‘Tortured’ Ukraine wants peace with Russia despite atrocities, says Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday he was determined to press for peace despite Russian attacks on civilians that have stunned the world, and he renewed his call for countries to send more weapons before an expected upsurge in 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 during a strike at a train station in the eastern city of Kramatorsk and evidence of civilian killings emerged. after Russian troops failed to capture the capital. , kyiv, where he crouched.

“Nobody wants to negotiate with a person or people who have tortured this nation. Everything is understandable. And as a man, as a father, I understand that very well,” Zelensky said. But “we don’t want to lose opportunities, if we have any, for a diplomatic solution.”

Wearing the dull olive that marked his transformation into a warlord, he looked visibly exhausted but driven by a will to persevere.

“We have to fight, but fight for life. You cannot fight for dust when there is nothing and no one. That is why it is important to stop this war,” he said. he declares.

PICTURES | Day 45 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine:

Russian troops who withdrew from northern Ukraine are now regrouping in what is expected to be an intensified push to retake the eastern Donbass region, including the beleaguered port city of Mariupol which Ukrainian fighters are scrambling to defend.

Zelensky said he was confident Ukrainians would accept peace despite the horrors they witnessed during the more than six-week war that began Feb. 24.

These included gruesome images of civilian bodies found in courtyards, parks and city squares and buried in mass graves in the kyiv suburb of Bucha after Russian troops withdrew. Ukrainian and Western leaders have accused Moscow of war crimes.

Russia falsely claimed that Bucha’s scenes were staged. He also blamed Ukraine for the station attack as thousands rushed to flee ahead of an expected Russian offensive.

‘Not enough’ Western support

Despite hopes for peace, Zelensky acknowledged he needed to be ‘realistic’ about the prospects for a quick resolution given negotiations have so far been limited to low-level talks that don’t include the president. Russian Vladimir Putin.

He spoke to the AP inside the presidential office complex, where windows and hallways are protected by sandbag towers and heavily armed soldiers.

Zelensky showed a palpable sense of resignation and frustration when asked if the supplies of arms and other equipment his country had received from the United States and other Western nations were enough to overthrow the course of the war.

“Not yet,” he said, switching to English for emphasis. “Of course it’s not enough.”

Still, he noted there had been increased support from Europe and said US arms shipments had accelerated.

Just this week, neighboring European Union member Slovakia donated its Soviet-era S-300 air defense system to Ukraine in response to Zelensky’s appeal to help “close the sky” to Russian fighter jets and missiles.

Zelensky, left, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are seen on screens via video link during a fundraising event for Ukraine in Warsaw on Saturday. Seated at the table are, from left, British journalist Isha Sesay, Polish President Andrzej Duda, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Hugh Evans, CEO of Global Citizen. (Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images)

Part of this support has taken the form of visits by European leaders.

After meeting Zelensky in Kviv earlier on Saturday, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said he expected more EU sanctions against Russia, even though he has defended his opposition so far. country to stop deliveries of Russian natural gas.

The US, EU and UK reacted to Bucha’s images with more sanctions, including targeting Putin’s adult daughters. While the EU first took on Russia’s energy sector by banning coal, it has so far failed to agree on scrapping the much more lucrative oil and natural gas. which fund Putin’s war chest, but which Europe relies on to generate electricity, fill fuel tanks and keep industry churning.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also made an unannounced visit on Saturday to meet Zelensky, with his office saying he had discussed “long-term support” from Britain.

In kyiv, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, on Friday presented the Ukrainian leader with a questionnaire marking the first stage of an application for membership of the EU. The head of the bloc’s executive branch said the process of filling out the questionnaire could take weeks – an unusually fast turnaround – although obtaining membership would take much longer.

Zelensky grew introspective when asked what impact the pace of arms deliveries had on his people and whether more lives could have been saved if help had arrived sooner.

“A lot of times we look for answers in someone else, but I often look for answers in myself. Have we done enough to get them?” he said weapons. “Have we done enough to get 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 knows? I don’t know. You’re wondering,” he said.