Ukraine’s Zelensky denies war with Russia at ‘stalemate’
KYIV, Ukraine (AFP)— President Volodymyr Zelensky denied on Saturday that Ukraine’s war with Russia had reached a “stalemate”, pushing back at suggestions Western leaders were lobbying for peace talks.
The sprawling frontline between the two warring sides has barely moved in almost a year, with one senior Ukrainian official warning this week that the conflict was deadlocked.
“Time has passed, people are tired… But this is not a stalemate,” Zelensky told a press conference in Kyiv with EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen.
The Ukrainian leader also rejected the idea Western countries were putting pressure on Kyiv to enter negotiations with Russia, amid reports US and EU officials had discussed what such talks would entail.
“No one among our partners is pressuring us to sit down with Russia, talk to it, and give it something,” he said.
With the war now in its 20th month and Ukraine struggling to gain ground in its counteroffensive, Zelensky has routinely met Western leaders in a bid to stave off fatigue with the conflict.
Zelensky said the war between Israel and Hamas had also drawn attention away from Ukraine, and said that this was “Russia’s goal”.
“Of course, it’s clear that the war in the Middle East, this conflict, is taking away the focus,” Zelensky said.
“We have already been in very difficult situations when there was almost no focus on Ukraine,” he said, but added: “I am absolutely sure we will overcome this challenge.”
Ukraine’s backers, including the United States, have maintained they are ready to support Kyiv with military and financial support for as long as it takes to defeat Russia.
– ‘Existential war’ –
Zelensky’s comments came as EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen visited Kyiv to discuss Ukraine’s progress toward joining the 27-member bloc.
Kyiv received EU candidacy status several months after Russia invaded last year, but analysts have warned it faces a long and difficult path to membership.
“You have reached many milestones,” von der Leyen told Zelensky.
“Reforming your justice system. Curbing the oligarchs grip. Tackling money laundering and much more,” she said.
“We should never forget you are fighting an existential war, and at the same time you’re deeply reforming your country,” she added.
She said she was “confident” Ukraine would progress with the accession process when these reforms were implemented.
The EU Commission has proposed an additional 50 billion euros ($54 billion) in funding for Ukraine until 2027, von der Leyen said.
Almost all EU member states back further long-term aid for Kyiv, with only Hungary and Slovakia holding out.
The Commission now has until November 8 to submit a report on how much progress Ukraine and other EU hopefuls Moldova and Georgia have made ahead of a summit of the bloc in December.