Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky once again reiterated his war-torn country’s dire need for additional arms and closed skies as Russian forces, while stalled, continue to raze Ukrainian cities and kill thousands of civilians 45 days into the war.
Speaking from his dimly lit, fortified compound flooded with soldiers somewhere in the capital city of Kyiv, Zelensky defended his blunt, pointed diplomatic style when requesting assistance from world leaders as his people suffer.
“When you are [working] at diplomacy, there are no results,” he told 60 Minutes’ Scott Pelley in an interview that aired on Sunday night.
“All of this is very bureaucratic. That’s why the way I’m talking to them is absolutely justifiable. I don’t have any more lives [to give] I don’t have any more emotions. I’m no longer interested in their diplomacy that leads to the destruction of my country.
“A lot of countries have changed their mind about Ukraine and about our people. But I think we’ve paid too a high price for that.”
Last week, he rebuked the U.N. security council, questioning why it even exists if it would not help Ukraine’s defense against the Russian invasion — a violation of the UN Charter’s first article. He’s also called out NATO, telling the organization in a speech that “All the people who die will die because of you, because of your weakness.”
Despite numerous requests from Zelensky, the United States and its Western allies have refused to establish a no-fly zone over Ukrainian skies, fearing the escalation could lead to world war three. Most have instead offered arms or imposed economic sanctions on Russia.
Zelensky compared the response of western countries to those who sat idly by watching the atrocities of WWII from afar without ever getting involved.
“Are those countries who did not participate in the war responsible? The countries who let German forces march throughout Europe? Does the world carry responsibility for the genocide? Yes. Yes, it does,” he said.
“When you [have the ability to] close the sky – yes it’s scary, that a world war could start. It’s scary. I understand [that]. And I cannot put pressure on these people because everyone is afraid of war. But whether the world [is responsible] for this, I believe so, yes. I believe so.
“Stand in front of the mirror every day and ask yourself, were you able to do something? Or were you unable to do something? You will find the answer in the mirror to this question – and to another question – who are you? That’s what I believe.”
Zelensky said he does not believe that Russian aggression will stop at Ukraine’s borders and Russian President Vladimir Putin will continue to push closer to Europe.
“Some are using that politically, as an excuse, by saying ‘we can’t defend Ukraine because there could be a nuclear war.’ I think that today, no one in this world can predict what Russia will do. If they invade further into our territory, they will definitely move closer and closer to Europe. They will only become stronger and less predictable.”
More than anything, Zelensky emphasized Ukraine’s need for more weapons. He also called for stronger economic sanctions, as Russia has been “circumventing them,” adding that the “Western World knows it.”
“Weapons, number one. They need to be very serious about it. They definitely understand what I’m talking about right now. They have to supply weapons to Ukraine as if they were defending themselves and their own people. They need to understand this; if they don’t speed up, It will be very hard for us to hold on against this pressure,” he said.
“The second factor is sanctions. Because we’ve found some things in sanctions that are easy for financial experts to circumvent. Russia has been circumventing them, and this is absolutely true. The Western world knows it. This shouldn’t be allowed. This is not a movie, this is real life. Stop fearing the Russian Federation. We’ve shown we are not afraid.”
The 41-year-old former comedian said that U.S. President Joe Biden has a list of very specific items he’s requested to help defend his country.
“President Biden can enter history as the person who stood shoulder to shoulder with the Ukrainian people who won and chose the right to have their own country. [This] also depends on him,” he said, adding that he’s “not disappointed” by Biden’s response.
“I don’t know how another president in his place would help us, I don’t know. It’s difficult. We have a good relationship. I think so at least. Ukraine depends on the support of the United States. And I, as the leader of a country at war– I can only be grateful.”
Zelensky said that American arms have been a large help to Ukraine’s defense, although he added he still needs more to ensure victory.
“But the fact that the United States has helped a lot is true,” he said.
Pelley asked the president about the massacre of hundreds of civilians in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, just 45 minutes from the capital. A mass grave was found near a church with bodies not fully buried after Russian forces pulled out. More bodies littered the streets.
He described what he saw as “Death. Just death.”
Zelensky visited the town himself to see the carnage and was photographed in a rare vulnerable moment showing emotion on his face. He said that emotion was anger.
“It’s anger. It’s anger because we don’t understand [the Russians]. You can’t really understand this world. That there are people on this planet who give these orders and people [who carry them out],” he said.
In addition to Bucha, Zelensky said Ukraine has wide evidence of Russian war crimes, including intercepted communications of soldiers telling their parents what they’ve done, recordings of prisoners of war admitting to killing people and Russian pilots captured with maps of civilian targets. He said everyone involved should be prosecuted, including Putin.
“Look, I think everyone who made a decision, who issued an order, who fulfilled an order, everyone who is relevant to this I believe they are all guilty,” he said.
Zelensky said he is willing to sit down with Putin and negotiate terms for peace, during which he expects Russia to demand Ukraine give up part of its country, including the Donbas region and Crimea — the latter of which he said he would “definitely not recognize.”