Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Friday that an all-out war with neighbouring Russia is very much an ‘unfortunate’ possibility, but to prevent that he would first like to have a substantive meeting with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. “I think there can be,” Zelenskiy said when asked at the Yalta European Strategy (YES) summit if there could really be an all-out war with Russia. “It’s the worst thing that could happen, but unfortunately there is that possibility.”
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which has been referred to as an “undeclared war” in the past, has rolled on for seven years and has already cost thousands of lives. It started when Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, a move yet to be recognised by several Western powers. The conflict later extended to Ukraine’s east, where Moscow backs pro-Russian separatists at the Donbas region, with more troops (an additional 10,000, according to reports) amassing near the border. Kyiv says the conflict in eastern Ukraine has killed 14,000 people since 2014.
“Ukraine has been ready for a long time,” said Zelenskiy, pointing out that the country had not yet received a clear answer to its request to join the Nato military alliance, a move that is almost certain to infuriate Moscow.
“All-out war would be the biggest blunder on Russia’s part,” the Ukrainian president was quoted as saying in a report by the Independent online newspaper. “It’s a spooky scenario but unfortunately it isn’t unlikely. The danger is reaching a point of no return.”
According to the Reuters news agency, Moscow has accused Ukraine of losing interest in peace talks, while Zelenskiy pushed in vain for a meeting with Putin in the conflict zone. “Honestly, I don’t have time to think about him,” Zelenskiy said on Friday, referring to Russian president Putin. “I’m more interested in whether we can really meet substantively, not declaratively as he does with some states.”