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Kiev, March 9 – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that “we don’t have any confidence” in his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, since the latter “doesn’t hold his word”.
The Ukrainian leader made the remarks to CNN in an interview on Wednesday night amid intense fighting in Bakhmut, which according to Zelensky will pave an “open road” for Russian troops to capture key areas if they are able to seize the besieged eastern city.
Regarding talks with the Russian side, Zelensky said that they cannot currently envisage a situation in which he would meet Putin.
“We don’t have any circumstances to talk to the Russian Federation president because he doesn’t hold his word,” he told CNN.
“We don’t have any confidence in him. Russia should leave our territory. And after that, we’re happy to join the diplomatic tools. In order to do that, we can find any format with our partners just after that.”
While defending his decision to keep Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut, the President said: “This is tactical for us… We understand that after Bakhmut they could go further. They could go to Kramatorsk, they could go to Sloviansk, it would be open road for the Russians after Bakhmut to other towns in Ukraine, in the Donetsk direction. That’s why our guys are standing there.”
Although Bakhmut does not hold significant strategic value in itself, its road connections to Kramatorsk and Sloviansk — two densely populated, industrial urban hubs to the northwest — mean those cities could be next in Russia’s crosshairs if they are able to take control.
After being pounded by Russia for over seven months, Bakhmut Deputy Mayor Oleksandr Marchenko has said that there were just a few thousand civilians left living in underground shelters with no water, gas or power.
“The city is almost destroyed… There is not a single building that has remained untouched in this war,” he was quoted as saying.
But Ukrainian troops have also mounted a dogged defence of the area, stalling Russia’s progress.
Zelensky told CNN that his motivations to keep the city are “so different” to Russia’s objectives.
“We understand what Russia wants to achieve there. Russia needs at least some victory, a small victory, even by ruining everything in Bakhmut, just killing every civilian there.”
He said that if Russia is able to “put their little flag” on top of Bakhmut, it would help “mobilise their society in order to create this idea they’re such a powerful army”.
In the interview, the Ukrainian leader also spoke about how he and his family are dealing with the ongoing war, which completed a year on February 24.
“My daughter joined the university and she studies there, and my son is attending school in Ukraine. They’re both in Ukraine. They’re very much like other Ukrainian kids. We live with sirens.
“We want victory. We don’t want to get used to war, but we got used to the challenges. Everyone wants one thing — to end the war,” he told CNN.