Zelensky warned that defending Bakhmut is crucial to prevent Putin from pressuring Ukraine to hand over territory

Zelensky visited military positions near the city of Bakhmut

The President of Ukraine, Volodimir Zelensky, warned that unless his nation wins a protracted battle in a key eastern city, Russia could begin to generate international support for a deal that could require Ukraine to make unacceptable compromises. He also invited the leader of Chinalong allied with Russia, to visit him.

Yeah Bakhmut fell to Russian forces, its president, Vladimir Putin, “I would sell this victory to the West, to its society, to China, to Iran,” Zelensky said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press.

“If he feels any blood, he smells that we’re weak, he’ll push, push, push,” Zelensky said in English, which he used for virtually the entire interview.

The leader spoke to PA aboard a train that took him through Ukraineto cities close to some of the fiercest fighting and to others where your country’s forces have successfully repelled the invasion of Russia.

Since then, Ukraine, backed by much of West, has shocked the world with the strength of its resistance against the larger and better equipped Russian army. Ukrainian forces have held their capital, kyivand have pushed Russia back from other strategically important areas.

But as the war enters its second year, Zelensky finds himself focused on keeping motivation high both in his army and in the wider Ukrainian population, particularly the millions who have fled abroad and those living in relative comfort and safety. away from the front lines.

Zelensky is also well aware that his country’s success is due in large part to waves of international military support, particularly from United States and Europe western. But some in the United States, including the Republican donald trumpthe former US president, have questioned whether Washington it should continue to provide Ukraine with billions of dollars in military aid.

Former US President Donald Trump.  REUTERS/Go Nakamura
Former US President Donald Trump. REUTERS/Go Nakamura (GO NAKAMURA/)

Trump’s likely Republican rival, the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, also suggested that defending Ukraine in a “territorial dispute” with Russia was not a major national security priority for the United States. He later retracted that statement after facing criticism from other corners of the Republican Party.

Zelensky did not name Trump or any other Republican politicians, figures he may have to deal with if they prevail in the 2024 election. But he did say he worries the war could be affected by changing political forces in Washington. .

“The United States really understands that if they stop helping us, we won’t win,” he said in the interview. He sipped his tea while sitting on a narrow bed in the cramped and unadorned sleeper cabin of a state train.

The president’s carefully timed train ride was a remarkable overland journey through a country at war. Zelensky, who has become a recognizable face around the world as he doggedly tells his side of history to nation after nation, used the morale-boosting trip to bring his considerable influence to regions near the front lines.

He traveled with a small group of advisers and a large group of heavily armed security officials dressed in military uniforms. Her destinations included ceremonies to commemorate the first anniversary of the liberation of the peoples of the region of sumi and visits with troops stationed in front-line positions near Zaporizhzhya. Each visit was kept secret until after his departure.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi speaks with Ukraine's President Volodimir Zelensky as they visit the Dnipro hydroelectric power station, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on March 27, 2023. Presidential Press Service of Ukraine/Handout via REUTERS
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi speaks with Ukraine’s President Volodimir Zelensky as they visit the Dnipro hydroelectric power station, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on March 27, 2023. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS (UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SER/)

Zelensky recently made a similar visit near Bakhmut, where Ukrainian and Russian forces have been locked in a grueling and bloody battle for months. While some Western military analysts have suggested the city is not of significant strategic importance, Zelensky warned that a loss anywhere at this stage in the war could jeopardize Ukraine’s momentum.

“We cannot lose steps because war is a cake, pieces of victories. Small victories, small steps,” she said.

Zelensky’s comments were an acknowledgment that losing the 7-month battle for Bakhmut, the longest of the war thus far, would be a costly political rather than a tactical defeat.

He predicted that the pressure of a defeat at Bakhmut would come on quickly, both from the international community like in your own country. “Our society will feel tired,” she said. “Our society will push me to engage with them.”

So far, Zelensky says he hasn’t felt that pressure. The international community has largely rallied around Ukraine following the invasion of Russia on February 24, 2022. In recent months, a parade of world leaders have visited Zelensky in Ukraine, most traveling on trains similar to those used by the president to cross the country.

In his interview with PAZelensky extended an invitation to Ukraine to a notable and strategically important leader who has not made the trip: Chinese President, Xi Jinping.

“We are ready to see it here,” he said. “I want to talk to him. I had contact with him before the war on a large scale. But for this whole year, more than a year, I didn’t have it.”

China, economically aligned with and politically favorable to Russia for many decades, has provided diplomatic cover for Putin by establishing an official position of neutrality in the war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a reception at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, March 21, 2023. Sputnik/Pavel Byrkin/Kremlin via REUTERS
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a reception at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on March 21, 2023. Sputnik/Pavel Byrkin/Kremlin via REUTERS (SPUTNIK/)

Asked if Xi would accept an invitation from Zelensky, or if it had been officially extended, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman mao ningHe told reporters that he had no information to give. She said that Beijing maintains “communication with all parties involved, including Ukraine.”

Xi visited Putin in Russia last week, raising the possibility that Beijing may be ready to provide Moscow the weapons and ammunition you need to replenish your depleted reserves. But Xi’s trip ended without any such announcement. Days later, Putin announced that he would deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, which is a neighbor of Russia and close to the country’s nuclear arsenal. Kremlin to the territory of the NATO.

Zelensky suggested that the measure of Putin intended to divert attention of the lack of guarantees it received from China.

“What does it mean? It means that the visit was not good for Russia,” Zelensky speculated.

The president makes few predictions about the biggest question looming over the war: how it will end. However, he expressed confidence that his nation would prevail through a series of “small victories” and “small steps” against a “very big country, a big enemy, a big army,” but an army, he said, with “small hearts”. “

And Ukraine itself? While Zelensky acknowledged that the war “has changed us,” he said thatIn the end, it has strengthened their society.

“It could have gone one way, to divide the country, or another way, to unite us,” he said. “I am so grateful. I’m grateful to everyone, every partner, our people, thank God, everyone, that we found this way at this critical time for the nation. Finding this path was what saved our nation, and we saved our land. We are together

(With information from AP)

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