President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine called on ordinary people of his country and Russia alike to refuse to cooperate in Moscow’s invasion and occupation, and accused Russian forces in northern Ukraine of planting mines as they retreat, making it dangerous for people to return.
The Russians have even booby-trapped dead bodies with explosives, he charged in his nightly video address, posted early Saturday morning in Ukraine — Friday night in the United States.
Even as Russian forces pull back from Kyiv, the capital, and the city of Chernihiv farther north, “in the east of our country, the situation remains extremely difficult,” he said. “The Russian militaries are being accumulated in Donbas, in the Kharkiv direction. They are preparing for new powerful blows. We are preparing for even more active defense.”
Mr. Zelensky’s video messages have galvanized support among Ukraine’s allies, but his new address had an ominous tone, threatening his own people with unspecified consequences for cooperating with the invading Russians.
“The responsibility for collaboration is inevitable,” he said.
He noted that the Russians have appointed people to take over local governments and enterprises in areas they occupied — pointedly calling them “gauleiters,” a term for a regional administrator in Nazi Germany.
“There will be problems for cooperation with them or with the occupiers directly. This is the last warning,” Mr. Zelensky said.
He also asked Russians to resist conscription into the Kremlin’s military, which he said would result in “guaranteed death for many very young guys.”
“Warn each such conscript, their parents,” he said. “We don’t need more dead people here. Save your children so that they do not become villains. Don’t send them to the army. Do whatever you can to keep them alive. At home. At their home. The Russians won’t be told the whole truth about this conscription and about the fate of the conscripts. But still, if you can convey the truth to them — do it.”
In northern Ukraine, where Russian forces have been pulling back from positions around Kyiv and Chernihiv, “they are mining all this territory,” Mr. Zelensky said. “Mining houses, equipment, even the bodies of killed people. Too many tripwire mines, too many other dangers.”
His claims about mining could not be independently verified.