Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he was concerned about recent “mixed messages” from Republican lawmakers on aid for Kyiv and told CNN that his top priority was preserving bipartisan support from the United States after the midterm elections, as Russia’s war on his country nears the nine-month mark.
The Ukrainian leader, who has the task of keeping morale high in a grueling conflict marked by strikes on energy infrastructure, relentless civilian deaths and human rights violations, said support from the US “sends a very significant, powerful signal.”
Zelensky and his wife, Olena Zelenska, spoke to CNN’s Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview Wednesday, a day after the US midterm elections, the outcome of which could shift the steady stream of military aid sent by the Biden administration to Kyiv.
“We are grateful for bipartisan support. We would really like to have this bipartisan support remain after the elections,” Zelensky said. “There have been these mixed messages that were in the US mass media, particularly from the Republican side … that we need to be more careful about supporting Ukraine – and maybe that at a certain point, the support could be reduced. For us this is a very concerning signal.”
Zelensky said that strong US support was vital to maintaining Western unity with Kyiv as the war grinds into the winter.
“Whenever the United States support us financially, then Europe joins this support as well. And we feel it very strongly, because winning this war over Russian terror is only possible through united support,” he told CNN.
From attending virtual summits to hosting closed-door discussions, Zelensky has tried to keep world leaders engaged with the conflict partly to combat so-called “donor fatigue,” as Western allies weigh up the cost of sending financial aid to Ukraine while handling economic and political pressures at home.
“This word ‘fatigue,’ it’s a big word. You can’t get fatigued,” he said. “It’s too early for all of us to get fatigued … When Russia truly wants peace, we will definitely feel it and see that. But you know, you can’t wish for peace with words alone.”
In the past month, Putin has dealt with decreasing military supplies, plummeting morale among Russian troops and increased isolation from world leaders, while Zelensky has worked to counter an onslaught of deadly strikes wiping out large parts of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.
With no end to the conflict in sight, Zelensky told Amanpour he has not ruled out peace negotiations with his counterpart in Moscow.
“Other than ultimatums, I’ve not heard anything from the current president of the Russian Federation,” he said.
“But I haven’t closed the door. I said we would be ready to talk to Russia – but with a different Russia. One that is truly ready for peace. One that is ready to recognize that they are occupiers … They need to return everything. Land, rights, freedom, money. And most importantly, justice.
“And so far, I haven’t heard statements like that from the Russian Federation – either from Putin or from anyone else.”