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Journalist’s Notebook: At Kharkiv Hospital, Zelensky Laments Slow Aid Amid Brutal Russian Attacks

KHARKIV, Ukraine– The situation in Ukraine is so serious that President Volodymyr Zelensky had to cancel a planned trip to Spain and go directly to Kharkiv, the country’s second largest city, which is once again threatened by the Russian advance.

Granted exclusive access, ABC News joined Zelensky for a tour of a hospital in the city, where he met with soldiers injured during the defense of the north and presented them with medals of bravery.

“It’s really important to me to be here,” he told us as we walked the halls.

In each neighborhood, he stopped while an officer read the names of each wounded soldier. He approached each bed and gave them a medal. But it was a very rushed visit. The president’s security is always a concern, but this trip to Kharkiv was risky and his team moved quickly around the building.

PHOTO: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks with ABC News foreign correspondent James Longman in Kharkiv, Ukraine, May 16, 2024.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks with ABC News foreign correspondent James Longman in Kharkiv, Ukraine, May 16, 2024.

ABC News

“The situation is very serious,” Zelensky said. “We cannot afford to lose Kharkiv. »

As he stood next to the wounded soldiers, he made clear that the delay in U.S. aid was having a direct impact on the war and the situation along the northeast border. Hundreds of people have died or been injured in recent days, he said. Many were soldiers from that area, so it was important he was there to support them, he said.

Is it America’s fault, we asked him, what is happening in Kharkiv now?

PHOTO: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks with ABC News foreign correspondent James Longman in Kharkiv, Ukraine, May 16, 2024.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks with ABC News foreign correspondent James Longman in Kharkiv, Ukraine, May 16, 2024.

ABC News

“It’s the world’s fault,” he replied. “They gave Putin the opportunity to occupy. But now the world can help.”

He is always careful not to criticize the United States. But this was a slightly more outspoken Zelensky than we usually see.

We asked him how he thought US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit went. He paused. I could sense his frustration.

PHOTO: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks with ABC News foreign correspondent James Longman in Kharkiv, Ukraine, May 16, 2024.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks with ABC News foreign correspondent James Longman in Kharkiv, Ukraine, May 16, 2024.

ABC News

“Dialogue is good,” he said. “But we need help now.”

There is a sense here, given the brutal fighting on the front line, that the visit was little more than a show of support.

“All we need are two Patriot systems,” he said. “Russia cannot occupy Kharkiv if we have them. »

I told him that many Americans are concerned about how much money is being spent on Ukraine. And in this election year, it will be an issue that American voters will pay attention to.

PHOTO: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks with ABC News foreign correspondent James Longman in Kharkiv, Ukraine, May 16, 2024.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks with ABC News foreign correspondent James Longman in Kharkiv, Ukraine, May 16, 2024.

ABC News

“This money is not given to Ukraine,” he said. “This is money spent in American factories, creating American jobs…And we are not just fighting for our freedom. If it wasn’t Ukraine, it would be another country.”

After the president left, we returned to some of the soldiers he had visited.

Maxim, who almost died on Wednesday in Vovchansk, had his leg raised thanks to three huge metal pins which kept it straight. These are the men who protect Kharkiv. He didn’t seem too concerned about his medal.

“It’s an honor,” he told me. “But I would rather give this award to the men who saved my life.”

ABC News

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