Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country is “defending the values of the whole world” in an interview with CBS News.
Zelensky gave an impassioned speech during the 78th UN General Assembly in New York in which he characterized Russia as a threat to the rest of the world. Prior to the meeting, Zelensky spoke with CBS News’ Scott Pelley in a broadcast that aired on Sunday night.
World War III?
Amid growing discontent over the progress – or lack thereof – of Ukraine’s counteroffensive, the Ukrainian president urged foreign nations to support his country in its fight with “a nuclear state that threatens to destroy the world.”
“If Ukraine falls, what will happen in ten years? Just think about it. If [the Russians] reach Poland, what’s next? A Third World War?” Zelensky asked Pelley. “We’re defending the values of the whole world. And these are Ukrainian people who are paying the highest price. We are truly fighting for our freedom, we are dying. We are not fiction; we are not a book. We are fighting for real with a nuclear state that threatens to destroy the world.”
Discontent Over Counteroffensive
Zelensky admitted that progress had been slow in the country’s summer counteroffensive. “It’s a difficult situation. I will be completely honest with you,” he said.
“We have the initiative. This is a plus. We stopped the Russian offensive and we moved onto a counter-offensive. And despite that, it’s not very fast. It is important that we are moving forward every day and liberating territory.”
The lack of progress, despite $70 billion in support from the United States alone, has led to several prominent Republicans pledging to withdraw support if elected in November next year. Zelensky said that his country has a lot of gratitude for the financial support, asking, “What else must Ukraine do for everyone to measure our huge gratitude? We are dying in this war.”
“The whole world [must] decide whether we want to stop Putin, or whether we want to start the beginning of a world war,” he added. “We can’t change Putin. Russian society has [lost] the respect of the world. They elected him and re-elected him and raised a second Hitler. They did this. We cannot go back in time. But we can stop it here.”
Drone strikes have been a prominent feature during Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The Kremlin spent much of last winter launching strikes on energy infrastructure, but the tables have since turned, with repeated attacks on military targets deep inside the Russian Federation.
Zelensky reiterated his commitment to only using Western equipment on internationally recognized Ukrainian territory, but he added the strikes on Russian targets were “not punitive missions.”
“Russia needs to know that wherever it is, whichever place they use for launching missiles to strike Ukraine, Ukraine has every moral right to attack those places,” said the Ukrainian president. “We are responding to them saying: ‘Your sky is not as well protected, as you think.’”
Shay Bottomley is a British journalist based in Canada. He has written for the Western Standard, Maidenhead Advertiser, Slough Express, Windsor Express, Berkshire Live and Southend Echo, and has covered notable events including the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.