Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has trolled his Russian counterpart, saying he was "envious" that Vladimir Putin had enough free time on his hands to research the history of their peoples.
Zelenskiy made the comment on July 13 in response to a question from journalists seeking his reaction to Putin's more than 5,000-word article contending that Ukrainians and Russians are one people.
The assertion seems meant to sound like a positive statement of fraternity but is an affront to many in Ukraine who see it as an attempt to minimize their unique culture and history.
The Ukrainian president said he didn't have enough time to analyze the entire article -- which was also published in Ukrainian on the Kremlin website a day earlier -- but snarked that he could see that the Russian president "spent a lot of time" on it.
"I am envious that the president of such a great power can permit himself to spend so much time [writing] such a volume of detailed work," Zelenskiy said.
He said that, despite Putin's mention of "brotherly" populations, Russia's actions had been anything but brotherly.
"It looks more like Cain and Abel," Zelenskiy said.
Putin has for years been seeking to cast doubt on Ukraine's legitimacy as a nation and an independent state in an effort to keep Kyiv in its orbit, reportedly telling U.S. President George W. Bush that Ukraine was "not even a country."
However, many in Ukraine long to see their country integrate with Europe, preferring Western values and institutions of governance to those offered by the Kremlin.
When former President Viktor Yanukovych attempted to reorient the country toward Moscow, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians took to the streets of Kyiv in 2013 and 2014 to protest, eventually toppling his government.
Putin exploited Yanukovych's overthrow to forcibly seize Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014, the first post-World War II land grab in Europe, claiming it was historically Russian land.
Shortly thereafter, Putin began backing separatists in Ukraine's eastern industrial heartland, the Donbas, in a conflict that has left more than 14,000 dead, according to estimates by Kyiv.
In his July 12 article, Putin said he was "convinced that the true sovereignty of Ukraine is possible only in partnership with Russia."
The Ukrainian president told reporters the following day that it would have been better had Putin used his free time instead to meet face to face.
Zelenskiy has been seeking a summit with Putin to discuss outstanding issues, including ending the conflict in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine.
Zelenskiy told reporters that Putin never seemed to have time to meet and now he understands why.
"The things he wrote about -- we could have talked about it," he said.
Zelenskiy Trolls Putin After Russian President Publishes Article On Ukraine