Ukraine is not prepared to give up territory and is ready, if necessary, to fight Russia “for 10 years,” President Volodymyr Zelensky has claimed. He also appeared to acknowledge that the current conflict effectively began in 2014, when Kiev first launched an operation to re-take the breakaway Donbass.
In an interview with CNN, Zelensky said that for Ukraine “the battle for Donbass is very important” for a number of reasons, adding that it could affect “the course of the whole war.” He stressed, however, that a diplomatic solution to the conflict is preferable.
“We cannot give up our territory, but we must find some kind of dialogue with Russia,” Zelensky said, adding that talks will not be conducted “on the basis of the Russian ultimatum.”
Zelensky said dialogue is needed to prevent more deaths, though he claimed his country “can fight the Russian Federation for ten years.”
He said the Ukrainian forces in Donbass are some of “the best military” the country has. “It is a large grouping. And Russia wants to encircle them and destroy them,” Zelensky claimed, adding that he was talking about “44,000 professional military men who survived a great war from the beginning of 2014.”
“This is why it is very important for us to preserve that part of our army.”
Asked by the CNN presenter if Ukraine will be victorious in the conflict, Zelensky said, “Yes, of course.”
Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.