whatever be the denouement in this war in Europe, one thing is certain and that is history will judge Mr Zelenskyy as a heroic figure while Mr Putin will have to bear any judgements that come his way, including that of “war criminal”, to quote US President Joe Biden.