Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky sat down for an exclusive interview with CNN that aired over the weekend. If you’re just joining us, here are the key takeaways:
Ukraine is not willing to give up its eastern territory: Zelensky said he will not give up the eastern part of the country to end the war with Russia, and Ukraine’s military is prepared to fight Moscow’s military in the Donbas region in a battle he says could influence the course of the entire war.
Ukraine has no guarantee that Russia wouldn’t try again to seize Kyiv if it is able to capture Donbas, he continued. “This is why it is very important for us to not allow them, to stand our ground, because this battle … it can influence the course of the whole war,” Zelensky said.
“Because I don’t trust the Russian military and Russian leadership,” he added. “That is why we understand that the fact that we fought them off and they left, and they were running away from Kyiv – from the north, from Chernihiv and from that direction – it doesn’t mean if they are able to capture Donbas, they won’t come further towards Kyiv.”
Zelensky’s interview with CNN, more than seven weeks into Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine, comes as Ukraine’s military has seen successes resisting Russia’s offensive that have come as a surprise to US intelligence – and a Kremlin that had planned for a quick and decisive victory.
Asked by Tapper if Ukraine would be victorious in the conflict, Zelensky said, “Yes, of course, and will.”
What happened with Russian warship Moskva: A senior US defense official said Friday that two Ukrainian Neptune missiles had hit the Moskva, and an American official said that the strike and subsequent sinking of the ship was the result of a Ukrainian missile. Zelensky, however, was cagey about whether Ukraine had played a role.
“We know that it does not exist anymore. For us, it is a strong weapon against our country, so its sinking is not a tragedy for us. I want you, the rest of the people, to realize that. The less weapons the Russian Federation that has attacked our country has, the better for us. The less capable they are. This is important,” he told CNN.
Zelensky warns that Russia could use nuclear or chemical weapons: “All of the countries have to be worried because it can be not real information, but it can be truth,” Zelensky said, switching into English to emphasize his point. “We should think not be afraid, not be afraid but be ready. But that is not a question for Ukraine, not only for Ukraine but for all the world, I think.”
More help needed: Zelensky said the $800 million in additional funding Biden approved last week to go to Ukraine for new and more advanced weapons was helpful – but more was still needed. “Of course, we need more. But I am happy that he is helping us now,” Zelensky said. “I feel that right now we are having a cleaner dialogue. It’s been a dialogue that’s had some twists and turns. And not just talk. It’s been very, very difficult because there aren’t many countries that have really helped us.”
Zelensky said the most important factor was speed to get the weapons needed into the hands of Ukrainian forces. He dismissed some concerns the US and other countries have raised that Ukraine’s soldiers are not trained to use some of the weapons the country is asking for.
Zelensky speaks about the horrors of war: “Look what happened in Bucha. It’s clear that is not even a war, it’s a genocide. They just killed people. Not soldiers, people. They just shot people in the streets. People were riding bicycles, taking the bus or just walking down the street. There were corpses lining the streets,” the president said.
Asked about a video released earlier this month showing a Ukrainian woman finding the body of her son in a well, Zelensky said, “This is the most horrifying thing I have seen in my life.”
He grew emotional talking about the death that the war has caused in Ukraine, saying it is “a great pain for me” to see the lives lost. Zelensky, who lost family in the Holocaust, was asked what he thought about politicians around the world saying “never again” on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, given what’s happening in his country.
“I don’t believe the world,” he said, speaking in English. “We don’t believe the words. After the escalation of Russia, we don’t believe our neighbors. We don’t believe all of this.”
“The only belief there is belief in ourselves, in our people, belief in our Armed Forces, and the belief that countries are going to support us not just with their words but with their actions,” Zelensky continued in Ukrainian. “And that’s it. Never again. Really, everybody is talking about this and yet, as you can see, not everyone has got the guts.”
Read more from the interview here.
CNN’s Devan Cole contributed to this report.
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