Interview of President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.
- Russia has announced the completion of the exercise that explained the concentration of troops on the border with Ukraine. What does it mean? Is security restored? Can Europe breathe a sigh of relief?
- Reports from Russia about the withdrawal of troops from our border to places of permanent deployment reduce tension, it is logical. But it is necessary to evaluate this process by its results - the tension will be reduced in proportion to how many troops will be withdrawn.
We have been saying a simple thing since the first day of this crisis situation - any increase in aggression and intimidation by troops will not benefit anyone.
Ukraine can say this with absolute confidence. Now there is only one war in Europe - against our country. It has been going on for eight years in the Ukrainian Donbas. And this must be resolved.
Perhaps, in order to finally prevent escalation, in addition to the existing formats, we need direct presidential talks today.
Once again, this is currently the only war in Europe. And any expansion of hostilities would only lead to new suffering. Therefore, the de-escalation that has begun certainly adds calm and confidence in the European future.
I will also add that any war, and the war in Donbas is no exception, destabilizes our entire region, has a negative impact on Europe as a whole. And the region needs stability and peace to develop. There will be no guarantees of peace and complete security on the continent as long as there is no peace in Ukraine.
We know exactly how to reach this peace. But we need the political will of the other side.
- Okay. There is your initiative, Mr. President, and there is already a response from Mr. Putin, in which he also speaks about the possibility or necessity of a bilateral meeting. That is, the meeting will take place, right?
- The meeting will definitely take place. It is needed in order to end the war in Donbas and go all the way to a fair and lasting peace. But what should be the agenda of these negotiations? What steps will lead us to peace? Where and when will these steps be agreed?
These are open-ended questions, and we will get the answers to them, in my opinion, as soon as direct consultations between the Office of the President of Ukraine and the Administration of the President of Russia begin. For my part, I have already given all relevant instructions on the organization of consultations to Head of the Office Andriy Yermak.
It is clear that there has been no real direct communication between Ukraine and Russia for a long time. This is certainly not conducive to constructive negotiations. So it seems to me that the meeting, to begin with, should take place in a territory that embodies peace and dialogue.
In my opinion, the right venue for an extremely complex dialogue on peace will help resolve the issue.
- Could it be, for example, Rome or the Vatican?
- Yes, perhaps this could be the best venue from all points of view. The Vatican is truly an ideal place for peace dialogue. The Holy See is a global moral authority that always acts effectively as a mediator, as it is impartial and is trusted by all parties to the conflict. It is for this reason that the Holy See has often been addressed in history to resolve conflicts between states and build a peaceful future.
It is authority, sincere desire to help and guarantees of responsibility. The Pope is a prophet of peace by vocation.
In this the Vatican differs from other world players: it remains a purely moral force and always acts in a disinterested way, without military-political or economic interests.
A mediator with such authority can provide the confidence that our attempts to negotiate lack.
Of course, the meeting venue should inspire confidence in both parties. Then it will be effective, and we will really be able to speak on the merits.
- Was Europe’s support for Ukraine in this crisis sufficient? And how do you assess Italy's contribution to resolving the situation?
- In fact, we are now speaking with one voice with Europe, reacting to the events that have taken place and are taking place in the east of our country. Ukraine has received support both at the level of the European Union and at the level of individual European countries. But let's be honest. The war in Donbas has been going on for eight years, we are constantly losing our military. Mortar shelling, small arms fire, sniper fire, the use of drones - these are the things that determine the conditions in the part of our territory every day and take the lives of our people. This needs to stop. If there is still no peace, if the only war in Europe does not end, then we need to add a little more joint effort. This is extremely important, especially from the point of view of Euro-Atlantic security.
Because any open conflict, any unfinished war always has dramatic consequences for the whole continent.
- If the de-escalation is now complete and the situation is stable, what impact will it have on Ukraine itself? Will this allow you to step up reforms in your country?
- We’ve never been waiting for a complete peace on the frontline to carry out reforms.
Peace reigns over most of the territory of our state, and democracy is preserved. Ukraine is actively transforming, despite all threats. Because carrying out reforms in our country is also one of the tools of protection.
Ukraine must do everything that other countries in our region have done since the collapse of the Soviet camp. In some respects, our state has really lagged behind since 1991, when we declared independence. But, on the other hand, it also creates additional opportunities: investing in our country is now just as profitable as it was in other Eastern European countries when they moved to the European Union. When markets are not yet formed and assets are undervalued, you can earn much more by investing in growth. We are actively pursuing land reform, modernizing the financial sector, upgrading infrastructure, developing an instrument of concessions. And I invite Italian companies to join this work - it will make our countries stronger.
Italians already know very well the Ukrainian character, our diligence and ability to do good things. By working together, we will do many useful things for Europe.