Live like a “Hollywood thriller” – The protective wall around Zelenskyj
Checkpoints, sniffer dogs and last-minute text messages: An Australian journalist reports how sensitively the defense network around Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky operates – and why even party favors are treated as potentially lethal weapons.
BVisits to Ukraine are currently on the agenda: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken have already made solidarity visits to Kyiv.
Several media representatives were also received in the Ukrainian capital, including Australian journalist Tom Steinfort, who works for 60 Minutes, a reporting program on the Australian private channel Channel Nine. The journalist flew to Ukraine with his production team.
Steinfort shared her experiences before and between filming in an article for the Sydney Morning Herald. As a result, he only received specific instructions on the spot as to where he should meet Selenskyj. Steinfort received a text message on his cell phone at 10:39 p.m. informing him of the location of the meeting.
“This is your location pin to meet the president…please be on time,” he said. Steinfort wrote that the experience felt like a “Hollywood thriller”. “And ironically, we were on our way to meet a man who has spent most of his working life as an actor.”
Then, according to Steinfort, he left with his team and some gifts in hand to the secret bunker in kyiv where the head of state is currently staying. The journalist brought the President of Ukraine a pack of Australian biscuits and a bottle of red wine.
But even before he approached Zelenskyy, those gifts were confiscated, as Steinfort reported. “We have to send them for testing before giving them to the president, we can’t risk radiation poisoning,” the soldiers said.
According to the reporter, the path to the president’s whereabouts was anything but straightforward. Steinfort and his team had to cross several roadblocks controlled by armed troops. As well as a passport check, their camera gear was also meticulously examined and sent through an X-ray machine. In the end, the Aussies were even sniffed by dogs for explosives.
The security rules are so strict because there have been several assassination attempts on Zelenskyj. In late April, Time magazine reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s troops attempted to kill Zelensky and his family early in the Russian invasion. According to Steinfort, ten assassination attempts have now been foiled.
The meeting itself is said to have taken place in the same room where the president previously met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken for personal talks. It’s not the president’s usual abode – yet the room where the interview took place had a presidential feel, with chandeliers, large Ukrainian flags and a painting of Kyiv boss Oranta, Steinfort reported .
Lost in Sydney
In the building itself, the windows were covered with sandbags and all the lights were turned off, preventing the Russian air force from sighting the complex. Some doors were also blocked by stacked filing cabinets and chairs, Steinfort said. In the interview itself, Selenskyj spoke about his own threat, his concern for his people, and not losing his humanity in a war.
But before the shooting, the Australian journalist also managed to share some private moments with the Ukrainian president. Zelenskyy shared how much he loved Australia and recalled the story of visiting Sydney many years ago and being lost while jogging in the morning. He said he still remembers complete strangers wanting to help him find his hotel.