Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said Ukraine is not willing to give up territory in the eastern part of the country to end the war with Russia and is preparing to offer tough resistance in the face of an expected large-scale offensive in the east of the country.
“We will not give up our territory,” Zelenskyy told CNN in an exclusive interview broadcast on Sunday, adding that the fight for the eastern Donbas region could shape the outcome of the war in its entirety.
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The Ukrainian president warned Russia could try to seize Kyiv again if it captures Donbas.
“This is why it is very important for us to not allow them, to stand our ground, because this battle … it can influence the course of the whole war,” Zelenskyy said.
“Because I don’t trust the Russian military and Russian leadership,” he continued. “That is why we understand that the fact that we fought them off and they left, and they were running away from Kyiv – from the north, from Chernihiv and from that direction – it doesn’t mean if they are able to capture Donbas, they won’t come further towards Kyiv.”
Calls for Biden visit
Zelenskyy said he also believed US President Joe Biden would visit Ukraine. White House officials have said there are no plans for the 79-year-old president to do so, even though they are considering sending an emissary to Kyiv.
“I think he will [come],” Zelenskyy said, “but it’s his decision, of course, and about the safety situation, it depends.”
“But I think he’s the leader of the United States, and that’s why he should come here to see.”
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba praised Biden’s backing so far for his country in an interview broadcast Sunday on CBS and said a visit by the US leader would “be an important message of support”.
“A personal meeting between two presidents could also pave the way for new supplies and of … US weapons to Ukraine and also for discussions on the possible political settlement of this conflict,” he added.
Zelenskyy invites Macron
Zelenskyy also said he invited French President Emmanuel Macron to visit Ukraine to see for himself evidence of “genocide” being committed by Russian forces.
“I just told him I want him to understand that this is not war, but nothing other than genocide. I invited him to come when he will have the opportunity. He’ll come and see, and I’m sure he will understand.”
Macron has avoided using the term “genocide” to describe the atrocities being committed by Russian troops in Ukraine – something he attributed to Paris’s reluctance to affect opportunities for diplomatic engagement with Moscow.
The Ukrainian president said earlier that Macron’s hesitation to use the term, which Biden has used to describe the war in Ukraine, was “very painful for us”.
Macron is in the midst of an election campaign, with a second-round vote against far-right politician Marine Le Pen set for next Sunday.
He told radio network France Bleu on Thursday that it was not helpful to Ukraine “to enter into verbal escalations without drawing all of the conclusions”.
“The word ‘genocide’ has a meaning,” Macron said, and “needs to be characterised legally, not by politicians.”
Several European leaders have visited Kyiv to show their countries’ support, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Following his visit to Bucha, Johnson said evidence of atrocities committed against civilians by Russian troops, which has emerged in recent weeks, “doesn’t look far short of genocide to me.”