Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said he did not believe the world would allow Vladimir Putin to use nuclear weapons after the Russian president said Moscow would use all means to protect its territory.
The Russian president on Wednesday ordered the biggest military mobilisation since World War II after Ukrainian troops made spectacular gains in a counteroffensive launched several weeks ago.
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“I don’t believe that he [Putin] will use these weapons. I don’t think the world will allow him to use these weapons,” Zelenskyy said in an interview to TV channel of Germany Bild newspaper, referring to nuclear arms.
The Ukrainian leader said that there was a shrinking likelihood of holding talks with Putin to end the war, adding that it could only happen if the Russian president withdrew his forces from the country.
He warned that being cowed by Putin’s threats would invite Russia to attempt to take more territory. Moscow and separatists control large swaths of Ukraine’s northeast region, which is approximately 15 percent of its total territory.
Zelenskyy also repeated calls for Germany to supply weapons and air defence systems to Ukraine, saying they were needed to save lives.
Critics, including Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany, have accused Berlin of dragging its heels on giving heavy weapons to Ukraine and on other measures that could help Kyiv repel Russian forces.
They have said Berlin is not showing the leadership expected of a major power and that its hesitations are costing Ukrainian lives.
Zelenskyy stressed he did not accept the German government’s argument that it was not providing Ukraine with tanks because it does not want to “go it alone”, as no NATO country has supplied it with Western-made battle tanks so far.
While Berlin has sent some armaments to Ukraine, it has so far refused to transfer the tanks that Kyiv is urgently appealing for.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has maintained that Germany should not act independently in this area.
“You are an independent state … don’t say, ‘First the US, then Poland, and so on’,” Zelenskyy said.
“Give us these weapons,” Zelenskyy said. “Battle tanks mean that more people’s lives can be saved.”
The German Bundestag legislature will debate further military support for Ukraine on Thursday in response to a parliamentary motion, which calls on the government to, among other things, immediately grant “permission for the export of battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and transport tanks from supply reserves to Ukraine”.
Russia’s decision to partially mobilise its reservists to bolster its forces invading Ukraine is because of the low morale among his forces, Zelenskyy said.
“He needs an army of millions … he sees that a large part of those [troops] who come to us, just run away,” he said.
Putin “wants to drown Ukraine in blood, also the blood of his own soldiers”, Zelenskyy said.
Annexation referendums set to be held in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine were “sham referendums”, Zelenskyy said, adding that 90 percent of states would not recognise them. The referendum could pave way for the annexation of the Ukrainian territory.
The Ukrainian leader said his nation’s forces would push on with their military campaign and “free our territory”, adding that he believed Putin has “already lost the war”.
“From the first day of the invasion of Ukraine’s territory, he had lost this war. No one will forgive him.”