President of Ukraine

Volodymyr Zelenskyy in an interview for La Repubblica: Russians in Donbas destabilize Europe. Italy, support Ukraine

16 April 2021 - 13:39

Volodymyr Zelenskyy in an interview for La Repubblica: Russians in Donbas destabilize Europe. Italy, support Ukraine

Interview of President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

- President Zelenskyy, are you afraid of the invasion of Russian troops in eastern Ukraine?

- There can be no fear now, because any attempt to expand aggression against Ukraine will mean a blow to the security of the whole of Europe. Every country on the continent will feel it. We are ready for any scenario - but keep in mind that the war against us has been ongoing since 2014. And this is a brutal war with the use of drones, artillery, armored vehicles, mines. In the last three months alone, we have lost about 30 servicemen, and civilians in Donbas are dying as well. Russia has deployed about 80,000 troops on the eastern border and in Crimea, to which should be added 30,000 pro-Russian militants and Russian official military in Donbas. It is certainly not in Europe's interest for such military capabilities to be used for their intended purpose, as Moscow would like. The expansion of war can only bring new suffering and problems to all, and no one will benefit from it.

- But if Putin ordered his army to march on Ukraine, would you be ready to defend yourself?

- Since the beginning of my work as President, we have done everything possible to intensify negotiations and find a peaceful solution. We are always ready to return to a meaningful diplomatic conversation, we call on Russia to do the same. It is clear that Ukrainians will defend themselves, as we have been doing since 2014. There can be no alternative to preserving our sovereignty and state independence, especially since the fighting is taking place on our land, not on foreign territory. But now the primary defense is to do everything possible to prevent the spread of aggression. And Ukraine needs the most effective support from everyone in this.

- If the military crisis worsens, are you ready to bet on the help of your Western allies?

- Now we feel very strong support from our friends - in the European Union, in Britain, in the USA, in Canada and other countries. But so far Russian troops remain on our border and in the occupied territories. That is why we must do more to protect the normal order in Europe and our common values. This is not a war for territory itself. It is a pressure on democracy on our continent, it is an attempt to deprive the principle of inviolability of borders in Europe and the right of nations to determine their own destiny of any sense. In this context, I really count on the active role of Italy and its leaders in supporting Ukraine.

- What kind of support do you expect?

- Russia does not stop trying to destabilize our country, and through us - Europe. Waves of disinformation, promotion of conspiracy theories, instigation of a rift in European societies, attempts to interfere in elections in different countries, cyberattacks - all this is done purposefully and systematically. You know this well. But the most cynical thing is what is happening in eastern Ukraine, so I invite representatives of Italian political forces to visit Donbas in person to see for themselves the consequences of the ongoing war. I also look forward to establishing personal contacts with the new Italian leadership in order to develop further fruitful dialogue between our countries in all areas of mutual interest. Ukraine and Italy have significant untapped potential in our economic relations.

- When Moscow invaded Crimea in 2014, no one intervened. Why should NATO or others do it now in Donbas?

- There have been many moments in the history of mankind when it was necessary to act more decisively to prevent tragedy. The seizure of Crimea has changed a lot in the life of Europe - even if not all Europeans are aware of the changes that have taken place. The occupied Crimea became a source of danger for the entire Black Sea region. Until 2014, there was no political repression or religious persecution in Crimea, there were no large-scale environmental catastrophes, there was no threat of nuclear weapons. All this is there now - because of the Russian occupation. Moreover, Moscow's behavior may inspire other countries to take part of territories from their neighbors.

- What opportunities do you see for returning to peace?

- Today Ukraine needs action. And the best thing for that is to give us a NATO MAP. Our Armed Forces are holding back the only aggression in Europe, we have withstood more than 7 years and we are constantly improving. It is certainly not a secret for those of our NATO friends who come to Ukraine, take part in joint exercises with our military, and conduct training. We understand that Ukraine must meet NATO standards, and we are carrying out the necessary reforms. However, it is impossible to bring everything to reforms, especially now, when it is clear that it’s not the reforms that are capable of preventing the expansion of Russian aggression.

- At the beginning of your term, you were definitely more peaceful. What made you such a "militaristic" President?

- When you try to stop the war, which has already taken about 14 thousand lives, you really get tougher. But this is due to confidence: it is possible to establish peace, return to normal democratic life, prevent the deterioration of the situation in our region and the expansion of the war. What is needed for this? Realistic positions, fairness in negotiations and readiness to fulfill the commitments undertaken by the parties. Ukraine offers just such an approach. The main thing is for Russia to do the same.