Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said during an interview on Sunday that Russian soldiers have killed and tortured children as part of their strategy of destroying everything in their path.
“Some of them have been occupied, and then they destroyed everything. The civilians, the houses, they were stealing washing machines and equipment,” Zelensky said through a translator. “So, [they] were torturers as well. I think the clips that we shared with you, you have seen for yourself. It’s important for the free people of the United States to have a look at it and see for themselves.”
“Before the war, when there was a lot of free time, we were watching different films, and also war movies, but we couldn’t have imagined anything like this, because this is a maniac type of decision to destroy the whole nation,” he continued, later adding, “We find people with hands tied behind their back and decapitated, such things, I don’t understand, I don’t comprehend, the kids who were killed and tortured.”
TRANSCRIPT PROVIDED VIA CBS NEWS:
MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He joins us from Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine.
Good afternoon, sir.
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY (Ukrainian President) (through translator): Good morning.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mr. President, Russian forces appear to be withdrawing from the north of Ukraine. Do you think this means Putin’s calculus is changing?
PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY (through translator): Thank you for this question.
You know, Margaret, we — they have pulled out from some localities. In others, they are redoing the redeployment, because the conflict, the situation is difficult. There were some communities that they were trying to take several times.
And this is a tragedy, because our army had to take back as well. So the city of Chornobaivka, nine times, they attempted to take it over. But we think this is the redeployment, in our opinion. They’re changing the tactics now. They were trying to take Kyiv and some cities in Kyiv region.
Some of them have been occupied, and then they destroyed everything. The civilians, the houses, they were stealing washing machines and equipment.
So, [they] were torturers as well. I think the clips that we shared with you, you have seen for yourself. It’s important for the free people of the United States to have a look at it and see for themselves.
Before the war, when there was a lot of free time, we were watching different films, and also war movies, but we couldn’t have imagined anything like this, because this is a maniac type of decision to destroy the whole nation.
Well, in terms of the tactics and them pulling out and what the strategy of Putin is, they are now focusing in the east of Ukraine. So, this corridor, which is going from the Crimea to the east of Ukraine, this is in the south of Ukraine.
And this is where they are trying to focus in terms of armament, in terms of deploying their personnel, the Chechen troops occupying the cities. They were bringing people in from different parts of the world, because they were in deficit of their personnel. And now they are grouping all of these troops in the south and east of our country.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The images you’re talking about have been described by leaders around the world as horrific.
The mayor of Kyiv used the term “genocide.” Your vice prime minister is asking if this is fascism or genocide, in terms of what has been left around Kyiv. Do you feel that the world will actually make good on this promise to hold Vladimir Putin to account for war crimes?
PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY (through translator): Everything has to be fair and according to justice, as the civilized world will decide.
We believe in justice, in the justice of the Western world, and, therefore, the question is not only about the leader of Russian Federation. We wouldn’t think that it would be fair to take only him. I think all the military commanders, everyone who gave instructions and orders should be punished adequately.
The adequate punishment to these people is difficult to be achieved. It has to be done according to the law and what they have done.
And I want to apologize to you and to those people who are watching us now, but, for some things that they have done, when we find people with hands tied behind their back and decapitated, such things, I don’t understand, I don’t comprehend, the kids who were killed and tortured.
So it wasn’t enough just to kill for those criminals. Maybe they wanted to take gold or washing machines. And they were killing them, but they were also torturing them as they did this.
And your question is absolutely fair, but I don’t have the answer. I don’t know what law or what imprisonment term would be adequate for this. As the father of two children, and as a president, I think that these people, if they are put behind the bars, this is one too little for what they have done.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Is this genocide?
PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY (through translator): Indeed, this is genocide, the elimination of the whole nation and the people.
We are the citizens of Ukraine. We have more than 100 nationalities. This is about the destruction and extermination of all these nationalities. We are the citizens of Ukraine. And we don’t want to be subdued to the policy of Russian Federation.
This is the reason we are being destroyed and exterminated, and this is happening in the Europe of the 21st century. So this is the torture of the whole nation.
MARGARET BRENNAN: In the Donbass southeast area of your country, the city of Mariupol, are you having any success getting civilians out?
PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY (through translator): Many people, many thousands of people have been evacuated.
In certain cities, 35,000, 30,000, 40,000 have been evacuated, so altogether, hundreds of thousands. But, nevertheless, there are — still hundreds of thousand remain blocked. Some of them are blocked or behind the bars.
To answer to your question about Mariupol, before the beginning of this full-fledged war and the occupation of Mariupol, there have been lots of people. And all the corridors have been blocked, including humanitarian corridors, the supply of food and water.
So, in this city now, there is 150,000, lots of dead bodies in the street, lots of wounded people among the military and civilians. The evacuation happens only when the Russian side agrees to a Ukrainian proposal to open a corridor.
So, the corridor for the food or water simply do not exist in those cities that are occupied by Russia.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mr. President, your team shared with us a video, images that your government has gathered of what has been left behind outside of Kyiv that I do want to share with our viewers.
And I want to ask you about it. Looking and listening to what Vladimir Putin has said, he’s called Ukraine not a real country. He said it’s controlled by little Nazis. He’s called you a drug-addled thug.
Is he someone you can negotiate with?
PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY (through translator): As the president of Ukraine, there cannot be just my personal view about President Putin and a dialogue with the Russian Federation.
I have to stand for the interests of my country. So, it’s difficult to say how, after all, what has been done, we can have any kind of negotiations with Russia. That’s on the personal level.
But, as a president, I have to do it. Any war has to end, just end. I’m not talking about ending this with peace, because peace in this situation, when there are thousands of people killed, is something that I’m not fine with. But there is no any other way. This, I’m saying as a president.
There’s no any other way but the dialogue, if we don’t want hundreds of thousands, millions to die. But it’s important to have the agreement between the two sides and understanding or at least the desire to understand that we need to have a dialogue, because we’re going to stand until the end.
And they have to understand this. So, I’m — keep talking about this dialogue, something that I have been repeating throughout my term as a president.
MARGARET BRENNAN: In terms of security guarantees, the United States has given security assurances to Ukraine in the past, and that did not stop this invasion.
When you recently spoke with President Biden, did he make you any kind of concrete promise that the U.S. and NATO wouldn’t let this happen to Ukraine again?
PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY (through translator): So, we don’t believe in papers any longer.
So, we are very grateful for the support of the United States, indeed, and it’s a very powerful support. But in terms of security guarantees, we have not received them yet from anyone. And we have to get them.
For us, it is important also what the circle of countries who will be providing the security guarantees is going to be, and how specifically this will be enforced.
So I’m not, as a president, satisfied with just assurance, because then I don’t know what the agreement is going to be about and whether we will have an agreement with Russia. What are we going to agree about? Who are going to be the guarantors?
Because if, tomorrow, the war starts again, and only sanctions will have been introduced, well, that’s about nothing, because sanctions are important. But if they cannot stop the aggression, then we don’t need such guarantees.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Russia seems very interested in this resource-rich part of Eastern Ukraine.
I wonder, will you settle for anything less than a full withdrawal of Russian troops from every inch of Ukrainian soil?
PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY (through translator): This is the bare minimum that we have to start the deoccupation with.
It should be 100 percent withdrawal of troops to the borders that existed prior to the 24th of February at least. This would make us to start discussing other questions about the deoccupation, about how do we live on after this.
[How] we have our dialogue with them. So, I can’t even have a meeting when the shelling is going on, so, first, the cease-fire. Then we can have a meeting with the Russian president.
If they have the — an approach that they — he’s making these authoritarian decisions, why do we need this bloodshed, drama performance for? Let’s simply sit down together, the two of us.