Ukrainian President Voldomyr Zelenskyy said Monday that bringing an end to Moscow's deadly assault on his country is within reach—but only if Russian President Vladimir Putin stops offering ultimatums and agrees to negotiate the terms of a peaceful settlement.
During an exclusive interview set to air in full on Monday night, ABC World News Tonight host David Muir asked Zelenskyy if he has rejected the Kremlin's "three conditions to end the war—that you must give up on joining NATO, recognize Crimea as part of Russia, and recognize the independence of those two separatist regions in the east."
"The question is more difficult than simply acknowledging [these terms]," Zelenskyy said in response. "This is another ultimatum, and we are not prepared for ultimatums. But we have the possible resolution for these three items—key items."
"What needs to be done," said Zelenskyy, "is for President Putin to start talking and start the dialogue instead of living in the informational bubble without oxygen. I think that's where he is; he is in this bubble. He's getting this information and you don't know how realistic that information is that he's getting."
Russia promised to immediately cease its invasion of Ukraine once the country's leaders agree to the three aforementioned demands earlier on Monday, prior to the third round of negotiations between diplomats from Moscow and Kyiv in Belarus.
Those talks have since come to a close with "small positive movements forward in improving the logistics of humanitarian corridors," according to lead Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak.
When asked what he would like to say to Putin, Zelenskyy said: "I think he's capable of stopping the war that he started. And even if he doesn't think that he was the one who started [it], he should know one important thing that he cannot deny, that stopping the war is what he's capable of."
Warning that a failure to end Russia's war on Ukraine could "trigger a world war," Zelenskyy stressed that "it should be stopped now."
At the same time, Zelenskyy reiterated that he wants the United States and NATO to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine to prevent Russian missiles from destroying civilian infrastructure.
When Muir reminded Zelenskyy that U.S. President Joe Biden and NATO have refused to implement a no-fly zone due to "concerns this could trigger... a much bigger war than what we're seeing already because there would have to be a willingness to shoot Russian planes out of the sky," the Ukrainian president insisted that firing at Russian planes is necessary.
"You have to preserve lives. There... were simply kids there with tumors," Zelenskyy said of a recent Russian missile strike on a pediatric clinic. "And in the university, there were ordinary students. I'm sure that the brave American soldiers who would be shooting it down knowing that it is flying towards the students, I'm sure that they had no doubt in doing so."
However, as Anatol Lieven and William Hartung warned Monday in a Common Dreams opinion piece: "Shooting down Russian planes and bombing Russian anti-aircraft sites would greatly increase the risks of escalation, up to and including a nuclear confrontation. That's reason enough not to go forward, regardless of how loud the demands to do so may be."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, are set to meet in Turkey on Thursday.
"We hope this meeting will be a turning point," said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who is planning to attend the meeting. "We want this meeting to be an important step on the path of peace and stability. We will work for a lasting peace and stability."
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