Ukraine’s president seeks to calm down ‘panic’ over Russia tensions

Ukraine’s president seeks to calm down ‘panic’ over Russia tensions

January 28, 2022

By Natalia Zinets and Pavel Polityuk

KYIV (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Friday he could not rule out a further escalation of tensions with Russia but he criticised what he said was too much “panic” weighing on the economy.

He spoke after Russian President Vladimir Putin said the United States and NATO had not addressed Moscow’s main security demands in the East-West standoff over Ukraine, but that he was ready to keep talking.

Speaking at a news conference, Zelenskiy said: “I don’t consider the situation now more tense than before. There is a feeling abroad that there is war here. That’s not the case.”

“I am not saying an escalation is not possible…(but) we don’t need this panic.”

He said that was the message he gave U.S. President Joe Biden in their phone call on Thursday and that Russia was trying to intimidate Ukraine.

Ukraine was stabilising its hryvnia currency with FX reserves, as well as asking military, political and economic support from the West, he said, adding the country needed 4-5 billion dollars to stabilise its economy.

Zelenskiy said the main risk for his country was destabilisation from within, including an economic crisis.

He said NATO was the only guarantor of hard security Ukraine saw in its stand-off with Russia, warning that the military alliance’s eastern members might also be exposed to cyber attacks and other intimidation tactics by Moscow.

“This is a very serious challenge for NATO. Some European countries think: let’s not risk, let’s not take Ukraine in. But, if a full-blown war starts, it will also take place on the borders of some NATO countries.”

He accused Britain of allowing money laundering by Russians, but also by oligarchs siphoning money from countries including Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

He also criticised Germany the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline prioritising business deals with Russia over Ukraine’s security and territorial integrity.

(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Natalia Zinets; Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Raissa Kasolowsky)