Russian bloodshed in Ukraine could degenerate into World War III, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned on Sunday.
He accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of “starting fires” around the world that risk spiraling out of control – and said the carnage on October 7 unleashed in Israel by Hamas terrorists in October was a “ very great wish” from Moscow.
And he also accused the Kremlin of sowing trouble in the Balkans.
He said: “We believe that they are now preparing in the Balkans, that they are taking new steps,” Zelensky said. “And we think they’re trying to train or even train some people.”
“The idea is to start a conflict and they don’t manage it, don’t try to stop it.”
“They won’t stop”
Speaking from his office in kyiv, Zelensky warned: “Ukraine is today at the center of the global risks of this Third World War.
“And I really think that Russia will put pressure until the United States and China together tell them very, very seriously to leave (our) territory.”
He said the war in Israel had turned the world away from Ukraine, which “doesn’t help” his cause.
He also highlighted Moscow’s ties to Hamas supporters in Iran, who have bolstered Russia’s war effort by supplying deadly kamikaze drones.
Up to 600,000 people have been killed or injured in Ukraine – most of them Russian soldiers – since Putin launched his full-scale invasion on February 24 last year.
Zelensky admitted that Ukraine’s response this year had not gone as well as he had hoped.
His troops have advanced only 10 miles since launching a counteroffensive in June.
The lack of progress has eroded support among some Ukraine allies and fueled doubts about whether Zelensky will ever achieve his stated ambition to expel Russian soldiers from all Ukrainian territory.
He has repeatedly said he wants to retake Crimea, conquered by Russia in 2014, and reclaim the borders from Ukraine’s independence in 1991.
Congress blocked a White House plan to release $60 billion in aid to Ukraine, fearing it would fund a “never-ending stalemate.”
And Slovakia’s new government blocked a $43 million military aid package, saying its people had “bigger problems.”
But Zelensky pledged to continue the fight against Russia and insisted that Ukraine would expel Russian troops if it continued to receive the necessary aid.
Britain has pledged more than £7 billion and pledged to continue helping Ukraine for as long as it takes to defeat Russia.
The EU has signed a 50 billion euro aid deal that runs until 2027.
Zelensky thanked his allies for their support, but insisted it was “not enough.”
He said Ukraine desperately needed more air defense weapons to protect civilians in cities and allow soldiers to advance on the front lines.
In an impassioned plea, he said kyiv would find a way to buy, lease or co-produce weapons if allies were no longer willing to give them.
Zelensky: “If you don’t want to or if you can’t. All right. Co-production. Just give us licenses. We will find money. We just need front-line air defense.”
Russia has launched around 4,000 missiles since the start of the full-scale war and is urgently increasing production to try to replenish its stockpiles.
Zelensky said millions of Ukrainian refugees would return if he could protect the country’s biggest cities if they were safe from Russian bombing.
He said: “They will work and pay taxes. This will fill a gap in our budget. We won’t need as much financial help.
But he warned that without Western help, Ukraine could not win.
He said: “If Western countries do not give us this support, it is their decision,” he said. “Our military and financial (resources) will not be enough to stay and defend Ukraine.”
He reminded NATO allies that Ukrainians were paying with their lives: “We are losing our people, not the Europeans, not the Americans. Of course, I don’t want you to lose your soldiers.
He warned that if Russia defeated Ukraine, NATO countries would be next, saying: “If they kill us, if they destroy us, they will very quickly occupy the NATO countries, and after that you will move your soldiers.
“If you don’t move your soldiers to fight for NATO against Russia, NATO won’t be there. »
Ukraine’s defenders stunned the world when they stopped the Russian juggernaut in the early weeks of Putin’s invasion and rolled back the Kremlin’s advances around Kiev, Kharkiv and Kherson.
But the front lines have not changed much in a year, and there is a growing realization that the war in Ukraine will not end quickly.
Former President Donald Trump, who hopes to run for the White House next year, has claimed he could end the war in a day if he is re-elected in the 2024 election.
Zelensky said he was ready to meet Trump. He said:.
“If he has a real plan, please show it to us,” he said.
But he added that there had been “enough words” in this war.
Zelensky added that any plan by which Ukraine cedes the eastern Donbass region and the occupied Crimean peninsula to Moscow is not a peace plan – it is capitulation.
“Our country will not be ready for such a peace plan,” he said. “This is not a peace plan. It’s putting an end to the war on Russia’s side.”
He also warned that such a plan would fail because Russia would take territory, build up its forces and attack again, just as it did after the 2014 invasion of Crimea and the most recent invasion of last year.
Jerome Starkey is the defense editor of the UK Sun.