Fact Check

Did Zelenskyy Urge Western Countries, 'Don't Build Roads, Spend All of Your Money on Weapons'?

Viral posts claimed Zelenskyy "begged Western leaders to send all their money to Ukraine."

Published Dec 13, 2023

 ( Getty Images)
Image Via Getty Images
Claim:
In a "Special Report" news interview in December 2023, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy "begged Western leaders" to send all their money to Ukraine and told them, "Don't build roads, spend all of your money on weapons, drones, society and pensions ... We only have one enemy: Putin."
What's True

In the interview, Zelenskyy did say the words, "Do this: Not build roads for today. Don't do it. Spend all your money to the weapon, to the drones, to the society, to the pensions, and et cetera. [...] We have only one enemy, this is Putin, and that's it."

What's False

However, Zelenskyy was addressing Ukrainian leaders, not Western leaders. Moreover, he did not beg Western leaders to send all their money to Ukraine, as claimed.

In mid-December, a video of an interview with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy started circulating on X with captions allegedly citing his words. "Zelensky just went on Fox and begged western leaders to send ALL their money to Ukraine," one X post shared on Dec. 13, 2023, captioned the footage, reaching over 4 million views as of this writing.

“Don’t build roads. Spend all your money on weapons, drones, Society and pensions … we have only one enemy: Putin,” the post continued.

(X user @_johnnymaga)

The above-mentioned post was then copy-pasted by other X accounts, and even translated to Spanish.

The footage attached to the viral post was originally shared by Fox News' YouTube channel with the title "Zelenskyy: We only have one enemy and it’s Putin."

The video's description read:

Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy discusses his meeting with President Biden about foreign aid, criticism that he's turning the country into an 'authoritarian state' and the war against Russia on 'Special Report.' #foxnews #fox #specialreport

At the beginning of the interview, Bret Baier, the host of Fox News' "Special Report" show, introduced the Ukrainian president with the words:

Let’s find out how Volodymyr Zelenskyy is feeling about the prospects of additional U.S.  funding and what's happening now. He joins us tonight. Mr. president, thank you for being here.

After that, Zelenskyy answered three questions:

  1. How did your meetings go today? What did you feel about your meetings both with the president and up on Capitol Hill?
  2. On Capitol Hill the holdup right now is about immigration reform, our immigration border security for Republicans. Did you urge the president to try to cut a deal on this to get this funding through?
  3. So when you push back, you talk about how urgent the need is. And do you think Putin would stop if you don’t get this funding? Would he make a deal? Would you make a deal?

To the third question, Zelenskyy responded (transcription ours):

[...] It’s not about financing, it’s about the morality. The most problem, the biggest problem when you don’t support Ukraine, yeah, that people on the frontline, families which are waiting for their heroes at home that they think that the United States doesn't support Ukraine and that Ukraine is alone, yes, defending our common values for United States and Europe. That is the problem, to kick our morality. It was at the very beginning of the war, really we've been alone and we are very happy and thankful for the American people that then you supported us, but we've been alone. And of course people are afraid to be again alone. But you have to know even, even if we will be, we will stand and fight.

The fourth question (and Zelenskyy's response) was not about Ukraine getting financial help from the West. Rather, Baier asked Zelenskyy about the criticism he faced within Ukraine itself.

We have transcribed the in-question part of the interview the viral posts referred to (emphasis ours).

Journalist (Bret Baier): Last thing, Mr. President, there are critics who say that you've tried to consolidate power. Headlines that the orthodox leader in Kyiv under house arrest, that you consolidated Ukraine's TV outlets, that you ruled out holding elections next spring calling for unity, but then the mayor of Kyiv says that you're turning it into authoritarian style. How do you deal with that criticism? What do you say to critics who are saying that?

Zelenskyy: I say [to] such person from government or mayors: Think about the war, think about how to defend our people. Don't travel through the world each day, travel to the front line. Ask people, ask soldiers what they need. Do this, not build roads for today. Don't do it. Spend all your money to the weapon, to the drones, to the society, to the pensions and et cetera. And don't cry. Because you are leaders and that's it. That's why, that's why we are and we stayed because mostly people are not crying. People stay and fight against Putin. And we don't have any enemies in our country. We can't have time for this and we don't have it. We have only one enemy, this is Putin, and that's it.

So, in response to Baier's fourth question Zelenskyy did say, "Do this, not build roads for today. Don't do it. Spend all your money to the weapon, to the drones, to the society, to the pensions and et cetera. [...] We have only one enemy, this is Putin, [...]." However, his remarks weren't directed at Western countries or Western leaders, but instead at the Ukrainian leaders who had criticized him.

The "Special Report" interview finished with Baier's last question to Zelenskyy (transcription ours):

Journalist (Bret Baier): But you'll stand for democracy going forward?

Zelenskyy: Yes, of course, and of course. Because we are really defending democracy and we are really defending freedom.

You can read other fact checks on the topic of the war in Ukraine in our archives.

Sources

Zelenskyy: We Only Have One Enemy and It’s Putin. www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkPD28dw694. Accessed 13 Dec. 2023.

Aleksandra Wrona is a reporting fellow for Snopes, based in the Warsaw area.