- Zelenskyy told WSJ that Ukraine can’t agree to a ceasefire until it takes its territory back from Russia.
- A ceasefire “means a pause that gives the Russian Federation a break for rest,” Zelenskyy said.
- He said Russia would just resume its offensive later on after regaining strength.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a new interview with The Wall Street Journal that establishing a ceasefire in the war with Russia while allowing it to maintain control of parts of Ukraine would result in a prolonged conflict.
“Freezing the conflict with the Russian Federation means a pause that gives the Russian Federation a break for rest,” Zelenskyy said, adding, “They will not use this pause to change their geopolitics or to renounce their claims on the former Soviet republics.”
Zelenskyy said Russia would use a ceasefire to regain strength and then resume its offensive against Ukraine later on.
Russia would “rest and in two or three years, it will seize two more regions and say again: Freeze the conflict. And it will keep going further and further. One hundred percent,” Zelenskky said.
Ukrainians believe “all the territories must be liberated” before negotiations can start, he said. “Our people are convinced we can do it. And the faster we do it, the fewer will die.”
“We would prefer to de-occupy in a way that’s not military and to save lives,” Zelenskyy went on to say. “But we are dealing with who we are dealing with. Until they get smashed in the face, they won’t understand anything.”
Zelenskyy’s comments came after Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this week accused Ukraine of standing in the way of a draft peace deal from March.
The Ukrainian leader ripped into Putin in response, telling The Wall Street Journal: “He came here without talking, killed people, displaced 12 million, and now says Ukraine doesn’t want to negotiate.”
“They just murder people, destroy cities, enter them, and then say: ‘Let’s negotiate.’ With whom can they talk? With rocks? They are covered in blood, and this blood is impossible to wash off. We will not let them wash it off,” he added.
‘Putin wants to find a way of subjugating Ukraine one way or another’
Fiona Hill, who served as the top Russia expert on the National Security Council under the Trump administration, expressed similar concerns to Zelenskyy in a recent interview with Insider.
Though Russia has issues with manpower and the maintenance of military equipment, Hill underscored that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goals in Ukraine have not changed.
“Putin wants to find a way of subjugating Ukraine one way or another,” Hill said.
“He might take what he can get in the short-term and medium-term. One of the big risks is that if he manages to get some kind of nominal control of the Donbas — Donetsk and Luhansk. But then there might be some kind of effort to create an operational pause for regrouping,” Hill added, “And then it just results in a renewal of conflict when the Russians feel that they’re in a good position to press ahead again.”
A number of Western officials and Kremlinologists have made the case that Russia is losing momentum in Ukraine, which they’ve said could offer an important opportunity for Kyiv.
Richard Moore, chief of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), on Thursday said that Russia’s forces appeared to be running “out of steam” and this could open the door for Ukrainian forces to “strike back.”
“They will have to pause in some way, and that will give the Ukrainians opportunities to strike back,” Moore said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.
Retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the former commanding general of the US Army in Europe, earlier this month told Insider that Russian forces are “exhausted.” Hodges said that Ukraine could potentially push Russia back to its pre-war borders by 2023.
That said, officials have also underscored that the conflict has morphed into a grinding war of attrition that is taking a heavy toll on both sides.
CIA Director William Burns, who also attended the Aspen Security Forum this week, said that the latest US intelligence assessments place the Russian death toll at around 15,000, with an additional 45,000 wounded.
But Burns went on to say, “The Ukrainians have suffered as well — probably a little less than that. But, you know, significant casualties.”
‘The cost is very high. The gains are very low.’
After failing to take Kyiv during the early days of the war, Russia turned its attention to Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. Fighting had already been raging on between Ukrainian forces and Kremlin-backed rebels for eight years in that region prior to Russia’s large-scale invasion in late February. By the time Moscow launched the so-called “special operation” in Ukraine, the rebels already controlled roughly one-third of the Donbas.
Since shifting the focus of the war to the Donbas, Russia has made incremental progress. By early July, Russian forces had control of Luhansk, which along with Donetsk is one of two provinces that make up the Donbas.
Russia has only advanced roughly six to 10 miles in the past few months, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said on Wednesday.
“The cost is very high. The gains are very low,” Milley said. “The Ukrainians are making the Russians pay for every inch of territory that they gain. Advances are measured in literally hundreds of meters — some days you might get a kilometer or two from the Russians, but not much more than that.”
Weapons provided by the US to Ukraine, particularly the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), appear to have made a difference in terms of putting a dent in the Russian offensive. The Pentagon this week announced it was sending, among other systems, four additional HIMARS to Ukraine on top of the 12 already provided.