Volodymyr Zelensky on why Ukraine must defeat Putin - interview with the Economist - 25.03.22

At his headquarters in Kyiv, Ukraine’s president speaks to The Economist about his country’s battle and the struggle of light over dark

Interview in Kyiv

On Friday three of our journalists, including our editor-in-chief, Zanny Minton Beddoes, travelled to Kyiv where they sat down with Volodymyr Zelensky at his headquarters. Together they spoke at length about the state of the war and Ukraine’s future. The conversation was frank and honest. It hopped between three languages. Mr Zelensky used the interview to explain why Ukraine must defeat Vladimir Putin.

Mr Zelensky—as is set out in our detailed interview with him—is a study in contrast to Russia’s belligerent dictator. The Ukrainian president, a television actor who was propelled into politics, has grown into a successful wartime leader. He leads a motivated population that dares to defy what military experts had judged to be a more powerful invasive force. Mr Zelensky’s decision not to run from Kyiv early in the war, and his role since in sending a signal of hope to his fellow people, has been inspiring. By contrast Mr Putin’s stock has tumbled fast. He and his generals badly miscalculated in launching this bloody war. They are responsible for the deaths of many thousands of people in the past month and for the harm they are inflicting on Russia itself.

In addition to our main interview, we publish an article that explains how we came to spend time with Mr Zelensky in his operations centre, which his staff like to joke is their “fortress”. Although Ukraine’s leader has spoken to America’s Congress, Britain’s Parliament and many others remotely, this was an unusual, in-person encounter. We are also publishing a transcript of our conversation with him. This has been translated (and edited for length and clarity). I am most struck by the Ukrainian president’s description of Mr Putin casually throwing away the lives of his fellow humans like “logs into a train’s furnace”. A video version of the encounter will be made available shortly.

Will this week prove decisive in the conflict? Some indications, such as reports that as many as seven Russian generals have been killed, including one by his own men, suggest Russia is at last recognising that much has gone wrong with its invasion. In the coming days yet more resources will be brought to bear against Russia. Look, for example, to Joe Biden demanding a substantial increase in America’s military budget this week in the face of Russian aggression. In addition, sadly, expect more suffering by civilians. Russian forces could finally take Mariupol after its siege and shelling have killed thousands of people. The flow of refugees, meanwhile, could pass 4m this week.

As always, we greatly welcome your comments and feedback. Mr Biden’s blunt speaking continued during his trip to Europe in recent days. This weekend the American president seemed to suggest Mr Putin should be removed from office, before the White House clarified that isn’t official American policy. Dr Jiri S Melich, a retired professor, welcomes some direct talk: the time for diplomatic language towards Mr Putin is long gone because “he only understands sheer force”. Barry Boulton, in contrast, argues that the West should treat the Russian leader with care and find a way out from the war for him, for “there is no honour in backing the Russian Bear into a corner with the people of the Ukraine at his mercy”.

Volodymyr Zelensky in his own words. Here is the link to the Economist and this transcript in pdf from his meeting with the Economist's Editor-in-chief - Zanny Minton Beddoes:

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For the Economist - Zanny Minton Beddoes - editor-in-chief with the President of the Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky.

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