Zelensky promises a 'clear and fair' approach in reclaimed territory

Mr Volodymyr Zelensky assured Ukrainians his government was focused on getting their lives back to normal as soon as possible. PHOTO: AFP

KYIV - President Volodymyr Zelensky is seeking to reassure Ukrainians living in territories the country has reclaimed that they will be treated fairly.

"Our approach has always been and remains clear and fair: If a person did not serve the occupiers and did not betray Ukraine, then there is no reason to consider such a person a collaborator," Mr Zelensky said Monday in his nightly speech.

The question of what constitutes collaboration is not always clear cut, with many activities intertwined with daily life.

Russia still partially controls four regions of Ukraine - Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson - a territory larger than Portugal. Including areas that Russian forces and their proxies seized in 2014, Moscow controls about one-sixth of Ukrainian territory.

Additionally, an untold number of Ukrainians have been forcibly deported to Russia.

"Hundreds of thousands of our people were in the temporarily occupied territory," Mr Zelensky said Monday. "Many helped our military and special services. Many simply tried to survive and waited for the return of the Ukrainian flag."

Mr Zelensky assured them his government was focused on getting their lives back to normal as soon as possible by restoring necessities like transportation and postal services.

"Life is returning," he added. "It is returning wherever the occupiers were driven out."

He also took the chance to capitalise on reports of anger in Russia over President Vladimir Putin's conscription order. He said his military officers were confronting troops ill-prepared to wage war.

"We can already see those who were taken just a week or two ago," Mr Zelensky said. "People were not trained for combat; they have no experience to fight in such a war. But the Russian command just needs some people - any kind - to replace the dead."

The military draft Mr Putin ordered on Sept 21 to bolster his battered forces has set off nationwide turmoil and protest, bringing the war home to many Russians who have felt untouched by it.

Many men have been drafted who are supposed to be ineligible based on factors like age or disability.

On Monday, the governor of the Khabarovsk region in the far east said half of the men called up there, numbering in the thousands, should not have been drafted and have been sent home, and that the region's military commissar has been dismissed.

Moscow still holds the advantage in firepower and has threatened the use of a nuclear weapon to defend what it now calls Russian territory, and it has demonstrated repeatedly that it can rain destruction on Ukraine. NYTIMES

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