On how the president’s family learnt about the Russian invasion
The first lady said she woke up on February 24, hearing some strange sounds outdoors. She found her husband Volodymyr in the next room, all dressed up. This is when he broke the news to her telling ‘it has started’.
Zelensky said he came late that night after the state security council meeting that brought together all the key Ukrainian leaders to discuss the imminent invasion.
‘We understood that if it started the state would need to work as one organism’, said Zelensky.
On how ‘prepared’ the Ukrainian army was for the war
As Russia deployed the troops and all its ‘reserves’, many observers scoffed at Ukraine’s chances to stand out the scale of aggression.
‘We are 28 times smaller in territory then Russia, although we are a big country. And when the big army advances, you can’t concentrate all forcers around Kyv’, said Zelensky, adding the country now boasts 700 thousand active servicemen.
On the ‘true’ date of Russia’s invasion
According to Zelensky, Moscow invaded into Ukraine much earlier – in 2014 while 2021 attack picked it up where they left it off.
‘What happened was these messages, first economic steps, financial ones, cyberattacks, blockade, fuel shortages, energy supplies’ cuts. I would say it started in September-October. I believe it was this proxy shelling we had back in autumn [of 2021]”
On Mariupol defenders
‘Practically all people’ were taken out of the Azovstal site after Ukraine’s military leadership sent them a ‘signal’ they have a right to ‘exit’ to save their lives, said Zelensky, arguing the talk of prisoners swap will depend on ‘the UN, the Red Cross, and the Russian Federation’.
Zelensky hinted that there were some ‘pledges’ of Ukraine’s partners that can help in a ‘dialogue on [prisoners] swap’.
On talks with Vladimir Putin
Ukraine’s president admitted he had believed talks with Putin could help work out the issues with Russia.
If such talks happened now, said Zelensky, he would negotiate ‘de-occupation’ of Ukraine, the exchange of prisoners’, and peace deal.
Zelenksy struck a note of confidence Ukraine will prevail.
‘The victory will be bloody, it will come on the battlefield, but the end will be about the diplomacy.’
The diplomatic efforts, though, are exacerbated as Russia ‘doesn’t want to give back [the territories’.
On what can become Ukraine’s ‘victory’
According to Zelensky, the Russian army’s pullback to the pre-war borders can be taken as Ukraine’s ‘victory’ while the future of Donbas and Crimea will require some separate talks.
He argued Ukraine broke a ‘backbone’ of the biggest army in the world. ‘We did it. For sure’, stressed the president.
Zelensky was cautious talking about the possible counteroffensives in Donbas.
Pushing ahead to reclaim the occupied territories can be a ‘difficult step’ as Ukraine must think of its military men who ‘also want to live’, stressed the president, warning that a counterattack in Donbas can cost ’40-50 thousand’ lives.
On reshuffles in his administration
Zelensky said he parted ways with the people who have ‘different views’ on ‘values’ arguing he got a ‘great result’ as he is now working with those who have the same objectives.