After rumors surfaced that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had fled the country, the 44-year-old world leader dropped a video Friday to offer proof that he had, in fact, stayed with his people.
“We are here. We are in Kyiv. We are defending Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said in the video, where he can be seen with other officials in the city’s government district, according to the Financial Times Moscow bureau chief Max Seddon. “We’re defending our independence and our country, and that’s how it’ll be.”
President Joe Biden also held a secure call with Zelenskyy Friday, the Associated Press reported. The call lasted about 40 minutes, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The new video came after Zelenskyy had vowed not to leave Kyiv, even as the bombing intensified. He also claimed that Russia had made him the “No. 1 target” while his family was “No. 2.” The Biden administration has warned U.S. legislators that Kyiv could soon fall, according to the Washington Post.
Zelenskyy also reportedly told European Union leaders in a video meeting Thursday night that the conference call may “be the last time you see me alive,” according to Axios contributing correspondent Barak Ravid, appearing to show just how dire the situation is in Kyiv.
After 8 p.m. local time Friday, a large boom was heard in central Kyiv, according to the Associated Press. The Washington Post’s reporters also heard gunfire and blasts in the city of nearly 3 million around that time.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said on Facebook that people living in Kyiv should “prepare Molotov cocktails” for the conflict ahead, according to the New York Times. A senior U.S. defense official, however, told NBC News that Russians are already encountering greater resistance than they had expected, and reports surfaced that the country’s forces lost some momentum on Day Two of the attack.
Earlier this week, NBC News reported that the Biden administration had discussed potential plans with the Ukrainian government to relocate Zelenskyy to Lviv, near the Polish border, in the event of an invasion in Kyiv. However, Russia attacked three military facilities in the Lviv region Thursday morning, according to CNN.
It’s unclear what happens now.