Ukraine's President Zelensky Gives His Views on the Offensive, US Support, and How the War Finally Ends

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky talks with ABC "This Week" anchor Martha Raddatz. CREDIT: ABC News

With Putin’s War in Ukraine blowing past the 500 day point with no end in sight, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky sat down for two interviews today with American media. He gave one interview to the editorial board of the Washington Post. and another to ABC News. The one most people will see is the ABC “This Week” interview by Martha Raddatz.

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Here are the major items as I see them. Raddatz covers a lot of territory, sometimes splicing in interviews with other Ukrainian officials. I’m focusing solely on the Zelensky interview.

NATO Summit in Vilnius

Zelensky says he will attend the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, if there are issues that haven’t been decided.

In this case, it’s obvious that I’ll be there and I’ll be doing whatever I can in order to, so to speak, expedite that solution, to have an agreement with our partners. I don’t want to go to Vilnius for fun if the decision has been made beforehand.

My gut feeling is that he will not attend.

Status of the Ukrainian Offensive

All of us, we want to do it faster. Because every day means new losses of Ukrainians. We are advancing. We are not stuck in one place. We’ve already overtaken that initiative. Several months ago, in some places in the east, we had to retreat. In some other communities, we would regain lost ground, but it was kind of a stagnation, meaning loss of manpower and equipment. And of course, we would all like to see the counteroffensive accomplished in a shorter period of time, but there’s reality.

Today. the initiative is on our side.

If you read my updates (click to see them), you won’t be surprised to find that I agree with that assessment. The funny thing about initiative, though, is that you have it right up until the moment you don’t and a lot of times you don’t get a warning that it is slipping away. Zelensky also says that he is not under pressure from allies to speed up the pace of events. A couple of weeks ago, it was obvious that some unidentified leakers were trying to stampede the Ukrainians into throwing massive numbers of troops against Russian emplacements. Fortunately, they resisted.

F-16s and Other Weapons

Raddatz quizzed Zelensky on Ukraine’s insistence on getting US-made F-16 fighters.

RADDATZ: You still don’t have those F-16s, and there’s other — there are other weapons you want as well. Can you succeed without them?

ZELENSKYY (through translator): F-16 or any other equipment that we do need will give us an opportunity to move faster, to save more lives, to stand our ground for a longer time. But the most important thing is the spirit of our people.

The Netherlands has started training Ukrainian pilots on the F-16 and Czechia has provided the Ukraine Air Force with F-16 flight simulators (see Putin’s War, Week 65. G7 Calls for War Crimes Trials and Reparations, F-16 Pilots Start Training, and Russia Is Invaded).

One of the stories that has not been covered enough is the utter failure of the Russian Air Force to do anything. Russia has never achieved air superiority. The failure of the Russian Air Force to develop anything like a Suppression of Enemy Air Defense doctrine and the supporting weaponry has made penetrating Ukrainian airspace, or evenly operating in Russian airspace bordering Ukraine, a very high-risk affair; see Four Russian Aircraft Were Shot Down Over Russia in a Couple of Minutes and No One Is Giving Straight Answers.

When F-16s enter combat, the Russian Air Force, other than strategic bombers firing missiles from launch points over the Caspian Sea, will disappear from the battlespace.

Foot-Dragging by the West

There is no doubt that the reluctance on the part of the US, Germany, and some other countries has helped this war drag out. Zelensky has asked about the impact of depriving Ukraine of the weapons needed to defend its territory.

RADDATZ: You still don’t have those F-16s, and there’s other — there are other weapons you want as well. Can you succeed without them?

ZELENSKYY (through translator): F-16 or any other equipment that we do need will give us an opportunity to move faster, to save more lives, to stand our ground for a longer time. But the most important thing is the spirit of our people.

RADDATZ: But, Mr. President, you talk about lives being lost because it takes longer. And in the same breath, you want and wanted the weapons you have right away. So, has the foot dragging from the allies or from the U.S. cost lives?

ZELENSKYY (through translator): Some weapons we have been provided by our allies help us save lives, and I appreciate that. Of course, foot dragging will lead to more lives losses.

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Early in the war, nations were reluctant to arm Ukraine because it was all going to be over in 72 hours and no one wanted to make Putin mad. After the Russian drive stalled, there was reluctance to arm Ukraine because Putin needed an “off ramp.” And then because of “escalation.” All each delay has done is run up the body count on both sides so the Foreign Policy Nabobs could cluck away about a negotiated peace that isn’t possible.

Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant

A week ago, both Ukraine and Russia were accusing each other of planning to destroy Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, see BREAKING. Russia and Ukraine Accuse Each Other of Planning an Attack Tonight on Europe’s Largest Nuclear Reactor. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Raddatz asked Zelensky about that situation.

RADDATZ: And there is an even greater fear. Officials issuing dire warnings about a potential attack by the Kremlin on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which Russia has controlled since the early days of the war. President Zelenskyy concerned that Russia is prepared to blow up the power plant.

ZELENSKYY (through translator): Yes, technically, they are prepared. Can we, while analyzing this, think that Russia is planning a local explosion in order to stop Ukrainian operations on the battlefield? Yes. As if they are going to lose more initiative on the battlefield than they have lost at the moment, they will make some additional steps in order to make the entire world to be afraid of the global nuclear disaster and halt all military action on the battlefield.

RADDATZ: If something happens in Zaporizhzhia, if they do use explosives, is Ukraine prepared for that?

ZELENSKYY (through translator): Our appropriate institutions are ready. They continue working on that at the level of the Interior Ministry, the state emergency service. They are working on different scenarios. This is their task. This is their responsibility.

Prigozhin’s Mutiny

In late June, Wagner Group PMC honcho Yevgeny Prigozhin carried out what looked to be something between a mutiny and a coup d’etat that fizzled; see Russian Coup Update: It Ends With a Whimper as Prigozhin Goes Into Exile but Will Anything Ever Be the Same?. Zelensky was asked about the impact that had on the war.

ZELENSKYY (through translator): And what is his strength? Well, first of all, he showed that Russian regions are not protected. Because mercenaries with some equipment and weapons were very close to Moscow.

He has demonstrated to the entire world and Ukraine in particular, that, as a matter of fact, all of his troops are on the Ukrainian territory. At the moment, he doesn’t have military force inside Russia, and his civilian population is not protected.

And he also demonstrated that there is a signal that there might be another mutiny in Russia, a revolution. More than that, there are many people who might support such a mutiny.

Land for Peace

One of the standard proposals from the foreign policy elite is that Ukraine just stop fighting and give Putin what he wants. I mean, it’s only a little rape and some minor battery, right?

RADDATZ: But with all the threats, all the losses, 500 days into the war, Zelenskyy remaining adamant Ukraine will not cede any territory to Russia.

Six months ago, you said you would not cede any territory to Russia to end this war. We’re now 16 months in. Is your answer the same?

ZELENSKYY: Yes.

RADDATZ: No territory? No Crimea?

ZELENSKYY: No territory. Crimea is our territory.

RADDATZ: So, that is a feasible scenario?

ZELENSKYY (through translator): Well, the war is to be over with justice and peace, and with us regaining our territorial integrity. Why? Because the end of the hot stage of the war and freezing the conflict would not mean the end of the war.

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American Aid to Ukraine

RADDATZ: What would you say to those Americans who say, we’ve given enough, we have our own problems, we can’t continue to do that?

ZELENSKYY (through translator): I would like to say thank you to all Americans for what you have done, and I appreciate those who say that you’ve done enough. Trust me, no matter what I appreciate help.

When it comes to the word enough, well, we, Ukrainians, are not people known for excessive appetites. Our victory is enough for us. Honestly, when we have enough for our victory, then it will be enough.

 

Full Transcript via ABC News

MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC “THIS WEEK” CO-ANCHOR: 500 days of war. As Ukraine reaches a critical point in the battle, the U.S. approves cluster munitions banned by much of the world to help in the counteroffensive.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: The Ukrainians are running out of ammunition. But it was not an easy decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: And President Biden to a high-stakes NATO summit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE SULLIVAN: Ukraine still has further steps it needs to take before membership in NATO.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: But with no end to the war in sight, what comes next? This morning, the latest from Ukraine. Our conversation with President Zelenskyy in Kyiv.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: Six months ago you said you would not cede any territory. Is your answer the same?

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE: Yes.

RADDATZ: No territory? No Crimea?

ZELENSKYY: No territory. Crimea is our territory.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: Our exclusive access to those leading the fight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: You think you can take Bakhmut?

GENERAL OLEKSANDR SYRSKYI: Yes, of course. I assure you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: And the stories of civilians caught in the violence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: We were just about a mile and a half from here when that missile struck that building in this apartment complex.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: Plus, National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby and all the week’s politics from our powerhouse roundtable.

ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it’s “This Week.” Here now with Martha Raddatz.

RADDATZ: Good morning and welcome to “This Week.” It has now been 500 days since the first Russian missile strikes in Ukraine signal the start of an invasion that most of the world expected would end in a victory for Vladimir Putin in a matter of days.

I was on the ground in Ukraine that night in a country fighting for its very survival, among citizens facing an uncertain future. I just returned from another trip to Ukraine, a nation still at war, its future still uncertain, but no longer just on the defensive.

Its soldiers are engaged in a grinding effort to reclaim occupied land, armed with equipment and training from the U.S.-led global coalition. It’s a critical moment in this conflict. Ukraine’s performance against the larger dug-in Russian force could determine the trajectory of a war that has left more than 9,000 civilians dead and forced 11 million Ukrainians, a quarter of the population, from their homes.

With the counteroffensive in motion and ahead of President Biden’s trip to Europe for the NATO summit, where leaders are expected to debate Ukraine’s push to join the alliance, we met up with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the presidential offices in the heart of Kyiv, heavily fortified and surrounded by the security.

We spent more than an hour with the president talking about the war, the country’s future and the spirit of the Ukrainian people. We began by asking about the NATO summit and the counteroffensive.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RADDATZ: There’s a NATO summit next week. Have you made up your mind whether you will go?

ZELENSKYY (through translator): Vilnius the summit is very important. If there is no unity regarding the technical invitation for Ukraine to join the alliance, it’s all a matter of political will just to find the proper wording and invite Ukraine. It would be an important message to say that NATO is not afraid of Russia. Ukraine should get clear security guarantees while it is not in NATO. And that is a very important point. Only under these conditions our meeting would be meaningful. Otherwise, it’s just another politics.

RADDATZ: So, it sounds unlikely that you will go.

ZELENSKYY: Why?

RADDATZ: From what you just said.

ZELENSKYY: I think we’ll do a lot of work.

RADDATZ: What does that mean? You’ll do a lot of work?

ZELENSKYY (through translator): We are working with our partners. We are working on security guarantees. We are also working on helping our partners to make some conclusions for this upcoming NATO summit meeting, and we would like to have all the decisions to be made during this summit.

In this case, it’s obvious that I’ll be there and I’ll be doing whatever I can in order to, so to speak, expedite that solution, to have an agreement with our partners. I don’t want to go to Vilnius for fun if the decision has been made beforehand.

RADDATZ: What is your assessment of how the counteroffensive is going right now?

ZELENSKYY (through translator): All of us, we want to do it faster. Because every day means new losses of Ukrainians. We are advancing. We are not stuck in one place. We’ve already overtaken that initiative. Several months ago, in some places in the east, we had to retreat. In some other communities, we would regain lost ground, but it was kind of a stagnation, meaning loss of manpower and equipment. And of course, we would all like to see the counteroffensive accomplished in a shorter period of time, but there’s reality.

Today. the initiative is on our side.

RADDATZ: You’ve read western officials. You’ve read others saying they wanted it to move faster. Did you feel pressure?

ZELENSKYY (through translator): Well, I don’t feel any pressure at all. They seem to understand how challenging and difficult it is, how difficult it is to survive and how difficult it is to fight, to seize initiative in our war with Russia given the total strength of Russians and amount of equipment they have in their possession. So, they are not pressurizing me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: The counteroffensive now at a critical point, with some of the fiercest fighting yet. Inch by inch, Ukrainian soldiers trying to regain territory lost to the Russians in the south and east. General Oleksandr Syrskyi in charge of the eastern flank, including the city of Bakhmut.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: Do you think you can take Bakhmut?

GEN. OLEKSANDR SYRSKYI, COMMANDER, UKRAINIAN GROUND FORCES: Yes, of course. I assure you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: In Central Ukraine, we saw soldiers training for these battles, the military looking for help anywhere it can.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: These are all border guard officers, law enforcement trained, but now, they’re training for combat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: Simulating an assault, seizing enemy positions and practicing evacuating the wounded, which will almost certainly become a reality, Ukrainians suffering heavy losses in this counteroffensive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: The losses have been great in this counteroffensive?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: Despite the Ukrainian casualties, the general said, the enemy is suffering eight to 10 times higher troop losses.

General Oleksandr Tarnavskyi commanding troops in the south, telling me the full power of the Ukrainian military has yet to be seen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: The main assault is still yet to come in this counteroffensive?

I’m sure of that, he says. We haven’t reached our full potential in terms of troops and equipment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: And a big help, the Ukrainians believe, cluster munitions, which the Biden administration has just announced it will provide, despite the fact it is a weapon is banned by most NATO allies. A move Andriy Yermak, Zelenskyy’s top adviser, says will make a difference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDRIY YERMAK, HEAD OF UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE: You know, we ask only these things which are very important. And of course, now we need it to win this war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: Since the war began, the U.S. has promised more than $41 billion in aid to Ukraine, including Patriot defense systems, artillery and Bradley fighting vehicles. But Ukraine has insisted that what it needs most is help from the sky. F-16 fighter jets, the U.S. is allowing the allies to send have yet to arrive even with the counteroffensive at a critical point.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: You still don’t have those F-16s, and there’s other — there are other weapons you want as well. Can you succeed without them?

ZELENSKYY (through translator): F-16 or any other equipment that we do need will give us an opportunity to move faster, to save more lives, to stand our ground for a longer time. But the most important thing is the spirit of our people.

RADDATZ: But, Mr. President, you talk about lives being lost because it takes longer. And in the same breath, you want and wanted the weapons you have right away. So, has the foot dragging from the allies or from the U.S. cost lives?

ZELENSKYY (through translator): Some weapons we have been provided by our allies help us save lives, and I appreciate that. Of course, foot dragging will lead to more lives losses.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: And losses are a daily occurrence, and not just for Ukrainian troops. The sirens, a stark reminder, the missiles a constant fear. This week, the deadliest attack on civilians in Lviv since the war began, at least 10 killed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: We were just about a mile and a half from here when that missile struck that building in this apartment complex. We could hear the powerful blast. You could feel the shockwaves.

RADDATZ (voice-over): Seventy-six-year-old Halyna showered with glass covered in blood. I was so frightened, she said. And 15-year-old David Ivanyk running scared from his apartment.

DAVID IVANYK, SURVIVOR: When I saw the rocket falling into the house, the explosion, the wave of the explosions just throw me away to —

RADDATZ: It knocked you back.

IVANYK: Yes. It knocked me back to her house. And I was in shock, I didn’t know what to do because it was really scary for me for the first time experience.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: And there is an even greater fear. Officials issuing dire warnings about a potential attack by the Kremlin on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which Russia has controlled since the early days of the war. President Zelenskyy concerned that Russia is prepared to blow up the power plant.

ZELENSKYY (through translator): Yes, technically, they are prepared. Can we, while analyzing this, think that Russia is planning a local explosion in order to stop Ukrainian operations on the battlefield? Yes. As if they are going to lose more initiative on the battlefield than they have lost at the moment, they will make some additional steps in order to make the entire world to be afraid of the global nuclear disaster and halt all military action on the battlefield.

RADDATZ: If something happens in Zaporizhzhia, if they do use explosives, is Ukraine prepared for that?

ZELENSKYY (through translator): Our appropriate institutions are ready. They continue working on that at the level of the Interior Ministry, the state emergency service. They are working on different scenarios. This is their task. This is their responsibility.

RADDATZ: Zelenskyy says he does believe Putin has been weakened after Wagner group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin launched an attempted mutiny against top Russian military leadership. Prigozhin’s whereabouts now unconfirmed, despite claims he is back in Russia after a brief stay in Belarus.

Are you concerned Prigozhin or his soldiers could come back into Ukraine?

ZELENSKYY (through translator): Well, we are not afraid of Prigozhin. We were not afraid of him when he was standing, so to speak, strong in Bakhmut. I think that our armed forces are stronger because no matter how many members of Wagner group were there, they couldn’t prevail. But, nevertheless, they were stronger than their own Russian army. Wagner was more powerful.

RADDATZ: Why do you think he did this? And why did he stop?

ZELENSKYY (through translator): As of today, he has become a political figure. And this, to me, must have been his primary objective. And that he has not gone until the very end, was it in his plans, or no? Well, I don’t know that for sure.

RADDATZ: Putin is now trying to rally people around him, trying to show strength and there are some analysts who even say in the short term he might have gained from this, do you think so?

ZELENSKYY (through translator): And what is his strength? Well, first of all, he showed that Russian regions are not protected. Because mercenaries with some equipment and weapons were very close to Moscow.

He has demonstrated to the entire world and Ukraine in particular, that, as a matter of fact, all of his troops are on the Ukrainian territory. At the moment, he doesn’t have military force inside Russia, and his civilian population is not protected.

And he also demonstrated that there is a signal that there might be another mutiny in Russia, a revolution. More than that, there are many people who might support such a mutiny.

RADDATZ: But with all the threats, all the losses, 500 days into the war, Zelenskyy remaining adamant Ukraine will not cede any territory to Russia.

Six months ago, you said you would not cede any territory to Russia to end this war. We’re now 16 months in. Is your answer the same?

ZELENSKYY: Yes.

RADDATZ: No territory? No Crimea?

ZELENSKYY: No territory. Crimea is our territory.

RADDATZ: You met with the CIA director on what was supposed to be a secret trip.

ZELENSKYY: That’s great secret.

ZELENSKYY (through translator): We began to speak about it. Yeah.

RADDATZ: With “The Washington Post” — “The Washington Post” said —

ZELENSKYY (through translator): “Washington Post”, OK.

RADDATZ: — in that meeting, Ukrainian officials laid out a scenario that they thought would end the war, which was that by this fall, Ukrainian troops would advance to the edge of Ukraine’s border with Crimea, you would agree not to take it by force, and then push Moscow into negotiations. Is that a scenario that is feasible?

ZELENSKYY (through translator): Well, it’s absolutely clear, logical rhetoric, that at that moment, when Ukraine will reach the administrative border with a temporarily occupied Ukrainian Peninsula, Crimea, it’s very likely that Putin will be forced to seek dialect with the civilized world, unlike it was before the full-scale invasion. Because he will be more weakened and he’ll be seeking for some other ways, possibly diplomatic ways, and will likely be sending relevant messages.

RADDATZ: So, that is a feasible scenario?

ZELENSKYY (through translator): Well, the war is to be over with justice and peace, and with us regaining our territorial integrity. Why? Because the end of the hot stage of the war and freezing the conflict would not mean the end of the war.

RADDATZ: Tell me how you think Ukraine will be doing a year from now, five years from now? What is your place in the world?

ZELENSKYY (through translator): Ukraine has already got a place in the world for itself. I consider that as a fact. We are now a country that is respected, a country that is really fighting for human values, for human rights, for freedom, for democracy, and everyone has already understood that it is exactly such a country. I assume that Ukraine will be a valued NATO countries’ partner with actually strongest armed forces in Europe.

90 percent of Ukrainians want to be part of NATO. More than 90 percent of Ukrainians want to be part of the European Union. After the war, we’ll take some time, we’ll make necessary changes to our legal framework in order to finally become E.U. member state.

I think that the country with such potential is important for the unity. And what is more important is that we are really a democratic nation that is dying for that on the battlefield.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RADDATZ: As for future support from Americans, Zelenskyy is watching the U.S. elections closely, but says, the choice is up to the American people.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: If I’m president, I will have that war settled in one day, 24 hours.

RADDATZ: Donald Trump says he would end the war in 24 hours if he was elected president.

ZELENSKYY (through translator): It seems to me that the sole desire to bring the war to an end is beautiful. But this desire should be based on some real-life experience. Well, it looks as if Donald Trump had already these 24 hours once in his time. We were at war, not a full-scale war, but we were at war, and as I assume, he had that time at his disposal, but he must have had some other priorities.

If we are talking about ending the war at the cost of Ukraine, in other words to make us give up our territories, well, I think, in this way, Biden could have brought it to an end even in five minutes, but we would not agree.

RADDATZ: What would you say to those Americans who say, we’ve given enough, we have our own problems, we can’t continue to do that?

ZELENSKYY (through translator): I would like to say thank you to all Americans for what you have done, and I appreciate those who say that you’ve done enough. Trust me, no matter what I appreciate help.

When it comes to the word enough, well, we, Ukrainians, are not people known for excessive appetites. Our victory is enough for us. Honestly, when we have enough for our victory, then it will be enough.

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xx

 

 

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