Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned of a “third world war” if talks with Vladimir Putin after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine fail to bring peace.
[I]If those attempts fail, it would mean … a third world war,” Zelensky told CNN via video link on Sunday. The leader also reiterated his belief that Russian forces were working to “annihilate” Ukraine’s civilian population.
“Unfortunately, our dignity will not save lives. So I think we need to use some format…[to reach] the opportunity to talk to Putin,” Zelensky told CNN host Fareed Zakaria.
The Ukrainian leader spoke as the month-old anniversary of Russia’s invasion loomed this week.
According to US intelligence, Ukraine has resisted the attacks on multiple fronts, inflicting thousands of casualties on Russian forces in a matter of weeks. The magnitude is comparable to US losses in Iraq and Afghanistan for more than a decade.
However, Mr Zelensky said the brutal war is taking a heavy toll on Ukraine’s civilian population. Millions of Ukrainians have fled their homes in recent weeks.
“We lost people every day, innocent local people. … Russian forces came to exterminate us, to kill us,” he told CNN.
The US has vowed not to engage in a situation that would lead to a direct military conflict with Russia, but has supplied anti-aircraft, anti-tank and other heavy weapons to the Ukrainian armed forces. There have been stern warnings to Moscow’s potential allies against doing the same to Russia.
It comes as Russian troops have stepped up their bombardment of the besieged port city of Mariupol, with Ukrainian officials saying a strike has leveled an art school that has been used as a shelter for hundreds of civilians.
The city continues to bear some of the greatest sufferings of the war.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy early Sunday accused Russia of its war crimes siege and described the attack on the city as “a terror that will be remembered for centuries to come”.
In his nightly address to the nation, Zelenskyy said Ukraine was interested in peace.
He has unsuccessfully asked for a face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Local authorities said thousands of residents were forcibly taken across the border.
“Over the past week, several thousand residents of Mariupol have been deported to Russian territory,” the city councilor said in a statement on its Telegram channel late Saturday.
The council also said Russian forces on Saturday bombed an arts school in Mariupol where 400 residents were sheltering, but the number of victims was not yet known.
Russian news agencies said buses have carried several hundred people called by Moscow to Russia from the strategic port on the Sea of Azov in recent days.
Air raid sirens rang out in major Ukrainian cities earlier this morning, but there were no immediate reports of fresh attacks.
About 400,000 people have been trapped in Mariupol for more than two weeks and, according to local authorities, have found shelter from heavy bombing raids that cut off the central supply of electricity, heating and water.
Rescuers were still searching for survivors at a Mariupol theater that local authorities said was leveled by Russian airstrikes on Wednesday. Russia denies hitting the theater or attacking civilians.
On Friday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said its forces were “tightening the noose around Mariupol” and that fighting had reached the city center.
In a late-night broadcast, Zelenskyy said the siege of Mariupol “will go down in history of responsibility for war crimes.”
“To do that to a peaceful city…is a terror that will be remembered for centuries to come.”
Nevertheless, peace talks with Russia are necessary, although they are “not easy and pleasant”.
At least 847 civilians have been killed and 1,399 injured in Ukraine as of Friday, according to the UN Human Rights Office. Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office said 112 children were killed.
Russian forces have suffered heavy casualties since February 24, when President Vladimir Putin launched what he called a “special operation” aimed at demilitarizing Ukraine and purging what he sees as dangerous nationalists . Ukraine and the West say Putin campaigned aggressively.
Long columns of troops rushing toward the capital, Kyiv, were stopped in the suburbs.
Ukraine’s military said Russian forces did not conduct offensive operations on Saturday, instead focusing on replenishing supplies and repairing equipment. It was also said that Ukrainian air defenses shot down three Russian attack helicopters.
Zelenskyy said the Ukrainian front was “simply littered with the bodies of Russian soldiers.”
In Syria, some paramilitary fighters said they were ready to deploy to Ukraine to fight in support of their ally Russia, but had not yet received instructions.
On Saturday, Russia said its hypersonic missiles had destroyed a large underground depot for missiles and aircraft ammunition in the western Ivano-Frankivsk region. Hypersonic weapons can travel faster than five times the speed of sound, and the Interfax agency said Russia first used them in Ukraine.
A spokesman for Ukraine’s Air Force Command confirmed the attack but said the Ukrainian side had no information on the type of missiles used.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow expects its operation in Ukraine to end with the signing of a comprehensive agreement on security issues, including Ukraine’s neutral status, Interfax reported.
Kyiv and Moscow last week reported some progress in talks on a political formula that would guarantee Ukraine’s security while keeping it outside NATO, though each side accused the other of dragging things out.
Zelenskyy said Ukraine could accept international security guarantees that would miss its long-standing goal of joining NATO. This prospect was one of the main concerns of Russia.
The Ukrainian president, who often impassionedly pleads for help from foreign audiences, told an anti-war protest in Bern on Saturday that Swiss banks are where the “money of the people who unleashed this war lies” and their accounts are being frozen should.
Ukrainian cities “are being destroyed by order of people living in European cities, in beautiful Swiss cities, enjoying property in your cities. It would be really good to take that privilege away from them,” he said in an audio address.
Neutral Switzerland, which is not a member of the European Union, has fully adopted EU sanctions against Russian individuals and entities, including orders to freeze their assets in Swiss banks.
The EU measures are part of a broader sanctions effort by Western nations aimed at weakening Russia’s economy and starving out its war machine.
US President Joe Biden on Friday warned his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping of “consequences” if Beijing materially supports Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
On Saturday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China was on the right side of history on the Ukraine crisis.
“China’s position is objective and fair and reflects the wishes of most countries. Time will prove China’s claims are on the right side of history,” Wang told reporters, according to a statement released by his ministry today.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis has denounced Russia’s “heinous war” against Ukraine as “cruel and sacrilegious inhumanity.”
In some of his strongest words since invading Russia on February 24, Pope Francis told thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday that every day brings more atrocities in a “senseless massacre.”
“There is no justification for that,” Francis said in an apparent reference to Russia trying to justify its invasion as vital to its own defense.
“Rockets and bombs rained down on the elderly, children and pregnant mothers again this week,” the pope said.
His thoughts, he said, are with the millions fleeing. “And I feel great pain for those who don’t even get a chance to escape,” Francis added.
“Above all, defenseless life should be respected and protected, not eliminated.” This priority “comes before any strategy,” Pope Francis said, before leading those in the square in a moment of silent prayer.
https://www.independent.ie/news/ukraines-zelensky-predicts-third-world-war-if-negotiations-with-putin-fail-41467932.html The Ukrainian Zelenskyj predicts a “Third World War” if negotiations with Putin collapse