“Sit down with me, I don’t bite, I’m a normal bloke” Ukrainian President to Putin


Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has this evening called on his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to sit down with him at the negotiating table in person during another impassioned television appearance.

Zelensky’s comments came as Putin’s forces continued their brutal assault on several of Ukraine’s cities, and on the same day negotiations between the two sides made little progress in deescalating the deadly war.

In an appeal to his Russian counterpart, Zelensky said: ‘Get off our land. You don’t want to leave now? Then sit down with me at the negotiation table. I’m available. Sit. Just not 30 metres away like with Macron or Scholz etc. I am your neighbour. You don’t need to keep me 30 metres away.

‘I don’t bite. I’m a normal bloke. Sit down with me and talk. What are you afraid of? We aren’t threatening anyone, we’re not terrorists, we aren’t seizing banks and seizing foreign land.’

Earlier today, Putin branded Ukrainians ‘extreme gangsters’, claimed their army is using civilians as ‘human shields’, hailed his soldiers as heroes who are fighting to save innocent lives and said his invasion is going exactly to plan and schedule in a stunning act of hypocrisy and outright denial.

The Russian leader, who eight days ago declared all-out war against Ukraine in a bid to topple its elected government and reunify it with Russia by force, denied that his troops are deliberately targeting civilians – despite reams of evidence to the contrary – and instead blamed ‘neo-Nazis’ holding citizens hostage.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gestures as he speaks during a press conference in Kyiv
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gestures as he speaks during a press conference in Kyiv

Referring to the invasion as a ‘special operation’ aimed only at protecting the eastern Donbass region, he acknowledged that some Russian forces including a senior commander had died in the fighting – but claimed the officer had blown himself up in a heroic act of sacrifice while taking out several Ukrainian soldiers.

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The address, one of the first Putin has made in public since announcing the start of his ‘special operation’ eight days ago – will do little to reassure anyone that the war is close to being over, or that Russia can be brought to the negotiating table without more blood being shed.

But it also hints that Putin is rattled as the fighting proves harder than Russian commanders anticipated, and western sanctions go harder and deeper than even European or American observers predicted. All hope of a swift victory has now been dashed, leaving Putin facing a long, bloody and expensive war to achieve his aims.

Zelensky’s subsequent comments came in during a press conference in Kyiv and in response to a reporter’s question on what ‘guarantees’ Ukraine can offer.

‘Guarantees for what?’ Zelensky fired back at the interviewer in Russian. ‘We aren’t attacking Russia and we have no intention of doing so. Guarantee what? We aren’t in NATO. We don’t have nuclear weapons. What am I supposed to say, what am I supposed to give, and to whom?

Russian President Vladimir Putin issues assessments during his meeting with the officials of Security Council of Russia, on March 03, 2022 in Moscow
Russian President Vladimir Putin issues assessments during his meeting with the officials of Security Council of Russia, on March 03, 2022 in Moscow

‘You must understand – this is also a huge thing that everybody is talking about – what am I supposed to give? Jesus, what do you want from us?!’

Ukraine’s president, who has become an inspirational figure both at home and abroad for his defiance in the face of Russian aggression, also called on the West to supply planes to help his military control the skies. It came after NATO members ruled out enforcing a no-fly zone over Ukraine for fear of igniting World War Three.

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‘If you do not have the power to close the skies, then give me planes!’ Zelensky told a news conference. ‘If we are no more then, God forbid, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia will be next,’ he said, adding that direct talks with Putin were ‘the only way to stop this war’.

Zelensky – who just weeks ago sought to calm Ukrainians over US allegations that Russia was planning to invade his country – said: ‘Nobody thought that in the modern world a man can behave like a beast.’

Soon after Putin’s address, Ukraine announced that it has agreed with Russia to create safe corridors – backed by ceasefires – to evacuate civilians and deliver aid to areas under attack by Russian forces. Russian negotiator Vladimir Medinsky also said the agreement had been made during talks, describing it as ‘substantial progress’.

The agreement was the only tangible progress from a second round of talks between Moscow and Kyiv, according to an adviser to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, and it was not immediately clear how they would work.

Negotiators from Ukraine and Russia said afterwards that a third round of talks on the war will be held shortly.

So far, more than one million people have fled Ukraine as Putin’s armies have laid waste to key cities.

Meanwhile the Russian economy is tanking with the ruble at record lows, the stock market unable to open because it faces near-total collapse, and European countries seizing assets from billionaire oligarchs. Protests have also sprung up in Russia, coupled with high-profile political figures and celebrities calling for the war to end.

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