Home News ‘What is the problem? ‘ Zelenskiy hesitated to challenge the West.

‘What is the problem? ‘ Zelenskiy hesitated to challenge the West.


As his troops fight on the front lines to fend off an onslaught of Russian aggression, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urges the United States and Europe to do more to defend his country, dismissing concerns about a nuclear escalation and advising NATO aircraft Shooting down a Russian missile in Ukraine. airspace.

Zelensky said he also called on U.S. officials to allow Ukraine to launch U.S. missiles and other weapons at military targets in Russia — a tactic the U.S. remains opposed to. He insisted that the inability to do this gave Russia a “huge advantage” in the cross-border war, which it was using to launch attacks in northeastern Ukraine.

He made the comments in an interview with The New York Times in central Kiev on Monday, one of his loudest calls to date for more help from the United States and its NATO allies. He spoke for more than 50 minutes in the ornate Chimera House of the presidential office, expressing frustration and bewilderment at the West’s reluctance to take bolder steps to ensure Ukraine’s victory.

Zelensky has long lobbied the West, particularly for more weapons. But his request this week comes at a critical moment in the war in Ukraine, where Ukrainian troops are retreating and a package of new U.S. weapons has yet to arrive in sufficient numbers. Analysts say Ukraine has never faced such a severe military challenge since the early days of the war.

This is also a critical moment in Ukrainian politics. Zelensky spoke on the final day of his five-year term as president. Elections scheduled for March were suspended because of the war, and he will continue to serve as president under martial law, likely to last as long as the war.

In the wide-ranging interview, Zelensky, 46, spoke of the pain of visiting mass graves and comforting the families of fallen soldiers, but also of his own personal experiences and the “energy” he gained from the brief time he spent with his children. He said he wanted to read more but fell asleep too quickly at night to do so.

He appeared most excited when he listed actions he thought allies should take to support Ukraine. He argued that NATO should shoot down Russian missiles flying over Ukraine — planes should not enter Ukrainian airspace — and said that would be a purely defensive strategy that would not pose a risk of direct combat with Russian forces.

“So my question is, what’s the problem? Why can’t we shoot them down? Is it defense? Yes. Is this an attack on Russia? No. Are you shooting down Russian planes and killing Russian pilots? No. So what’s the problem with involving NATO countries in the war? “There is no such problem.”

“Shoot down the object over Ukraine,” he added. “And provide us with weapons to fight Russian forces on the border.”

Analysts say such direct involvement by NATO could provoke Russian retaliation, but it has been resisted by Western countries.

Zelensky also urged the alliance to provide more F-16 fighter jets and Patriot air defense systems.

“Can we get seven?” He said Ukraine needed more Patriot systems but would be content with that number to protect areas vital to the country’s economy and energy sector. He said a decision could be made when NATO leaders hold a summit in Washington in July.

“Do you think this is too much for the NATO anniversary summit in Washington?” he asked. “For a country today fighting for freedom and democracy around the world?”

Asked about possible ceasefire talks, he called for diplomacy to avoid direct dialogue with Russia but to unite countries behind Ukraine’s position and ultimately reach a peaceful solution. It starts with plans to ensure Ukrainian food exports to developing countries, exchange prisoners, take steps to secure nuclear power plants in Russian-occupied southern Ukraine, and repatriate Ukrainian children abducted to Russia.

He said he hoped dozens of countries would support the initiative when they gather in Switzerland for a “peace summit” in mid-June. He again urged Ukraine to join NATO.

He also welcomed recent suggestions from some allies that NATO send troops to train in Ukraine or support Ukrainian forces, but added, “I don’t see that happening beyond rhetoric.”

More directly, he said the ability to use Western-supplied weapons to strike military targets in Russia was critical to Ukraine’s success.

He said that only by using these weapons to destroy logistical hubs in Russia and Russian aircraft on Russian territory could Ukraine effectively defend itself against recent attacks in the northeast that threatened Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv.

“How do we respond when they attack our cities?” he said, noting that Ukraine could see Russian troops massing across the border before launching attacks but was unable to fight them.

“They conducted it calmly,” he added, “understanding that our partners would not allow us” to use their weapons in retaliation.

Zelensky said the main reason for Western hesitation – fear of nuclear escalation – was overstated because Russian President Vladimir V. Putin would not use nuclear weapons out of a sense of self-preservation.

“He may not be rational, but he loves his life,” Zelensky said.

He also said there is another reason for Western hesitancy: some countries are seeking to maintain trade and diplomatic relations with Russia. “Everyone leaves their doors ajar,” he said.

Zelensky’s campaign has endured a tumultuous period. He was elected in 2019 on a platform of peace talks with Russia, but his critics called that approach naive. He also pledged to fight corruption and pledged to serve for only five years.

Zelensky was a television personality who before becoming president alternated between using diplomacy to drum up support for Ukraine and admonishing soldiers and civilians about the deteriorating military outlook. He said he rarely had time to see his sons and daughters, ages 11 and 19, but called the time he spent with them “the happiest moments.”

“For example, I asked my son what was going on,” he said. “He said they were starting to learn Spanish. I was interested in that. I don’t know Spanish, but to be honest, I was just interested in spending time with him, whatever he was doing.”

“These are the moments that re-energize you and energize you. These are the happiest moments. That’s when I can relax.”

He said he also refuels by exercising in the morning and tries to read in the evening. “Honestly, any kind of novel, I’ll read it at night, two pages, three pages, four pages, 10 pages at the most, and then I fall asleep,” he said.

Asked what he would do after the war, he pondered for a moment, appearing to consider the prospect of a Russian victory. “After the war, after the victory, these are different things,” he said. “Things could be different. I think my plans depend on that.

“So, I want to believe that Ukraine is going to win. It’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be very difficult. It’s going to be very difficult, obviously. I just want to spend some time with my family and my dog.”

Zelenskiy experienced a critical moment in his presidency early in the war when Russia attempted and failed to carry out a decapitation attack on the Ukrainian leader in Kiev. He said the attack included a plan to capture or assassinate him.

Now, nearly 17 months later, it’s unclear how or when his presidential term will end. Ukraine’s martial law is regularly renewed through parliamentary votes, ruling out the possibility of holding a presidential election. Although his Servant of the People party holds a majority, party discipline has reportedly broken down in recent months and Zelensky has struggled to get the bill passed.

After the initial shock of the invasion, 90 percent of Ukrainians said they trusted Mr. Zelensky; by February, that number had dropped to 60 percent, according to a poll by the International Institute of Sociology in Kyiv.

Competitive national elections have been a major success for Ukrainian politics since independence in 1991, delivering on the promise of democratic transition that failed to materialize in Russia, Belarus and some countries in Central Asia and the Caucasus.

International election experts supported Ukraine’s decision to suspend voting during the war because millions of Ukrainians would be unable to vote while in occupied territories, as refugees in Europe or serving on the front lines.

Asked to assess the health of democracy in Ukraine, he said, “Ukraine does not need to prove anything about democracy to anyone.”

“Because Ukraine and its people are proving it through the war,” he continued. “No words, no unnecessary rhetoric, no rhetorical messages floating in the air. They are proving it with their lives.”

Bill Brinker and Philip Penn Reporting from Kiev.

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