Zelensky says Putin ‘does not fully understand’ his own war

Zelensky says Putin 'does not fully understand' his own war

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday that the Kremlin is not “serious” about negotiation efforts to end the war — and blasted Russian leader Vladimir Putin as living in an “alternative reality.”

Speaking through a translator, Zelensky told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that his early optimism on the negotiations has stalled.

“I can’t see their willingness, nor can I see any practicality in what we are talking about,” Zelensky said, adding that he wants to speak with Putin directly.

Putin, he said, needs to be “shoved into the reality of today — not being in this bubble, this alternative reality of his that he has been building for quite a long time.”

The Kremlin leader “does not fully understand what’s going on,” Zelensky said, adding the war will not end until Putin sees the truth and exits his “world of propaganda.”

“Perhaps then he will understand we should start talking and should put [an] end to this war that he launched.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with Ukrainian servicemen during a visit to the Kharkiv region, Ukraine, on May 29.
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE/EPA
Russian President Vladimir Putin
Getty Images

Hand-to-hand combat

The pessimistic remarks came as Zelensky on Sunday visited troops in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, for the first time since the war broke out.

“I feel boundless pride in our defenders. Every day, risking their lives, they fight for Ukraine’s freedom, ”he wrote on the Telegram about his rare front-line trip.

Russian troops currently control about 30% of the badly shelled Kharkiv, according to Ukrainian officials, and Zelensky said Saturday that protecting the country’s eastern region remains “indescribably difficult.”

The warring countries took part in close-quarter combat Sunday in Sievierodonetsk as Russia doubles down on its efforts to take the Donbas region.

Buildings lie in ruin in Kharkiv, Ukraine on May 29.
Buildings lie in ruin in Kharkiv, Ukraine on May 29.
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE/EPA

Residents of the city — left without water or cell service — risked getting hit by bullets when getting water from wells, its older, Oleksandr Striuk said.

Sievierodonetsk is the biggest city Ukraine controls in its Luhansk region, whose governor, Serhiy Gaidai, said Sunday that the fighting was so intense he has no clue how many people died this weekend. “The situation has extremely escalated,” Gaidai said.

Zelensky said Sunday that “some 90% of buildings are damaged” in Sievierodonetsk.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with Finnish Prime Minister Marin in Kyiv, Ukraine on May 26.
UKRAINE PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE/EPA

“More than two-thirds of the city’s housing stock has been completely destroyed,” he said. “Capturing Sievierodonetsk is a fundamental task for the occupiers… We do all we can to hold this advance,” he added.

The Kremlin’s focus on the city is part of its new war strategy to focus more heavily on the Donbas region rather than spreading its troops across Ukraine.

“Every day we are working on strengthening our defenses. That means first and foremost the supply of weapons,” he said in a speech.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told state media on Sunday that “liberating” the Donbas is an “unconditional priority” for the country.

Zelensky also said this weekend that his country still needs more weapons to protect the region.

“Every day we are working on strengthening our defenses. That means first and foremost the supply of weapons,” he said.

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