Zelenskiy Says Any War Compromises Will Be Put To Ukraine Referendum

Delegations of officials from Ukraine and Russia met last month near the Belarus-Ukraine border with little, if any, progress made.

KYIV -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says any potential deal agreed in peace negotiations to end the war with Russia will be submitted to the Ukrainian people in a referendum.

"I explained it to all the negotiating groups: When you speak of all these changes [in a possible deal] and they can be historic...we will come back to a referendum," Zelenskiy told Internet news site Suspilne on March 21.

“The people will have a say in any type of compromises. But what the [compromises] will end up being will be the result of our talks and agreements between Ukraine and Russia. Therefore, I am ready to do whatever is necessary if our people support my decisions," he added.

Zelenskiy restated his insistence on the need to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin "in any format" to end the fighting.

"I believe that without this meeting, it is impossible to fully understand what they are ready for in order to stop the war," Zelenskiy said.

He remained defiant, however, in the face of Russian demands to surrender the key port city of Mariupol, along with other cities, including Kyiv and Kharkiv.

Russia’s “ultimatums will only happen if we are destroyed. Then they be executed automatically,” he said.

"[They demand] give us Kharkiv, Mariupol, Kyiv. Neither Kharkiv residents, nor Mariupol residents, nor Kyiv residents, nor the president -- we can't do that.”

He said that even in cities already occupied by Russian forces, “people don't give in to them. [The Russians] raise their flags -- the people take them down."

Putin ordered a large-scale invasion of Ukraine four weeks ago, alleging Russia's actions are a "special military operation" to demilitarize Ukraine and ensure its neutrality while removing its leaders.

Putin has also long demanded that Ukraine give up any intentions of joining NATO.

In reference to NATO, Zelenskiy has conceded that his country was unlikely to join the Western military alliance.

"We have all already understood it," Zelenskiy said, adding that Ukraine would not be admitted to NATO because member states fear Russia’s reaction.

"That's all. And we have to calm down and say: 'OK [we need] other security guarantees'," he said.

"There are NATO countries that want to provide security guarantees...who are ready to do what the alliance would do if we were members," he said, calling that “a normal compromise."

In a video address, Zelenskiy thanked protesters in the Russian-occupied Ukrainian city of Kherson, hailing their courage in confronting the foreign troops, who used stun grenades and fired shots into the air to disperse the crowd.

Zelenskiy said that “we saw slaves shooting at free people, slaves of propaganda that replaced their conscience.”

The war has turned ordinary Ukrainians into heroes and “the enemy doesn’t believe it’s all real,” Zelenskiy added.

“There is no need to organize resistance.“ Resistance for Ukrainians is part of their soul.”

With reporting by AFP and dpa