One day after Russia launched the first hypersonic, nuclear-capable missile in combat and hours after its air force bombed a school sheltering hundreds in Mariupol, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy acknowledged he’s “ready for negotiations” with Vladimir Putin.
Despite the heroic Ukrainian defense, bolstered the U.S. and Great Britain’s fire-and-forget anti-tank missiles and cheap but lethal Turkish drones, Zelenskyy told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that “without negotiations, we cannot end this war.”
Still, the besieged leader warned that it could mean a wider war if talks failed.
CNN’s Chandelis Duster reports on the exclusive interview:
“I’m ready for negotiations with him. I was ready for the last two years. And I think that without negotiations, we cannot end this war,” Zelensky told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in an exclusive interview Sunday morning.
“If there’s just 1% chance for us to stop this war, I think that we need to take this chance. We need to do that. I can tell you about the result of this negotiations — in any case, we are losing people on a daily basis, innocent people on the ground,” he said.
He continued, “Russian forces have come to exterminate us, to kill us. And we can demonstrate that the dignity of our people and our army that we are able to deal a powerful blow, we are able to strike back. But, unfortunately, our dignity is not going to preserve the lives. So, I think we have to use any format, any chance in order to have a possibility of negotiating, possibility of talking to Putin. But if these attempts fail, that would mean that this is a third World War.”
The number of casualties in Ukraine remains murky. Besides the difficulty of accounting for the dead in cities under indiscriminate artillery fire, Ukrainian estimates of Russian losses tend to be high and Russian estimates of their own losses tend to be very low.
As of March 9, U.S. officials estimated 2,000 to 4,000 Ukrainian soldiers killed in combat. According to the United States, the latest estimates of Russian casualties range from 3,000 to 10,000 soldiers killed, with 7,000 deaths being a more widely accepted figure.
According to Ukraine, thousands of civilians have died in Mariupol and Kharkiv alone, two cities that have seen the fiercest fighting. The UN confirmed 847 civilian deaths two days ago but estimated the actual figure to be “significantly higher.”