Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he thinks Russian President Vladimir Putin will eventually cease hostilities and enter negotiations after seeing invading Russian forces encounter fierce resistance from Ukrainians.
“I think he will. I think he sees that we are strong,” Zelenskyy told VICE News’ Ben Solomon and Adam Desiderio in an interview in Kyiv on Wednesday. “He will. We need some time.”
Zelenskyy’s remarks follow two weeks of intense fighting that the Pentagon has estimated may have cost Russia as many as 4,000 casualties. Ukraine’s military has surprised international observers by stymying the advance of their much larger and better-equipped Russian opponents.
Western observers and military analysts have cited the Russian army’s stumbles as evidence that Putin underestimated Ukrainian resistance and believed the country would collapse quickly in the face of a Russian blitzkrieg-style assault. On Wednesday, Zelenskyy suggested that he believes this dynamic will eventually force Putin to recalculate and end the conflict through negotiations.
“Can you trust Putin?” VICE News asked Zelenskyy.
“Trust [Putin]? Oh, no. I trust only my family,” he said.
But, Zelenskyy continued, speaking in English: “How to stop this war? Only dialogue.”
Zelenskyy said his message to Putin right now would be: “Stop the war. Begin to speak. That’s it.”
Russia has floated demands in the past that Ukrainian officials have dismissed as non-starters, such as ceding the Russian-occupied region of Crimea to Russia and the total demilitarization of Ukraine.
Earlier on Wednesday, one of Zelenskyy’s aides said that Ukraine would be open to discussing Russian demands of neutrality. But the country will not agree to yield any territory, Ihor Zhovka, Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television.
Tune in to VICE News Tonight on VICE TV at 11 p.m. for the interview and more from our teams in Ukraine.