Zelensky describes ‘just peace’ with Russia as a refusal to compromise at White House presser

Appearance with Biden is Ukrainian president’s first outside of his country since invasion began

John Bowden
Washington DC
Wednesday 21 December 2022 22:41 GMT
Biden says 'Ukraine has defied Russia's expectations' during Zelensky's White House visit

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was asked by a reported from his own country about what a “just peace” with Russia would look like, and the wartime leader offered a philosophical answer.

Speaking alongside President Joe Biden in his first appearance with a world leader outside of Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began, Mr Zelensky pontificated on what that phrase meant and whether reaching such a peaceful end to the war was even possible in its current state.

He firstly described his own definition of such a resolution: “[N]o compromise as to the sovereignty, freedom and territorial integrity of my country”, as well as reparations for the damages inflicted by Russian forces during their invasion. Presumably, this would mean the end of Russian occupation in breakaway regions annexed by Moscow after the conflict began in 2014.

But Mr Zelensky went on to say that for many parents of those killed by Russian forces in the brutal war, a “just peace” would mean seeking vengeance for the deaths of their loved ones.

The American president, standing beside him, declared that a “just peace” could be reached immediately if Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a full withdrawal of his troops and showed ”any dignity at all”. But Mr Biden added that such a possibility was unlikely.

Instead, he continued, the US’s job was to put Mr Zelensky in a position where his country had prevailed on the battlefield by the time Mr Putin expressed a willingness to seek a meaningful end to the war.

The Ukrainian president conveyed a message of gratitude to the American people in his visit on Wednesday while both he and Mr Biden pressed the necessity to continue their countries’ close partnership throughout 2023.

Mr Biden in particular emphasised that Russian forces were targeting key infrastructure and civilian targets and was hoping to use “winter as a weapon” in the months to come, freezing and starving Ukrainians out of their homes and crippling enemy defences.

“It’s the latest example of the outrageous atrocities the Russian forces are committing against innocent Ukrainian civilians,” he said.

The president went on to say that his administration would work to approve a further $1.85bn in aid to Ukraine, including the powerful Patriot missile systems previously sought by Ukraine and denied by Mr Biden’s administration earlier this year.

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