Volodymyr Zelensky on war, technology and the future of Ukraine

Volodymyr Zelensky on war, technology and the future of Ukraine

Volodymyr Zelensky on war

Since Russian forces began invading Ukraine in February, the country has been singled out as an example of how to defend against the violence of a tyranny in the twenty-first century on the battlefield. Ukraine enlisted a "cyber army" of volunteer hackers to disrupt Russian websites, used the Starlink satellite internet system to keep communications going while its infrastructure was destroyed, and launched a blitzkrieg on social media. media to secure the support of the rest of the world.

Russian leaders, despite having a much more powerful traditional army, have remained anchored to the obsolete strategic thinking of the previous century. They seemed unprepared for the effective and precise Turkish-made Bayraktar Tb2 drones that Ukraine used to decimate the country's tanks and ships. Russian cybersecurity systems also proved fragile: hackers who had enlisted in the Ukrainian cyber army told me how they continuously launched Ddos (distributed denial of service) attacks, actions that make a site inaccessible by storming it. of access requests) against Russian websites, as well as spreading pro-Ukrainian propaganda and news on sites that Russia had not yet censored. The hackers in support of Ukraine were not cyber warfare experts, but teenagers and twenties operating from bedrooms and living rooms around the world. Thanks to simple Google searches and WikiHow guides, they learned the art of basic hacking in just a few days. With a few weeks of practice - they said - they managed to pierce the weak Russian defenses and the wide veil of censorship in the country.

When I arrived in Ukraine in March, I was interested in understanding how technology was reshaping warfare. With the soldiers I talked about how the use of drones has altered the balance of power with Russia. I have discussed their successes and failures with the hackers. And as the conflict continued, the Ukrainians began to tell me how their experience of the war transformed from an intense and enthusiastic defense of the nation into long periods of eerie silence, punctuated by moments of joy, fear or panic to each new announcement of a Ukrainian or Russian advance.

In mid-May, I met Volodymyr Zelensky in the presidential palace in Kiev. The comedian-turned-president, who captured the world's attention and convinced global leaders to stand up for the country, didn't seem like the confident, charismatic person we're used to seeing on TV and social media. He looked exhausted and drawn, his hands flailing nervously and his eyes sunken. He seemed deeply anxious and uncertain to me. Nonetheless, as he answered my questions about the state of the war, the world's reaction and the contribution of technology to Ukraine's resistance to the Russian military machine, his answers became more and more enthusiastic, interspersed with a spontaneous smile or a ironic joke, a trademark of Zelensky.

In this interview, which touches on several and has been condensed, slightly edited and translated to ensure greater clarity, Zelensky has invited tech giants to do more to retire from Russia, praised Elon Musk's Starlink system and explained why modern leaders must appeal to the distracted generation of social media: "We live in another age, it's not that of postmen anymore," he said.

Zelensky, however, also recognized the impact the war had on Ukrainians, an issue he considers deeply personal. I asked him if he had any regrets, or if - going back - he would do something differently. His response was categorical: "I think this question should be asked of the Russian president."

Wired: Many call you a skilled social media communicator. How does he manage to hold the attention of an audience known for his poor attention span? How do you prevent people from forgetting about war?

Zelensky: We are all on social networks. It is no longer a question of whether it is a good thing or not; most of our life is already online. People study, they inform themselves, they read online. Our world is this now. Is divided. The Internet is a reality. It is not another world, but a modern reality. So, if you want people to perceive you as you are, you have to use what people use.

Unfortunately, sometimes young people cannot digest long information. They want to scroll and always have new information. This rapid consumption makes it necessary to give people 10, 20, or 30 second videos so they don't lose interest.

But every generation is always smarter than the past one. The future is even broader than the past and if you try to relate to people, you will find a common language. Sometimes your long answers, your long questions, and your long schedules will get great support and people will get used to it. You don't hold people back with uninteresting things. People can't stand deceptive things, they can't stand dictators. If you talk honestly, sincerely, openly, then you can connect with people.

You have asked many companies, including some Big Techs, to end their operations in Russia. Do you think they are doing enough?

Sanctions are in place, and therefore many Russian military factories are not working at the moment. Due to the sanctions they will not be able to build some equipment. We are very satisfied with this.

Unfortunately, there are many other companies still operating in the country. When we recovered Russian weapons in the course of or following the battles, we found that many of the bullets and weapon parts were manufactured by Western companies. So, in fact, we are not only fighting against Russia, but also against all these companies. We have called on these countries to stop this cooperation.

Are you willing to name these countries and companies?

I'm ready, but I don't think they're ready to hear about themselves.

Are social media companies doing enough to enforce sanctions and keep the flow of verifiable information? What else can they do?

Some platforms and social networks have already left Russia, which I think is very important, because I don't want them to be influenced by the country's internal policies. The fact is, these companies are the ones that have all the influence right now. There is an information wall - call it what you want - or an information submarine, where the citizens of the Russian Federation are located. Because of this veil, created by the political elite of the Russian Federation, [Russian citizens, ed.] Find themselves inside their information space, powered by the Kremlin, which provides only favorable information. There is no freedom in their space.

Some large and popular platforms, even if they are blocked in Russia, should find a way on a technological, ideological or creative level to show them the truth of our reality, in a way may the Russian people understand that they live in another world. The main thing is that people on social media platforms live in freedom, while the Russians are out of it, as if they are on another planet.

Can sanctions be improved?

For sanctions to work, they don't have to be partial. The exchange rate of the Russian national currency has almost returned to where it was before the sanctions, which means that they have found a way out of the constraints imposed by the sanctions. [Indeed, at the time of the interview, the ruble was more strong that at the beginning of the war, ed.]. Sanctions must be fully enforced and any possibility of circumventing them must be eliminated. Otherwise, all sanctions become artificial.

Like the oil embargo, for example. Up to 80% of all countries in the European Union say they will support the implementation of the oil embargo, but what will happen to the 20% of the countries that do not? They will be able to receive the oil. Who will control and monitor this process? These countries will be able to receive more oil than they need and will be able to sell some of it to countries that have publicly supported the sanctions.

I want our allies to follow the sanctions to the end, to block Russia and prove that the civilized world is stronger than any energy resource.

Is the Starlink system, SpaceX's constellation of satellites that provide internet access, effective?

Very effective, very effective. It has helped us a lot, in numerous moments linked to the blockade of our cities, towns and occupied territories. Sometimes we have completely lost communication with those places. Losing contact with those people means losing control completely, losing reality. Believe me: people who left occupied cities, where there were no assistance systems like Starlink, said that the Russians had told them that Ukraine no longer exists, and some have even started to believe it. I am really grateful for Starlink's support.

Did the Ukrainian cyber army play a pivotal role?

In the early days of the war we spent a lot of time on the logistics of a battle in cyberspace. I believe this is the future and it has become our, I believe, third army. We probably have several armies: our People's Army, the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and the Cyber ​​Army. The cyber army has done a lot to defend the institutions that have been severely attacked. The invaders wanted to bring down the National Bank and the Council of Ministers. They wanted to tear everything down, so that we couldn't give citizens their salaries and pensions, so that there was no light and communication, so that people couldn't listen to me and all of us, and listen to live information. . Our cyber army has done well.

Did starring in the political satire TV series The Servant of the people prepare you for the presidency?

Some Ukrainians live here and think: "Maybe I should find something else, move to another country". I think the show has helped people understand that Ukraine is the best for Ukrainians and that anything is possible here. I think it has improved something within each of us; it has improved our self-confidence and the belief that anything is possible. In that sense, I was also influenced by the series.

When the war is over, what will be the biggest challenge for you?

The return of people from abroad. We must offer them conditions that are no worse than they are in today. I'm in Poland, Germany, Canada, the United States. Different countries offer different support, different infrastructures, different comforts, different salaries and different opportunities. We have an advantage, because this is their homeland, but we will have to restore living conditions, security conditions and wage conditions. We will not guarantee the same salaries as in Great Britain, for example. But we must offer comparable living conditions. When it returns, the middle class will have to feel like a middle class, not an inferior one. We must do everything to make people feel that this is the same unified Europe and that they are not returning to another planet.

How has war changed it?

Honestly, I don't know. It's a hard question. In most cases, I want to remain an ordinary person, because I am the same person I was before, like everyone else. Raindrops are as visible on me as on any other person.

The value of life has changed. Let's say that my attitude has changed, because I no longer pay attention to banalities and there are aspects on which I focus. The question of the price of freedom, which we learned in school books, has now become a reality. You know what this price is. You have seen the number of people who have died. You can clearly see the number of tortured people.

On the contrary, he will understand that the price of freedom does not exist in absolute measurable terms, because it is not known how many people will die from the will to fight for a living, for the freedom.

This article originally appeared on sportsgaming.win US.

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