Exclusive: Zelensky says Ukraine will not give up territory to the east to end war with Russia
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told CNN that Ukraine is unwilling to cede territory in the east of the country to end the war with Russia and that the Ukrainian army is ready to fight the Moscow army in the region. Donbas in a battle that he believes could influence the course of the entire war.
Zelensky said in an exclusive interview Friday with CNN’s Jake Tapper from the president’s office in Kiev that his country has no guarantee that Russia would not try to take over Kiev again if it were able to capture the Donbas.
“This is why it is very important for us not to allow them to hold our position, because this battle … it can affect the course of the whole war,” Zelensky said.
“Because I don’t trust the Russian army and the Russian leadership,” he continued. “That’s why we understand that the fact that we pushed them back and they left, and they were running away from Kiev – from the north, Chernihiv and that direction – does not mean that they are able to capture the Donbas, they will not go further to Kiev. “.
Zelensky’s interview with CNN on Friday, more than seven weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine, comes as the Ukrainian military saw the successes in resisting the Russian offensive that came as a surprise to Ukraine. intelligence – and a Kremlin that had planned a swift and decisive victory.
At the same time, Ukraine suffered terrible civilian casualties across the country during the fighting. Zelensky told CNN that the world should be prepared for Putin using a tactical nuclear weapon because he doesn’t value Ukrainian lives. Zelensky spoke in both Ukrainian and English about the horrors his country has witnessed and the urgent help his army still needs to be equipped to fend off the impending Russian offensive in eastern and southern Ukraine.
US President Joe Biden said last week that the killings of civilians committed by Russian forces appeared to be genocide.
“I have the same opinion as President Biden,” Zelensky said. “Look what happened to Bucha. It is clear that it is not even a war, it is a genocide. They just killed people. Not soldiers, folks. They just shot people in the streets. People rode bicycles, took the bus or just walked down the street. There were corpses along the streets. ”
French President Emmanuel Macron, who engaged Putin diplomatically, said in response to Biden’s comments on the genocide that he didn’t think it was constructive to raise the rhetoric. Zelensky said he spoke to Macron last week and wants him to visit Ukraine to see the atrocities firsthand.
“I think he wants to take some steps to ensure that Russia engages in dialogue. I just told him I want him to understand that this is not a war, but nothing but genocide, “Zelensky said.” I invited him to come when he has the opportunity. He will come and see and I am sure he will understand. “.
Zelensky said he wants Biden to come to Ukraine too. The US president suggested last week that he would go, although he said US officials are still “in discussion” about whether a high-ranking US official will visit Ukraine.
“I think he will,” Zelensky said of Biden when asked if there were any plans for the US president’s visit. “I mean, his decision, of course. And the security situation also depends – I mean that – but I think he’s the leader of the United States, and that’s why he should come here to see. ”
Zelensky got excited about the death that the war caused in Ukraine, saying that it is “a great pain for me” to see the lives lost. Zelensky, who lost his family during the Holocaust, was asked what he thought of politicians around the world who said “never again” on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, given what is happening in his country.
“I don’t believe in the world,” he said, speaking in English. “We don’t believe in words. After Russia escalates, we don’t believe our neighbors. We don’t believe in all of this. ”
“The only belief is faith in ourselves, in our people, faith in our armed forces and the belief that countries will support us not only with their words but with their actions,” Zelensky continued in Ukrainian. “And this is all. Never again. Really, everyone talks about it and yet, as you can see, not everyone has the courage. ”
Zelensky said the $ 800 million in additional funding Biden approved last week to go to Ukraine for new and more advanced weapons was useful, but more was still needed.
“Sure, we need more. But I’m glad he’s helping us now, “Zelensky said.” I feel like we’re having a cleaner dialogue right now. It was a dialogue that had some twists. And not just talking. It was very, very difficult. because there aren’t many countries that have really helped us ”.
Zelensky said the most important factor was the speed to get the necessary weapons into the hands of the Ukrainian forces. He dismissed some concerns that the United States and other countries have raised that Ukrainian soldiers are not trained to use some of the weapons the country requires.
“There are people who offer solutions, but they seem to be just selfish. So it’s not really up to us, “Zelensky said.” We are ready to use any type of equipment, but it has to be delivered very quickly. And we have the ability to learn how to use the new equipment. But it has to come quickly. ”
Zelensky said he was ready to engage diplomatically with Russia to try to end the war, but that Russia’s attacks on Ukrainians make it more difficult to do.
“As I said before, what is the price of all this? It’s the people. The many people who have been killed. And who ends up paying for all of this? It is Ukraine. Only us, “Zelensky said.” So for us this is really a big cost. If there is a chance to talk, we will talk. about whether the dialogue is “good” or “bad”. It’s impossible. ”
Recognizing that he still had a target behind the Kremlin as the war raged, Zelensky was asked how he would like to be remembered.
“A human being who loved life to the fullest,” he replied. “And he loved his family and he loved his homeland. Definitely not a hero. I want people to take me as I am. A normal human being.
This story has been updated with more details.