At this point, it’s hard to tell. Whatever Putin is up to at the moment, it doesn’t follow conventional logic anymore. Except for 9/11, the invasion is probably the worst turning point for world peace this century yet. Russia will bleed for it in every sense of the word.
If the Putin government is at least a little smart, they should either make Zelensky flee the country in shame like the Afghan government did in August 2021, or capture him and lock him away – or even better, pressure him into giving a speech in which he commands Ukraine to lay down its arms. This would not be fatal to Ukraine’s newfound movement to turn away from Russia, but it would be a big blow to it.
If Zelensky does not survive this whole ordeal in one way or the other, this whole disaster will turn out even worse for Russia. It would not break the Ukrainian people as some might expect, on the contrary: it would turn Zelensky into a national martyr for them. He’d forever be known as the leader who died to protect them from Russia, a pioneer for Ukrainian approach to the West, a “Servant of the People” in every sense of the word. It would only make the Russia even more impopular and lower the chances of reconciliation between Russia and Ukraine.
While I’m writing this, Zelensky goes by dressed like this. Suffice to say he’s not sparing any risk.
Like any leader, Zelensky is a personified symbol for his country. Harm this symbol, and you’ve just proven what a barbarian of the worst kind you are. Make this symbol look bad, and you will taint anything it stands for.