On April 23, two months into Russia's all-out-war against Ukraine, one metro station in Kyiv got crowded again.
President Volodymyr Zelensky gave an unusual press conference for Ukrainian and foreign journalists on the platform of the Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) metro station in the heart of Ukraine's capital.
The most emotional moment of his two-hour-long talk came when Zelensky addressed Russian attack on Odesa hours earlier. It killed eight people, including a 3-month-old child.
"Stinking bastards," Zelensky repeatedly called the Russians over the Odesa attack, adding that Moscow slid into Nazism.
Zelensky said that a change of tide in the war is possible only with Western support and further military assistance.
"We will return all our land the moment we receive necessary arms," said Zelensky, adding that he sees that Western countries have increased the quantity and speed of weapons provided.
The president added that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and possibly Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will visit Kyiv on April 24. Military assistance is the key topic of these negations.
Two months into Russia's war, Western military assistance and peace talks were the main questions at Zelensky's press conference.
The president said that without additional arms, Ukraine can’t conduct sustainable counter-offensive operations and break the siege of Mariupol, a port city with a pre-war population of 450,000 people, now completely destroyed by Russian troops.
“Don’t believe anyone, we’re not ready to break the siege,” he said. “It’s the reality.”
Donetsk Oblast Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko has so far given the gloomiest estimates saying that between 20,000 to 22,000 civilians may have been killed in Mariupol. He added that 95% of all buildings in the city are either damaged or destroyed. At least two mass graves have been discovered near Mariupol via fresh satellite imagery.
After over 50 days of constant bombing, shelling, and urban warfare, Russia was able to take hold of the city with the exception of the Azovstal steel mill, where hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers are fighting back, defending over 1,000 sheltering civilians.
Zelensky added that April 23 was one of the toughest days for Mariupol defenders, who are facing fire from Russian ships, tanks, planes, and artillery.
“If our people in Mariupol are killed, if pseudo-referendums are announced in the new pseudo-republics, Ukraine will withdraw from any negotiation process,” said Zelensky.
Russia had unilaterally proclaimed the independence of Ukraine’s Donetsk Oblast from Ukraine on Feb. 21, with Mariupol, the largest city in the region controlled by Ukraine, now proclaimed “liberated” by Russia and its proxies.
To push Russia out of Ukraine’s Donbas, the country needs more weapons, and according to Zelensky, Western countries have finally agreed to provide it.
“If this speed is increased as we are promised, if the steps coincide with their words, I am sure we will liberate our territories soon,” said Zelensky.
During the entire press conference, Zelensky made sure to point out that Ukraine is ready to hold peace talks, and the he wants to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in person if the meeting yields results.
However, he added that Ukraine’s territorial integrity can’t be a question of debate.
“(Russians) deny our right to be independent, meaning our right to exist,” said Zelensky, pointing out that its not only the Kremlin that thinks that, but Russians as a whole.
For now, Russia is continuing its offensive operations, and Zelensky is preparing for the worst. According to him, over 500,000 people have already been forcibly deported to Russia from recently occupied territories.
“The numbers are either that or may even be higher,” he said.
Hours before the press conference, Russian airstrikes killed eight people in Odesa and injured at least 18 more. Among those killed was a three-month-old girl.
“It’s simply horror,” he added. “During these (Easter) days, so they just don’t care.”
Earlier, the Russian Defense Ministry said that the new goal of its ongoing war against Ukraine is to seize Ukraine’s east and south to connect all three major territories occupied by Russia – Donbas, Crimea, and Moldova's Transnistria.
Zelensky said he believes that Russia might launch an attack from Russian-controlled Transnistria on Ukraine or Moldova. “The situation is complicated, lots of military vehicles, thousands of tanks (in Transnistria),” said the president.
“These people won’t stop on their own,” he added.
Asked whether Russia may use nuclear weapons against Ukraine or other states, Zelensky didn’t rule out such an option, saying that a sane person would obviously refrain from using such kind of arms.
"I believe that this can be done not when a person is cornered, but when he has lost touch with reality, with common sense," Zelensky said.
"Can Russia do it? Maybe,” he added.
Yet, despite the war ongoing and no peace in sight, Zelensky said he’s in talks with foreign leaders about the future reconstruction of Ukraine.
Zelensky said the goal of Ukraine is to tie each state willing to help with a particular region destroyed by Russia in order to rebuild Ukraine fast and to do it using modern Western technologies and high-class specialists.
According to Zelensky, the U.K. is ready to help rebuild Kyiv Oblast, while Sweden is willing to rebuild Mykolaiv Oblast.
“I think our EU path will be much faster if EU countries will be tied to Ukraine with such a large-scale project,” said Zelensky.