A viral video of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky takes his remarks out of context to wrongly make it sound like he demanded that Americans send their sons and daughters to fight in the war in Ukraine.
The out-of-context 19-second video has been viewed millions of times on Twitter. It features a clip of Zelensky speaking at a news conference last week as an interpreter translates his words into English as follows: “The US will have to send their sons and daughters, exactly the same way as we are sending, their sons and daughters to war. And they will have to fight, because it’s NATO that we’re talking about. And they will be dying, God forbid, because it’s a horrible thing.”
The clip has circulated widely on Twitter among critics of American financial and military support for the Ukrainian defense against Russia’s invasion. Monica Crowley, a conservative commentator who served in the Trump administration as a spokesperson for the Treasury Department, posted the video on Tuesday night and wrote, “Zelensky now directly threatening us and claiming American sons and daughters will have to fight and die for Ukraine. HELL NO.”
Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah shared former Trump administration official William Wolfe’s tweet of the video in which Wolfe claimed that Zelensky wants “dead Americans on Ukrainian soil.” Lee himself added in a tweet on Tuesday night: “Zelensky has no right to presume that our sons and daughters will fight his war. Shame on him. We’ve somehow sent the message that we work for him. Shame on us!”
Facts First: Zelensky did not say that American sons and daughters will have to fight in Ukraine or die for Ukraine. Rather, he predicted that if Ukraine loses the war against Russia because it does not receive sufficient assistance, Russia will proceed to enter North Atlantic Treaty Organization member countries in the Baltics (a region made up of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) that the US will have to send troops to defend. Under the treaty that governs NATO, an attack on one member is considered an attack on all. Ukraine is not a NATO member.
Lee deleted his tweet after CNN informed his office on Wednesday about how the video was taken out of context.
Zelensky made the comments at a news conference on the anniversary of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine. He was asked what message he would give to the growing number of Americans who believe the US is giving Ukraine too much support.
Zelensky began by saying, per the interpreter, “I would like to thank all of the American people that are supporting Ukraine – the Congress, the president, the TV channels, the journalists, and everyone that has been supporting us.” He urged the US to avoid losing its position of “leadership” in the world, asked Americans to see the Ukrainian people as similar to themselves, and said that while Ukraine enjoys “bipartisan support” in the US, he hears sentiments from time to time that are “dangerous.”
Soon after, he said, “The US is never going to give up on the NATO member states. If it happens so that Ukraine, due to various opinions and weakening – depleting – of assistance, loses, Russia is going to enter Baltic states, NATO member states, and then the US will have to send their sons and daughters, exactly the same way as we are sending, their sons and daughters to war. And they will have to fight, because it’s NATO that we’re talking about. And they will be dying, God forbid, because it’s a horrible thing. I wish peace and Ukrainian support to the United States.”
Zelensky’s critics are perfectly entitled to criticize his actual remarks about the necessity of continued US support for Ukraine. But it’s just inaccurate to depict Zelensky’s “have to send their sons and daughters” remark as a demand that Americans take part in combat on Ukrainian soil.
Lee’s office did not respond to a request for comment, and Crowley could not be immediately reached for comment. The out-of-context video has been fact-checked by Reuters and BBC journalist Shayan Sardarizadeh, among others.