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Zelenskyy makes direct appeal to Russian soldiers: Do not fight

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a direct appeal to Russian soldiers, asking them not to fight in Ukraine and claiming their leaders expect thousands of them to die.

In his video address late Saturday, which Zelenskyy delivers nightly in Ukrainian, the president switched into Russian: “Every Russian soldier can still save his own life. It’s better for you to survive in Russia than to perish on our land."

He said Russia has been recruiting new troops “with little motivation and little combat experience" for units sent into battle early in the Russian invasion, only for those units to be gutted and thrown back into the war again.

“The Russian commanders are lying to their soldiers when they tell them they can expect to be held seriously responsible for refusing to fight and then also don’t tell them, for example, that the Russian army is preparing additional refrigerator trucks for storing the bodies. They don’t tell them about the new losses the generals expect,” Zelenskyy said.

The message comes as Ukrainians in besieged areas such as Mariupol are struggling to hang on; thousands of civilians and soldiers in the Azovstal steel plant there are running out of food and supplies. Yet Western authorities have said the strong Ukrainian defense is slowing Russian troops in their ultimate goal to seize the Donbas region.

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Zelenskyy also met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who praised the courage of the Ukrainian people and vowed continued U.S. support to help Ukraine defeat Russia. Pelosi led a congressional delegation to Kyiv to assess Ukraine’s needs for the next phase of the war.

Pelosi, a California Democrat who is next in line to the presidency after the vice president, is the most senior American lawmaker to visit Ukraine since Russia’s war began more than two months ago. The group met with Zelenskyy for three hours.

"America stands with Ukraine. America will stand with Ukraine until victory is one. And will stand with our NATO allies," she said at a briefing in Rzeszów, Poland.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Zelenskyy urges Russian soldiers to give up and go home