President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky has said that he is against “freezing” the war and it is impossible to put an end to it after settling along the border lines of February 23, 2022.
“Why am I against freezing this war? Because in Donbas we have already seen it. They take away part of the territory and then freeze it for some time, to become more powerful occupiers, ready for more occupation, and that’s all,” he said in an interview with The Economist published on Thursday.
“Understand: we are not at war with Russia; Russia is at war with us on our territory. They have to withdraw. Of course, they will pay for generations. You will see, any aggression has a high cost. But that is in the future. Today this is how it should end because otherwise it is not finished, it is just frozen. Just to leave it as it is now, to say, ok, let’s stop and they take Donbas, the south of our country, or part of it, and Crimea remains with them…Why? ‘Because it is time to do so and you should’? We will not be able to, no one would forgive it,” Zelensky said.
According to the Ukrainian president, settling along the lines of February 23 “would not be a finale.”
“This would not be a finale, because no one understands what security guarantees mean. We had the Budapest Memorandum. I was told: ‘Do not be afraid, everything is fine, there are no nuclear weapons. And it is the right way, and the whole world is going there.’ But the whole world has not come, as we have seen. We gave away nuclear weapons, exchanged them for security guarantees. Did those guarantees work? No,” he said.
“Yesterday, the president of the Russian Federation said ‘Azov’ is a great operation, it can go on for a long time. He said something about Peter I, [something along the lines of]: ‘He did not make it, but I did.’ We are not at a psychiatrist’s appointment. This is real. It’s as if Napoleon lives in that room, and President Putin lives in this one,” Zelensky said.
“Why do I say ‘we have to go to our borders’? Because, if it does not work, he will come back. You see? That’s the main story. We are not in NATO. What are the security guarantees? If he returns, will they help us with weapons again? Can this really protect us from a full-scale invasion? No,” the Ukrainian president said.
According to him, “if he [Putin] now withdraws to the 1991 borders, then the possible path of diplomacy will begin. That is who can turn the war from a military path to a diplomatic one. Only he can do it.”
“The sooner the war ends and if Russia chooses the way to recognise the tragic mistake of starting it, the longer the Russian president will secure his life and the life of his entourage,” Zelensky said.
“Over 95 or 96% of people want to de-occupy all their territory after Russia did it. I think the big mistake was in 2014, but the biggest mistake, the tragic one, was on the 24th of February, because that is the point [after which] nobody wants to come back, to any compromises,” he said.