Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky judged, Friday May 17, in an exclusive interview with Agence France-Presse (AFP), to have rejected the idea of ​​an “Olympic truce” in the war with Russia desired by the French president , Emmanuel Macron. “We are not against a truce, we are not against ending the war. But we want a just end to this war. And we are against a truce that would play into the hands of the enemy,” he added.

“I said: Emmanuel, we don’t believe it. Let’s imagine for a second that there is a ceasefire. First, we don’t trust Putin. Second, he is not going to withdraw his troops. Third (…), tell me Emmanuel, I said, who guarantees that Russia will not take advantage of this to bring its troops to our territory,” Mr. Zelensky said.

The Ukrainian president also judged that the new Russian assault against the Kharkiv region could be the first wave of a broader offensive affecting the East and the North.

If Russian troops made advances in the Kharkiv region after crossing the border by surprise at dawn on May 10, the situation in this sector is now better for Ukraine, assured Mr. Zelensky. Despite the “risk” of Russian breakthroughs in the face of a Ukrainian army weakened by losses and lack of weapons, Ukraine will continue to fight, he assured. He also estimated that Russia did not have the forces to launch a ground offensive against kyiv.

“They are not going to die by the millions to get Kharkiv.”

The deployment of new supplies of Western weapons could take months, during which there is a risk of Russian “breakthroughs” in certain sectors, the Ukrainian president said. But “no one is going to give up [the fight in Ukraine]. I am sure that whatever difficulties are encountered and whatever breakthroughs are made, there will still be no comprehensive breakthrough,” he further maintained.

With the offensive on Kharkiv, Russian troops “launched their operation, it may consist of several waves. And that’s their first wave. But the situation is under control after this first wave,” assured Mr. Zelensky, adding that it was “better than the first day,” thanks to the reinforcements deployed. “[The Russians] are 5-10 km maximum from the border, we stopped them (…). I won’t say it’s a great [Russian] success, but we have to be sober and admit that it’s them, not us, who are pushing into our territory. This is their advantage,” he noted.

Russia wants to attack Kharkiv, the country’s second city, only a few dozen kilometers from the front, said the Ukrainian president. However, he assured that the battle for the city, if it took place, would be tough for the Russian army.

“They want it, they want to attack, but they understand that it is very difficult,” he said, “they understand that we have forces and that they will fight for a long time. » “If they sense weakness in this direction, they will push,” Mr. Zelensky warned, but if Ukrainian troops manage to stop Russian troops, Russia will give up. “They are not going to die by the millions, in my opinion, to get Kharkiv. »

Being able to strike Russia with Western weapons

Moscow had already failed to take the large eastern city in 2022 and Vladimir Putin said on Friday that he had no intention of attacking it “for the moment”. According to him, the Russian assault aims to create a buffer zone supposed to prevent Ukrainian strikes on Russian border territory.

After significant delays in deliveries of American and European military aid, President Zelensky hopes that the release of 60 billion dollars (55 billion euros) in aid from Washington will change the situation. It requests the delivery of two Patriot anti-aircraft systems to defend the skies of the Kharkiv region and the soldiers who protect it. Ukraine has only a quarter of the air defense systems needed to end Russia’s dominance in the air, the head of state lamented, estimating the need for 120 to 130 F-16 fighter jets .

Mr. Zelensky also castigated his allies who forbid him from using Western weapons to strike Russian territory, for fear that this would push the Kremlin into an escalation. “They can hit us from their territory, that’s the biggest advantage Russia has, and we can’t do anything to their [weapons] systems located on their territory with Western weapons. We have no right to do so,” he denounced.

American Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggested this week during a visit to kyiv that Washington’s position on this issue could evolve, but the United States then backpedaled. “We do not encourage or permit strikes on Russian territory,” State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said Thursday.

China invited to get involved

President Zelensky further acknowledged that his army was short of men and that this was affecting troop morale, as a new mobilization law came into force on Saturday to replenish the ranks of Ukrainian forces. “We have to fill the reserves (…). There are a significant number of brigades which are empty. We have to do it so that the guys [who are on the front] can have normal rotations. That’s how morale will improve,” he said.

Ahead of the Ukraine peace conference scheduled for mid-June in Switzerland, Volodymyr Zelensky called on the West not only to want to end the war with Russia but to seek a “just peace” for his country. “We want the war to end with a peace just for us,” he said, “when the West just wants the war to end, as quickly as possible. » Mr. Zelensky also estimated that the West was “afraid” of both a Russian defeat and a Ukrainian defeat. “We find ourselves in an absurd situation where the West is afraid that Russia will lose the war. And [at the same time] he doesn’t want Ukraine to lose it,” he said.

Finally, he wanted to see China and countries from the South “involved” in the conference on peace in Ukraine, which Switzerland is organizing in mid-June. “Global players [like China] have influence over Russia. And the more countries of this type we have on our side, on the side of ending the war, I would say, the more Russia will have to reckon with this,” the Ukrainian president noted.