Takeaways from AP’s interview with Ukraine’s Zelenskyy

Mar 28, 2023, 9:31 PM

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gestures as he speaks during an interview with Julie Pace, ...

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gestures as he speaks during an interview with Julie Pace, senior vice president and executive editor of The Associated Press, on a train traveling from the Sumy region to Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday March 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

ON BOARD A TRAIN FROM SUMY TO KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — A team of journalists from The Associated Press spent two days traveling by train with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as he visited the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia, which still faces regular shelling from Russian forces, and northern towns in the Sumy region that were liberated shortly after the war began a year ago.

The AP is the first news organization to travel extensively with Zelenskyy since the war began. Here are some takeaways from an interview with Zelenskyy as he returned to Kyiv late Tuesday.


Throughout much of the war, Ukraine’s military has been bolstered by billions of dollars of ammunition and weaponry from Western nations. Zelenskyy welcomed the help but said some of the promised weapons had not yet been delivered.

“We have great decisions about Patriots, but we don’t have them for real,” he said, referring to the U.S.-made air defense system.

Ukrainian soldiers have received training in the U.S. since January on how to use the Patriot system, but it hasn’t yet been deployed in Ukraine.

Ukraine needs 20 Patriot batteries to protect against Russian missiles, and even that may not be enough “as no country in the world was attacked with so many ballistic rockets,” Zelenskyy said.

Zelenskyy added that a European nation sent another air defense system to Ukraine, but it didn’t work and they “had to change it again and again.” He did not name the country.

Zelenskyy also reiterated his longstanding request for fighter jets, saying “we still don’t have anything when it comes to modern warplanes.” Poland and Slovakia have decided to give Soviet-era fighter jets to Ukraine, but no Western country so far has agreed to provide modern warplanes amid concern that it could escalate the conflict and draw them in deeper.


Zelenskyy was unsparing in his assessment of Russia’s Vladimir Putin, calling him an “informationally isolated person” who had “lost everything” over the last year of war.

“He doesn’t have allies,” Zelenskky said, adding that it was clear that even China — an economic powerhouse long favorable toward Moscow — was no longer willing to back Russia. Chinese President Xi Jinping recently visited Putin i n Russia but left without publicly announcing any overt support for Moscow’s campaign against Ukraine.

Zelenskyy suggested that Putin’s announcement shortly after Xi’s visit that he would move to provide more depleted uranium ammunition to Ukraine.

Despite Putin’s nuclear provocations, Zelenskky said he does not believe the Russian leader is prepared to use the bomb.

“If a person wants to save himself, he really … will use these,” he said. “I’m not sure he’s ready to do it.”


On Zelenskyy’s itinerary this week was a meeting with Rafael Mariano Grossi, the visiting head of the UN’s atomic energy agency. Grossi was in the region to take stock of the situation at the nearby Zaporizhizhia Nuclear Power Plant, which Russia took control of last year.

Fierce fighting around the plant, Europe’s largest, has put the facility and the broader region at significant risk. During his meeting with Zelenskyy on Monday, Grossi said the situation was not improving.

Grossi has called for a “protection zone” around the plant but has failed to come up with terms that would satisfy both Ukraine and Russia. Grossi told the AP on Tuesday he believed a deal was “close.” However, Zelenskyy, who opposes any plan that would legitimize Russia’s control over the facility, said he was less optimistic a deal was near. “I don’t feel it today,” he said.


The longest battle of the war is raging in the eastern city of Bakhmut, where Ukrainian and Russian forces have been locked in a grinding conflict for seven months.

Some Western military analysts have questioned why Ukraine is willing to suffer so many losses to defend the territory, arguing that the city is not of strategic significance. Zelenskyy argued otherwise, saying any loss in the war will give Russia an opening. He predicted that if Russia defeats Ukraine in Bakhmut, Putin would set out to “sell” a victory to the international community.

“If he will feel some blood, smell that we are weak, he will push, push, push,” Zelensky said, adding that the pressure would come not only from the international community but also from within his own country.

“Our society will feel tired,” he said. “Our society will push me to have compromise with them.”

Zelenskyy recently made traveled near Bakhmut for a morale-boosting visit with troops fighting in the hard hit city.


Western sanctions against Russia don’t go far enough, according to Zelenskyy, who called for more far-reaching measures against people in Putin’s inner circle.

More than 30 countries, representing more than half the world’s economy, have imposed sanctions on Russia, including price caps on Russian oil and restrictions on access to global financial transactions. The West has also directly sanctioned about 2,000 Russian firms, government officials, oligarchs and their families. More than $58 billion worth of sanctioned Russians’ assets have been blocked or frozen worldwide, according to a recent report from the U.S. Treasury Department.

Zelenskyy said more should be done to target Putin’s enablers, who “have to know that they will lose all their money … all their real estate in Europe or in the world, their yachts everywhere.”


Most of Zelenskyy’s travel in Ukraine is done by rail. There are few other options: Commercial air travel has been grounded and Ukraine’s expanse, as well as the unpredictability of life in a war-torn country, make road travel arduous.

The state railway system, however, has remained remarkably stable throughout the war and largely untouched by the constant barrage of Russian missiles. One notable exception: the April 2022 bombing of the crowded Kramatorsk train station that killed dozens of people.

Though Zelenskyy rides on a train set aside for him and his delegation, it is largely indistinguishable on the outside from the blue-and-yellow trains ferrying other people and goods across the country. Most Ukrainians barely looked up to acknowledge Zelenskyy’s train as it zipped through towns across the countryside, passing picturesque fields and the occasional bombed-out building or bridge.


AP writer Karl Ritter in Kyiv, Ukraine, contributed to this report.


Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age and Competition, ...

Associated Press

US, Europe working on voluntary AI code of conduct as calls grow for regulation

The United States and Europe are drawing up a voluntary code of conduct for artificial intelligence as the developing technology triggers warnings

19 hours ago

FILE - Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley listens during an event at the Memori...

Associated Press

U.S.: Tanks, F-16 jets part of long-term strategy for Ukraine, won’t be ready for upcoming offensive

PARIS (AP) — Training for Ukrainian forces on advanced U.S. Abrams tanks has begun, and while those systems will not be ready in time for the imminent counteroffensive, those weapons will be critical in the longer-term to Ukraine ultimately pushing Russia out of its occupied territories, Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Mark Milley said. Tank training […]

19 hours ago

Richard Tsoi, former leader of now-disbanded Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic ...

Associated Press

Amid shrinking freedoms, Hong Kongers commemorate Tiananmen anniversary privately

HONG KONG (AP) — As the 34th anniversary of China’s Tiananmen Square crackdown approaches Sunday, many in Hong Kong are trying to mark the day in private ways in the shadow of a law that prosecuted leading activists in the city’s pro-democracy movement. For decades, Hong Kong was the only place in China where people […]

19 hours ago

Servicemen of the newly created National Guard unit train in the Kharkiv region, Ukraine, Thursday,...

Associated Press

Blinken warns Ukraine cease-fire now would result in ‘Potemkin peace,’ legitimizing Russian invasion

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that the United States and its allies should not support a cease-fire or peace talks to end the war in Ukraine until Kyiv gains strength and can negotiate on its own terms. As an anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive appeared to be taking shape, Blinken […]

19 hours ago

FILE - People's Alliance's presidential candidate Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to his supporters dur...

Associated Press

How Turkey’s president Erdogan has maintained a tight grip on power in the country

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a populist with increasingly authoritarian tendencies, is scheduled to take the oath of office and start his third presidential term Saturday following his latest election win. Erdogan, who has led Turkey as prime minister or president for 20 years, prevailed in a runoff race last weekend despite […]

19 hours ago

Tourists visit Roman ruins in Palmyra, Syria, Tuesday, May 11, 2023. Palmyra was captured by the Is...

Associated Press

Restoration lags for Syria’s famed Roman ruins at Palmyra and other war-battered historic sites

PALMYRA, Syria (AP) — At the height of the Islamic State group’s rampage across Syria, the world watched in horror as the militants blew up an iconic arch and temple in the country’s famed Roman ruins in Palmyra. Eight years later, IS has lost its hold but restoration work on the site has been held […]

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Men's Health Month...

Men’s Health Month: Why It’s Important to Speak About Your Health

June is Men’s Health Month, with the goal to raise awareness about men’s health and to encourage men to speak about their health.

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.

Takeaways from AP’s interview with Ukraine’s Zelenskyy