KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Saturday that he is committed to pushing for peace despite Russian attacks on civilians that have stunned the world, and renewed its call for more weapons ahead of an expected uptick in fighting in the east of the country.
He made the comments in an interview with The Associated Press a day after at least 52 people were killed in an attack at a train station in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, and as evidence of civilian murders it came to light after Russian troops failed to seize the capital where he has taken refuge, kyiv.
“No one wants to negotiate with a person or persons who tortured this nation. Everything is understandable. And as a man, as a father, I understand that very well,” Zelenskyy said. But “we don’t want to miss opportunities, if we have them, for a diplomatic solution.”
Wearing the olive color that marked his transformation into a wartime leader, he seemed visibly exhausted but buoyed by a drive for perseverance. He spoke to the AP inside the presidential office complex, where windows and hallways are protected by sandbag towers and heavily armed soldiers.
“You have to fight, but fight for life. You can’t fight for dust when there’s nothing and no people. That is why it is important to stop this war,” Zelenskyy said.
Russian troops who withdrew from northern Ukraine they are now regrouping for what is expected to be an intensified push to retake the eastern Donbas region, including the besieged port city of Mariupol that Ukrainian fighters strive to defend.
The president said those defenders are pinning down “a large part of the enemy forces,” characterizing the battle to hold Mariupol as “the heart of the war” at the moment.
“Is beating. We are fighting. We are strong. And if she stops beating, we will be in a weaker position,” she said.
Zelenskyy said he is confident Ukrainians will accept peace despite the horrors they have witnessed in the more than six-week war.
the included gruesome images of civilian bodies found in city yards, parks and squares and buried in mass graves in the kyiv suburb of Bucha after Russian troops withdrew. Ukrainian and Western leaders have accused Moscow of war crimes.
Russia has falsely claimed that the scenes in Bucha were staged. He also blamed Ukraine for the attack on the train station in Kramatorsk as thousands of people rushed to flee ahead of an expected Russian offensive.
Despite hopes for peace, Zelenskyy acknowledged he must be “realistic” about the prospects for a quick resolution given that negotiations so far have been limited to low-level talks that do not include Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Zelenskyy showed a palpable sense of resignation and frustration when asked if the supplies of weapons and other equipment his country has received from the United States and other Western nations were enough to turn the tide of the war.
“Not yet,” he said, switching to English for emphasis. “Of course it’s not enough.”
Still, he noted there has been increased support from Europe and said US arms deliveries have accelerated.
Just this week, neighboring European Union member Slovakia donated its Soviet-era S-300 air defense system to Ukraine in response to Zelenskyy’s call to help “close the skies” to fighter jets and missiles. Russians.
Some of that support has come European leaders visits.
After meeting Zelenskyy in kyiv on Saturday, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said he expects more EU sanctions against Russia, even as he defended his country’s opposition to cutting Russian natural gas deliveries.
The US, EU and UK responded to Bucha’s images with more sanctionsincluding the targeting Putin’s adult daughters. While the EU first went after Russia’s energy sector by banning coal, it has so far failed to agree on cutting the much more lucrative oil and natural gas that is financing Putin’s war chest. Europe relies on those supplies to generate electricity, fill fuel tanks and keep industry running.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson also made a unannounced visit to meet Zelenskyyand his office said they discussed “long-term support” from Britain.
In kyiv on Friday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presented Ukraine’s leader with a questionnaire that marks the first step in applying for EU membership. The head of the bloc’s executive arm said the process to complete the questionnaire could take weeks, an unusually quick turnaround, although securing membership would take much longer.
Zelenskyy turned introspective when asked what impact the pace of arms deliveries had on his people and whether more lives could have been saved had aid arrived sooner.
“Very often we look for answers in another person, but often I look for answers in myself. Did we do enough to get them? he said she of the weapons. “Did we do enough for these leaders to believe in us? Did we do enough?
He paused and shook his head.
“Are we the best for this place and this time? Who knows? I don’t know. You question yourself,” she said.
AP Photographer Evgeniy Maloletka contributed to this article.