Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an interview that his country will not agree to a cease-fire unless Russia withdraws its troops, while expressing concerns about international attention becoming "unfocused" on the situation in Ukraine amid the Middle East conflict.
"There will be an understanding of peace and security in the future only if Russian troops are not on our territory," the president said on Tuesday while talking with Asian media outlets, including Kyodo News, at his office in Kyiv.
He also said he is looking forward to a conference to be held in Tokyo in February on the reconstruction of Ukraine, pinning hopes on bilateral cooperation in digitalization, green energy and infrastructure.
Zelenskyy said the cease-fire with Russian troops remaining in Ukraine would only mean a "frozen" conflict, giving Moscow time to prepare for restarting hostilities.
"We are fighting for what is ours because we do not believe that Russia wants peace," he said.
While criticizing cease-fire discussions recently proposed by the West as equivalent to saying, "Please rip off your hands and give them to another person," Zelenskyy instead called for support for his 10-point peace formula to end the war that includes the immediate withdrawal of all Russian forces.
The Ukrainian president said he envisions a fourth meeting on the plan to be held in Switzerland in January, after which discussions will be held at the leaders' level to draft a "ready-made document" in around six months.
He called for support from not only the West but also China, which has deep ties with Russia, as well as the developing and emerging countries known as the "Global South."
Calling Russian President Vladimir Putin "voracious" and "constantly hungry," Zelenskyy warned that other countries would be next if Ukraine is destroyed.
"(Putin) has an ambitious and sick goal -- to bring everything back to Soviet times," he said.
Zelenskyy said a counteroffensive launched this summer has faced difficulties as it came after Russian forces had already built defensive lines.
"The total dominance of Russia in the sky" also complicated the move he said, adding that he has discussed support for the country's air defense systems with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 over fears of deepening cooperation between Kyiv and the United States. Currently around 20 percent of Ukrainian territory remains under Russian occupation, with reports that deaths among Ukrainian military personnel have topped 70,000.
Meanwhile, a shift in international attention to the war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza has played into Russia's hands, according to Zelenskyy.
"Everyone understands that they have forgotten about Ukraine and switched to the situation in the Middle East," he said. "I believe that this is exactly what the Russian Federation was trying to achieve, and I am sorry to say that they have achieved the result they wanted."
His remarks come amid concerns that aid to Ukraine could wane as he said the international community is "distracted" by the Middle East.
Regarding the upcoming reconstruction conference, Zelenskyy expressed expectations that Japan would present "some very specific projects" to rebuild his country.
Born in 1978 in Kryvyi Rih, southern Ukraine, Zelenskyy graduated with a law degree from Kyiv National Economic University. A successful actor and producer, he announced his presidential candidacy in December 2018 and was elected the following year.