Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is fighting one war on the ground and another on the world wide web.
In a special address to Australian university students and staff last night, the Ukrainian leader warned of the global disinformation war being waged by Russian President Vladimir Putin and urged the captivated audience to be part of the fight.
More than 20 universities took part in the historic event with President Zelenskyy beamed into Canberra’s Australian National University live from Ukraine and watched by viewing parties at university campuses, including Bond, across the nation.
He called for people to continue to help Ukraine by taking on the Russian propaganda machine and sharing the truth about the atrocities being committed by Russia in Ukraine each day.
"Russia spends billions on their propaganda machine," President Zelenskyy said.
"We personally know that the enemy has come to our land, but in different corners of the globe, which are far from Ukraine, they spread ... information or policy that they haven't invaded anyone and that works, unfortunately. And even after a lot of years of the war, people can't open their heart to the truth.
"Please share this information with everyone. Students and youth, by using social networks you have an opportunity to show the truth about Ukraine that will help us indeed."
President Zelenskyy praised the courage and resilience of his people.
“I didn’t think our people were capable of such heroism, of trying to stop tanks with bare hands,” he said.
"And the next part of humanity, another side, the people who came to our land. It's a shock for me. I never thought that people are capable of those [things]. We have seen ... the horror movies ... but I never thought that the reality in Ukraine would be even more scary than the scariest movies."
“Every family has lost something… or someone … a child or a father. We have lost millions of jobs. It’s a disaster. A deficit of $5 billion USD every month. People need assistance urgently.”
Opening the Bond University listening party, Faculty of Society and Design Executive Dean Professor Derek Carson said the event was a unique opportunity for students and staff to engage in real time with a world leader in the throes of a conflict.
“For students of international relations to have access to gain direct understanding of what such conflict looks like from the inside, for law students reflecting on the rule of law and how it can be upheld in circumstances such as these, and for students of journalism and communications considering how they could report on these issues and keep the plight of the Ukrainian people to the fore, this will be a unique opportunity,” he said.
Executive Dean of the Bond Law Faculty, Professor Nick James, told the gathered staff and students they were part of history.
“This is an historic moment really. President Zelenskyy took the time not just to make a statement but to take questions, engage with the audience in real time and with such frankness and authenticity and I know we are all very grateful to him for that opportunity,” he said.