Ukraine will seek punishment for Russia for crimes against civilians, but will not abandon the negotiation process with the Russian side, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told foreign and Ukrainian journalists while visiting the liberated town of Bucha outside Kyiv on April 4.
It was Zelensky's first press conference for the media since the start of the Russian invasion.
NV journalist Kristina Berdynskykh asked the president whether he would change his personal position regarding negotiations with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin after those Russian crimes, the evidence of which is only beginning to be revealed in Bucha and other Ukrainian settlements occupied by the Russian army.
Zelensky, in response, said that the easiest position would now be "to say that let's not talk about anything anymore – after what you have done."
"The most difficult thing is to talk about what they did, to recognize them as an enemy, to know that this is a specific war of Russia against Ukraine, to admit all this," he said.
"We believe this is genocide, we believe they should be punished for this. But even with this position, (we should) find opportunities to meet."
"And at this meeting, (we should) find a way out of this situation. And with this way out of the situation, (we shouldn't) lose our territory. I think we should set ourselves such a bar for these negotiations. And it may happen that there will be no meeting. It may happen."
Justifying his position, Zelensky repeated that he considers himself a part of Ukrainian society, therefore, like most Ukrainians, against the background of Russian war crimes, he considers even the very possibility of conducting negotiations (not to mention their content) as difficult to accept personally.
He emphasized the importance of conducting Ukrainian-Russian negotiations "from a strong position," for which the necessary factors remain the unity and support of the Ukrainian people, as well as "powerful armament" of Ukraine by its allies.
"A question of negotiations will definitely be raised,” Zelensky said. “The only question is how strong you will be at the negotiating table."
"You should know that the Armed Forces of Ukraine are strong, but we understand that their resilience does not mean that they are not fatigued," the Ukrainian president added.
"For example, (the troops) who are blockaded in Mariupol have (fatigue) on a physical level, I know exactly what's going on there."