Zelenskyy said he was ready to talk with Putin but not to cede his country’s independence
He added: “If there is only a 1% chance for us to stop this war, I think we have to take that chance, we have to do it.”
Ukraine’s president also warned that the talks were the best hope of averting a Third World War.
However, Zelenskyy said his nation is only willing to make limited compromises in any negotiations with Russia and is unwilling to cede the territory its citizens are fighting so hard to hold onto. He said his nation would need “guarantees of security, sovereignty, restoration of territorial integrity, real guarantees for our country” to agree to stop the fighting.
“There are compromises that we cannot be ready for as an independent state,” he said. “All the compromises related to our territorial integrity and our sovereignty and the Ukrainian people spoke about it – they did not greet the Russian soldiers with a bouquet of flowers, they greeted them with bravery, they greeted them with weapons by hand.”
In the extended interview with Zakaria, Zelenskyy also said that he had been saying for years that Ukraine deserved to be fully integrated into Europe, both as a member of NATO and the European Union. European.
He said even the promise of these things would have helped block Russian expansionist policies and end the fighting that began in 2014.
“If Russia keeps doing the polls, testing the crowds and if they don’t see any response from the West, they will keep moving forward,” he said. “I’ve been talking about it since day one of my presidency.”
Zelenskyy said he had told world leaders this throughout his tenure: “I told them we were running out of time. You must admit Ukraine into NATO now. We didn’t have much time. You must accept Ukraine as a member of the EU. We deserve these alliances.
But, he noted, “Everyone in the West told me we had no chance of joining NATO or the EU.”
Zelenskyy, who is Jewish and lost family members to the Holocaust during World War II, said he found it absurd that Putin had said Ukraine was full of Nazis.
“It’s a laughable statement to me,” he said, but added that it was nevertheless very worrying: “The point is, if he’s serious about that statement, he might be able to very horrible steps because it would mean that it is not a game for him.
Throughout the interview, Zelenskyy spoke of the pride and resilience of the Ukrainian people.
“Russian forces came to exterminate us, to kill us, and we demonstrated the dignity of our people and our army,” he said.
“But,” he added, “our dignity is not going to save lives.”
Zakaria asked Zelenskyy how he and his family were coping.
“I’m holding up pretty well. As of now my weakest point is losing people, losing so many children and this huge amount of casualties. I go to bed with this information about the children who have been killed and we continue to pray to avoid further loss of people, but so far we have not achieved these results,” he said.
Zelenskyy, married with two children, added: “My kids know for sure what’s going on and I don’t know if it’s good or bad.”