Ukrainian President: “I invited Meloni to Kyiv, and he promised me that Draghi’s work would continue”
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Kyiv – Yesterday, President Volodymyr Zelensky gave us this interview for about an hour in his office sheltered by sandbags and Friesland horses in the center of the Ukrainian capital.
Mr. President, we have a new government in Italy: the Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani clearly expressed their sympathy with NATO for supporting Ukraine. But the government, which has important components, has spoken in favor of Russia both in the past and in recent times. Do you worry?
“At the moment, I can only speak positively about your new government, there are no negative impressions. I had a phone conversation with the new prime minister who clearly said that she supports our joint alliance and assured me of her full support for Ukraine against Russian aggression. ”
Any alliance even in NATO?
An alliance in general in the European Union. And now the new prime minister is fully engaged in the discussion in Brussels to send us a new military aid package, everything looks positive to me.”
What did he think when he heard? Berlusconi’s pro-Putin statements?
(He pauses and responds in English) “Even Berlusconi used the same expressions and narrative that Putin used. I didn’t see Berlusconi’s personal views in those sentences, he just repeated Putin’s and that scares me less. Only 8 per cent of Italians vote for it and that is the comforting response to your voters, and that is enough for me … Anyway, he is about 90 years old and I wish him to remain in good health.”
You know that too League leader Matteo Salvini sympathized with Putin’s Russia. What do you respond to those who argue that Italy can become a Trojan horse for Russia to weaken the European Atlantic?
“I see that the Italian people really support Ukraine. But it is a difficult challenge, it involves daily action against the Russian invasion, I see it for myself every day, at the cost of enduring new economic uncertainties. I know it is difficult to give up doing easy business with Russia in the long run. In the short term, there is a risk of some economic instability, but it is about the future of European stability, democracy, civilization and freedom itself.”
What was said with the Italian Prime Minister?
Georgia? Volodymyr call me Georgia! It went like that, straight away. She was direct and personal. I think we built a very good relationship in continuity with the period Draghi started. With Draghi, our bilateral relationship has taken a leap forward and we will now continue to improve it: I told her: With that and she answered that it was certainly also her will, and that she did not intend to destroy anything that had been built. We shared the same notions with Georgia and I don’t see how Italy could become the Trojan horse of Russia in the near future. I invited her to Kyiv and she replied that she would come. Of course there are risks, but I don’t think It depends on us at the moment, we are open and honest with Italy. We thank you for the help you received, I would say that it is very relevant. At first the relations were complicated, then the Italian representatives came to Kyiv, examined the consequences of military aggression and understood. It does not take much ‘Just look at what happened to be on our side. The Russians still don’t see and don’t understand the evidence of the truth.'”
Do you have any specific requests for Italy?
We need anti-aircraft defenses, and that’s vital to us. We want our refugees to return to Ukraine, we need to rebuild our economy, so that the children go to school, so that society can function fully again. That is why we need weapons against air attacks and to ensure the safety of civilians. Italy produces anti-aircraft defense systems together with France, Germany and a few others: we hope they can help us ».
Europe divided: do you fear that today it is less determined against Russia than it was at the beginning of the invasion?
On the 24th of February we stopped being afraid and started fighting to defend ourselves. We don’t have time to be afraid, we have changed, this war has changed a lot of things. We must fight for everything, even to have good diplomatic relations, for alliances, for sanctions, for UN resolutions and not to be afraid (laughs) … War has its ups and downs, certainly in Europe we see countries with positions different, but the positive factor remains that we are united against the invasion.”
What do you respond to those who say that the pursuit of peace is up to you?
We know very well: it’s the new novel. I always wanted to talk, but not with the gun to my head. From the start it was not a dialogue, but a long series of ultimatums that Putin imposed by force. The Russians claimed that they had come to defend those who spoke Russian, but in fact, the worst violence continued in Kharkiv, Mariupol and in areas where Russian culture and language prevailed. If you want dialogue, don’t occupy a nuclear power plant, don’t kill civilians, and don’t fire more than 130 missiles in one day. It is not in my hands to stop the war: what I can do is not to lose it, and to fight to defend myself, they are the ones who invaded our land to slaughter us and started this since 2014 with the occupation of Crimea. Fighting in Ukraine, not on Russian soil. If they withdraw, it will be possible to start negotiating and live together from neighboring countries.”
Today we enter the ninth month of the war.. How do you assess the situation on the ground?
“The Russians do not want to stop, from the beginning they had the same plan to occupy all of Ukraine. And we’ve suggested hundreds of times to speak: since I became president in 2019, I’ve been ready to negotiate using any channel, any envoy. From Moscow they said that they did not want to talk about Crimea, well I answered, then let’s talk about Donbass, but let’s not waste time. However, even the 2015 Minsk document never worked, they just wanted to freeze the situation, and not solve problems. Moscow has never wanted a real dialogue based on mutual respect, it has only imposed on us recognition of situations that are achieved by force. The only partial successes were the prisoner exchange, and even in this case Putin did not keep his word.”
Will you be able to liberate the Kherson region?
“Of course we will. But the price is high, it costs death, and it puts a burden on people’s lives. We demand more weapons to save the lives of our soldiers, while the Russian army does not have many problems in slaughtering its own men at the front ».
When do you think it will happen?
“I don’t see the Russians fleeing en masse from KhersonThey pretend that they are strategic retreats. In fact, they are not yet ready to leave the area even if they risk besieging our forces.”
What about the evacuation of civilians from Kherson?
“Theatre only. The Russians are keeping their best units in place.”
The Russians warn of the possibility of using a “dirty bomb”, as their Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu repeated two days ago. What do you answer?
“It is an important question, I want to be clear. The Russians want intimidation and intimidation and they can prepare for a provocation. They can strike the infrastructure at the nuclear power plants and then say that atomic materials were being produced there. Moscow seeks justifications towards the world and Russian society. We do not know what they want They do, but they are certainly pointing the finger at the danger we face to justify the attacks. Which is why we also insist on having international inspectors. At the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant We would like the same in other factories in the country.”
Can defeated Moscow use the atomic bomb?
If Russia decides to use the atomic bomb, it will, no matter what happens on the battlefield. Hence the importance of pressure from the international community. Moreover, we cannot condition the right to defend our land on the nuclear threat. Extortion is unacceptable. If this is the case, then tomorrow Russia can threaten the whole world and advance in the West, occupying, for example, the Baltic states, to rebuild the old Soviet Union ».
How do you see the criticism coming from the Pentagon for your fighting methods?
We have received some signals that have alarmed us. But it seems more internal political messages in the United States, linked to the debate in light of the midterm elections. However, I see both Republicans and Democrats determined to continue sending guns.”
Are you afraid that the ghost of Putin’s friend Donald Trump will return to power?
“Anyway, it is up to the Americans to choose. My opinion does not matter. Now Joe Biden helps more than anyone else. But I do not know what Trump would do in his place: when he was president, Putin had not yet invaded Ukraine ».
At the beginning of the war, you yourself proposed a summit with Putin to freeze the status quo of Crimea and Donbass for 15 years in exchange for the withdrawal of the Russians to the border on February 24. Now he says instead that he wants to go back to the 1991 borders…
Our information and allied intelligence services tell us with certainty that the Russians do not intend to stop at all. Moscow demands that we recognize Crimea as an integral part of Russia and accept the so-called independent republics of Lugansk and Donetsk, they also want to keep Mariupol, the entire territory along the Azov Sea they occupied. These are conditions that Ukrainian society cannot accept: they know this in Moscow, and therefore they insist on accusing us of boycotting the dialogue. Russia will only negotiate when it understands that it cannot win militarily. We are always ready to negotiate.”
How is peace achieved?
isolate Russia and defeat it in battle. The international community, including China, must put pressure on Moscow. We hope that the majority of countries will unite against those who threaten to use nuclear weapons.”
But why are you less flexible than before?
At first we all wanted to stop the war. But then we saw the atrocities of Bucha, in Irbin, and the gravity of the occupation in Mariupol. The Russians became not only aggressors, but also terrorists. It is impossible to talk to terrorists. We understood that they did not want to leave room for an independent Ukraine.”
«I see development in some trade exchanges, but the Chinese do not support Russia militarily and this is very important. I hope that in Beijing they have understood the seriousness of Russian actions, from threats to nuclear power plants to the blockade of the Black Sea, and surely you will hear a Chinese call to stop the war in Moscow.”
“I’m sorry, but it’s so obvious Tehran has provided the Russians with hundreds of drones And thousands more on the way.”
We have compelling evidence and they know it well. We ask them to stop immediately.”
How do you explain to an Italian businessman that he has to pay for the defense of Ukraine and break with Moscow, when the price of gas is skyrocketing?
“It has nothing to do with us. Moscow has already used the energy weapon in the past, it hates that you Europeans should be independent of Russian gas. In any case, by next year it will have found alternative sources. If you fall victim to Russian blackmail today, you will spend less, But in the future it will be your children who will pay the price. We are all paying the price for our freedom, otherwise Putin will impose the rules.”
Oct 25, 2022 (change Oct 25, 2022 | 07:49)
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