Zelenskiy gives his first interview with Russian journalists: “This is not just a war. Everything is much worse”

By bne IntelliNews March 28, 2022

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy gave his first big interview with leading liberal Russian journalists since the start of the war via Zoom on March 27.

He spoke with the Latvia-based editor-in-chief of Meduza, Ivan Kolpakov, who has been declared a “foreign agent” by the Kremlin; the editor-in-chief of liberal opposition broadcaster Dozhd TV channel Tikhon Dzyadko that was recently closed down in Russia; well-known journalist and writer Mikhail Zygar, who also asked Zelenskiy one question from Novaya Gazeta's editor-in-chief, Dmitry Muratov, who was recently awarded the Nobel peace prize; and Kommersant special correspondent Vladimir Solovyov.

The interview was taken on Zoom. Meduza publish it in Russian in its entirety and with minimal editing. It is also available on the YouTube channel of Mikhail Zygar , the YouTube channel of Tikhon Dzyadko and Ekaterina Kotrikadze and elsewhere.

The main points to come out of the interview include:

 

Zelenskiy spoke Russian throughout, his main language, although he turned to colleagues off camera to ask for a precise translation into Russian of the occasional Ukrainian word.

The use of the Russian language was one theme in the conversation, as one of the Kremlin’s demands is the restoration of Russian as an official language. Zelenskiy said that some Russians would be embarrassed now to speak Russian after the violence that Russia has brought down on Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin talks about the “Russian World”, the “Slavic brotherhood” and the need to defend the needs of Russian speakers, but said the Kremlin’s action smacks of domination.

Zelenskiy talked about the difference between “power” (vlast) and the people (narod), which are different to the similar democratic concepts familiar in the West, as they are rooted in the Soviet legacy.

Zelenskiy challenged the Russian government’s claim that there is no sense of national identity in Ukraine.

Zelenskiy confirmed that Russian forces now control Mariupol and that its waterways are mined. He added that attempts to send in humanitarian aid to the beleaguered defenders of the city had resulted in the shooting of the truck drivers.

Attempts to evacuate Mariupol resulted in refugees being redirected to Russian territory, including 2,000 children. He claimed Russia is “stealing” children and treating the refugees as an “exchange fund.”

Zelenskiy said he is in contact with the defenders in Mariupol and it was their decision to stay to defend the wounded and bury the dead. He described “piles of bodies” left in the streets of the city that include dead Russian soldiers, and accused the Russian army of “doing nothing” about their dead.

Zelenskiy said that as part of the talks with the Russian peace negotiators Kyiv tried to reach a deal to bury the dead of both sides, but the Kremlin refused all requests. Zelenskiy refers to the Russian soldiers as “children”, noting that many of them were born in 2003-04 and that the Russians had offered rubbish bags instead of body bags to remove the corpses.

Zelenskiy asked what the Russians are fighting for, saying that intercepted communications show the Russian forces are completely demoralised.

The president said that Russia is using a scorched–earth strategy that reduces cities to rubble and that the images seen on social media do not capture the level of destruction. He added that the government has not shared some of the most graphic images, as they are so terrible.

The war is going on just as Ukraine’s planting season begins and he highlighted that Ukraine feeds Europe and the Arab world.

The interviewers asked how Zelenskiy and the Ukrainian people feel about Russians and if it is possible to normalise relations after the war. Zelenskiy answered that many Ukrainians considered the annexation of Crimea as a “misunderstanding” and felt that an understanding must be reached. But he went on to say this invasion is a “cultural rupture.”

Zelenskiy says he is grateful for the support of Russian individuals, but is deeply disappointed with those that support the war. He says it is too easy to attribute it to propaganda.

Zelenskiy supports cultural boycotts, saying that Russia uses sport to promote its prestige and those athletes have to acknowledge their role in this.

Zelenskiy rejected the idea that there is no point in Russians speaking out against the war, and that if it only changes one person’s mind it is worth it.

On the issue of talks, Zelenskiy says there was no real start to the talks, as they were public ultimatums designed to help Russia in the information war. He complained that the Russians make a lot of “broad demands” that are designed to drag the process out. He said Kyiv is used to this from the years of negotiations over the Minsk process.

Zelenskiy claims they have found ceremonial uniforms amongst the captured Russian soldiers’ kit and that Russia was planning victory parades through captured Ukrainian cities.

On the “demilitarisation” and “denazification” points, Kyiv will not even engage in a discussion on such broad and ill–defined concepts.

Below is a machine–translated version of the interview as published by Medusa.

 

Mikhail Zygar. Let's start with a question from Dmitry Muratov. I am reading. “Dear Mr. President. I think you know the joke that the letters V and Z, which are now widely used in Russia, stand for your initials. Is, in your opinion, excuse the bluntness, “the final solution of the Zelensky problem” one of the main goals of the attack on Ukraine?”

 I heard many different thoughts about the fact that my elimination is planned ... Probably, there were several attempts  by different people.

“Meaning political elimination,” voice-over.

 It doesn't matter… I understand the meaning of any word well.

I take it very calmly. Some groups of people were sent, starting with political ones... If we talk about my political elimination, it was the group of Medvedchuk, the godfather of the current Russian head. They found political formats for elimination. There was a lot of propaganda in the local elections. Weakening of local government. This was one of the main reasons after my victory in the presidential election and the victory of my party, the party  today  a mono–majority. In general, they understood that the Russian authorities were losing strong  I would say quite strong  influence on Ukrainian politics. The influence was, and quite powerful. They chose a different tactic  the tactic of winning in the regions.

Why? Because regionally what's going on? I don’t know how it is with you  I don’t know deeply to the end  I think you will correct me ... What did we have? For a long time, we had a majoritarian system in parliamentary elections in our localities. And on the ground [also], as a rule, there were certain groups  financial and political. Let's just say hardened politicians who influenced local law enforcement, politics, yes, everything ...

Accordingly, you can win [at the country level] and control  in the normal, democratic sense of the word, control  the central government; have the powers that the people have given you in legitimate, fair elections. But at the local level, you can't decide nothing. You can make reforms that just don't get there. You know, it's such a political colander. It seems to you that you have just arrived, you have a lot of ideas, ambitions, great energy and quite young people – I’m not talking about age now, but about a team of people with a young and bright head ... But you can’t run to the regions, because everything is there it's just blocked.

So they chose this tactic. They regionally left a big impact. Not only that, we know how they go about buying franchises of other parties at the local level. There is a lot of money there and, as far as I know, the Russian Federation has always helped this political structure through one channel or another.

Then we saw the first steps. In various councils, district or regional, they came out with some kind of ultimatum things. It's me about the political elimination! Somewhere to block, somewhere to demolish representatives of the ruling party, etc., etc. <…> In general, this was their ideology, and from local councils to go further by re–elections to Parliament. This happened  re–elections to Parliament. They really wanted to... Even the left and the right united. And they united with all possible ones even in the middle  in order to demolish the controllability of the process.

Why? Because... We will now smoothly move on to the speculation  or to the reality  of physical elimination. Because when the situation in the country is unstable, the economy is unstable, everything collapses, chaos in the Verkhovna Rada… In general, this destabilisation was needed only in order, having strong regional power control, to move to parties splitting the mono–majority. Chaos in the country's economy and political instability in Ukraine would still lead to an escalation from the Russian Federation  and to the rule of the current president of the Russian Federation. It's just that they could then occupy our country much faster. It was exactly what was planned. We are not even dealing with intelligence data from other countries, but, above all, our intelligence. First of all, our understanding of how the policy of Ukraine [in the Kremlin] is generally treated.

Unfortunately, they do not see the independence of Ukraine. This is generally a tragedy of ours with you ... I don’t know if it’s possible to say “with you”. Probably with you, yes  because there are two societies. And first of all, these are the peoples, and then the rulers. This tragedy happened  the immunity of us as an independent state. Perception of us not as an independent state, but as some kind of product, as part of some large organism, at the head of which the current president of Russia sees himself.

We do not consider ourselves an atavism. We consider ourselves an independent state with a long, deep history and morality. There is nothing to say about morality and unification ... I think that we show today [during the war] how it really is.

I will finish the thought with which we started ... Maybe for a long time  but forgive me.

This destabilisation did not pass. But there was an escalation both in the plans within our country of those political groups about which I told you, and in the plans of external groups [from] the Russian Federation. I don’t know what was reported up there in Russia, but they probably said that we are waiting for you here  with flowers and smiles. That the situation is very bad, the incumbent president is not supported, the incumbent [ruling] party is not supported. Can!

I am 99.9% sure of this. I just wouldn't throw words around in this situation.

Actually, that's how it was said: the ice has broken, gentlemen. And when they saw that things were going a little wrong, naturally [they came up with] a parallel way out  of course, to neutralise as much as possible those who would stabilise the situation in power. And when there is war, who can guarantee stability? Only the president  because martial law. By virtue of authority, by virtue of the current legislation of independent Ukraine.

Tikhon Dzyadko. Vladimir Alexandrovich, I just wanted to ask about what is happening these days, about military operations, about the war. In recent weeks, one of the worst hot spots has been Mariupol. We know that the city is almost completely destroyed, and about the humanitarian catastrophe that the population of Mariupol is experiencing. However, who controls the city now? There are conflicting messages about this.

 Yes. There is no contradiction. Informational chaos  it is clear what caused it. The reality is this. The city is blocked by the Russian military. All entries and exits from the city of Mariupol are blocked. The port is mined. A humanitarian catastrophe inside the city is unequivocal, because it is impossible to go there with food, medicine and water. Russian military fire on humanitarian convoys. Drivers are killed. What happens to these cargoes, I cannot tell you. Many of them were taken back.

That is, this is our direction Zaporozhye–Berdyansk, the entire Zaporozhye region is difficult, there are 100–120 kilometres of the most difficult challenges. There are constant shellings.

<…> Some agreements were reached. Unblocking during the departure of civil transport, passenger, from Mariupol towards Ukraine took place. The forcible removal of people from Mariupol is not in our direction in the direction, so to speak, the opposite, occupied; in the direction where Russia was exporting this is also happening.

According to our data, more than two thousand children were taken out. Their exact location is unknown. They can be there with or without their parents. All in all, it's a disaster. I can't tell you what it actually looks like. This is scary.

They keep them as souls for the exchange fund. There are no cultural words only emotional letters are now popping up, unfortunately. But since we are frank, and I, in principle, always try to be frank ...

There are our troops inside [Mariupol]. This is about why chaos is informational. Because inside where they can climb – that's where they went, the Russian troops. But they did not go to some part of the city, because there are our guys who refused to go out to their calls. Moreover, the families of these guys turned to me. I talked to these guys. I talk to them – well, once every two days I definitely get in touch, I try very hard to find time for this, it is important for me. I tell them that I understand everything, guys, we will definitely return ... But if you feel that you need to be [there] – and you feel that it is so right and that you can survive, do it.

I understand what it looks like for the military. They said that... But I gave them that choice. They said, “We cannot [leave the city]. There are injured people here. We will not abandon the wounded." Moreover, they said: "We will not abandon the dead." For you to understand: in the city there are corpses lying on the roads, on the sidewalks. The corpses are just lying around – no one cleans them up – Russian soldiers and citizens of Ukraine. Everyone. These are crowds… Not crowds, sorry. I can’t say “heaps” about people. I can't find the correct Russian word. I just do not know.

Zygar. Piles.

– Yes. You know, it looks scary. But our military is not ready to leave even the dead military. To go out and somewhere, excuse me, I don’t want to [think so] say… Bury somewhere, bury like rubbish – they are not ready. And not officers, but everyone.

So they protect the city, protect the wounded, protect the dead they want to bury. We asked them [to let] us take out the corpses. We were not allowed to take out either the corpses or the wounded, no one. I don't know if they are taking Russian soldiers in the other direction, where they took our children. This is unknown to me. The information is different, and it also has a wandering character, from the point of view of truth and justice, so I am not ready to subscribe to these words. But everything else you've heard is true.

Zygar. What concerns conflicting information, including the number of deaths. Particularly different assessments from the Russian and Ukrainian sides regarding the number of dead Russian soldiers. Why such different ratings? What happens to the bodies of Russian soldiers who died? Are they taken to their homeland, are they buried on the spot? Do you have any lists of those dead?

– Compiling lists. Our guys, I know, made lists – military guys. All those who are in captivity – all the lists are there, these data are there. I don’t know if everyone is interested in them… Politicians, I think, they are not very interested, but from the point of view of their parents, of course… It’s just hopeless… It’s also impossible to live. You have to understand the information.

 

Zygar. Will you publish them or give them to someone?

– I think the Russian side has all the lists. Our military turned to them about the exchange. Just like the Russian side turned to the Ukrainian side. And in order to talk about any exchanges at all, lists are shown. We do not keep a secret who our prisoner of war is – for the most part. Therefore, the lists were transferred.

The military approached me and asked what my decision was. The proposal was the first: let's change everyone for everyone. It is not necessary to act by some generally accepted canons – they say, we will wait until the end of the war, or we still need to recruit [prisoners]. I don't understand why. I believe that there is an agreement to change everyone for everyone. There are so many there today – let's change them for so many. It does not matter. Do not measure 10 by 10, 11 by 11. Oh, wait, we're still picking up. This is what they are doing now with civilians ... Just some kind of disgusting.

I said: if they steal children, we will do everything, of course... It will all end with no negotiations, nothing will happen. We go from everywhere. We will not agree on anything with them. We won't finish anything and we won't change anyone.

I saw this bestiality in the Minsk process. I called it bestiality [still] then. We agreed with Putin in 2019 that we would exchange everyone for everyone) in the next two months. We had a meeting in December. We had a wonderful exchange – about 110, in my opinion, people. There was still a list from their side – they still could not give who their people were in our prisons. And so on and so forth. We handed over our lists, gave a copy to the OSCE; I gave copies of everything, because there were also questions about the Crimean guys. Passed it on just in case. We handed over the lists to the Turks, Germans, French, Russians. They handed it over to everyone – and especially the OSCE. So that there are no questions later. Everything is over. They didn’t change anyone for us, none of all for all worked then.

Here you go. Therefore, now with exchanges, this is the story.

Information on the exchange fund... We have nothing to hide. I don’t know how public she is, I honestly haven’t asked this question yet. <...> But God knows if they need it. I'm just not sure they need those lists [at all]. Because as soon as some of these guys [that is, Russian soldiers] appear [in public], they are just children there… Especially these ones – 2003–2004… I’m actually surprised… Some of us have some periods in life ended in 2003–2004. There are people of this year of birth.

That's why I think they don't want to show what happened to the corpses. <…> We want to pass them on, we want to give them back. We don't want to keep corpses, you understand that very well. We want them to leave. At first they refused, then there was something else. Then some bags were offered to us. Listen, well, it all looks, well ... I don’t even know ... You know, we all probably had something in our lives when people left – not even close people, not relatives ... Listen, even when a dog or cat dies, they don't do that. It's basically like... They're garbage bags.

I don't understand, honestly, what people think. And especially – what do the parents of these children think. I do not understand. I would just... I would set fire to everything I could. Here I would have some deputy living next to me ... And I'm telling you absolutely frankly. In principle, I was such a person even before the presidency. We would have people stuffed in the face of such a head of the district or something – if they brought something in a bag or did not want to take it. Or hidden. <…>

I am telling you this as the president of a country that is at war with Russian soldiers who have come here, and we hate them, what they are doing. But I... Look... Well, hate... This is war. But it's not cattle! It’s not cattle, and therefore it’s all me very much of course ...

Why is it all scary? I will tell you. It’s scary because when you treat your own people like that, what kind of attitude towards everyone else? And we are definitely not our own for the Russian government. This is scary.

I think this is savagery. And all this will end badly. For Ukraine, we understand in the name of what, and what you have...

I don't want to offend you. Forgive me if I say "you". I just don't know how else to say it. I speak as it is. What is happening in your country, in Russia, is an incomprehensible story for me. Tragedy. Yes, tragedy. And which affects us. That's why I said so.

And a lot of very children. I don’t know… They gave an oath there or their promises… There are many children who didn’t know where they were going, but, of course, many speak nonsense and lie at first out of fear, not knowing what will happen to them. And then, when they see that they are treated as normal as possible, because there is war, and it happens in different ways, many are shocked.

And all these [their] phone calls to parents and so on: pick us up. And how they abandon the tanks... [We have] a huge number of interceptions [of telephone conversations of Russian soldiers]. Just a huge number of calls when they say: “So and so. I shot myself in the leg today, and Pasha broke [something else].”

Well, look. There is a column of 200 tanks. Ours blew up 30. Everything. Consider there are no columns. 70 tanks are running. They are not warriors. They were forced. Sent to be killed. Here's how to eat.

But, unfortunately, let's get back to what the consequences and results are for us. And as a result: there is no Mariupol. Simply no. There is simply no wave. Cities near Kiev in the Kiev region – our small towns ... Which, I think, are the same as yours ... All cities near capital cities are, as a rule, small towns. But everyone lives there, country cottages, and also the local population too. It doesn't exist. Scorched earth. Just scorched earth. Absolutely.

It looks... I think you've seen the pictures, but you haven't seen everything. We can't even show it all. It is impossible to show it, because it is impossible even for our population to show what it looks like. There are just no houses. There is simply nothing in Volnovakha – no streets, no houses. There is nothing.

 

Mariupol is due to the fact that it is a big city… There are half a million people there. Can you imagine, a city of half a million people, 90% of the buildings are affected. They are not here. They are burned, they are gone. But at least there are high-rise buildings. And you can imagine what happened here. And in cities like Volnovakha, there is simply nothing. Absolutely. Here is the attitude. That is, they go and burn out, just burn out. I don't even know who the Russian army has ever treated like this. Never. I did not see. Maybe I was then a very young man – and [during] the war in Chechnya, I don’t remember all the shots so deeply. It was scary there, but there, I'm sorry ... It's just that these volumes cannot be compared. To date, there have been two wars.

Little of. I will tell you that it is impossible to compare the volume of what happened in eight years [of the conflict in Donbass] and in four weeks. It's impossible to compare. And what we were told is that in the Donbass from our side... Or, there, in the temporarily occupied territories... This is nothing for you to understand, compared to what is happening here now. Just nothing.

Just for some reason, six rockets flew to Lvov yesterday. Six cruise missiles! Well, for some reason. They were looking for something paramilitary there ... What did they do? They hit there at various oil depots, oil depots. They perfectly understand that now the sowing season. What does this have to do... Even if they were about some kind of militarized stories and actions... What does it have to do with the sowing campaign? Ukraine feeds part of Europe, half of the Arab world. You are on good terms with the Arabs – the Russian Federation itself. Neither the Turks, nor anyone has sunflower oil, grain, nothing. Moreover, one cannot even say why this is true. They did not allow to take out the goods with grain. For these countries they were not allowed to take out.

Ivan Kolpakov. Mr. President, how has your personal attitude towards Russians changed since February 24, 2022? Do you still have people in Russia whose opinion is still important to you? And the hardest question. Do you think that Ukrainians and Russians will ever be able to normalise relations?

– First. Despite the fact that I am the president and should be a fairly pragmatic person, the attitude after the 24th has deteriorated. It got worse a lot. The emotional component [of the relationship] to the Russian Federation, to the people, has been lost. Even to the people. Even though I understand intellectually that [in Russia] there are a lot of people who support Ukraine. I am grateful to them, because without word of mouth, without the work of honest journalism, without the inner potential of a Russian person who is for justice and for Ukraine ... And yes, let him be, first of all, for himself – which means that he will be for Ukraine in this situation. Because a war on our territory will not bring anything good to this Russian person, if he is aware of it. Attitudes deteriorated among the entire population.

There is irreversibility. I'll tell you, and you'll probably understand now. In 2014, when it all began, shall we say, the Russian–speaking regions of Ukraine – or Russian-speaking families, if you will – were hopeful that this would now be over. Now it will end. A lot of things happened, misunderstandings, and for many years it grew, and so on ... Some of these families – they believed that everything was still possible ... Something was somehow possible. That's exactly what I'm telling you. So here it is: something like that. Without specifics – because the war. And there was an exact understanding that something was needed somehow.

When I went to the presidency, I understood that everything needed to be done to stop the war – and that propaganda had to be fought. By your example, you need to show what you want to change: change the country, change relations with neighbours, return everything, so to speak ... In a sense, even return everything back. In some ways, until 2014. Find understanding. Sit down at the negotiating table.

Today, this month, there has been a global, historical, cultural split. Global. This is not just a war. I think this is much worse.

Some people [with whom I maintain relations] remained in Russia. First, we are talking to you. And secondly, there are people who have left Russia. It’s not that I support the departure – this is their internal decision, which has been made. There are people of culture, people of art, with whom one can find certain arguments. Let's just say they find it. They are the reading percentage of the nation who will figure it out. But the deep disappointment [is] that a high level of population supports Russia for various reasons. I don't even want to say that this is informational [war], brainwashing. Look, this is, on the one hand, yes. On the other hand, propaganda is also an excuse.

Let's be honest, that's just an excuse. It's impossible not to notice a total war for so many years, right? You could say a week. We were told one thing, something else happened. Do you understand? It's not even 9/11 in the States, you know? The tragedy that everyone saw! Well no. And not the explosions of houses in Moscow, which you remember, and so on. It's not like that. It's not just one step. It's eight years, damn it! It's a long time. In eight years, people begin to complete their schooling; you can grow up, get educated, learn a subject, become a professional in any form.

I would just go to journalism, go to investigators. I would find it myself, I would dig – if I really want to understand what to do with it. But if I don't want to, then I don't want to. It is easier for me to maintain the current regime. And I think that this is the most terrible disappointment that happened. Disappointment turned into hatred of peoples.

I don't have an answer on how to get it back. I don't have an answer if it will ever come back. I am not a prophet. And it will be decided by those people who ...

Look, I'll tell you this: a few more months, and everyone in the family will have a loss – this or that. Kicked out, wounded, something happened to a child, a person moved, went to Poland, went to Bulgaria, went to another [country], did not find a job or found a job, it does not matter. Never mind. Scared. The child began to stutter because of the explosions, God knows. Everyone will have some kind of grief in the family. Some grief. Certainly not World War II. Of course, not the years of occupation. We [really] haven't finished yet, so… But the technologies are different.

But the occupation is also tougher, because it's more intense, you understand? Because the occupation is taking place... I don't even want to compare it with fascism. I don't want to compare. We understand that occupations are different… You are profound, educated people, you know how things happened in different years, in different [historical] periods of occupation, one way or another. It was unprofitable to wipe cities off the face of the earth, because when you occupy, it is necessary that someone live and work there. You will be washed your panties there, you, a military man, a soldier. You're standing there – who should do it? Wash, clean, cook, eat, live somewhere. Movie theatres worked in France and so forth, you know? It's not like that here. Generally not so. Here they come in: if the local government or someone does not want, the local government was removed; people start shouting something there – everything is burned out.

 

Zygar. Vladimir Alexandrovich, I would like a short clarification – literally at the level of yes or no. Do you support the boycott of Russia, Russian artists, musicians, athletes? Because we all heard recently about what happened with Sergei Loznitsa, who opposed the boycott and was expelled from the Ukrainian film academy. Do you think it is necessary to boycott everyone?

– I think that it is wrong to boycott, for example, Loznitsa. I think that Loznitsa is an artist, and he has… What I heard… I may not know everything, right? I don't even know the reason why an organization somewhere out there expelled [him]. I think there must have been some kind of mistake. Do not know. I'm definitely not deep [understand] the issue. But he is an artist who has a pro-Ukrainian position. What I heard. The position is fair.

Pro-Ukrainian – this does not mean that you convey your position in the Ukrainian language. You understand, we do not have such a thing at all. This is some kind of information bubble in which citizens live. I mean the citizens of Russia. They are told about some language there. I calmly speak to you [in Russian]. And when someone speaks Russian to me in Ukraine, I switch to Russian. I am the president. I think that the president... That's how he behaves, so you can understand... If the people support him, it means that the people support this, they take it calmly.

But hatred for everything Russian will definitely grow. I will say this, sorry, instead of yes or no, a little longer, because sometimes thoughts are taken aside, such a day today is a little broken. Didn't sleep well.

I answered you about Loznitsa, I wanted to say something else about the language. Worst of all, the Russian language was done by Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. I consider irreparable damage. Of course, people outside of Russia will sometimes be embarrassed to speak Russian in some societies. So it will be. This happened after a particular war, the result of which was recognized as a specific aggressor in the world. That's all. Therefore, he definitely did the irreparable of this. For many years for sure.

These cities, as I told you, are Russian-speaking – even if you saw some kind of [connecting] thread, then you understand that it is these cities that have been wiped off the face of the earth. And these are the families. Exactly. They ran twice. Look, in 2014, when it all started, the country was transporting to Mariupol – Donetsk State University and so on. Higher educational institutions, educational colleges were transported, schools were transported, sports clubs were transported, people moved. Where? People believed, as I told you, that it was about to end, and we would return. People were in different cities close to those temporarily occupied. Imagine that they have “Grad” at their door… They are blocked there [in Mariupol], there is no way out.

So tell me, how can one relate to history associated with Russian culture or, in principle, with Russians? This is a very difficult question. So I'm afraid it won't last long.

But about the athletes. You said boycott or not, right? Look, I believe that you cannot feel this pain that we [felt] – but you should at least know. At least know and feel at least some discomfort. Then you can understand that you are not like everyone else. And your government took you without a fight. And therefore, the international boycott of certain Russian athletes who have nothing to do with politics is the right decision. Because, unfortunately, they are related. They may not even feel it to the end, right? But they must understand this, that they are an instrument of the country's international image.

And if isolation occurs – cultural, sports, this or that isolation, then ... Those who remain there. Of course, not those citizens who left – cultural figures, directors, journalists, athletes. They left, went to another country to live, and so on. And, of course, it is their right. It is their right, let them live, work, develop and so on. They, they... It's their right. But to say that they are all innocent to the end is also dishonest, because if a person has his voice nowhere ... At least once, at least one post on social networks, at least once went to the square ... Don’t set fire to someone’s car, don’t you have to shoot at no one, you don't have to force them... Now, if you didn't kill your own king there, then you're not our friend. No, no! Well, just support. Just to say... Just to say that I can't do that, I don't want to do that. Even if one person heard me

Therefore, the boycott is precisely in order to understand that when people die there, you should at least feel uncomfortable.

 

Vladimir Solovyov. Mr. President, from a humanitarian, very important component, I would like to move on to an equally important one, to a diplomatic one, because the negotiations are underway, they started quite quickly, but we learn about significant progress, for example, from the statement of Turkish President Erdogan. Who said, firstly, that six points are being discussed at these Russian-Ukrainian negotiations. And secondly, that there is already progress on four. These are points that relate to Ukraine's non-entry into Nato, demilitarisation, security guarantees and protection of the Russian language. But there is no progress yet on the status of Donbasss and the status of Crimea. Can you explain where something really moves? And then explain, if you will, your idea of ​​a referendum. Because it's not very clear

First. As for the items. Why is the rhetoric built on six points? Because, first of all, it was an ultimatum, and the first paper was an ultimatum from the Russian Federation… It was… I wouldn’t even call it a paper ultimatum – it was a public ultimatum, because, as usual, it merged somewhere in the information field. In general, there were these points that you mentioned. Pretty much the same points. True, there were also the phrases “demilitarization, denazification”, a lot of things are connected with “e”. Here... And we are nothing but an injection to revive the information field a little, that Russia is [supposedly] doing something and setting the agenda – we see nothing but this in this.

More about the information field… We got used to it during the Minsk talks… They always sent this or that format and, as it were, dragged out the process. This suggests that they dragged out the process, because they wanted to occupy us in a short time ...

Do you know, yes, that we found the dress uniform of the military? I don't know if you know this or not, but it's very funny how they prepared. Funny if it wasn't so tragic, yes. Parade on Independence Square [in Kyiv]. In general, here – to pass with tanks on the third or fourth day [of the war]. And so…

Therefore, it means that these are injections. Turkey's reaction is somewhat incorrect, and we talked about this with President Erdogan. There are subtleties in the translation of his statement, and subtleties in rhetoric.

"Denazification and demilitarisation" – we do not discuss this at all. I said that our group... We won't sit at the table at all if we talk about some kind of "demilitarisation", some kind of "denazification". For me, these are absolutely incomprehensible things.

Dzyadko. That is, it is not discussed in the negotiations?

We don't discuss at all. They asked… the Russian side at the first meeting in Belarus… To which I agreed for our group to go, because I have been saying for a long time that [the parties] need to talk – even before the war. I am not against these conversations, as long as there is a result... The Russian side feels a victory that this meeting took place, that it adds some subjectivity to Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko... Yes, for God's sake. If we can end the war, and Alexander Grigoryevich will feel from this that he is the master in the house again – yes, for God's sake. To be honest, I don't care. This is generally the choice of Belarusians, and definitely not ours. Therefore, I agreed if they had a substantive meeting.

The meeting worked out. I wouldn't call it subjective. Our parties said that there can be no phrases about "demilitarisation" and "denazification", we are not interested in these points at all.

As for the [third] point of protecting the Russian language… I don’t know if they conveyed all my arguments… Every next day of the war calls into question the general understanding of what the Russian language is. That is, people will not want it. People will not want to read, watch movies, talk. Well, I'm just telling you how it is... What causes it, see? Even something that someone might really like – but when there is a lot of it, then it goes back. It was also passed on to us through blood – love for the Russian language.

Here. So this is a very serious moment. So, this is about the Russian language. My opinion was the following: I wanted to cut off this permanent argument about what – how, what, what language ... We all speak as they want, in any language. We have more than 100 nationalities living in the country. So we said that only mirror respect. An agreement on mirror respect for history, languages, cultural values ​​with all neighbours. This I accept. This I accept. I am sure that our people will accept this if they want, because they will still vote in one way or another by popular elections.

So what does that mean? Stop playing – just like the Hungarians play with it a little, but less, and Russia more. Stop playing some school closures in Ukraine. If you want a Russian school, someone wants to study in Russian, open a private one, please, but with the condition: you open it with us, we open it with you. We publish something here, which means we publish it here. What attitude do we want to the Russian language? This is your language, the state language of the Russian Federation, everything must be fair. Respect us and our state language Ukrainian, and that's it.

It is not necessary to say that this is the language of illiterate people. I am ready to argue with those who say this, to talk to any, in principle, Russian politician. Talk about the amount of literature read and so on. Personally. Tete-a-tete. Communicate – and in Russian. And talk to him in Ukrainian as well.

 

Solovyov. Now, I beg your pardon, you just brushed off the table at least three points, as far as I understand, from those that were voiced – that they are being negotiated. Demilitarization is not discussed; denazification, whatever that means, is out of the question. The Russian language is not being discussed... What then is being discussed there?

– The Russian language is being discussed, as I told you. Respect for the languages ​​of neighbouring peoples – I am interested in such an agreement, I want to sign it with all neighbouring countries. I am interested in Russia, Hungary, Poland – we have many different historical issues. Romania and so on... We have many different issues, we have many minorities, nationalities, and this agreement will be sufficient to respect certain languages ​​within our country. The issue of language, I am sure, will go off the agenda, because it will be resolved by such an agreement.

The fourth story is guarantees of security and neutrality, the non–nuclear status of our state. We are ready to go for it. This is the most important point. This was the first point of principle for the Russian Federation, as far as I remember. And as far as I remember, they started a war because of this. It is now that they began to add points to ultimatums – and [at first] they said that Nato was expanding. And so that there is no bloc – so that, in fact, there is no bloc in the constitution of Ukraine. And then they decided to go somewhere… “We do not agree where you are going, and this is outside our agreements with the West, which are already so many years old. Therefore, this is the main issue, and because of this we are protecting our security,” the Russian Federation said. Therefore, this point is a point of security guarantees for Ukraine. And since they say it's for them [security guarantees], it is clear to me, and it is being discussed. It is deeply worked out, but I am interested that it should not be another piece of paper a la the Budapest Memorandum and so on.

Therefore, we are interested in this paper turning into a serious agreement that will be signed… I will now move on to the referendum. Which will be signed where the points of security guarantees are, by all the guarantors of this security. It must be ratified by the parliaments of the guarantor countries, these are two. And there must be a referendum in Ukraine. Why? Because we have a law on referendums. We accepted it. Changes of this or that status... And security guarantees require constitutional changes. Do you understand? constitutional changes. These are two sessions.

When our guys met with the Russian group, they were not deep in the material at all. I'll tell you – this is, to put it mildly, shallow. What is two sessions? Otherwise, the constitution cannot be changed. Two sessions in a year. Can you imagine how long this could all be? I'm not talking about a referendum, I'm talking about constitutional changes in general. A referendum is a step faster than changing the constitution. That's what I'm talking about. The Russian side needs guarantees that this will happen. Therefore, a referendum – because only the people can decide that there will be such a status and such guarantors. The referendum will take place within a few months, and changes in the constitution will take place for at least a year in accordance with the current legislation. At least a year.

Zygar. Excuse me, but will the refugees who left Ukraine also participate in the referendum?

– Certainly. We have polling stations abroad – it all works, and it was all in the elections, in the presidential and parliamentary elections – everything works everywhere. I don't see any problem with this. But until that moment, our people… <…> We now have 90% of the population wanting to return on the first day of the end of the shots, because most of the men didn’t leave anywhere at all. The women and children left. Of course everyone wants to [inaudible]. Therefore, we must have an agreement with President Putin. Guarantors will not sign anything if we have troops. Why do I think that the war can be quickly ended – and only Putin and his entourage are pulling ...

Because... Johnson, Biden, Duda, Erdogan? Who will sit down to talk about something if there are troops? Who will sign something? Nothing will happen, it's impossible. Therefore, there is no need to wait for changes in the law. Therefore, when the Russian side [says] let's first change the law, and then withdraw the tanks… Not deeply understanding the political processes from the point of view of the law. Therefore, we must come to an agreement with the President of the Russian Federation, and in order to reach an agreement, he needs to go out with his own feet from where he is there and come to meet me anywhere in the world, except ... I consider the meeting in Belarus, in Russia, in Ukraine, pointless, and the meetings of our delegations emphasize this once again. They are more politically irrelevant. These are the three conflicting parties today, one way or another.

Therefore: here we met, we agreed with him, this is enough – our agreement with him with signatures, with seals, even with blood. This is enough to start the withdrawal process. The troops must be withdrawn, the guarantors will sign everything, and that's it. This will continue to work. Further ratification in parliament, a referendum for several months, and then changes in the constitution.

 

Solovyov. But the referendum implies not only the answer "yes", but also "no". If at the referendum the people of Ukraine say “we don’t want to change the status, we don’t want a neutral status”, then how would everyone?

– A referendum is impossible when there is the presence of troops. No one will ever, from the point of view of the convention, count the results of a referendum if there are troops or armed illegal formations or lawful formations of another state on the territory of the country without any legal foundation. It's impossible. This is what happened in the Crimea. What is this referendum? It can only be known to whom? Let's hold a referendum, and then no one will recognise it. Why? Because there were troops. This is an illegitimate process. <…>

It is necessary that the Russian side start bringing in lawyers. At least people who have a legal education, and not just military ones.

And so the question of Donbass, you also asked ... Therefore, security guarantees, that is, a neutral status, therefore mutual respect, where the issue of languages ​​\u200b\u200bis raised ... Not only languages ​​– cultures, traditions, they also raise the issue of respect for gypsies there, although we should not get into this as a state... The issues of Donbass and Crimea must be discussed and resolved, of course, so I didn’t brush off all the points.

Kolpakov. Allow me one more question about negotiations. The other day, the Wall Street Journal wrote that you allegedly asked President Biden not to impose sanctions on Russian businessman Roman Abramovich. At the same time, in parallel, our various sources say that some kind of contacts are being made between Ukraine and Russia, allegedly people close to Russian President Boris Yeltsin are participating in the negotiations; allegedly from the side of Ukraine, various cultural figures are participating in the negotiations. I heard in this context the name of Alexander Rodnyansky, the director. Please tell me, are there any parallel talks, are there any other contacts besides the talks that we have just talked about?

– Let me tell you this. First, a huge number of different contacts. You just have to understand. And everything that you are talking about, to some extent, has the right to life – and is already acting. I'm not sure if these are some kind of official negotiations, because as soon as the war started, [there were] many people who wanted to help somehow.

You are talking about Alexander Efimovich Rodnyansky... I know he has contacts with our guys. And other cultural figures. And just as sanctions began to be introduced… So you name one big businessman from the Russian Federation – or now they live in other countries. I will tell you that all these people, being afraid of sanctions... I am sure that there is no great patriotism in this. I'm not sure – let's just say I think so. The comfort in which they were, and which they will leave or have already left, is understandable, and there will not be much clearance ahead. Of course, they are all looking for a way out.

But I will tell you that all these years, both the Ukrainian and Russian sides, especially business, journalism, and cultural figures, have always been looking for one way or another. Getting through to the Russian government was unrealistic. Someone is up there doing something.

From the point of view of my discussion with Biden… For various reasons, I am not ready to discuss some of our private conversations now… I know that this businessman, he was in a subgroup from the Russian side. I don’t know how he was, officially or unofficially, they were in contact… And, as far as I know, he really helped in a humanitarian issue with the removal of people and a humanitarian convoy from Mariupol. Everyone in Mariupol tried, and he in particular, too, I know, but nothing came of it. As I said, the gumconvoys were shot.

 

But the fact that from him and some other businessmen came signals “let's help somehow, let's do something” ... Some even treated what they were ready ... They were even ready to help, to restore Ukraine after the war. “We are ready to give money, we are ready to transport business to Ukraine, we now live in England or Switzerland, we want… Is it possible to do this so that by some kind of sanctions list …” We all received them. But we began to receive them even when our internal sanctions were in effect, and not just Western sanctions. Some people do not want to give their names, but say that "we generally want to help your army, also being citizens of the Russian Federation." I think that…

Kolpakov. Is your office coordinating these negotiations? Do they somehow flock to you, or what?

“Look, I'm getting signals, but I wouldn't say our office is coordinating. I wouldn't say so. They come from everywhere, these signals are either from communities of one kind or another, Jewish, Muslim, and so on. Some signals are coming along the line of churches. And signals come to our office. The guys met, our negotiating group in Belarus – there are from them there ... This is a lot, so my attitude is quite simple. Any person who is ready today... Any Russian businessman, no matter what calibre, who is ready to give money to support the Ukrainian army... We are ready to provide him with security, provide work, develop his business. All those who support us today, those who fight for their country...

Kolpakov. Is exemption from sanctions being discussed for such individuals?

“I can discuss what I, as the guarantor of the constitution, am capable of doing, able and able to do. I'm talking specifically about sanctions within our state – they can be discussed. We can say that this person is changing citizenship, whoever wants to have an economic residence permit, his own vision, develop a business – you can discuss all this. But if he, she, they are ready to help today ... It is not necessary to do this publicly, I understand that a person is afraid of what will happen to his family and so on ... For such people – I don’t care what nationality a person is, it’s important who he is inside. That's all.

Dzyadko. I would like to ask a few more questions about other negotiations. Yesterday there was a meeting in Warsaw between the ministers of defence and foreign affairs of Ukraine with Mr. Biden, the President of the United States. Two questions. First, are there any concrete results of these negotiations, apart from political support? First of all, we are talking about the supply of weapons. And the second question: the President of Poland, Mr. Duda, spoke in favour of bringing NATO peacekeepers into the territory of Ukraine. Washington, as far as we understand, is against any kind of its military presence on the ground, as they say, on the territory of Ukraine. Is Biden's position on NATO peacekeepers in Ukraine known, how realistic do you think it is?

– I am unequivocal about this issue. I suggested, from the very beginning, understanding the risks... [When] the invasion had just begun, when there were risks associated with our nuclear power plants, with other enterprises that are of strategic importance, we proposed in one form or another to invite the presence of certain peacekeeping forces there. But we didn't expect it. As long as it is.

This is the whole idea of​ ​Poland – to send peacekeeping forces to Ukraine. I don't fully understand this proposal yet. We do not need a frozen conflict on the territory of our state, I explained this at our meeting with our Polish colleagues. I know they continued this rhetoric. Fortunately, or unfortunately, this is still our country, and I am the president, so for now we will decide whether there will be certain forces here.

As for the meeting of the ministers of defence and ministers of foreign affairs with Secretary of State Blinken, of course, the number one issue was on armaments. Details are not ready to speak. We insistently explained our position. The question is clear enough. You know the question about the conflict in the sky, I talk about it publicly and openly. It depends on the decision of these two countries, and therefore there was a meeting with the United States in Poland. This issue was resolved. I am not ready to tell you the answer, as I have already told you a little higher ...

 

SolovyovMr. President, I would like to ask you to comment on the documents released by the Russian Ministry of Defence, dated January 22, signed by Nikolai Balan, according to which, as the Russian side stated, from which it follows that the armed forces of Ukraine were planning a pre-emptive strike, they were planning to attack Donbass first. Please explain what these documents are...

– Well, it's some kind of fake document. Did not have. Of course, there were no plans. Starting from 2019, again, to President Putin, and then through all these different channels that you spoke about today… I said that we are not going to take our territories by military means. I want to agree with you. Not only that, I want to find a format in which [you can] live for a while. I wanted to live for a while in relations between Ukraine and Russia – before this invasion. I've been looking for different options. Believe me.

Now, if you tell me the country now, did I have negotiations with them, did I prepare papers for the Russian Federation... President of the Russian Federation. Despite [what] someone there told me that it was humiliating, you can't talk about this meeting all the time. It was not humiliating for me, because I knew how it would all end. And we have come to this.

And I want about this fake. As for Balan...

Solovyov. These documents don't exist?

– I don't know what this document is. It's hard for me to say at all. If I had seen him, I would have answered you. The fakeness of all documents that talk about the attack [of Ukraine] on the Donbass is 100%. In general, this is the National Guard, right? Former head of the National Guard? Mykola Balan? This can't happen in real life. To force the way to the Donbass. He doesn't even have the authority to do so. The National Guard, which, you understand, is part of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. So, there must be a signature of the Minister of the Interior. What does the Minister of the Interior have to do with offensive positions? Generally nonsense. This time.

Second. Recently there was another document, I have already seen this one. He was shown just as you said at the beginning – Solovyov, but not the same. So that one, and not this one, showed a document containing my order to seize Crimea. I don't know, did you see this order? Did not see? Well, it's shown on TV everywhere.

Zygar. There, it was also proposed to give orders for the capture of the Crimea.

– Yes. I want you to pay attention to one thing. I am, of course, Vladimir Alexandrovich, but it is written in Ukrainian. But, pay attention, everywhere my signature is “V.A. Zelensky. Well, just "A" does not exist. With all due respect. Everything is in Ukrainian there, [and in Ukrainian] I am “VO”. Like Ukrainian mine [if in Ukrainian]. There is no VA! These things are many. And that's how this document Balan, etc.

Zygar. I would like to clarify the story about the Russian warship. We all remember that the first days of the war were a very powerful story. You posthumously, it seems, awarded the Ukrainian military, who were on Zeminy Island. And then there was information that they all survived. Tell me what really happened? Are they alive or not?

– A part is dead. Some were taken prisoner. All those who were taken prisoner were changed – there was an exchange for prisoners of the Russian Federation. Russia came out with this proposal. We exchanged them without hesitation. That's all. Those who died, they are, frankly, heroes. And those who survived – the guys, we exchanged, and that's it.

Dzyadko. Please check another point that is being actively raised by Russian officials. And Russian TV presenters. And the Daily Mail wrote about the same. What concerns bio-laboratories. What is now in the rhetoric of the Russian authorities.

– Yes, it's a joke. There is nothing for me to explain here. Well, we don't. Well, we'd love to. We do not have. There are no nuclear weapons, no chemical bio-laboratories and no chemical weapons. This doesn't exist. If there was a person like me, in those days when our country signed the surrender of our interests, I don’t call it differently ... I wouldn’t give it all away like that.

Just as if I would not give this story away – here is the fleet for you, live and distribute Russian passports in the Crimea, and so on. It was necessary to act honestly right away, to say that we have a lot of Russians here. We have a lot of our sailors living here in Sevastopol, despite the fact that this is your independent land, let's make a decision that both Ukrainians and Russians will be here and will act honestly. Instead of quietly sailing, handing out ... And this fleet, which was bought by their Russian officials, and so on. And the Ukrainian authorities turned a blind eye to this, absolutely.

This is the theft of territory by Russia, and an absolute betrayal by Ukraine. This is what it was like in those 1990s in relation to Crimea and in relation to its independent territory. Therefore, as with these laboratories… <…> You were all here! How could we even poison someone with some kind of bullshit? Yes, we have never done this to our enemies!

The philosophy of nuclear disarmament is correct, correct, and so on. After all, you can’t build your empire for the weaknesses of some. It's just not possible. Because empires are built on economics, not on intimidation.

Kolpakov. How would you now formulate the military goal of Ukraine? How do you imagine – if you imagine it – a military victory?

– Yes. Minimize the number of victims, shorten the duration of this war. Withdraw the troops of the Russian Federation to compromise territories – and this is all that was before February 24, before the attack. Let's go back there. I understand that it is impossible to force Russia to completely liberate the territory, this will lead to a third world war. I understand everything perfectly and I am aware of [this]. That's why I say it's a compromise. Go back to where it all started, and there we will try to solve the issue of Donbass, the complex issue of Donbass.

Look, I'm not 70 years old – you will understand what I mean. I'm not 70 years old, I definitely have time. But I'm not here for long, and a worthy man will come after me. I want to end this war, I don't want hundreds of thousands of dead. I do not want it. And so I did not consider a forceful attack – neither on the Donbass, nor on the Crimea. Because I deeply understand how many thousands of our people would die. And what would be the price of these territories, even if they were reclaimed.

Nobody knows. Now the Russians have entered with their might – about 20 thousand dead. With all your might. And they, excuse me, did not enter Kyiv. Until they entered. You must understand that they are unlikely to enter. But if they enter, you must understand for sure that they then need to have a hundred thousand. There is no other way to cope with such a city, with such a population. In Kyiv, the living population of those who did not leave is three million. Do you understand what it is? It's just a huge number of people.

 

SolovyovMr. President, while we are talking, the news came that the head of the LPR announced that he intended to hold a referendum on joining Russia. I suppose that soon the authorities of the DPR will follow this example. What then can be a solution or discussion of the issue of Donbass?

“Look, you and I live in a certain space… We are trying to live in a certain space of legitimacy, right? When someone says something, you need that someone to represent something. Or themselves, or this or that territory at the legal level. The law is in the understanding of international institutions, and not on individual occupied parts. Therefore, whoever declares what is the right of every person (if these are true people).

Never mind. We heard signals from these comrades, "athletes" – that's what we called them in the 1990s. When I was at the university, we called these people athletes. These are not those who are medals ... But they just behave as if they are great. Well, these are the athletes in sweatpants. And then they changed into costumes and became what they became. But he remained in sweatpants under this suit. Both sweatpants and striped t-shirts.

So I don't know what they represent and what they claim. Surely – I agree with your rhetoric – other offices of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine will follow him. For me, this is such a CEO of President Putin. I'll probably talk about this with the owner of these people, and not with these comrades, if you don't mind.

Dzyadko. Vladimir Alexandrovich, representatives of your office said that in recent weeks you have survived more than ten assassination attempts. Can you elaborate on this? What was it, where, when and how?

“Nothing to say, really. Our security takes care of these issues and the elimination of problematic elements that come here to hunt. Nothing more to say.

Zygar. Since we are running out of time ... Maybe you have some kind of appeal to those citizens of Russia or Russian people who will watch our conversation with you on various channels? What would you say to them?

– I think it’s an important thing that all people should understand once again: no matter what, we understand that in Russia – as well as among the citizens of Russia who left the Russian Federation – forever or not for a long time, it doesn’t matter, for sure there is a large percentage of people who support the truth. I won’t even force them to say that they support Ukraine – [just] support the truth. Because it is important to understand the truth yourself and dot the “and”. [But there is also] a large percentage of people who support the policy of the current president of the Russian Federation.

I just want all these parties to analyse the situation more, to support the truth and Ukraine more. To knock more on their neighbours, relatives, loved ones. Because without this it is impossible to pass this... This informational curtain, which used to be iron, but now it has become informational. It is impossible to break it without journalists, people of culture, people of art, writers, actors. Teachers who can give knowledge to children. I know it's a risk. I know, I understand. But nevertheless, without it it will be impossible to finish anything. This war will not end, because the war will not end with the fact that we will end hostilities ... Protect our territory, and Russia will end its actions here – this will not end the war, you understand? Fences over which grenades fly do not prevent war. Something will end, such a moment will come. War ... You remember Preobrazhensky, devastation – it is in the minds. Therefore, the war will end when everyone wants to accept that it was a big mistake of the Russian authorities, which led to a catastrophe for the Russian people. And to the tragedy between the relations of the Ukrainian and Russian peoples. And when this becomes clear, only then will it be possible to conclude how long this war will drag on.

Therefore, it seems to me that you need to think about your children and grandchildren, there is nothing to think about yourself. Today, adults, like you and me, will never forgive each other for anything. I don't believe in it anymore. I just saw how the Russians react, I saw the percentage of support for Putin and so on. I mean, not him, but his actions. It's impossible. But we have to fight for our children and grandchildren. This is a great chance, because we understand that we will not move from these lands: neither we nor you, which is fair.

Therefore, to knock on all kinds of doors, on closed human doors. Knock and talk about it. After all, in fact, it is difficult to figure it out under the bombs, under the shots. And under this information attack, this is information bombardment. I don't know what was more terrible: informational bombardment or bullets – both are terrible. It is necessary to understand this for people who do not understand deeply. Try to accept it as a tragedy and try to solve it. Try to decide.

And we definitely want peace. Because if we didn't want to, believe me, we would be in Crimea tomorrow. If we had everything now at the level: “War! Forward! We ran, hurrah!” Yes, there is no "hooray!" We beat them on our territory. One of our soldiers beats ten Russians because they don't understand what they are doing here. That's all. And these people know for sure that his wife is now somewhere in Poland, with a child. Or in Volnovakha, she was crushed yesterday. That is why this nation has so many forces, not because it is special. But because we have a tragedy, and I'm trying to explain it.

Therefore, when Russia says: it should be in the documents that you will not take Crimea by military means ... Yes, we will not take it by military means: sorry for the people, sorry for our people. Because people will go there and die. Yes, it's just a pity. You still haven't done anything in these ten years. What is done there in Crimea? Are hotels built like in Dubai, or what? What is brought there? What's in the Donbass? Arena open? They just pierced her with a shell, and she stands. And it's impossible to do that, you know? People came with a different ideology.

I just don’t want to waste time on this, you don’t understand what’s going on with these flooded mines [in Donbass] … And no one can understand, except these people, who is there. And with these underground waters ... There is a catastrophe in general. Do you think Putin wants this Donbass? He will take all the money from the Russians in order to “put things in order” there ...

When I became president, I began to study issues that I simply never knew in my life. And we were talking about the fact that we had mines, they are dragging money, and coal production is decreasing. And some miners need to be transferred from one mine to another. Somewhere coal mining worked, but somewhere it was necessary to close ... And these are all ghost towns. You can’t just take a mine and flood it, you can’t just blow it up like that – a catastrophe will begin. Social, humanitarian, ecological. And it's all there already.

 

Kolpakov. Why do you think Vladimir Putin needs this? What is the first thought that comes to your mind that could explain this? Why did this happen?

– Looks like a lot of things. What does one thought mean? One thought – like Dudya, when he asks questions, and someone answers him there? That won't work with me.

He has a multi–vector approach to this issue. To the question of Russia, its place in the world, the leadership of the Russian Federation and all those who left Russia. Who has the right to be not in Russia? There's a whole story here, you know? Historical approach. And these are different things: the Caucasus is the Caucasus, Georgians are Georgians, Moldovans are Moldovans, and Ukraine is Ukraine.

Ukraine is dangerous from many points of view. Firstly, this is the loss of the influence of the Russian language – it has lost several millions of the Russian–speaking population. He wants to return it all by force, which will lead to another wave, but let's not talk about it, I don't want to repeat it. The second is, of course, the success of Ukraine. And due to geopolitics, location, people – he understands exactly what kind of people are here. Not quite yet, but still. Many people understand that such a reckless and hardworking people will, of course, economically jump out. And it is clear that there are economic risks from the point of view of the Russian Federation. Here they will look and think: why don't we try? We were told there that the European Union, in general, is not very – but very much! But look at the steps. And then, look, we have the same political situation is changing. Young people are coming. This is still according to his inner world – but what about him? What's next? And if it is possible there, why not in Russia? people will say. There are many reasons why he does this. This ambition “I want the Soviet Union” – well, how long does he have left to live? Yes, like any person who is 70–80 years old. Well, not 50 years to live yet.

Therefore, the plans for today's appeasement. Unfortunately, I believe that his plans are not strategic. The strategy is what will happen in a hundred years with the state, which he heads for a quarter of a century. I am definitely not an adviser to the Russian people, but I believe that this is a strategy. Strategy – what will not be after me. And what will happen after the fifth person, like me. What will happen in five generations, where will we be? I am interested in what will happen to Ukraine – I am interested in this as a citizen, for my children. And if I'm not interested, then France, Italy, Switzerland. Children go there, grandchildren go there. UK and so on. Not a forced departure, I do not compare this with dissidence or forced migration, namely when I have such plans – to make money there too.

[Putin] has a different approach. So that today, to be remembered. So that there was a monument – a Mausoleum, a monument, a letter. Today I see a diploma in these actions, I don’t even see a monument. And I think it's a mistake. But I think that it is not his alone – the mistake of his entourage. He's in it, you know. Here, remember ... Well, okay, I will not compare with this leader, he is no longer there, so God bless him ...

Therefore, all this multi–vector nature and so on. And Abkhazia, and all this, of course, Russia will lose everything. But the problem is, how then will those people get along? It's the same with us in the Donbass, where children were washed for ten years at school: who are we, what kind of Nazis are we ... And how do we deal with this later? This is the problem.

This is me answering the question "What's next?" And what will happen in three generations, in five? This is problem. What's the point, they hammered nails, split it all. Someone has to do it.

The party was good, guys, but who will clean up?

 

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