Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is attempting to calm his population amid persisting and breathless international media reports that over 100,000 Russian troops are set for an "invasion" of Ukraine "at any point" - as the White House has been claiming.
He gave a speech Wednesday toward that end, bluntly calling the current Russia-Ukraine standoff driven by "hype" while urging calm among the Ukrainian citizenry. "The risks have not just existed for a day, and they have not become bigger. The only thing that has become bigger is the hype around them," Zelensky said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had been in Kiev on Wednesday. It didn't help that he had reiterated prior statements of Jen Psaki who claimed Russia was poised to launch an attack at "very short notice".
Naturally this unleashed a degree of unnecessary panic, with suggestions that grocery store shelves were being emptied and a rush to withdraw cash from banks:
Addressing his compatriots in the speech, Zelenskyy said: "Now it is not our country that is being actively attacked, but your nerves, so that you have a constant feeling of panic."
Ukrainians should refrain from hoarding and hastily withdrawing cash, the head of state advised.
The aim is rather to weaken Ukraine's economy so that the Ukrainian "no" vote on certain issues also becomes weaker, Zelensky claimed in the video message and appealed: "To the media: Be methods of mass information and not mass hysteria."
He expressly called out the media for fueling "mass hysteria" - saying further, "we still resort to panic, take everything off our bank accounts, sweep everything off store shelves, share fake news and boogeyman stories with our friends and acquaintances."
"All our citizens, especially the elderly, need to understand this. Take a deep breath. Calm down. Don't run for buckwheat and matches. To all the media - remain mass media, not sources of mass hysteria. In the pursuit of hype don’t help the enemy, reporting daily that war may start tomorrow! This will definitely not stop it," Ukraine's leader said.
So it seems Zelensky himself doesn't actually believe that Putin has a "planned invasion" in the works, as the world has been told for the past couple months. However, Kiev is still looking to Washington to keep the pressure campaign going strong. On this note, Ukrainian officials were deeply disappointed and angered by Biden's Wednesday Q&A press event, wherein he made a distinction between a potential "minor incursion" by Russian forces vs. an all-out "invasion"...
We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations. Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief from the loss of loved ones. I say this as the President of a great power 🇺🇦— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) January 20, 2022
Zelensky responded Thursday by emphasizing "there are no minor incursions" - after Biden layed out that America's response would be determined based on the scope of any Russian offensive, with the US president strongly suggesting he would likely stop at sanctions. Hawks took this as tantamount to Biden giving Putin a 'green light' to act as Russia pleases in restive Donbass.
As for his speech the day prior, Zelensky had sought to assure the public, “Know that everything is under control and everything is going according to plan."