Russian troops invaded Ukraine on Thursday and it immediately became clear that a top target was the capital city of Kyiv to topple the government led by President Volodymyr Zelensky.
According to the Associated Press, President Joe Biden’s administration offered to assist Zelensky in evacuating from Kyiv to a safer undisclosed location, but the defiant Ukrainian leader is said to have flatly rejected that offer and instead put forward a different demand of his own.
Per an unnamed senior U.S. intelligence official described as having “direct knowledge” of the conversation, Zelensky had informed the Biden administration: “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.”
That report came as Russian troops worked to try and encircle Kyiv while peppering the city with devastating artillery and missile strikes to reduce its defenses and the morale of its remaining occupants.
The New York Post reported that it also came as President Zelensky himself has acknowledged the personal danger he and his family face even as he has insisted on leading the resistance from within the besieged city.
He has repeatedly addressed the Ukrainian people in video speeches that make it clear that he has remained in the capital city, though his family was said to have been evacuated to a safer location.
White House confirms Zelensky has remained in Kyiv
Though not specifically asked about President Zelensky’s reported defiant response to an evacuation offer, White House press secretary Jen Psaki was questioned during Friday’s press briefing about the Ukrainian leader’s safety as he led the resistance against the Russian invasion from within the capital city.
Concerning the likelihood that Russia was seeking to take out Zelensky and topple his government, Psaki said, “Obviously, going after the head of state would be a significant, horrific act by Russian leadership.”
“But we remain in contact, as you all have seen from the readout we provided, with President Zelenskyy,” she added. “He’s made clear that he’s still in Ukraine, proudly and courageously standing up in the face of the Russian attack. And we are — certainly continue to be concerned about the ongoing Russian assault on the country.”
As for whether Biden had asked Zelensky in a phone call to evacuate for his safety, Psaki demurred and replied, “That is not — I don’t have any additional details to provide. President Zelenskyy continues to serve as President of Ukraine. He continues to do that courageously in the face of attacks from Russian military.”
Russian invasion not going according to plan
Meanwhile, concerning the broader Russian invasion itself and its obvious targeting of Kyiv, Newsweek had reported on the first day of the invasion that U.S. officials were gravely concerned that the capital city would fall within a matter of days and Russian troops would swiftly meet their objectives in overrunning the opposition and effectively cutting the country in half while decapitating its leadership.
That hasn’t happened, though, according to a report from the BBC tracking the progress of Russia’s four-pronged attack into Ukrainian territory, as the Russian forces have run into fiercer than expected resistance and suffered shortages of fuel and other supplies, all of which has slowed their advance short of the initial anticipated goals.