Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday said that Russia would not have attacked Ukraine if his country would have been a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), according to a media report.
"If we were a NATO member, a war wouldn't have started. I'd like to receive security guarantees for my country, for my people. If NATO members are ready to see us in the alliance, then do it immediately because people are dying on a daily basis," CNN quoted Zelensky as saying during an exclusive interview.
"But if you are not ready to preserve the lives of our people, if you just want to see us straddle two worlds, if you want to see us in this dubious position where we don't understand whether you can accept us or not -- you cannot place us in this situation, you cannot force us to be in this limbo," he added.
The Ukrainian President said that he demanded clarity on NATO's stance on accepting Ukraine in the alliance.
"I requested them personally to say directly that we are going to accept you into NATO in a year or two or five, just say it directly and clearly, or just say no. And the response was very clear, you're not going to be a NATO member, but publicly, the doors will remain open," he said.
Zelensky further said that he was ready for negotiation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but warned that the failure of such attempts could lead to a "Third World War".
"I'm ready for negotiations with him. I was ready for the last two years. And I think that without negotiations, we cannot end this war. If there's just one per cent chance for us to stop this war, I think that we need to take this chance," he said, according to the media outlet.
"Russian forces have come to exterminate us, to kill us. And we can demonstrate that the dignity of our people and our army that we are able to deal a powerful blow, we are able to strike back. But, unfortunately, our dignity is not going to preserve the lives. So, I think we have to use any format, any chance in order to have a possibility of negotiating, possibility of talking to Putin. But if these attempts fail, that would mean that this is a third World War," he added.
However, Zelensky clarified that there are "compromises" that Ukraine cannot make in negotiations with Putin.
"Any compromises related to our territorial integrity and our sovereignty and the Ukrainian people have spoken about it, they have not greeted Russian soldiers with a bunch of flowers, they have greeted them with bravery, they have greeted them with weapons in their hands," the media outlet quoted him as saying.
On February 24, Russia began a special military operation in Ukraine after the Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics requested help in defending themselves.
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There were no immediate reports of serious structural damage to buildings, but power was out in some areas of the city and people were fleeing to higher ground