Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Wednesday said that a “just peace” with Russia means no compromises on his country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, but questioned if there could be such a peace for parents who have lost their children.
Appearing at a White House news conference with U.S. President Joe Biden midway through a brief visit, Zelenskiy reaffirmed in personal terms his conditions for any settlement to the war ignited by Russia’s invasion nearly 10 months ago.
“I don’t know what just peace is,” he began in answering a question about what he considered a fair way to end the conflict that has killed tens of thousands, uprooted millions and destroyed cities and towns. “It’s a very philosophical description. If there is a just war, I don’t know.”
“For me as the president, just peace is no compromises as to the sovereignty, freedom and territorial integrity of my country. The payback for all the damages inflicted by Russian aggression,” Zelenskiy continued, referring to his demand for reparations from Moscow.
He added that he did not see how there could be a just peace for parents whose children have been killed.
“How may parents lost their sons and daughters on the frontlines? So what is just peace for them? Money is nothing,” continued the father of two young children. “Reparations are of no consequence. They (parents) live by revenge.”
“The longer the war lasts, the longer this aggression lasts, there will be more parents who live for the sake of vengence and I know a lot of people like that,” said Zelenskiy.
Responding to the same question, Biden said the United States shares with Zelenskiy the “exact same vision of a free, independent, prosperous and secure Ukraine.”
He and Zelenskiy want the conflict to end, Biden continued, adding it could stop “today if (Russian President Vladimir) Putin had any dignity at all” and pulled his troops out of Ukraine. “But that’s not going to happen.”
The United States, its allies and others would continue arming Ukraine, Biden said, “so that if and when President Zelenskiy is ready to talk to the Russians, he will be able to succeed as well, because he would have won on the battlefield.”
The Kremlin on Wednesday said it saw no chance of peace talks with Kyiv and would continue what Putin calls a “special military operation” to rid Ukraine of nationalists and protect Russian-speaking communities.
Ukraine and the West say Russia is pursuing an illegal, unprovoked war of aggression.