Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Tuesday that he “just doesn’t see the preconditions for ending the war.”
In an interview broadcast with the Financial Times, Zelensky said that while “all war must be ended at the negotiating table”, the position for “victory must be achieved on the battlefield”.
He conceded that “restoring the borders we controlled before February 24” – the date of the massive Russian invasion – could be seen as a “serious temporary victory”. But he insisted it was a “war for independence”.
“Independence, in my opinion, and in the opinion of most of our people, is to regain all of our territories, to restore all of our territorial integrity and the inviolable sovereignty of Ukraine,” Zelensky said.
“We have already lost too many people to just give up our territory,” he said.
He reserved particularly harsh criticism for French President Emmanuel Macron for his recent remarks that “we are not going to humiliate Russia”.
“Some people want to be leaders. To be a leader, you don’t need to see yourself as such, but to behave like a leader,” Zelensky said. “How can we achieve a ceasefire on the territory of Ukraine without listening to the position of the country, and without listening to the position of the leader of this country? It’s very, very surprising.
In a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 28, French and German leaders “renewed their call for a ceasefire” and called on Putin to have a direct exchange with Zelensky.
In an interview published on Saturday, the French president said: “We must not humiliate Russia so that the day the fighting stops, we can build an exit ramp by diplomatic means. I am convinced that this is the role of France to be a mediating power”.
“We won’t humiliate anyone,” Zelensky said. “We will respond in kind.”
Zelensky said that Macron, as the leader of the Normandy-format negotiations that existed before the expanded invasion of Russia on February 24, “has a deep understanding of all the details, all the details of all the arrangements made with the Russian Federation, and with Russia’s non-compliance with these agreements.
He said he was ready to negotiate with Russia, but the only person able to discuss ending the war was Putin himself.
“Any war must be ended at the negotiating table,” he said. “That’s exactly how it went in history. I’m still resolute and determined, whether I like it or not, I’m ready for direct negotiations with President Putin if we’re ready to talk seriously of the end of this war.
Zelensky also said Russia’s blockade of ports, which prevents grain exports, “is a threat of global proportions.”
“There is only one side to this threat; it is the Russian Federation. There is no dialogue here. This is a very concrete and tangible threat to Asia, Africa and some countries in Europe,” he said.
“We understand that the resulting consequences could be starvation and migration that will affect Europe. So the consequences could be very serious,” he said. “And everyone knows for a fact that we are not going to let Russian ships go to Ukrainian ports, because they attack us daily, and everyone knows that Ukraine is ready to export everything we have. We are ready for normal civilized conditions, but on safe conditions.