Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday dismissed claims by Donald Trump that he could end the war in 24 hours, saying the current GOP presidential front-runner failed to do so while president.
Zelenskyy, speaking through a translator on ABC’s “This Week,” noted that Ukraine has been battling Russian proxies in the Donbas region since Russia seized Crimea in 2014. Trump served as president from 2016 to 2020.
“The sole desire to bring the war to an end is beautiful, but this desire should be based on some real-life experience,” Zelenskyy said. “Donald Trump had already these 24 hours once in his time. We were at war, not a full-scale war. … (Trump) had that time at his disposal, but he must have had some other priorities.”
Trump has claimed to have a close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but details on his plans to halt the war have been vague. Zelenskyy said that if Trump meant to end the war by forcing Ukraine to cede territory, “(President Joe) Biden could have brought it to an end even in five minutes, but we would not agree.”
∎ Biden said he was “optimistic” Sweden would soon get the green light to join NATO. He said Sweden is making some adjustments to its laws at the behest of Turkey, the holdout against Swedish membership, and that a deal could include strengthening Turkey’s air defenses.
∎ On his way to a NATO summit this week, Biden will stop in London, meet with the king and have a chance to bolster the relationship with Britain and solidity the continued opposition to Russian aggression in Ukraine.
∎ Russia claimed it shot down a Ukraine missile over Russia’s Rostov region along the Ukraine border. Regional Gov. Vasily Golubev said no damage or injuries were reported.
Biden says Putin’s goal is to ‘destroy NATO’
A primary goal of Putin’s ambitious invasion of Ukraine was to destroy NATO, and keeping the alliance together is critical for the security of the U.S. and the West, Biden told CNN in an interview released Sunday. Biden and other NATO leaders will meet in Vilnius, Lithuania, starting Tuesday. Talks will be centered around providing Ukraine military support and a possible path to membership in the alliance.
“I believe Putin has had an overwhelming objective from the time he launched 185,000 troops into Ukraine, and that was to break NATO,” Biden said. “So, holding NATO together is really critical.”
Biden said when he first met Putin two years ago in Geneva, the Russian leader sought a commitment from the U.S. to keep Ukraine out of NATO. Biden declined to make the pledge, citing the alliance’s “open-door policy. We’re not going to shut anybody out.”
But Biden acknowledged there is little desire among current NATO members to “bring Ukraine into the NATO family now” because the defense commitment would mean that all alliance members, including the U.S., would be at war with Russia. He also stressed that it will take Ukraine some time to meet NATO qualifications.
“I have spoken with Zelenskyy at length about this, and one of the things I indicated is the United States would be ready to provide, while the process was going on … security a la the security we provide for Israel,” he said.
Zelenskyy: Counteroffensive advancing; ‘initiative is on our side’
The Ukraine counteroffensive is slowly gaining ground, but “every day means new losses of Ukrainians,” Zelenskyy said in the ABC interview. The Ukrainian president noted that several months ago his military was forced to retreat from some areas of eastern Ukraine. Now some of that land is being taken back. He dismissed claims that some Western leaders were disappointed in the pace of the gains, saying all are well aware of the “total strength of Russians” and amount of equipment they have at their disposal.
“Of course, we would all like to see the counteroffensive accomplished in a shorter period of time, but there’s reality,” Zelenskyy said, adding that “today the initiative is on our side.”
White House was ‘not involved’ in secret Ukraine talks
The White House says it was aware of but did not encourage or sanction secret talks about Ukraine between a group of former senior U.S. officials and Russians close to Putin’s government.
Members of the Council on Foreign Relations met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in April to begin laying the groundwork for an end to the war, NBC reported last week. The National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, John Kirby, said Sunday that the U.S. government “was not involved in any way” in the conversations.
“We weren’t passing messages through them,” Kirby said.
− Francesca Chambers
Russian media portraying revolt in Putin’s favor, British ministry says
Russia’s state-approved media, a critical tool as the Kremlin seeks to control the narrative around the war, was unprepared and taken aback by the Wagner mutiny of late June, the British Defense Ministry said in its latest update, noting that TV news shows kept their usual schedule.
Since then the state media have denied security forces reacted passively to the threat and stepped up their portrayal of the quelled insurrection as a Putin victory, highlighting his attempts at unifying the country behind him and making uncommon public appearances, most likely to project strength, the ministry said.
In addition, “the state started to play down the significance of Wagner owner Yevgeny Prigozhin and the mutiny, while tarnishing his character,’’ the assessment said.
Zelenskyy hails ‘heroes’ return as Russia fumes
Ukraine is celebrating the return home of five commanders from the storied failed defense of the steel plant in Mariupol, released through a prisoner exchange that Russia says was not meant to grant them passage back to their country.
The swap was brokered in September by Turkey, where the Kremlin argues the commanders were supposed to stay until the end of the war. Regardless, they traveled Saturday with Zelenskyy to Ukraine against Moscow’s objections.
Zelenskyy thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his intervention as he hailed the commanders’ return to the western city of Lviv.
Before the war, Zelenskyy said: “Many people in the world still did not understand what we are, what you are, what to expect from us, and what our heroes are, Now everyone understands.”