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Front, weapons, personnel rotations and peace: Zelenskyy's key statements from meeting with media

Front, weapons, personnel rotations and peace: Zelenskyy's key statements from meeting with media President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy (Vitalii Nosach, RBC-Ukraine)

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the media, outlining the Russian objectives in the Kharkiv region, his vision for the withdrawal of Russian troops, the stance of international partners and their fears, and commenting on personnel rotations within the Cabinet and the Presidential Office.


Situation in Kharkiv region

Speaking about the situation in the Kharkiv region, the head of state noted that he had a substantive meeting with Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi, commanders of Operational Strategic Group Khortytsia, Yurii Sodol, and Operational Tactical Group Kharkiv, Mykhailo Drapatyi, as well as border guards including State Border Guard Service head Serhii Deineko and National Police representatives.

According to Zelenskyy, Ukrainian Defense Forces have "stabilized the Russians where they are now." The deepest advancement of the occupiers is 10 kilometers. In some brigade directions, the enemy has made no progress at all.

"We have very powerful brigades, I am grateful to them. We have reinforced several directions with individual battalions, reallocating from reserves and other directions. The crossing of the border by the Russians is due to a lack of air defense. They operate with aerial bombs and artillery where they have an advantage... 8 months of partners delaying decisions made it difficult for our troops," explains the president.

Regarding fortifications, Zelenskyy said that no one has reached the concrete defense line, dismissing claims as nonsense.

"The enemy reached the first line. The first line is not the border, it is impossible to build there because of the weapons used by the Russians, which caused our people to die. That is approximately where they are now. The first line was built during the war, under constant fire, by our military. The second line is also built by the military, and the third line, constructed by local authorities, is the strongest—not because they are better than the military, but simply because it is farther from the weapons, shells, and shelling," said Zelenskyy.

According to the head of state, the Russian goal is Vovchansk. Beyond that, they want a 10-kilometer zone and aim to develop any success they achieve. However, for now, the situation is stabilized by our Defense Forces, said Zelenskyy.

Permission for using Western weapons on Russian territory

Regarding Ukraine's use of Western weapons to strike Russian territory, the president does not believe there should be any prohibitions "because this is not about the Ukrainian army's offensive using Western weapons on Russian territory."

"This is defense. It is like the preventive sanctions we spoke of before the full-scale invasion. It is the same. It is a warning. Moreover, they have the same 'gray' zone. They also have evacuation areas. There are almost no civilians on their border for understandable reasons," emphasized Zelenskyy.

Blinken's visit

As the president recounted, the visit of the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Ukraine had several objectives.

"Firstly, a $2 billion aid package. Secondly, US proposals for security guarantees. A draft Treaty on Security Guarantees already exists. Thirdly, we discussed our vision for the NATO Summit. They heard our vision, accepted the information, and will return with feedback," Zelenskyy shared.

However, he stressed that the main issue is air defense.

"At what stage is the dialogue with this or that country that has the relevant systems. Where we see them, where our partners see them, when it might happen, and what needs to be done for this," Zelenskyy added.

Negotiations with Russia

During his conversation with journalists, the president also emphasized that Western partners are not pushing Ukraine to sit at the negotiating table with Russia.

"Partners are not pushing us. Although I think there is such an atmosphere in the world. And here we need to be very firm and strong. The correct platform has been chosen today where we have the initiative—the Peace Summit," Zelenskyy believes.

Goals for peace summit

Speaking about the Global Peace Summit in Switzerland (to be held on June 15-16, 2024) and its goals, the head of state said that Kyiv aims to achieve a communiqué.

"We want to achieve energy security, including nuclear one. Because I believe everyone is interested in this, and it could allow us to forecast another winter. We want to achieve free navigation. Any cargo through Ukrainian waters without risk. This is also the safety of people in Odesa and the South in general. Because they hit ports—this affects infrastructure, the sea, and the economy. We also want to make a serious step towards prisoner exchange. In the humanitarian aspect, prisoner exchange is a double issue, as with energy. Energy is nuclear safety, which everyone supports. I think where there is nuclear safety, we can talk about the overall security of the energy system. Regarding exchange. Where there is a prisoner exchange, there is the return of children. That is what we want to achieve," Zelenskyy explained.

Withdrawal of Russian troops

President also outlined how he sees the mechanism of withdrawing Russian troops from Ukraine. According to him, it is important to involve a large number of countries in this issue.

"If we have a serious number of countries and there is a corresponding communique, I believe this will be our diplomatic advantage. After that, we can organize platforms in various countries where each of these points will be technically worked out. And then this plan can be presented to the representatives of Russia. It's like it was with the grain initiative: we agreed on a plan with the UN and Türkiye, and then they separately agreed on this plan with Russia, the first corridor," he said.

Zelenskyy emphasized that "it is important that there are not just 2 countries, but many countries."

"Otherwise, the Russians will jump out, as was the case with the grain corridor, and we had to build another corridor. It was very difficult. And that's why we have such a plan on these 3 points. If we succeed, it definitely opens the way to the next meeting, where all other important matters should be addressed," the president said.

According to him, the Ukrainian government has such a vision: before talking to Russia, there must be a detailed plan that is approved by the entire world.

"We are working on different fronts. I speak with leaders. Diplomats Andrii Yermak is dealing with. Yesterday he presented an analytical document on Ukraine to NATO with Rasmussen in Denmark. In Brussels, he and our team met with many ambassadors, including China and the Global South, regarding the summit," the president added.

Ukraine's accession to EU and NATO

Speaking about accession to the European Union and NATO, the head of state expressed the opinion that the Ukrainian side has done everything possible so far.

"It's only about politics now. That is, instrumentally and operationally, we have done everything to open negotiations with the EU for Ukraine in June. I think everything will work out there. Even difficult partners today have become a bit simpler. We have actively worked with them," Zelenskyy said.

Government and Presidential Office rotations

He briefly commented on personnel matters in the Cabinet of Ministers and the Presidential Office, stating that it "needs to be resolved."

"We talked about it with the prime minister. Today we have acting duties in several ministries. This needs to be addressed," Zelenskyy said.

Situation with weapons and Czech initiative

The president assured that progress is being made even with the Czech initiative concerning artillery ammunition.

"For the first time in years of war, none of the brigades complain that there is no artillery shell. And this has been happening for the past 2 months. However, much more work still needs to be done. The Czech initiative will go on. We are negotiating money with all partners," he informed.

According to Zelenskyy, an initiative is now being opened where partners will provide funds for the production of our drones - EW systems specifically in this particular direction. He added that the technical indicators of Ukrainian drones are improving.

"We are starting to produce a lot of them, but there is not enough money for them. We a re capable of producing more than there is money," the president said.

Partners' positions and fears

In Zelenskyy's opinion, partners fear the defeat of the Russian Federation in this war.

"They would like Ukraine to win so that Russia does not lose. Because it will be an unpredictable defeat and unpredictable geopolitics. I believe that this does not work that way. For Ukraine to win, we need to give it everything that winners have," he said.

Macron's idea of Western troops in Ukraine

Zelenskyy also commented on French President Emmanuel Macron's statement regarding the possible deployment of foreign troops to Ukraine.

"Training in Ukraine is logical, we have already talked about this. It's faster than going, for example, to France or even to Poland. And then there is cooperation on demining, and we can create a hub for repairing French equipment in Ukraine, so that it doesn't have to be sent to France. I look at this very positively, to be honest. All this could be a step that would push other countries as well. That is, it opens a new page in this war," the president believes.

Ceasefire during Olympics and potential duration of war

The President of Ukraine said that he does not yet believe in a ceasefire with Russia during the summer Olympic Games.

"We have had a ceasefire already. But it doesn't work very well with this enemy. Besides, there is a risk - who will make sure that their forces won't approach us during the ceasefire? Ceasefire doesn't prevent them from getting closer with equipment and then launching an offensive. That is, I don't understand the details. For me, it still sounds like a dead story," Zelenskyy said.

The president believes that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin is not interested in dialogue with the whole world because even China will tell him: "Explain the occupation of territories!"

"Because China stands for the territorial integrity of any state. Today there should be grounds for Putin to seek a way out of this situation. Because now he has no discomfort. Because where are we shooting? What can we attack? With what? How will they help us economically? Will sanctions put enough pressure on them or not? Will there be a tribunal or not? We need to answer to each of these questions. And work and advance on each of these fronts every day," the president summed up.