I’ve been friends with Zelensky for 16 years… he’s exhausted on his 46th birthday but he’ll NEVER surrender to Putin

I’ve been friends with Zelensky for 16 years… he’s exhausted on his 46th birthday but he’ll NEVER surrender to Putin

VOLODYMYR Zelensky may be exhausted after nearly two years of gruelling war but he will NEVER back down, says a longtime friend.

As the Ukrainian president celebrates his 46th birthday, US director David Dodson said the wartime leader is as “ferociously committed” as ever to defeating Putin.

AFPPresident Zelensky ‘was always going to stand and fight’, says his close friend[/caption]

David DodsonDavid Dodson worked on films with Zelensky, a former comedy actor, since 2008[/caption]

David DodsonHe described his longtime pal as someone who would move ‘heaven and Earth’ to make things happen[/caption]

GettyDodson said he may look ‘exhausted’ but he is ‘ferociously committed’ to defeating Russia[/caption]

Dodson, a pal of Zelensky‘s for over 16 years, said that the “true” man behind Ukraine’s battle for survival has “never turned away from a fight in his life”.

He told The Sun that “Vova”, as he affectionately calls him, is “100 per cent” the lionhearted leader that the world sees in public.

Since Russian tanks first rolled over the border in February, 2022, Dodson said he knew exactly what Zelensky would do – “stand and fight”.

British and US officials had offered to spirit the president out of the capital amid fears it could fall within hours, but he replied with the legendary line: “I need ammo, not a ride.”

Dodson was completely unsurprised. He said: “Like most Ukrainians, Vova has dignity, self-respect, and a pride in who he his….[he] was always going to stand and fight.

“Vova was always going to defend his home, his family, and his people.”

He added: “Vova is a loving, dedicated, hard-working Ukrainian who loves his Ukrainian family, including the entire Ukrainian family for whom he is President.”

The firm friends first met in New York in 2008 while working on the comedy film ”Love in the Big City” and their time together led to a steadfast friendship.

They continued to work together on movies until Zelensky became president in 2019.

Comparing the battle-hardened “war hero” Zelensky of today to “very young” man on his set in 2008, he said: “There was always something extra about him.

“He had a life, a vitality, an energy that filled the room.”

Dodson continued: “In many ways, that much younger man from 2008 seems very much the same as he is now, in other ways, very different.

“Today, Vova looks physically stronger, more sturdy, which seems appropriate for a man with the burden he must now carry.”

Describing the former actor and dad-of-two’s work ethic, Dodson revealed that Zelensky was “never the kind of person to make grand speeches or pronouncements.”

Instead, “his most important language has always been action. If something urgent needed to be done then he committed himself completely.

“Action is Zelensky’s language.”

Now, as the Ukrainian leader faces constant missile barrages raining down on cities, a cash-strapped military, chronic ammunition shortages and trembling Western support – Dodson said he will rise to the challenge.

“He has always been able to combine the dream with what it takes to make that dream come true.

“For example, if as a director there was something I wanted to do, something that was perhaps a little crazy or potentially expensive, Vova would move heaven and Earth to help it to happen.

“As the Ukrainian President, I see the same qualities in Vova. He empowers the people around him to do their very best.”

Dodson said the now 46-year-old has always been a man of integrity and kindness.

As the pair worked on their last film together before Zelensky became president (“Me You He She”), Dodson recalled his friend entertaining his five-year-old niece for hours with games and magic tricks.

“It was a beautiful, perfect example of Vova’s humanity. He loves people. When you [are] around him, you never feel overwhelmed with his ego, because it simply is not there,” he said.

Dodson said: “From the very beginning of Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression, barbarism, and conquest, Vova has reacted exactly as I would have expected.

“Endless numbers of villains try to portray Vova as something he is not in order to discredit Ukraine and destroy support.

“But the simple fact is that what you see of Vova publicly is who he is. That is his genuine self. He authentically, passionately cares about people.

“And while I can also see the exhaustion in his eyes, I also see the same ferocious commitment that I saw many, many times on set — a person determined to get it right no matter what.

“Now, with the destiny of a nation and the lives of people at stake, I see the same commitment in Vova’s eyes.

“How could Vova be anything other than what he is?”

It comes as the defiant leader has promised he will do everything he can to secure an international investigation into the downing of a Russian military transport plane.

Yesterday, Moscow accused Kyiv of deliberately shooting the aircraft, which was allegedly carrying 65 captured Ukrainian soldiers, down – claims that Ukraine rejects.

The plane crashed on Wednesday near the Russian city of Belgorod near the Ukrainian border, killing all 74 people on board.

Ukraine has not confirmed there were Ukrainian POWs onboard and has promised to respond to Moscow’s charge once the evidence has properly been looked at.

However, OSINT sources, military officials and analysts have pointed to striking inconsistencies in the Russian claims.

Today, a Ukrainian kamikaze drone attack struck deep behind enemy lines and destroyed a Russian oil depot achingly close to one of Vlad’s precious palaces.

The midnight strike on Tuapse on the Black Sea was the fourth such attack in six days as Ukraine seeks to bring the war closer to home for the Russian leader.

It follows weeks of relentless Russian missile attacks on Ukrainian cities that left dozens killed.

On Tuesday, a wave of Russian missiles hit Kyiv and other major cities killing 18 and wounding more than a hundred.

President Zelensky had vowed a forceful response for the deadly “terror attacks”.

He declared: “Let them know in Russia that the Ukrainian character knows how to be far-reaching enough in response.

“The Russian war will inevitably be brought back home, back to where this evil came from, where it must be quelled.”

David DodsonDodson and Zelensky having a laugh on set together[/caption]

David DodsonDodson is in total admiration or what his longtime friend has achieved in the face of Putin’s bloody invasion[/caption]

GettyZelensky turns 46 today – his second birthday while at war[/caption]

AFPDodson said Zelensky is 100 per cent the man he appears to be publicly[/caption]

AFPThe dad-of-two with his wife Olena pictured during their defiant New Year’s address[/caption]

Zelensky once played a fictional Ukrainian president in ‘Servant of the People’

A younger looking Zelensky was a surprise winner of the 2019 election

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