Volodymyr and Olena Zelensky gave a long interview to Ukrainian journalists — here are the key points of the conversation

Anna Kholodnova

Today, on May 21, the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky and his wife Olena Zelenska gave a long interview to Ukrainian journalists on the air of the national telethon.

Here are the most important things of what the president and first lady said:

  • Volodymyr Zelensky: “I understand where Ukraine is in the world. Because right now Ukraineʼs place in the world is being fought for. This is our course of diplomacy — Ukraineʼs place among equals, and only then — in the European Union or in defense alliances, or other alliances... These will be the results of this consistent policy."
  • Volodymyr Zelensky on why so few people who began his political path with him are still in his team: “Politics changes people. I donʼt want to use the banal word "nepotism", but I believe that there are not many of ʼvery ownʼ and ʼvery othersʼ in politics. Politics changes the situation, and we must change as well. The war also changed things — not everyone ran forward. Some ran in the other direction, some ran a little further, and some even ran abroad... But these people are fleeing from themselves — not from Ukraine. The most reliable are still here."
  • Volodymyr Zelensky on the end of the war and negotiations with Russia: “I really thought that we could end with a pure dialogue. But the war will be bloody, it will be full of battles. Though the end will definitely be in diplomacy, because there are some things that we will not be able to finish otherwise than at the negotiating table. Because we want everything back. And the Russian Federation wants to give nothing away.“
  • Volodymyr Zelensky on whether he really didnʼt believe that the war would start: “We lived in a constant war. There was nothing more than what we were told. I would start this conversation about this offensive from September-October: about how we were preparing and what was happening, what were the messages, economical steps... This hybrid ʼshellingʼ started back in the fall."
  • Olena Zelenska about the morning of February 24: “I remember waking up from the strange sounds outside the window, like everyone else. It was dark, it was almost night then. I look, Volodymyr is not around. I went to the next room, found him, he was dressed in a suit, but without a tie. Of course, I asked what was going on. He said just, "It has begun."
  • Volodymyr Zelensky about whether he was ready to February 24: “I donʼt think that any European country would be able to cope with such a large number of forces today. We are 28 times smaller than Russia, although the country is large. According to our estimates, we needed an army of 260,000, and there were 120,000 combat troops there. I signed the first decree in early 2022, when I saw all the numbers — to add 100 thousand for next year. But another 100 thousand could not stop them. Was it possible to prepare for this war? I think we were well prepared. They didnʼt know many things, and then they got all [whatʼs happening now]."
  • Volodymyr Zelensky on who defended Mariupol at the Azovstal plant: "One thing can be said — that these are absolutely heroic people. Everywhere they said that there were only servicemen from the National Guard, but there were 400 border guards, many of them wounded and killed. National Guardsmen, paratroopers, police officers, even representatives of the Security Service of Ukraine... Doctors, military medics, ordinary people, locals... There are a lot of heroic people there."
  • Volodymyr Zelensky on the evacuation of people from Azovstal: "At the moment, I know that there is an evacuation still going. I think that in the near hours (not in days), the removal of all will be completed. The structure of this is complex. It was agreed that mediators and Western partners would supervise the unblocking of the troops. I negotiated with Turkey, Switzerland, Israel, and first with France, because of the leadersʼ relations with the Russian Federation. When we saw that it was impossible to unblock by military means... Although, to be honest, I have talked dozens and hundreds of times in detail with the leaders of other countries in order to provide appropriate weapons to our military, so that we can reach Mariupol by military means in order to unblock these people."
  • Olena Zelenska on the psychological health of Ukrainians: “Now I am starting a big project — a national program of psychological health of Ukrainians. I donʼt want to talk about the terrible consequences of the war, but we all get psychological pressure, almost all of us can have psychological problems during and after the war. There are certain categories of the population that are most affected by the war: children, the elderly, people who have lost their homes, who have lost loved ones, and these are the military returning from the war. We have now done a lot of work on this. We have the support of the World Health Organization, we get expertise and help from countries that have it, for example, excellent protocols in the United States and Israel.
  • Volodymyr Zelensky on victory: to reach the line before the 24th without unnecessary losses would be a victory for Ukraine today. "The most valuable thing is to save more people, the military. You donʼt have to be very greedy at this point, even though itʼs not entirely fair. Because justice is when we take everything. And our state our country will definitely return everything [sooner or later]," he said.