Kyiv, Ukraine (AFP) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday he is committed to pressing for peace despite Russian attacks on civilians. That stunned the world, and renewed his plea for more weapons before an expected escalation of fighting in the east of the country.
He made the comments in an interview with the Associated Press, a day after at least 52 people were killed in a raid on a train station in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, and as evidence of civilian deaths. He came to light after Russian forces failed to capture the capital in which he was holed up, Kyiv.
No one wants to negotiate with a person or people who have tortured this nation. Everything is understandable. As a man, as a father, I understand this very well, said Zelensky. But “we don’t want to lose opportunities, if we have them, for a diplomatic solution.”
Dressed in the fading olive oil that marked his transformation into a wartime leader, he looked visibly exhausted but moved by an impulse to persevere. He spoke to the AP inside the presidential office complex, where windows and corridors are protected by spiers of sandbags and heavily armed soldiers.
“We have to fight, but we fight for life. You cannot fight for dust when there is nothing and no people. That is why it is important to stop this war,” Zelensky said.
Russian forces withdrew from northern Ukraine They are now regrouping for what is expected to be a massive push to retake the eastern Donbass region, including the besieged port city of Mariupol. which the Ukrainian fighters seek to defend.
The president said that these defenders connect “a large part of the enemy’s forces,” describing the battle for Mariupol as “the heart of the war” at the moment.
“It’s beating. We’re fighting. They were strong. And if you stop hitting, we’ll be in a weaker position.”
Zelensky said he was confident Ukrainians would accept peace despite the horrors they witnessed in the more than six-week-old war.
Among those horrific images of civilian corpses They were found in squares, parks and city squares and buried in mass graves in the Kyiv suburb of Buka after the withdrawal of Russian forces. Ukrainian and Western leaders have accused Moscow of war crimes.
Russia falsely claimed that the scenes in Bucha were filmed. It also blamed Ukraine for the attack on the train station in Kramatorsk, in which thousands of people rushed to flee before an expected Russian attack.
Despite hopes for peace, Zelensky acknowledged he must be “realistic” about the prospects for a quick solution given that negotiations have so far been limited to low-level talks that do not include Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Zelensky showed a palpable sense of capitulation and frustration when asked whether the supplies of arms and other equipment his country received from the United States and other Western countries were sufficient to change the course of the war.
“Not yet,” he said, turning to English for emphasis. “Of course this is not enough.”
However, he noted that there is growing support from Europe and said US arms shipments are accelerating.
Just this week, neighboring Slovakia, a member of the European Union, donated its Soviet-era S-300 air defense system to Ukraine in response to Zelensky’s plea for help “close the skies” to Russian warplanes and missiles.
Some of this support has come from visits by European leaders.
After meeting with Zelensky in Kyiv earlier on Saturday, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said he expected more EU sanctions against Russia even as he defended his country’s opposition to cutting Russian natural gas supplies.
The US, EU and UK responded to the Busha photos with more sanctionsincluding those targeting Putin’s adult daughters. While the European Union has been going after Russia’s energy sector for the first time with its coal ban, it has so far failed to agree on cutting off the more lucrative oil and natural gas. That finances Putin’s war fund. Europe relies on those supplies to generate electricity, fill fuel tanks, and keep the industry floundering.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also made an unannounced visit to meet ZelenskyHis office said they discussed “long-term British support”.
In Kyiv on Friday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presented a questionnaire to the leader of Ukraine representing the first step in applying to join the European Union. The head of the bloc’s executive arm said the process of completing the survey could take weeks – an unusually fast turnaround – although securing membership would take longer.
Zelensky turned introspective when asked about the effect of the pace of arms delivery on his people and whether more lives could have been saved if help came sooner.
We often look for answers in someone else, but I often look for answers myself. Have we done enough to get it? “He said of weapons. Have we done enough for these leaders to believe in us? Have we done enough?”
He stopped and shook his head.
“Are we the best for this place and this time? Who do you know? I don’t know. “You ask yourself,” he said.
Associated Press photographer Evgeny Malolitka contributed to this story.
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