Fact checks about countries

FALSE: Video shows Ukraine President Zelenskiy kneeling for Putin

Rappler.com
FALSE: Video shows Ukraine President Zelenskiy kneeling for Putin
The video is from 2019, when Zelenskiy was still a presidential candidate. He was kneeling to honor families of Ukrainian soldiers who died in Donbas because of the Russia-Ukraine war.
At a glance
  • Claim: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is seen in a video saying: “I’m ready to kneel. Just do not kneel Ukraine,” before kneeling for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  • Rating: FALSE
  • The facts: The video is from the 2019 presidential debate in Olympiyskiy Stadium, Kyiv, when Zelenskiy was still running for president. Zelenskiy was kneeling to honor families of Ukrainian soldiers who died in Donbas because of the Russia-Ukraine war.
  • Why we fact-checked this: The TikTok video has already garnered 6.4 million views, 621,400 likes, 9,800 comments, and more than 8,800 shares, as of writing.
Complete details

A TikTok account called “@jazepsmirs,” which Rappler has fact-checked before, posted a video showing a clip of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy reciting the following in a speech: “I’m ready to kneel. Just do not kneel Ukraine. I’m ready now to kneel before every mother which did not wait for her son from the front. I’m ready now to kneel before every child who did not wait for his father. I’m ready now to kneel before every woman who did not wait for her husband.”

He then knelt in front of the audience. Another man also knelt beside him, but with his back against the audience. 

The TikTok video had the following caption: “Zelensky kneel for Putin.”

This claim is false.

The video was taken during the 2019 presidential debate at the National Sports Complex Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kyiv, Ukraine.

The Kyiv Post’s live update of the event published on April 19, 2019, said that Zelenskiy was clarifying his previous remark about kneeling to negotiate a peace deal with Russia. Zelenskiy’s gesture, according to another Kyiv Post report, was done to honor the relatives of Ukrainian soldiers who were killed in eastern Donbas.

This is supported by a Reuters article. Accordingly, Zelenskiy and the other man, identified as his rival for the 2019 presidency post and then-Ukraine president Petro Poroshenko, knelt on stage in honor of Ukrainian soldiers who died “in the country’s simmering 5-year war with Russian-backed separatists.”

Furthermore, radio broadcasting organization Radio Free Europe provided a slightly different translation from the TikTok video, reporting that Zelenskiy said he was “ready and will now go down on my knees before every child who waited but never saw his father return, I am ready to kneel before every woman who waited but never saw her husband return.”

Meanwhile, Russia and Ukraine are still at war after Putin announced on February 24 Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine. Amidst this, Zelenskiy has said in a video that he has stayed in Kyiv to defend Ukraine’s independence. – Ellen Dee Dego/Rappler.com

Ellen Dee Dego is a Rappler intern. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s internship program here.

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