Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Tuesday that he “simply cannot see the preconditions for ending the war.”
In a broadcast interview with the Financial Times, Zelensky said that while “any war should be ended at the negotiating table,” the position for “victory must be achieved on the battlefield.”
He conceded that “restoring the borders that we controlled before 24th of February” — the date of the massive Russian invasion — could be considered a “serious temporary victory.” But he insisted that it was a “war for independence.”
“Independence in my opinion, and in the opinion of most of our people, is regaining all of our territories, restoring all of our territorial integrity and inviolable sovereignty of Ukraine,” Zelensky said.
“We have already lost too many people to simply cede our territory,” he said.
He reserved particularly harsh criticism for French President Emmanuel Macron over recent remarks he made that “we are not going to humiliate Russia.”
“Some people want to be leaders. In order to be a leader, you do not need to consider yourself one, but to be behave as a leader,” Zelensky said. “How can we achieve a ceasefire in the territory of Ukraine without listening to the position of country, and without listening to position of the leader of this country? This is very, very surprising.”
In a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 28, the leaders of France and Germany “renewed their demand for a ceasefire” and called on Putin to have a direct exchange with Zelensky.
In an interview published Saturday, the French President said, “We must not humiliate Russia so that the day when the fighting stops we can build an exit ramp through diplomatic means. I am convinced that it is France’s role to be a mediating power.”
“We are not going to humiliate anyone,” Zelensky said. “We are going to respond in kind.”
Zelensky said that Macron, as a leader of the Normandy Format of negotiations that existed before Russia’s expanded Feb. 24 invasion, “has a profound understanding of all the details, of all the details of all the arrangements made with the Russian Federation, and with Russia’s failure to comply with these accords.”
He said that he was prepared for negotiations with Russia, but that the only person capable of discussing an end to the war was Putin himself.
“Any war should be ended at the negotiating table,” he said. “This is exactly how it has happened in history. I am still resolute and determined, whether I want it or not, I am ready for direct negotiations with President Putin if we are ready to discuss putting an end to this war seriously.”
Zelensky also said Russia’s blockade of ports, which is preventing grain exports, “is a threat of global magnitude.”
“There is just one side to this threat; this is the Russian Federation. There is no dialogue here. This is a very concrete, tangible threat to Asia, Africa, and certain countries in Europe,” he said.
“We understand that the ensuing consequences might be famine and migration that is going to affect Europe. So the consequences might be very severe,” he said. “And everyone knows for a fact that we are not going to let Russian ships to Ukrainian ports, because they attack us on a daily basis, and everyone knows that Ukraine is ready to export everything that we have. We are ready for a normal civilized conditions, but on safe terms.”