Mr. Zelenskyy traveled to the Munich Security Conference on Saturday amid warnings of an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine as violent clashes between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists escalate.
In a conversation with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour during the conference, Mr. Zelenskyy said that while the uptick in violence in war-torn regions in eastern Ukraine is concerning, he called for a measured response to avoid further escalation.
“We all know the things we need to react to and things we shouldn’t,” he said. “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.”
“We do not think that we need to panic,” he said.
Western leaders have warned that Moscow might use skirmishes in Ukraine’s war-torn regions near the Russian border as a pretext for a full-scale invasion.
Ukrainian forces have been engaged in a nearly eight-year standoff with pro-Russian separatists. Violence between the two groups has escalated in recent days amid a Russian troop buildup along its border with Ukraine.
Ukraine’s military said shelling in a government-held part of the Donetsk region killed a Ukrainian soldier on Saturday and accused the separatists of placing artillery in residential areas to provoke a response.
Russia has amassed nearly 150,000 troops along Ukraine’s border, sparking fears among Western leaders that Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to invade.
President Biden said Friday that he is “convinced” that Mr. Putin has made the decision to invade and said an assault on Kyiv may be imminent.
“As of this moment, I’m convinced he’s made the decision,” Mr. Biden said, citing U.S. intelligence reporting. “We have reason to believe that.”
Mr. Zelenskyy has pushed back on assessments that a Russian invasion is a foregone conclusion.
“It’s difficult for me to judge how the United States should be using their intelligence,” he said. “I guess they are doing this in a professional manner, this is their choice.”
“I am grateful for the work that both of our intelligence [organizations] have been doing, but the intelligence I trust is my intelligence,” he continued. “I trust Ukrainian intelligence who are in our territory and who understand what’s going on along our borders, who have different intelligence sources and understand different risks based on intercepted data.”
“We cannot say on a daily basis that war will happen tomorrow,” he said. “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 is being taken out. Businesses are flying out. Can you have stability in that kind of country?”
The Biden administration urged Mr. Zelenskyy not to travel to leave Ukraine to attend the Munich Security Conference as his country remained surrounded on three sides by Russian forces primed to invade.
• Joseph Clark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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