KYIV, June 21 - President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the international community must maintain pressure on Moscow to return the land it seized from Ukraine in 2014, adding that international sanctions against Russia must continue, The Globe and Mail reported.
Zelenskiy said that while he was committed to seeking peace with Vladimir Putin’s Russia – an effort he called “most tricky and difficult” – Ukraine needed its international allies to hold firm during those negotiations. While talks have slowed to a near-stop amid the COVID-19 pandemic, they saw some modest early gains, including several exchanges of prisoners.
“I have not the time to choose to trust or not to trust Vladimir Putin,” Mr. Zelenskiy told The Globe and Mail. “Maybe [the prisoner swap] is not that big a victory, but such small victories make a big victory possible – and for us the big victory is the return of all our stolen lands. That’s what I believe in strongly, and that’s what I have time for.”
Zelenskiy also thanked Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for rejecting U.S. President Donald Trump’s push to readmit Russia into the G7.
Russia was expelled from the G7 (formerly the G8) over its 2014 annexation of Crimea, as well as Moscow’s support for separatist fighters in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. Six years after the Donbas war began, the front lines are now static, though exchanges of fire still occur on a near-daily basis. More than 13,000 people have been killed.
Trump, the host of the next G7 meeting in September, called the club of industrialized nations “a very outdated group of countries” and said last month that he will invite Russia, as well as India, South Korea and Australia, to a gathering focused on the question of how to deal with China. It would be the first time Putin has been invited to attend since the Crimea takeover.
While welcoming other countries to attend the September meeting is Trump’s prerogative as host, Trudeau and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have both said Russia won’t be allowed to rejoin the G7 before Ukraine gets its land back.
“Justin Trudeau said on June 1 that there is no chance for Russia to return to the G7 until the full restoration of the territorial integrity of Ukraine and we are grateful for that support – and I should say that there will be no resolution if the world doesn’t keep the pressure on Russia in that regard,” Zelensky said in the interview – which was conducted via Skype, with Zelensky speaking from his office in Kyiv on Saturday.
But while he repeatedly praised Canada and Trudeau for backing Ukraine, Zelensky twice refused to answer whether Ukraine had supported Canada’s high-profile drive – an effort central to the Prime Minister’s foreign-policy vision – for a seat on the UN Security Council. The bid ended in defeat last week when Canada finished behind Norway and Ireland on a secret ballot, which saw the top two countries chosen from a three-country list.
“Ukraine has always and will continue to support Canada. Regarding the voting and the election process at the United Nations, I cannot say because that is confidential information,” Mr. Zelensky said. “I know that Canada wanted very much to be elected and to be on the Security Council of the United Nations. Well, it did not happen this time, but what is important for Canada is also important for Ukraine because the success of Canada is the success of Ukraine.” (gm/ez)