zUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
© AFP / Stephanie Loos
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
In a rebuke to an essay written by Russian President Vladimir Putin, his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky has revealed his view that "distant relatives," like Moscow, should not try to claim the history of the Kievan Rus.

Zelensky was speaking on the 1,033rd anniversary of the Baptism of Kievan Rus, when Vladimir the Great converted to Christianity. This society was a loose federation of peoples in modern-day Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia, all united under a monarchy - the Rurik dynasty.

"This is not part of our history. This is our history. We do not need to prove it with historical treatises, works, articles. Because our proofs are not on paper but in metal and stone. Not in myths and legends, but in our cities and on our streets," Zelensky said in a video on YouTube.

"Kievan Rus is the mother of our history. The 24 regions of Ukraine and the Crimea peninsula are her children. And they are her heirs by right," he continued. "Her cousins and very distant relatives don't need to encroach on her inheritance and try to prove their involvement in history thousands of years ago."

Zelensky's statement comes two weeks after Putin published an article called 'On the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians', in which he suggested that the two nations are the same, and the populations "one people." The president also said that Ukraine, in its current shape, is entirely the brainchild of the Soviet era, created to a large extent at the expense of the native Russian territories.

Following the president's article, a poll conducted by Rating Group, a Kiev-based NGO, revealed that 41% of Ukrainians agree with Putin that Russians and Ukrainians are the same people, with 55% disagreeing. In the east, closer to the border with Russia, the number who agreed was much higher, at 65%. The poll results discovered no correlation with age, but found that 66% of those belonging to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church concurred with Putin's thesis.