Russia’s bloodbath in Ukraine could spiral into World War III, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned Sunday.
He accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of “lighting fires” around the globe that risk spiraling out of control — and said the Oct. 7 attack carnage unleashed in Israel by Hamas terrorists October was a “really big wish” of Moscow’s.
And he also accused the Kremlin of stirring up trouble in the Balkans.
He said: “We think that they are preparing now in the Balkans, they are doing new steps,” Zelensky said. “And we think that they are trying to train or even training some people.”
“The idea is to begin one conflict and they don’t manage it, don’t try to stop it.”
‘They won’t stop’
Speaking from his office in Kyiv, Zelensky warned: “Ukraine today is in the center of these global risks of this Third World War.
“And I really think that Russia will push until the United States and China together will tell them very, very seriously to go out of [our] territory.”
He said the war in Israel had diverted the world away from Ukraine, which “doesn’t help” his cause.
And he highlighted Moscow’s ties with Hamas’ backers in Iran, which, Iran has boosted Russia’s war effort by supplying deadly kamikaze drones.
Up to 600,000 people have been killed or injured in Ukraine – most of them Russian soldiers – since Putin launched his full scale invasion on Feb. 24 last year.
Zelensky admitted Ukraine’s fight back this year had not gone as well as he hoped.
His troops have only advanced 10 miles since they launched a counter-offensive in June.
The lack of progress has eroded support from some of Ukraine’s allies and fuelled doubts over whether Zelensky will ever achieve his stated ambition of expelling Russian soldiers from all Ukrainian soil.
He has repeatedly said he wants to retake Crimea, which was seized by Russia in 2014, and reclaim Ukraine’s 1991 independence borders.
Congress blocked a White House plan to unlock $60 billion in aid to Ukraine over fears of funding a “never-ending stalemate.”
And Slovakia’s new government blocked a $43 million military aid package claiming its people had “bigger problems.”
But Zelensky vowed to fight on against Russia and insisted Ukraine would expel Russian troops if it continues to get the right help.
Britain has pledged more than £7 billion and has vowed to keep helping Ukraine as long as it takes to beat Russia.
The EU has signed a €50 billion aid deal that lasts until 2027.
Zelensky thanked allies for their support but insisted it was “not enough.”
He said Ukraine desperately needed more air defense weapons to protect civilians in cities and let soldiers advance on the frontlines.
In an impassioned plea, he said Kyiv would find a way to buy, rent or co-produce weapons if allies were no longer willing to give them.
Zelensky: “If you don’t want or you can’t. Okay. Co-production. Just give us licenses. We will find money. We just need air defense on the front line.”
Russia has launched around 4,000 missiles since the start of the full scale war and is urgently ramping up production to try and replenish its stockpiles.
Zelensky said millions of Ukrainian refugees would return if he could protect the country’s largest cities if they were safe from Russian bombardments.
He said: “They will work and pay taxes. It will fill a gap in our budget. We will not need so much financial help.”
But he warned that without Western help Ukraine could not win.
He said: “If the Western countries will not give us this support, this is their decision,” he said. “Our military and financial [resources] will not be enough to stay and defend Ukraine.”
He reminded NATO allies that Ukrainians were paying with their lives, saying, He said “We are losing our people, not losing Europeans, Americans. I don’t wish you, of course, to lose your soldiers.”
He cautioned that if Russia defeated Ukraine then NATO countries would be next, saying, “If they kill us, if they destroy us, they will occupy NATO countries very quickly, and after that you will move your soldiers.
“If you will not move your soldiers to fight for NATO against Russia, NATO will not be.”
Ukraine’s defenders stunned the world when they halted the Russian juggernaut in the first weeks of Putin’s invasion and rolled back Kremlin advances around Kyiv, Kharkiv and Kherson.
But the front lines have not changed much in a year, and there is a growing realization that the war in Ukraine will not end quickly.
Former President Donald Trump, who is hoping to run for the White House next year, has claimed he could end the war in a day if reelected in 2024 election.
Zelensky said he was ready to meet Trump. He said:.
“If he has real plan, please show us,” he said.
But he added that there had been “enough words” in this war.
Zelensky added that any plan in which Ukraine hands Moscow the eastern Donbas region and occupied Crimean peninsula is not a peace plan — it’s capitulation.
“Our country will not be ready for such a peace plan,” he said. “That is not a peace plan. That is finishing the war from the side of Russia.”
He also warned such a plan would fail because Russia would take the territory, build up strength and attack again, just as they had done after the 2014 invasion of Crimea and the most recent invasion last year.
Jerome Starkey is the UK Sun’s defense editor.