The Russian military blocks Mariupol, the port is mined, there is a humanitarian disaster in the city as Russians shoot humanitarian convoys ahd kill the drivers. Many cargoes had to be taken back. Our military stays inside the city, I try to keep in touch with them. The Russians did not allow to take the corpses and the wounded out of the city.
On the lists of dead and captured
There are lists of dead and captured Russians. Probably, they donʼt really interest [Russian] politicians, but they do interest combatantsʼ relatives. The Russian side has all the lists as both countries appealed to each other for an exchange. I insist that itʼs not necessary to wait for the end of the war, the exchange has to take place now ― of everyone who we and they have.
They [Russians] do not want to show [the situation] with corpses. We want to give them away, but they [the Russians] refused at first, then offered us some bags. But even when a dog or cat dies, people donʼt do it ― what they gave us is like the garbage bags. If this is Russiansʼ attitude to their own people, then what do they do to others? And we are definitely not "their own" for the Russian government, and thatʼs scary.
On the attitude to Russians
After February 24, the attitude worsened significantly, the emotional component of the attitude to Russia, to the people was lost. And it canʼt be reversed. In 2014, there were hopes that everything would end. When I applied for the presidency, I understood that everything should be done to stop the war, to fight propaganda. But this month there has been a global, historical, cultural split. A world has split. This is not a war. I think itʼs much worse. There is a disappointment that has turned into hatred. And there is no answer on how to reverse this.
On boycotting Russians
I donʼt think you can feel the pain we felt, but you should at least know [it]. And at least feel some discomfort. To say that all [regular] Russians are innocent is also dishonest.
On the Russian language in Ukraine
The person who did the worst to the Russian language is Vladimir Putin. People will be ashamed to speak Russian.
On “denazification” and “demilitarization”
We do not discuss this at all [during our negotiations with Russia]. I said that if we would talk about some kind of “demilitarization” or “denazification”, we wouldnʼt sit at the negotiating table at all. For me, these are completely incomprehensible things.
On negotiations with Russia
The key point is security guarantees. This is whatʼs most discussed. There must be an international agreement with clear security guarantees. It must be ratified by the parliaments of the guarantor countries, and a referendum must be held in Ukraine. International partners will not sit at the negotiating table while Russian troops stand [on our land]. The agreement can be signed only as a result of personal talks with Putin. Therefore: here we met, we agreed with him ― and hereʼs our agreement with signatures, seals, signed with blood, whanever. That is enough to start the withdrawal process. Troops must be withdrawn, the guarantors will sign everything, and thatʼs it. Then ratification [of the agreement] in parliament, referendum in several months, and then changes to the [Ukrainian] Constitution.
On parallel negotiations or other contacts with Russians
[We have ] a huge number of different contacts. As soon as the war started, many people who wanted to help appeared. [Film director] Oleksandr Rodnianskyi has contacts (he was mentioned during interview ― Babel), and there are other cultural figures. You mentioned another big businessman from Russian Federation [itʼs Roman Abramovich, media called him one of the mediators in the negotiations], all this people were afraid of sanctions, I’m sure, there is no patriotism in it. The comfort that they had and which disappears or already gone is understandable. Of course, all of them are looking for a way out. However, all this years both Ukrainian and Russian sides, especially business, journalists, cultural figures ― they have been looking for various ways out all the time. It was unrealistic to reach out to the Russian government, though.
I am not ready to talk about my conversations with Joe Biden [in the context of alleged request of Zelenkyy not to impose sanctions on Roman Abramovich]. Abramovich was in a sub-group from the Russian side, itʼs unclear, officially or not. As far as we know, he helped with humanitarian issues – evacuating people and sending humanitarian convoy to Mariupol, but nothing came of it.
On NATO and peacekeepers
Polandʼs idea is to introduce peacekeeping forces in Ukraine. So far I donʼt fully understand this proposal. We do not need a frozen conflict on the territory of Ukraine, I explained this at the meeting with our Polish colleagues. Regarding the meeting of Defense Ministers and Foreign Ministers with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, the number one issue was armaments. I am not ready to talk about the details here.
On the fate of Ukrainian military from the Zmiinyi (Snake) Island
Some soldiers died, some were taken prisoner. Those who were in captivity have already been exchanged. Russia came up with this proposal. We exchanged them without hesitation. Thatʼs all. Those who died are, frankly speaking, heroes. And those who survived, we exchanged those guys.
On the compromise that would satisfy both sides and on the vision of victory
I understand that itʼs impossible to force Russia to completely liberate the territory [of Ukraine, including the Crimea], this will lead to World War III. I understand it perfectly. That’s why I say: it’s a compromise. Go back to where it all started, and there we will try to solve the issue of Donbas, a difficult issue of Donbas. Look, I’m not 70 years old, I definitely have time. But I am not for long here [as a President], a worthy person will come after me. I want to end this war, I don’t want to have hundreds of thousands dead. I donʼt want that. That is why I did not consider a forceful attack — neither on Donbas, nor on Crimea. Because I understand deeply how many thousands of our people would die. And what would be the price of these territories, even if weʼll win them back.
On why Putin needs the war
He has no strategic plans. The strategy is what will happen in a hundred years with the state he heads for a quarter of a century already. [What will expect his] children, grandchildren. He has a different approach. To be remembered today. To have a monument [dedicated to him] — the Mausoleum, the diploma. I think itʼs a mistake. But I believe that he is not the only one — itʼs a mistake of his surrounding. But whatʼs next? What will happen in three generations, in five? This [alienation of the nations] is a problem. So the party was good, but who will clean it all up?
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