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CNN Live Event/Special

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Addresses the Munich Security Conference; Christiane Amanpour Has Q&A Session with President Zelensky. Aired 9:38-10:20a ET

Aired February 19, 2022 - 9:38   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

ALEX THOMAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, we're interrupting this program for some breaking news from a live event in Germany. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky is attending the Munich Security Conference.

This coming as many Western leaders say a Russian invasion of Ukraine could occur at any moment. Mr. Zelensky is about to be interviewed by CNN's Christiane Amanpour and be welcomed by the chair of the conference. Let's have a listen to what is happening.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: I think that is all for -- not for me, for Ukraine and our soldiers, thank you so much. Thank you so much.

You have to prepare a little bit technicality because I will speak in our native language in Ukraine also please (ph). If it's possible. Thank you so much.

I will wait to 10 seconds because I want to be understandable from the very beginning.

We can.

Thank you so much.


ZELENSKY (through translator): Europe is longing for peace. The world is saying it doesn't want any war while Russia is claiming she doesn't want to intervene. Someone here is lying.

This is not yet an axiom but I find out (ph) a -- only a hypothesis. Too, I visited the separation line in the Donbas just a couple of days ago. In legal terms, this is line separating Ukraine and temporary occupied territory. But in real terms, this is the line separating peace and the war, the

line with a kindergarten on the other hand and the shell flying into it. On the one hand, the school, and, on the other hand, the shell flying into the school playground, with 30 kids nearby on the other hand.

The kids who were not heading toward NATO. They are heading toward their classrooms. Some of them might be having their physics classes. And with their elementary knowledge of physics, even these kids will know that alleging that it was Ukraine to have shelled these objects is just silly.

Other kids might as well be having their math classes. They don't need a calculator to figure out the difference between the total number of shelling in the last two days and the number of times Ukraine is mentioned in the Munich security report.

Yet some kids might be having their history class. So when they see the shell crater in their playground instead of their school playground, they might start asking questions, has our world completely forgotten the mistakes of the 20th century?

Where does the appeasement policy usually leads to?

How did we get from the question, what's the point of dying for Danzig (ph) two thousands of millions having to die away, give away their lives for Dunkirk (ph) as well as dozens of other European cities?

These are horrific history lessons. With this, I'm simply trying to make sure we have been reading the same textbooks so that we are all on the same page about one main question.

How did we get to this point in the 21st century, where the war is being waged and people are dying in Europe?

How come that, timewise, it's already longer than World War II?

How did we end up in the biggest security crisis since the end of the Cold War?

To me, as the president of the country, which lost part of its territory, thousands of people, the country's surrounded by 150,000 army with heavy armament and machinery on our borders, to me, this answer obvious.

The security architecture of our world is brittle. It is obsolete. The rules that have been agreed upon by the world dozens (ph) of years ago are no longer working. They are neither catching up with the new, perhaps not being effective in overcoming them, just like a cough syrup instead of a good COVID-19 vaccine.

This security system is slow and failing us, time and time again, because of different things -- egotism, arrogance and irresponsibility of countries on the global level. As a result, some countries are committing crimes while others resort to indifference, the indifference that turned them into accomplices. It is symbolic that I am saying this here; 15 years ago, it was

Russian Federation who made the statement here, putting the challenge to the global security.

How did the world respond?


What do we have as a result?

The annexation of the Crimea and the aggression against my country at the very least. The U.N., which was initially called to say that peace and security cannot protect itself, when its own charter being violated as one of the Security Council members annexing the territory of another founding member, while the U.N. itself ignoring the Crimean platform, established to deoccupy the Crimea and appetite for the rise of the Crimean tatters (ph), it was here three years ago, when Angela Merkel said, who can pick up the pieces of the world's puzzle?

Only all of us together, she said. To rush -- led to a rush of audible excitement in the room, which stood up to applaud.

Unfortunately, the collective ovation failed to transform into collective action.

So now, that the world is talking about the threat of a big war, it begs the question, is there anything left to pick up?

The security architecture of Europe and beyond is almost destroyed. It's too late now to talk about fixing it. It's high time for a new one.

That mankind did so on two occasions, having paid an extensively high price, that as the two world wars.


ZELENSKY (through translator): We do have a chance to break that trend before it became a trend. Then build a new system before we pay millions of casualties with -- on -- based on the experience of two world wars without the third one to come in.

Here, in U.N., I -- and in the U.N., I already mentioned that there is no such thing as it is not my war in the 21st century, that annexation of the Crimea and the war in the Donbas is a blow to the whole world, that this is not about war in Ukraine, this is about the war in Europe.

I mentioned this in 2019, 2020, 2021.

Will the world be able to hear me in 2022?

This is no longer hypothesis but not yet an axiom.

Why not? Because it requires proof. It requires something more than just tweets and statements in mass media. Action is needed. The world needs this action, not Ukraine. We are going to protect our country with or without support of our partners, be it hundreds pieces of contemporary armament of 5,000 helmets, we equally appreciate the support.

But everyone needs to understand that this is not some kind of donation Ukraine should be reminding or begging for. This is not just a broad gesture that Ukraine should be bowing down for.

This is your contribution into European and international security for which Ukraine has been serving as a shield for eight years now, a reliable shield, holding back one of the largest armies in the world.

That same army, which is now poised on the Ukrainian north (ph), E.U. member states' borders, and the missiles were flying into the Mariupol north (ph), the European cities. And thanks all (ph) and after the fights and the destroyed airport in Donetsk, not in Frankfurt. And it is always blazing in the Avdiivka industrial zone, which is being shelled.

There, it was very hard, not in Montmartre. And none of the countries of Europe know what the military funerals are around the country, in all regions. And none of the European leaders know what is it to regularly meet with the families of the dead soldiers.

No matter what, we are going to protect our beautiful land on our borders, either we have 150,000 or 1 million soldiers of any army. In order to help Ukraine indeed, we don't need to hear how many of them are there and how many armament they have.

We need to hear how many are there of us together. To help Ukraine, we don't need to be reminded of the dates of the plausible intervention. We're going to protect our land on the 16th of February, on the 1st of March, on the 31st of December.

We need other dates much more than these dates. And everyone understands what kind of dates. Tomorrow is the Day of Commemoration of Heavenly Hundred, dates, years ago, Ukrainians had made the choice.

And many of them have sacrificed their lives for that.

Do you think that, eight years later, Ukraine should keep calling for acknowledgment of our European perspectives?

Since 2014, Russia is convincing everyone that this was an erroneous path for Ukraine, that no one is waiting for us in Europe.

Isn't it Europe that should be saying and proving them wrong?

Isn't it Europe who should be saying today that our citizens have a positive attitude toward Ukraine joining the union?

Why are we avoiding this question?

Doesn't Ukraine deserve to have direct and frank answers? The same is true about NATO. We are told the doors are open. But so far the strangers are not allowed. If not all of the members are willing to see us there or all members don't want to see us there, be honest about it.

Open doors are good. But we need open answers but not the yes and yes of closed questions.

Isn't the right for truth part of our opportunities?

And the sooner the better. The soonest, summit in Madrid, for example. The Russian Federation is saying that Ukraine is -- wants to join NATO to bring the Crimean back by force. It's good to hear that bring back the Crimea is something that they mentioned, their rhetoric (ph). But they didn't read carefully Article 5 of the NATO charter, the collective actions are for protection, not for attack.


ZELENSKY (through translator): The Crimean, the occupied land of Donbas, will come back to Ukraine but only through peaceful process. Ukraine is consistent about Normandy and Minsk agreements. Their the foundation is the recognition of their territorial integrity and independence of our state.

We want to have diplomatic resolution of the military conflict. Exclusively, I would like to emphasize, based on the international law.

So what in reality is happening now in Minsk, in the peaceful process?

Two years ago, with the presidents of France and Russian Federation and German chancellor, we agreed about a full-fledged cease-fire. And Ukraine is committed to these agreements, we're observing them. We keep not responding to the provocations. We're submitting proposals to the Normandy Four and the Trilateral Contact Group.

And what do we see instead?

Shelling and bullets; our soldiers are being -- dying and our peaceful population is dying; civilian infrastructure being destroyed.

The last two days have become very symbolic. Massive shelling from the armament prohibited by the Minsk agreement. It's important to allow for the observers for the OSCE to visit. They are being threatened. They are being scared. All humanitarian questions are being blocked.

Two years ago, I signed into law, the unconditional acts to document (ph) humanitarian organizations to the detainees. But on the temporarily occupied territories, they are simply not allowed.

After two exchange of prisoners, this process has been stalled, although -- and blocked, although, Ukraine has been sharing the approved list. Tortures until the death in the notorious Izolyatsia prison, isolation prison in Donetsk now is the symbol of human rights violation. In November, the two new crossing points that we opened in Luhansk

oblast (ph) have not been put into operation. And we see these then as an obstruction, under false pretexts.

And Ukraine is doing its best to push this discussion -- to push this discussion of political questions as well. In the TCG, in the Minsk process, we have submitted the proposals and the drafts of law. But everything is blocked and no one is talking about them.

Ukraine demands urgently to unblock the negotiation process. At the same time, this does not mean that looking for peace is limited and restricted only by that. We are prepared to look for the keys in -- to end the war in all possible formats and all possible platforms -- Paris, Minsk, Istanbul, Beijing, Barcelona -- it doesn't matter where in the world we will agree about the peace in Ukraine.

Four countries will be there, seven countries will be or 100 countries, it doesn't matter. The most important, Russia and Ukraine to be there.

What is important is the understanding that we need not only us who need peace. The world needs peace. We need to restore peace and integrity and the internationally acknowledged borders.

And I hope no one is thinking about Ukraine as a permanent buffer between the Russian Federation and the West. This will never happen. No one will allow this to happen.

Otherwise, there will be a question, who is next?

NATO countries will have to protect each other. I want to believe that North Atlantic Treaty in Article 5 will be more effective than the Budapest memorandum.

For the refusal -- the fact that we refuse from the third-biggest nuclear power, we receive the security guarantees. We no longer have that weapon. Neither do we have the security. We have lost parts of our territory, which is bigger in territory than Switzerland, Netherlands or Belgium.

Millions of citizens have been lost. All of that has been lost. But we still have something. We have the right to demand to move from the appeasement policy to ensuring the guarantees of security.

Since 2014, three times, Ukraine has tried to call for consultations for the guarantors of the countries who guaranteed the Budapest agreement, three times. No success. This will be the fourth time today that we're going to do this.

As the president, for the first time, but both Ukraine and me is going to -- will do this the last time.


ZELENSKY (through translator): We are initiating on the Budapest memorandum and call for the -- and ask the foreign minister to have this meeting.

And if at the result of this we're not going to guarantee of defense after this summit, we will think that Budapest memorandum is not working. It's -- and all the package decisions of 1994 have been put in question and compromised.

In the nearest weeks, I propose to call the summit of the countries of the Security Council, with the participation of Europe, Germany and Turkey, to resolve security challenges in Europe and come up with new, effective guarantees, security guarantees for Ukraine, the guarantees that we need before we become the members of the defense council, being in this gray zone, in a security vacuum, so to speak.

What else can we do now?

We can continue the active support of Ukraine and its defense capabilities, providing the European perspective, providing the support as are provided to the candidate countries and providing specific timelines for Ukraine possible membership in the alliance.

We need support for the transformation in our country to create the stability and restoration on the land lease program, supplying new armament and equipment to an army -- the army which is protecting the whole Europe. An effective, preventive sanctions package is what we need to restrain the aggression and the energy integration of the Ukraine into European Union, in the times when not to has been used as a weapon.

All these questions require answers. Instead, there is silence. And while this silence persists, there will be no silence in the east of Ukraine, in the east of Europe and in the whole world.

I do hope finally the whole world will understand this and Europe will understand this. Ladies and gentlemen, I'm very grateful to the countries who have supported the Ukraine with their words, with their declaration and specific support, those who are on our side, on the side of truth, on the side of international law.

I'm not calling my friends out by names. I don't want some countries to be ashamed. But this is their business. This is their matter. These are their countries, their karma and this is their consciousness that they have to look into.

I -- although I don't know how they will be able to explain these actions to the two people who were killed and three wounded, Ukrainian soldiers today and three girls from Kyiv, 10, 6 and 1 years old, who don't have a father any longer.

At 6 o'clock in the morning, Eastern European time, when Ukrainian scout officer was killed from the artillery shell prohibited by Minsk. I don't know what he thought about at the last second of his life. He didn't really for sure understand what kind of agenda we need for the meeting to stop the war in the east.

But what he knew is the answer to the question that I asked at the very beginning. He very well knows who is lying here. Rest in peace to him and to all those who have died for the -- enduring these years of war in the east of our country. Thank you.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Mr. President, you gave a very impassioned speech just now and we'll get to it in a moment.

But first, I want to ask you, that I'm not sure how many people in this room expected you to make the decision to leave your country and come here today.

What was so important for you to be here?

And what do you know about Vladimir Putin's intentions that, perhaps, the United States or others don't know?

Because they think he has made the decision to enter your country.

ZELENSKY (through translator): Thank you very much. Thank you for this question. And thank you for your -- for the invitation.

It is very important, when Ukraine is being discussed, for Ukraine, for these -- for this information to come from the mouth of our country.


ZELENSKY (through translator): I'm the president. And our team, it's important for all our partners and friends not to agree about anything behind our back.

And I do believe in our partnership. And I do believe that this is the case. And I had very important meetings with the leaders of different countries and still more to go. And I would like you to hear, to see, to ask questions and get the answers, to understand the level of resilience of our country, that we are not panicking.

We are very consistent, that we are not responding to any provocations. We have our own vaccine already developed for that, not as good as COVID vaccines. But this vaccine is already eight years old. We don't know the things we need to react to and things we shouldn't.

Of course, when our soldiers are being killed, we know we need to respond. But we understand who is killing us.

We understand what these military groups are. But -- and we also understand when they are shooting from the localities surrendered by civilians, to provoke us, for us to respond and to start an escalation on the other side in response to the fire.


It's also important for me - for us to be on the same page in terms of information. The fact that the partners are sharing with us the information, we are very grateful for that by the, for the cooperation of our intelligences, but we are in this tension for many, many years now. We do not think that we need to panic. We think these risks are, indeed, very hard because we have more troops, 150,000 troops on our borders. Yes. Indeed that's a big risk, but a very big risk if we respond, if we do respond to one provocation or the other.

On the other hand, I think that Russian Federation and when we are talking about Russia this is the people, the whole people of Russia. So I think they will not be able to start to go to war against Ukraine. And although on the temporary occupied territories we have a lot of provocation, and we see them. We see this however (ph) the mass media there disseminating different provocative information, we need to preserve our stability. We need to keep calm and be adults. At least from this - in this time Ukraine Army is more able (ph) than others.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN AMANPOUR HOST: (inaudible) a bit of escalation on the so-called false flag issues. You have just talked about two Ukrainian soldiers being killed. The Russians say mines have exploded - Ukrainian mines on their side of the border. We've seen this rhetoric before. We understand the concept of false flags, but how tense is that? How do you think you can stop it? You know, how do you consider the level of the current provocations?

ZELENSKY: Any provocations are very dangerous. As I already said, I think the most complicated question that ended Crimea in the temporary occupied territory of the Donbas along the borders of Ukraine and Russia there's 30, 35,000 on the temporary why (ph) or temporary occupied territories there's 35,000 more and 150,000 along other borders. So provocations are, indeed, very dangerous if you have this number of troops.

One shelling, one fire, cannon fire can lead to war, and we perfectly understand as I said I do think so and this is what our partners believe. I mean, the partners that are around us who have joined borders with us, who know the history of the Soviet Union, and they do understand the current risks we are facing. The Poland, the Baltic States, Lithuania and Estonia, Latvia, Moldova, they know what that could lead to.

So we need to be very careful. I can't tell you about what will happen now. If you compare to 2014, 2015 there were much more casualties unfortunately. When someone in the - in mass media says that now this is the most horrific situation, that is not true. It is horrible. It's a tragedy for our nation, for our people. It is a tragedy, and in future you will see that this is the tragedy for Russians as well who used to have good relationship with Ukraine.


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ZELENSKY (through translator): -- the future you will see that this is the tragedy for Russians as well, who used to have good relationship with Ukraine. How do we stay neighbors and lead with each other from now on? But we in a different point of our life. We're not talking about

neighborhood. We are talking about the war and that it shouldn't start. This is why the risk is high. What was shown yesterday on the temporary occupied territory, they've shown some shelling allegedly flying from our side and they have shown something flying all the way to Rostov region of Russia. This is just, to me, a block provocation. These are pure lies.

There's no one dead or wounded. This is just cynicism of such a high level that they are blowing up something on their side and shooting. This is not the first time since 2014 that they are aiming their guns and shooting at the territory that they themselves control.

This is the kind of cynicism, that's it. And we -- well, all we care is about is peace. And I mentioned this many times to the president of Russian Federation and Angela Merkel and Marcon in 2019. And we have sent a massive amount of signals, all on a monthly basis. We have been passing on to different world leaders and directly to Russian Federations that we are ready to sit down and speak.

Pick the platform that you like. Pick the partners that will be there around the table with us. We are ready for them, prepared for them. What's the point of us shooting and proposing diplomacy at the same time?

(Inaudible) too long [ph], I'm sorry. You can stop me when -- when -- when you want.

AMANPOUR: Can I ask you, how you feel today compared to a few days ago? Because I think everybody's being quite amazed at this solidarity between the United States and your country and Europe and the united front that's been presented. And also, the extraordinary departure that the United States has used intelligence to telegraph exactly what it sees President Putin doing.

You have said different things about that. That on the one hand it could sew panic and you're going to remained disciplined. And you just said again, we're not going to panic. How do you evaluate the U.S. aggressive use of intelligence to try dissuade President Putin?

ZELENSKY (through translator): It's difficult for me to judge how United States should be using their intelligence. I guess they're doing this in a professional manner. This is their choice. But I'm grateful for the work that both of our intelligence has been doing.

But, the intelligence I trust is my intelligence. I trust Ukrainian intelligence who are in territory, who understand what's going on along our borders. Who have different intelligence sources and understand different risk-based or intercepted data.

We're talking about this and this information should be used. I repeated this many times. We are not really living in delusion. We understand what can happen tomorrow. But, maybe the comparison I will make is not good, but just putting ourselves in coffins and waiting for foreign soldiers to come in is no something we are prepared to do. We are not going to advance anyone, but we stand ready for -- to respond to everything. We cannot remain passive. We cannot say on a daily basis that war will happen tomorrow. What kind of state will it -- is it going to be? What kind of economy is it going to be?

How can you live in the state when on a daily basis you're being told that tomorrow the war will happen, tomorrow the advance will happen? It means crushing national currency. Money's being taken out. Business flying out. Can you live in that kind of country? Can you have a stability in that kind of country? No.

And those who want to disbalance our country from within are multiple and everyone wants Ukraine to be weak. A weak economy, weak army and if there is weak army you can just go ahead and invade and we won't be able to protect neither people, neither the children or the economy.

This is why our response is very calm to, one, peace or invasion (ph) or the other. We have to assess it. We have to think not how to react to what I just gone, but I have to digest this information. I have to understand what will happen after my words, after my reaction to this. What will happen to my people?


What will happen after these people roll around (ph) to the banks to take money from the deposit accounts after they start fearing and the panic will start. We have the information war, the hybrid war going on. This is why Ukrainians are not giving up.

A different sense of this we want to live day after day and protect our country. If you want to help us we have lots of examples apart from this information there are a lot of very concrete things, strengthen our arm, give us more armament, strengthen our economy, invest in our country, bring your business in. If you're afraid or can't give us financing, give us support, finance grant support. Why? When we are giving money why are we always getting these convictions (ph)? You have to get to one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and dozen of other informs.

Is there any other country in the world who would have such a strong army on the eastern borders with all these reforms implemented at the same time? That is not easy, but we're not panicking. We just live our lives. We want to live and as a strong country. That's it.

AMANPOUR: Mr. President, I'll talk to you again about NATO -

ZELENSKY: I'm sorry. I just wanted to add - I'm sorry for interrupting you. Sorry. We had a discussion some time ago with one of the leaders of one of the leading countries, and we were talking about the sanction policy. We had a different vision on how sanctions should be applied when Russian aggression will happen.

And we are being told that you have several days and then the war will start. And I said, OK, then apply the sanctions today. Yes, they say. We apply sanctions when the war will happen. I'm saying fine, but you are telling me that it's 100 percent that the war will start in a couple of days. Then what are you waiting for? We don't need your sanctions after the bombardment will happen and after our country will be fired at or after we will have no borders and after we will have no economy or part of our country will be occupied. Why would we need those sanctions then? What is this about?

So when you're asking what can be done? Well lots of different things can be done. We can even provide you the list. The most important is willingness.

AMANPOUR: So you're calling for sanctions to be leveled now. You also talked about NATO now. There's obviously - this is the big sensitive issue in this whole issue, right? And you have just talked about, again, wanting to be part of NATO, and yet you said you don't expect any NATO soldiers on your territory now. You specifically said we want no foreign soldiers with foreign flags on our soil - on our territory right now. What is your position on wanting to join NATO today?

ZELENSKY: To respond to the first part of your question about sanctions, the question is not about introducing them today. If the whole world understands that tomorrow there's a high probability of escalation by Russian Federation and if Russian Federation is not pulling out their militarizing, there would be a proposed step. If they are pulling back then there will be no question. That's a soft option. I'm talking about the diplomats who cannot apply sanctions automatically. I'm talking about the logic. If they pull back their troops there will be no sanctions, but today even the question of just making it public preventively, just the least of the sanctions, for them, for Russia to know what will happen if they start the war, even that question does not have the support.

OK, let's be honest then. Then I have a question. Why if you can't even disclose what will happen to whom if the war starts, then the question is that it will be - I doubt that it will be triggered after it even happens.

In terms of NATO, we had a lot of debate regarding this, and there were lots of discussions among the world leaders and my friends. And meanwhile, I have lots of friends among the world leaders. I will not name them because others will get offended.


Ukraine is being supported, indeed. But, Ukraine needs security guarantees. We are smart people. We are not narrow-minded. We understand there are lots of different risks because of NATO.

There is no consensus around -- of their allies. Everyone is saying there is some distance that we need to go between Ukraine and the NATO. That we need to walk. All we are saying is, tell us how much time does it take to complete this distance. Measure it in years. And you see this, this is measured not just in hours.

And you can see with the tragedies and lives this is measured in the human life of Ukrainians. So tell us, on this distance is it fair for us to get the guarantees while we're still walking this path? Some diplomatic guarantees.

Isn't it just simply fair no one is pushing anyone against the wall with a question for us to be there in the NATO? That's not the case. We want to, we do. But unless -- but until we have that possibly what we want is the guarantees -- security guarantees.

AMANPOUR: And I know you have to go. I'm getting the old wrap. But, can I ask you --

ZELENSKY: Just a second, I think -- I think cyberattack. Can -- can I have another one for the duration (ph)? Yes.

AMANPOUR: But maybe you -- maybe you (inaudible) understand (ph) --

ZELENSKY: You see, Russia's not here, but they're here.


ZELENSKY: That's -- that -- well, it doesn't work. I'm sorry. I have two.

AMANPOUR: How about if I try to talk to you and you'll understand me?

ZELENSKY: There are -- I understand you from the word beginning. But, you know, there are some very important things.

AMANPOUR: Yes. So, what I want to ask you, Mr. President, is that the U.S. has its intelligence, you said you have yours. What is your interpretation of Putin's intention? Not his capability, his intention. Do you think that he will invade? He will decide to do that? Or he has?

ZELENSKY (through translator): I don't know what the president of Russian Federation wants. That's why I propose to meet.

That's it.


AMANPOUR: On that note --

ZELENSKY: And the --

AMANPOUR: Your people are telling me that I have to stop.

ZELENSKY: I mean I have to (inaudible) in Syria.



AMANPOUR: Your people are telling me that you need to go. Were you at all afraid of coming here?

ZELENSKY: No. Why? I -- well, there are friends here.

AMANPOUR: No, no. Leaving your house unguarded?

ZELENSKY (through translator): Well, I -- my response will be very brief. I' am sure that our country is in good hands. This is not just my hands. These are the hands of our soldiers and our citizens. I think my visit here is important. And I would like to say that I had breakfast in the morning in Ukraine and I will have my dinner in Ukraine as well. I never leave home for long.


ZELENSKY: Thank you so much. Yes.

AMANPOUR: Thank you (inaudible).