Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia’s new strategy to destroy Ukraine’s infrastructure and plunge it into darkness would not weaken the country’s resolve to liberate all occupied lands, describing the conflict as a “battle of strength and resilience”.
Pushing back against Western fears of escalation, the Ukrainian president insisted there would be no lasting solution to the war unless Russia withdrew from all territories it occupied.
Since last month, Moscow has stepped up its bombing campaign against key Ukrainian infrastructure, hoping to force concessions from Kyiv despite its gains on the battlefield.
“We have to return all the land . . . because I believe the battlefield is the way to go without diplomacy,” Zelensky told the FT. “If you don’t fully reclaim your land, the war will be frozen. It’s only a matter of time before it restarts.”
Russia fired 70 missiles at infrastructure targets across Ukraine on Wednesday, plunging about 80 percent of the country into darkness and without water. All 15 of Ukraine’s nuclear reactors were shut down as power became unstable.
Speaking from the Oval Office, which also has no water supply, Zelensky said this week’s strikes were unthinkable in the modern world.
“I don’t know how many years this kind of event hasn’t happened, maybe 80 years, 90 years: a completely dark country on the European continent.”
He said Ukrainians could despair or fight. “The state has fought back brilliantly. Energy workers, the Ministry of National Emergencies, deminers, everyone is working hard to repair and restore power and provide at least a little water.”
By Thursday morning, the nuclear reactors were reconnected and water supplies began to be restored in some areas of the capital, Kyiv. “It’s a war of strength, of resilience, it’s a war of who is stronger.”
Even before Wednesday’s strike, half of the country’s power system had been damaged by a wave of Russian missile attacks, leaving millions without power. Some residents were forced to collect snowmelt for laundry and cooking after the water supply was cut across the capital in Kyiv this week.
Ukraine’s Soviet-era power grid is missing replacement transformer units following repeated Russian missile attacks on the country’s power grid. It is sourcing spare parts from Poland and Lithuania and hopes to boost domestic production, but it will take four to eight months to assemble the new unit.
Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said Ukraine needed hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to urgently repair its power system, in addition to ongoing budget support.
Zelensky also called on Ukraine’s Western partners to provide more air defense equipment to help protect critical infrastructure, as well as diesel and extra natural gas for emergency generators to help offset power shortages.
The attack on civilian infrastructure showed Moscow had no intention of negotiating an end to the war, the president said.
Kyiv has resisted pressure to show its openness to an eventual negotiated settlement to the war. Some Western partners worry that any attempt by Ukraine to reclaim Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014 and considers vital to its security, could lead to a dangerous escalation by Moscow, possibly even the use of nuclear weapons.
As Ukrainian forces make inroads against Russian forces in the south and east, Ukraine’s military objectives have grown firmer: It is seeking to return territory it has captured since February as well as in a 2014 Russian attack.
Zelensky acknowledged that Crimea’s fate was rising on the international agenda.
“I know everyone is confused about the situation and what is going to happen in Crimea. If someone is willing to offer us a way to de-occupy Crimea through non-military means, I will only be in favor,” Zellen said. Ski said. “If resolved [does not involve] dismissal and [Crimea] is part of the Russian Federation and no one should waste time on it. It’s a waste of time. “