Volodymyr Zelensky called on Donald Trump to publicly share his peace plans if the former US president has a way to end the war between Ukraine and Russia – but the Ukrainian president warned in an interview on Tuesday that any peace plan in which Ukraine gives up territory would be unacceptable.
“He can publicly share his idea now, not waste time, not lose people and say, ‘My formula is to stop the war and stop all this tragedy and stop Russian aggression,'” Zelensky told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer after his speech. Tuesday in the UN General Assembly. “And he said how he sees it, how to push Russian from our country. Otherwise, he does not present the global idea of peace.”
The Ukrainian president added: “So (if) the idea is how to take part of our territory and give it to Putin, that’s not the peace formula.”
Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, has claimed he would be able to strike a deal with Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the war in Ukraine within 24 hours. Printed on Sunday NBC’s “Meet the Press” on whether the deal would let Putin keep the land he’s taken, Trump said: “No, no. I would make a fair deal for everybody. No, I would make it fair.”
Trump, asked at the time if it would be a victory for Putin, said: “You know, it’s something that could have been negotiated. Because there were certain parts, Crimea and other parts of the country that a lot of people expected could happen. You could have made a deal. So they could have made a deal where there’s less territory right now than Russia has already taken, to be honest.”
Zelensky’s trip to the UN comes as Ukraine faces its toughest backlash yet in the US over support for the war. A faction of the House GOP conference is openly hostile to providing Ukraine with additional military aid, and it remains unclear whether House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will be willing to sign off on more funding.
In the interview, Zelensky gave a positive assessment of Ukraine’s ongoing counter-offensive, which has sparked concerns that it will not succeed in achieving the expected results. And he reiterated Ukraine’s desire to obtain long-range missiles from the United States, which President Joe Biden is still considering, saying it would be “a loss” for Ukraine if they do not receive them.
“We are at the finish line, I’m sure of that,” Zelensky said.
Zelensky told Blitzer that he plans to meet with McCarthy when he travels to Washington later this week. Asked about those who are skeptical about offering more funding to Ukraine, Zelensky said it was difficult for those who have not seen war up close to compare domestic issues like civil rights or energy with the existential threat that a country is under attack.
“It is so difficult to understand when you are at war and when you are not at war,” Zelensky said. “Even when you come to the war, to the country that is at war, when you come to a day, you can understand more than you live, you hear, you think, you read. No, you cannot compare . It’s a different situation. That’s why I think we can’t compare these challenges.”
Biden last month asked Congress to authorize an additional $24 billion in emergency spending for Ukraine and other international needs. While there is bipartisan support for the funding package in the Senate, there is no sign yet that the Republican-led House will play ball.
After his speech Tuesday at the UN General Assembly, Zelensky will travel to Washington, DC, where he will hold talks with Biden at the White House along with a visit to Capitol Hill. Zelensky addressed a joint session of Congress in a surprise appearance last December.
Zelensky’s trip to the Capitol this week gives him the chance to make a personal pitch to lawmakers skeptical of approving more aid for the war. The Ukrainian leader is scheduled to address a meeting of all senators, although a similar meeting is not planned for Parliament.
McCarthy, who is expected to meet with Zelensky along with other House leaders, declined to commit to more funding for Ukraine on Tuesday.
“Was Zelensky elected to Congress? Is he our president? I don’t think so. I have questions about where is the accountability of the money we have already spent? What is the plan for victory?” the California Republican said.
‘No one knows’
Asked whether a major breakthrough was possible this year in Ukraine’s military counteroffensive, Zelensky said: “I think no one knows.”
“But I think we will be more successful,” he said, noting progress Ukraine has made in the east.
Zelensky said he remained focused on acquiring more long-range missiles from the United States, arguing that Ukraine did not want them to target Russia, but to keep battlefield capabilities level between the two sides.
Biden is expected to make a final decision soon on sending long-range Army Tactical Missile Systems, also known as ATACMS, CNN reported earlier this month.
“It would be a loss for us” if the weapons are not delivered, Zelensky said, adding that it would result in “more casualties on the battlefield and elsewhere.”
He also reiterated the need for more air defense systems, particularly the American-made Patriot air defense system, saying they were needed to help protect civilian areas.
Zelensky downplayed tensions between US and Ukrainian officials over Ukraine’s military strategy in Russian-held Crimea when asked about skepticism from officials in Washington that Ukraine was stepping up missile strikes to try to disrupt Russian logistics and resupply efforts.
“We think the same way,” he said.
Still, Zelensky defended the strategy.
“Temporarily occupied Crimea – this is a place where they store weapons to kill our civilians,” he said. “They are firing from Crimea into our territory. And of course we have to see where their rockets are coming from and we have to basically deal with that.”
This story has been updated with additional details.