Exclusive: Zelensky says Ukraine won’t give up territory in the east to end war with Russia

Ukraine Situation World

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told CNN that Ukraine is not willing to give up territory in the eastern part of the country to end the war with Russia, and Ukraine’s military is prepared to fight Moscow’s military in the Donbas region in a battle he says could influence the course of the entire war.


Zelensky said in an exclusive interview Friday with CNN’s Jake Tapper from the office of the president in Kyiv that his country has no guarantee that Russia wouldn’t try again to seize Kyiv if it is able to capture Donbas.

“This is why it is very important for us to not allow them, to stand our ground, because this battle … it can influence the course of the whole war,”

Zelensky said.

“Because I don’t trust the Russian military and Russian leadership,” he continued. “That is why we understand that the fact that we fought them off and they left, and they were running away from Kyiv — from the north, from Chernihiv and from that direction — it doesn’t mean if they are able to capture Donbas, they won’t come further towards Kyiv.”

Zelensky’s interview with CNN Friday, more than seven weeks into Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine, comes as Ukraine’s military has seen successes resisting Russia’s offensive that have come as a surprise to US intelligence — and a Kremlin that had planned for a quick and decisive victory.

Asked by Tapper if Ukraine would be victorious in the conflict, Zelensky said,

“Yes, of course, and will.”

At the same time, however, Ukraine has suffered horrific civilian casualties across the country amid the fighting. Zelensky told CNN that the world should be prepared for the possibility that Putin would use a tactical nuclear weapon because he does not value Ukrainian lives. Zelensky spoke in both Ukrainian and English about the horrors his country has witnessed and the urgent help his military still needs to be equipped to fend off the coming Russian offensive in the east and southern parts of Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden said last week that the civilian killings being committed by Russian forces appeared to be genocide.

“I have the same opinion as President Biden,”

Zelensky said.

“Look what happened in Bucha. It’s clear that is not even a war, it’s a genocide. They just killed people. Not soldiers, people. They just shot people in the streets. People were riding bicycles, taking the bus or just walking down the street. There were corpses lining the streets.”