Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told ABC News in an interview that aired Monday night that he had “cooled down” on the idea of Ukraine joining NATO and is open to talks with Russia about the future of the Donbas and Crimea.
“Regarding NATO, I have cooled down regarding this question long ago after we understood that NATO is not prepared to accept Ukraine,” Zelensky said. “The alliance is afraid of controversial things and confrontation with Russia. I never wanted to be a country which is begging something on its knees. We are not going to be that country, and I don’t want to be that president.”
Regarding Crimea and the Donbas, Zelensky said Ukraine is not prepared for Russian “ultimatums” but is ready to discuss the status of the territories. “The people who elected me are not ready to surrender. We are not ready for ultimatums,” he said. “But we can discuss with Russia the future of Crimea and Donbas.”
Russia has said that it would stop its assault if Ukraine declares neutrality, recognizes Crimea as Russian territory and recognizes the independence of the breakaway Donbas republics of Donestk and Luhansk. Zelensky’s comments signal that he might be willing to make a deal with Moscow.
Ukrainian and Russian officials have held three rounds of talks since Russia started its invasion. In the latest round, both sides said little progress was made except for agreements on humanitarian corridors, but the negotiations are expected to continue.
Sources told The Jerusalem Post that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was told in a March 5 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia had already given Zelensky a “final offer” to resolve the crisis. The sources said the offer was “difficult” for Ukraine but not “impossible” and said it involved the terms listed above as well as Ukraine shrinking its military.