Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky says an all-out war with neighboring Russia is a “possibility” as he complained about Kiev not being allowed to join the US-led NATO military alliance.
Asked at the Yalta European Strategy (YES) summit on Friday whether there could really be all out-war with Russia, he said, "I think there can be. It's the worst thing that could happen, but unfortunately there is that possibility."
The comments came amid Russian insistence that Ukraine is losing interest in peace talks after the recent announcement of further US military aid to Kiev.
Zelensky was also asked about a possible meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to resolve problems between the two countries. "Honestly, I don't have time to think about him," he said.
"I'm more interested in whether we can really meet substantively, not declaratively as he does with some states," he said. “It seems to me that today ... they do not see the sense in resolving issues. End the war and resolve conflict issues quickly - they don't want this."
Moscow denounced the latest US military aid to Ukraine last week, insisting that the move could make Kiev behave unpredictably and dangerously and "can only be a cause for regret."
"We believe this could potentially cause unpredictable actions by the Ukrainian side in terms of attempting to resolve the ... Ukrainian conflict ... by force. This is very dangerous," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, stressing that Washington-Kiev alliance was motivated by opposition to Moscow.
"To put it simply, we're talking about a Ukrainian-American friendship against Russia. That is to say, they're friends not for themselves, but against Russia. This ... can only be a cause for regret,” he added.
Zelensky said Friday that Kiev’s relations with Washington had improved, but complained that Ukraine had not yet received a clear answer to its request to join NATO -- a move that would surely enrage Moscow.
"We have not received ... a direct position on Ukraine's accession to NATO," he said, adding that "Ukraine has been ready for a long time."
"Our army is one of the most powerful armies in the world today,” Zelensky said, criticizing the Western alliance's call for reforms.
"So when they tell us about reforms in the defense sector or reforms in the army and that this is the reason Ukraine has not joined NATO, it seems to me that this is not a completely honest opinion."
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said earlier this month that Kiev still has "steps" to take, including "efforts to advance rule of law reforms, modernize its defense sector, and expand economic growth.”
Joining NATO was a declared objective of Zelensky when he was elected leader in 2019, and he has repeatedly begged to be allowed into the military alliance. However, the idea has been less popular with NATO members and there appears no sign of Kiev being admitted any time soon.
Relations between Ukraine and Russia have been deteriorating since 2014, when the then-Ukrainian territory of Crimea voted in a referendum to fall under Russian sovereignty. The US and the European Union (EU) backed Kiev and refused to recognize the referendum results, later imposing sanctions on Moscow.
Furthermore, Ukraine as well as the EU and the US claim that Russia has a hand in an ongoing conflict that erupted in the Donbass region of Ukraine between government forces and ethnic Russians in 2014. The West imposed sanctions on Russia after accusing it of interfering in the conflict. Moscow denies the allegation.