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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Zelenskyy promises a ‘clear and fair’ approach in reclaimed territory

By Juston Jones

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine was seeking to reassure Ukrainians living in territory the country has reclaimed that they would be treated fairly.

“Our approach has always been and remains clear and fair: If a person did not serve the occupiers and did not betray Ukraine, then there is no reason to consider such a person a collaborator,” Zelenskyy said Monday in his nightly speech.

The question of what constitutes collaboration is not always clear cut, with many activities intertwined with daily life.

Russia still partially controls four regions of Ukraine — Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson — a territory larger than Portugal. Including areas that Russian forces and their proxies seized in 2014, Moscow controls about one-sixth of Ukrainian territory. Additionally, an untold number of Ukrainians have been forcibly deported to Russia.

“Hundreds of thousands of our people were in the temporarily occupied territory,” Zelenskyy said Monday. “Many helped our military and special services. Many simply tried to survive and waited for the return of the Ukrainian flag.”

Zelenskyy assured them that his government was focused on getting their lives back to normal as soon as possible by restoring necessities like transportation and postal services.

“Life is returning,” he added. “It is returning wherever the occupiers were driven out.”

He also took the chance to capitalize on reports of anger in Russia over President Vladimir Putin’s conscription order. He said his military officers were confronting troops ill-prepared to wage war.

“We can already see those who were taken just a week or two ago,” Zelenskyy said. “People were not trained for combat; they have no experience to fight in such a war. But the Russian command just needs some people — any kind — to replace the dead.”

The military draft Putin ordered Sept. 21 to bolster his battered forces has set off nationwide turmoil and protest, bringing the war home to many Russians who had felt untouched by it. Many men have been drafted who were supposed to be ineligible based on factors like age or disability.

On Monday, the governor of the Khabarovsk region in the far east said that half of the men called up there, numbering in the thousands, should not have been drafted and had been sent home and that the region’s military commissar had been dismissed.

Moscow still holds the advantage in firepower and has threatened the use of a nuclear weapon to defend what it now calls Russian territory, and it has demonstrated repeatedly that it can rain destruction on Ukraine.

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