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Ukraine's Zelenskyy seeks closer ties beyond the West

February 24, 2023

Speaking on the one-year anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Ukrainian president said he wanted China and India, as well as African and Latin American nations, to back peace in his country.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during his press conference on the one-year anniversary of Russia's war in Ukraine
Zelenskyy spoke with reporters on the occasion of the one-year anniversary of Russia's war in UkraineImage: Efrem Lukatsky/AP Photo/picture alliance

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday said his country needed to strengthen its cooperation with countries in Africa and Latin America amid Russia's rising global influence.

"Ukraine really needs to take steps forward to meet the countries of the African continent," Zelenskyy told reporters in Kyiv on the anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion of his country.

"We didn't work well for many years, we didn't pay attention, I think it's a big mistake," he added. 

Russia's invasion of Ukraine one year on

At a news conference marking one year since Russia launched the full-scale invasion, Zelenskyy called on Beijing and New Delhi to join the "Ukrainian peace formula" to end the war. 

Kyiv's plan calls for the full withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine's territory, the release of all prisoners of war, security guarantees for Ukraine and a tribunal to bring Russian war criminals to justice.

Both China and India have maintained a neutral stance toward the war and kept close ties with Russia. The two countries were among 39 UN member states not to endorse a resolution calling for "just and lasting" peace. 

The countries that abstained or voted against the vote were all in Africa, Latin America or Central Asia — where Russia has had increasing influence in recent years.

China's peace proposal is 'something'

Earlier on Friday, China presented a 12-point peace plan to resolve the war through political means. Ukraine's allies, including NATO and the EU, expressed hesitancy and called out Beijing for its "no limits partnership" with Moscow. 

"China has shown its thoughts. I believe that the fact that China started talking about Ukraine is not bad,'' Zelenskyy said.

"But the question is what follows the words. The question is in the steps and where they will lead to," he added.

The Ukrainian leader said there were points in China's paper that he agreed with "and there are those that we don't."

"But it's something," he added.

The Ukrainian president also said that "point number one" for him is that China does not send weapons to Russia.

"I very much want to believe that China will not deliver weapons to Russia, and for me this is very important."

But he added that he was hopeful about the possibility for meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, without giving any details of how that might happen.

"I plan to meet Xi Jinping and believe this will be beneficial for our countries and for security in the world," Zelenskyy said.

Bucha was the worst moment in the war, Zelenskyy says

The news conference began with a moment of silence to remember those who had died in the war. Earlier in the day Zelenskyy had given medals to Ukrainian soldiers and honored those who had fallen, during a ceremony in Kyiv's St. Sophia Square.

But with reporters, Zelenskyy took a more optimistic tone. "If we all do our homework, victory will inevitably await us," he said, adding that "We will win because truth is on our side."

Answering the questions posed to him, Zelenskyy said the worst moment of the war had been the killing of civilians in the town of Bucha near Kyiv. He remembered the images of people who had been killed while their hands were tied behind their backs.

The best moment, however, was still to come — "the day of victory," he added.

As for his biggest disappointment, the Ukrainian president picked out all those people who had left Kyiv and the country without putting up any resistance to the Russian invaders. "All these people disappoint me," he said.

One year into the war in Ukraine, three refugees look back

ab,fb/sms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)