Russia-Ukraine war: ‘Biggest advantage for Russia was…’, Zelensky calls for ‘fair peace’ deal

Ukrainian President Zelensky warns of potential escalation in the Russian offensive, calls for a 'fair peace' and urges allies to send more air defense. He dismisses the idea of an Olympic truce and calls for a peace summit in Switzerland without Russia's participation.

Livemint (with inputs from Agencies)
First Published18 May 2024
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. (AP Photo)
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. (AP Photo)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday warned Russia could intensify its offensive. In an interview with AFP, he said Kyiv would only accept a "fair peace" despite the West's calls for a quick solution.

He also urged its allies to send more air defense and fighter jets, saying the "biggest advantage" for Russia was a ban on Ukraine using Western-donated weapons to strike Russian territory. Zelensky said Ukraine would hold its defensive lines and stop any major Russian breakthrough. 

With a mobilisation law set to take effect on Saturday, he acknowledged challenges with staffing and "morale" among Ukrainian forces, who have frequently been outgunned and outnumbered as the war enters its third year. Although Russian troops have made gradual advances in recent months, they have achieved more significant gains along the northeastern border since launching an offensive in the Kharkiv region on May 10.

'Nonsense situation' 

Zelensky also dismissed French President Emmanuel Macron's proposal for an Olympic truce during the Paris Games, arguing that it would provide Moscow with an "advantage" by allowing it time to reposition troops and artillery.

"We are in a nonsense situation where the West is afraid that Russia will lose the war. And it does not want Ukraine to lose it. Everyone wants to find some model for the war to end faster," he told AFP, when asked about the possibility of a scenario for ending hostilities like the one that established a dividing line on the Korean peninsula.

The president called on China and developing nations to participate in a peace summit next month in neutral Switzerland, which will be attended by dozens of leaders but not Russia.

"We want the war to end with a fair peace for us, while the West wants the war to end. Period. As soon as possible. And for them, this is a fair peace," he said.

‘They are like a beast’ 

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the offensive during a visit to China was a response to Ukraine shelling border regions. “I said publicly that if this continues, we will be forced to create a security zone. As for Kharkiv, there are no such plans as of today,” he told AFP. 

However, Zelensky said Russian forces "want to attack" the city although they realise it would be "very difficult". "They understand that we have forces that will fight for a long time," he said, adding that Russia did not have enough forces for "a full-scale offensive on the capital like the one they had at the beginning of the offensive".

He emphasised that Ukraine and its Western allies should not show weakness and called for the deployment of two Patriot batteries to defend the skies over the Kharkiv region and show Ukraine's resilience.

"They are like a beast... If they feel a weakness somewhere in this direction, they will press on," he said.

‘Biggest advantage for Russia’

Zelensky said Ukraine only had about 25% of what it need to defend the country in terms of air defense. "120 to 130" F-16 fighter jets or other advanced aircraft were needed in order to have parity with Russia," he said as quoted by AFP. 

He was highly critical of restrictions on striking Russian territory with Western arms, although Britain and the United States have hinted in recent days that these bans could be eased.

"They can fire any weapons from their territory at ours. This is the biggest advantage that Russia has. We can't do anything to their systems, which are located on the territory of Russia, with Western weapons," he said.

 

(With AFP inputs)

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