Volodymyr Zelensky has called for Ukraine’s allies to keep their word and help the nation claim a “victory of values,” as the conflict with Russia ticks into its second year.
The president of Ukraine has given a lengthy press conference on the anniversary of Russia’s invasion on Friday, with media representatives from across the world. Breaking with his office’s usual wartime security protocols, Zelensky’s news conference was broadcast live.
Zelensky remained defiant, confident Ukraine could win the war within another year. “If we stay as one strong fist, and if our partners are united for our victory - because this is a victory of values - if they stick to all their words, to all their terms, and it’s not just bla bla bla, I believe in it,” he said.
“I am certain there will be victory, I don’t think, I know it will happen this year,” the president told journalists. “We have everything for it: motivation, belief, friends, diplomacy... We have united all powers against this invasion.”
“We know exactly what Putin wants, what the Kremlin wants... So it is important for all of us to be focused, and for each of us to do our work, and then we shall have victory, because truth is on our side.”
Zelensky also took the opportunity to call for the world’s continued support. He joked with one British journalist about asking Prime Minister Rishi Sunak where their long-awaited fighter jets were, but also suggested plans to obtain some from other European partners were in the works.
The president became emotional when talking about how the war could end, arguing that only if Russia halts its aggression can a diplomatic path be followed. “Please respect our right to live on our land. Leave our territory. Stop bombing us.”
“Stop [destroying] all our infrastructure, energy, drinking water. Stop bombing towns, villages, killing dogs and cats, simply animals, torching forests,” he said.
Once the war was over, Zelensky told reporters, “I don’t care what happens to Russia. They have their own state and own country and democracy... If they thought about their own country there would be no war.”
Zelensky also responded to questions about his biggest disappointments, and darkest moments during the war. Everyone who left when the war broke out instead of fighting for their country disappointed him, he said
He named what he saw when Ukrainian forces deoccupied Bucha, a town just outside the capital, as the worst moment of the conflict for him. When Ukraine won the town back from Russian forces last April, it was found to have been the site of a massacre. More than 450 bodies were recovered, many from mass graves.
“It was very scary,” he said. “We saw that the devil is not somewhere out there, but on Earth.”
He also spoke of missing his wife and children, who were are the most important part of his life - although he only got to see them rarely - and said he wanted to make sure his children were proud of him.
To reports of falling public support in the United States for the Government to continue supporting Ukraine, Zelensky returned to children - saying withdrawing support would have a hige impact on them, the BBC reports.
“Are American children any different from ours? Don’t Americans enjoy the same things as we do?” he asked. “I don’t think we’re very different.”
The US risked being dragged into the war anyway, he said, if Russia was victorioius, and next set its sights on Baltic states that were also Nato members. “And then the US will have to send their sons and daughters, exactly the same way as we are sending our sons and daughters, to war. And they will have to to fight, because it’s Nato that we’re talking about, and they will be dying, God forbid, because it’s a horrible thing.”