Fact Check

Did Zelenskyy Say US Will Have To 'Send Their Sons and Daughters to War' for Ukraine?

Zelenskyy in early 2023 held a news conference on the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Published Mar 1, 2023

 (President.gov.ua/Wikimedia Commons)
Image Via President.gov.ua/Wikimedia Commons
Claim:
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the U.S. will have "to send their sons and daughters" to die for Ukraine.
What's True

Zelenskyy did say, "The U.S. will have to send their sons and daughters exactly the same way as we are sending [our] sons and daughters to war." However, he was talking about a hypothetical situation in which if Ukraine loses the war against Russia, that would lead to a broader conflict resulting in Americans being pulled into fighting.

What's False

Zelenskyy did not declare that the U.S. "will" definitively send soldiers to fight in or die for Ukraine's war as numerous posts claim. His words were taken entirely out of context and misrepresented.

On Feb. 24, 2023, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy held a news conference in Kyiv marking one year since Russia invaded Ukraine. He answered questions from numerous journalists, and some of his answers went viral online, though often presented in a misleading manner and without context.

On March 1, 2023, Twitter user @hodgetwins shared a clip of one of Zelenskyy's answers during his news conference, writing, "Is this real? Zelensky saying Americans will send their sons and daughters to war for Ukraine and potentially die."

@RealMattCouch made a similar claim, saying, "WATCH: Zelenskyy Says American's Will Have to Send Their Sons and Daughters to Die in the Ukraine."

Their tweets rely on a clipped section of a longer statement. In the short clip, which is presented through an interpreter, Zelenskyy said, "The U.S. will have to send their sons and daughters exactly the same way as we are sending [our] 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."

This statement is pulled out of context. Zelenskyy said this in response to a question about opinion polls in the U.S. that show a growing number of Americans think their government was giving too much support to Ukraine. A journalist asked about his message to Americans who had those concerns. Zelenskyy said (emphasis, ours):

If they do not change their opinion, if they do not understand us, if they do not support Ukraine, they will lose NATO, they will lose the clout of the United States [...] they will lose the support of the country with 40 millions of population, with millions of children. Are American children any different than ours? Don't Americans enjoy this the same things as we do? I don't think we're that different. I'm actually very happy that we have bipartisan support but we keep hearing those messages from time to time and they're dangerous [...]  

Who wants the Third World War? Would anyone risk, would anyone be willing to accept that risk? The U.S is never going to give up on the NATO member states. If it happens so that Ukraine—due to various opinions and weakening and depleting of assistance—loses, [then] Russia is going to enter Baltic states, NATO member states, and then the U.S will have to send their sons and daughters, exactly the same way as we are sending [our] 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.

Zelenskyy basically presented a hypothetical situation, warning of what could happen if the U.S. withdrew its support and Ukraine lost the war, saying that Russia could invade other states, and then American soldiers could be pulled into other battles. We should also note that this prediction may not be accurate, and is largely serving Zelenskyy's political agenda of getting more help from the U.S.  

The full exchange can be overhead at the 1:37:35 mark in the video below:

We should also note that all of his words are all presented through a translator. 

Ultimately, the selected clips above are misleading and do not provide an accurate picture of what Zelenskyy was saying. Zelenskyy was not calling on Americans to send their sons and daughters for war in Ukraine, but suggesting a possible future where if Ukraine fell, U.S. soldiers would have to fight ongoing wars against Russian invasions. We thus rate this claim as "Mixture."

Sources

Santora, Marc. "Zelensky Answers Reporters' Questions for Hours, Expressing Confidence in Ukraine's Eventual Victory." The New York Times, 24 Feb. 2023. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/02/24/world/europe/zelensky-press-conference.html. Accessed 2 Mar. 2023.

"Watch in Full: Volodymyr Zelensky Press Conference on First Anniversary of Ukraine's War with Russia." The Telegraph, 24 Feb. 2023. www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxxQlbiM8EM. Accessed 2 Mar. 2023.

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.