But he and other leaders stressed that Russia should not retain control of territory it seized during the hostilities. Although Russian forces failed to take the capital, Kyiv, and the northeastern city of Kharkiv, they captured the cities of Kherson and Mariupol in southern and southeastern Ukraine.
Bloody fighting continues in eastern Ukraine, which the US says is part of Moscow’s strategy to annex large swathes of the country and install leaders loyal to Russia in a move echoing the 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.
“We want everything returned, and Russia doesn’t want to return anything,” Zelensky said in the interview. “And that’s what it will be in the end.”
His comments come as the Russian invasion falters and military leaders rethink their strategy by firing commanders and relying increasingly on artillery and long-range weapons after losing thousands of troops.
The prospect of a Russian victory is fading
Even though analysts and experts consider Russian President Vladimir Putin’s long-term goals unsustainable, the invasion continues to wreak havoc in Ukraine, especially in the eastern regions of Donbass and Luhansk, where Russian troops are concentrated. .
Zelensky said on Sunday that up to 100 soldiers a day are being killed in the hard-hit east.
The southern port city of Severodonetsk – one of the last major cities in the eastern province of Luhansk still under kyiv’s control – has become the latest flashpoint of hostilities.
Regional authorities have urged the thousands of people remaining in the city of 100,000 to flee as heavy shelling continues and after Russian forces on Saturday destroyed a bridge used for evacuations and delivering aid.
Serhiy Haidai, governor of the Lugansk region, said that “if they destroy one more bridge, the city will be completely cut off, unfortunately”.
Lyudmila Denisova, Ukraine’s human rights ombudsman, warned in a message on the Telegram messaging app that Severodonetsk was becoming “a new Mariupol” – another southern port city now in ruins with civilians cut off from the necessities of life. base after months of shelling.
Russia maintains that Mariupol is fully under its control after Ukraine last week ended its defense of a steel plant where civilians and fighters have holed up for weeks.
The mayor of Mariupol, where the plant is located, warned that the city was “on the verge of an epidemic of infectious diseases” because of the war.
Many residents of the city do not have access to water or functioning sewage systems, Vadym Boychenko said in a post on Saturday’s Telegram, while summer rains are likely to spread disease from hastily dug shallow graves in the water supply.
Zelensky expressed hope for the fate of the hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers at the plant, raising the prospect of future talks with Russia.
“I said during the bombardment that if they destroy the people of Azovstal, there will never be talks with Russia. Today we saw that they have found a way to let these people live said Zelensky in the interview aired on Saturday.
“Time changes things,” he added. “There are different situations. It all depends on the time. »
In a surprise visit, Polish President Andrzej Duda addressed the Ukrainian parliament in kyiv on Sunday, the first in-person appearance by a foreign leader since the start of the war. He reiterated Poland’s support for Ukraine and called on Russia to withdraw.
“Only Ukraine has the right to decide its future,” Duda said, according to a translation. “The international community must demand that Russia end its aggression and leave Ukraine completely.”
Zelensky has promised to grant more rights to Polish citizens, after a new law in Poland granted rights to millions of Ukrainian citizens who have sought refuge in Poland since the Russian invasion on February 24.
“This is an unprecedented decision, according to which our citizens, who were forced to flee to Poland due to Russian aggression, will be granted almost the same rights and opportunities as Polish citizens. Legal residency, employment, education, health care and social benefits,” Zelensky said, according to a text of the speech.
Meanwhile, the United States is stepping up its support for Ukraine after President Biden signed a $40 billion package on Saturday to provide new military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
Terminate US military aid to Ukraine
Zelensky said increased military aid to Ukraine would help the country reopen its ports and ease pressure on global food prices after battling a halt in exports of grain and other agricultural products.
Military and State Department officials are considering sending special forces troops to guard a recently reopened embassy in Kyiv, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.
A US official confirmed the talks but stressed the idea was only preliminary.
“We are in close contact with our colleagues at the State Department about potential security requirements now that they have resumed operations at the Kyiv embassy, but no decision has been made – and no specific proposal has been made. was debated – at higher levels of the department. on the return of U.S. service members to Ukraine for this or any other purpose,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.
A delegation of U.S. diplomats will be in The Hague Sunday through Wednesday for talks with allies “about our responses to atrocities in Ukraine” and other conflicts, and about efforts to “bring the perpetrators of atrocities to justice,” the State Department said. said in a press release.
Ukrainian authorities have tried three captured Russian soldiers for war crimes, and the Biden administration supports steps taken by Ukraine’s attorney general to investigate Russia’s actions during the war.
Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska, in a rare joint appearance with her husband in a pre-recorded TV interview, detailed the toll the invasion had on her family. She said she had barely seen her husband since the start of the war and joked that the interview amounted to “a date” on television.
“Our family was torn apart, like all other Ukrainian families,” Zelenska said, later pushing back against an interviewer who suggested her husband had been taken from her.
“No one takes my husband away from me, not even the war,” Zelenska replied.
Christine Armario, John Hudson, Annabelle Chapman, Victoria Bisset and Bryan Pietsch contributed to this report.