In an exclusive interview with ABC “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said officials weren’t certain about the scale of a potential Russian invasion before Moscow launched its war on Ukraine.
Zelenskyy, when pressed by Muir if he had had “any regret that you didn’t tell the Ukrainian people earlier about what could be coming,” said that the world was “disunited” over whether Russia would actually launch at attack.
“The European leaders were saying, ‘Putin gave us his word that he’s not going to invade.’ Nobody knew for sure, for sure, 100% what scale of invasion was there to be expected,” Zelenskyy told Muir.
“No one knew that those Russian troops will kill, maim, rape people and just erase our cities from the ground, to the ground,” he said. “I asked all the intelligence, ‘Show us what concrete directions, ‘Give us more weapons.’ But then, they said, ‘If they begin invasion, we give you more weapons.'”
Zelenskyy’s remarks come as Russia’s invasion, launched in February, morphs into a grinding exchange of artillery fire, largely in southern and eastern Ukraine. Kyiv has launched a counteroffensive in both regions, and officials claim to have made modest gains.
Ukraine was able to repel Russia’s initial attempt to capture Kyiv, but evidence later surfaced of alleged civilian killings, rapes and what officials said were other possible war crimes during the Russian military’s retreat from the areas around the capital — including the horror in the city of Bucha, where authorities have found more than 400 bodies, many buried in mass graves.
Zelenskyy said early uncertainty over Russia’s invasion hindered delivery of military aid even as Ukraine was pressing for assistance from the U.S. and elsewhere.
“We cannot only put any blame on the United States, that United States should have provided us with everything; the whole world wasn’t 100% sure that they will start this invasion,” he said.
“If you have any additional information, why don’t you provide us with this information, or why don’t you give us more potent arms and weapons?” he added. “You don’t need these weapons yourselves, but we need it here now. Now — now, they are saying, ‘Yes, we warned you,’ but we, we wanted not extra words and warnings; we wanted extra weapons.”