Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of committing genocide in Ukraine amid reports that Russian forces were leaving brutalized bodies and widespread destruction in their wake as they withdrew from the Kyiv region.
"Indeed, this is genocide — the elimination of the whole nation and the people," Zelenskyy told "Face the Nation" on Sunday in an exclusive interview.
The Ukrainian leader said Russia's invasion, now in its sixth week, is about "the destruction and extermination" of the more than 100 nationalities in his country.
"We are the citizens of Ukraine and we don't want to be subdued to the policy of the the Russian federation, and this is the reason we are being destroyed and exterminated," Zelenskyy said through a translator, pointing out that the alleged atrocities are happening in "the Europe of the 21st century."
Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Zelenskyy, said the streets of Bucha and the Kyiv suburbs of Irpin and Hostomel looked like a "scene from a horror movie" as the streets were covered with scores of killed civilians. Zelenskyy's office shared images with "Face the Nation" showing at least one mass grave and what appeared to be bodies of civilians lining the streets.
Russian troops appeared to be regrouping and shifting focus to the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine this weekend as Ukrainian forces retook territory north of Kyiv, the country's capital and largest city. The shift comes amid a growing humanitarian crisis in the hard-hit port city of Mariupol, where Russian forces have blocked evacuation operations despite agreeing days ago to allow safe passage from the city.
Zelenskyy called the situation in Mariupol and other Russian-controlled cities a "humanitarian disaster," saying they have "lots of bodies" in the streets and no corridor for food, water and supplies.
About 100,000 civilians are still believed to be in Mariupol.
Asked if he would accept anything less than a full withdrawal of Russian troops, Zelenskyy said Russian President Vladimir Putin should withdraw all troops to the borders that existed before the invasion on February 24. He said a cease-fire should be the starting point for any discussions about a resolution to the war.
"First the cease-fire, then we can have a meeting with the Russian president," Zelenskyy said.
"Let's simply sit down together — the two of us — and we will discuss a point in time when the end of the war will come," he said while insisting that Ukraine wants to preserve its sovereignty and "our strong army."
Last week, the Kremlin accused Ukrainians of launching a helicopter attack on a fuel depot in Russia. Ukraine denied responsibility for the attack, and Zelenskyy told "Face the Nation" he's "not even paying attention to this kind of insinuation" by Russia.
The Ukrainian leader continued to urge the West to provide his country with heavier and faster equipment, such as warplanes and more anti-missile systems. He thanked the U.S. and the Biden administration for their support so far, but he said Ukraine needs security guarantees on paper.
"As a president, I'm not satisfied with just assurances," Zelenskyy said.
He also urged Americans to continue helping his war-torn nation.
"Don't forget about Ukraine," he said. "We have the same values … and we are fighting for freedom and we're going to win."
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