The international community has largely rallied around Ukraine following Russia’s Feb 24, 2022, invasion.
In recent months, a parade of world leaders has visited Zelenskyy in Ukraine, most travelling in on trains similar to the ones Zelenskyy uses to crisscross the country.
In his AP interview, Zelenskyy extended an invitation to Ukraine to one notable and strategically important leader who has not made the journey – Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“We are ready to see him here,” he said. “I want to speak with him. I had contact with him before full-scale war. But during all this year, more than one year, I didn’t have.”
China, economically aligned and politically favourable towards Russia across many decades, has provided Putin diplomatic cover by staking out an official position of neutrality in the war.
Xi visited Putin in Russia last week, raising the prospect that Beijing might be ready to provide Moscow with the weapons and ammunition it needs to refill its depleted stockpile.
But Xi’s trip ended without any such announcement.
Days later, Putin announced that he would be deploying tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus, which neighbours Russia, pushing the Kremlin’s nuclear stockpile closer to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) territory.
Zelenskyy suggested that Putin’s move was intended to distract from the lack of guarantees he received from China.
“What does it mean? It means that the visit was not good for Russia,” Zelenskyy speculated.
The president makes few predictions about the biggest question hanging over the war: How it will end.
He expressed confidence, however, that his nation will prevail through a series of “small victories” and “small steps” against a “very big country, big enemy, big army” – but an army, he said, with “small hearts”.
And Ukraine itself? While Zelenskyy acknowledged that the war had “changed us”, he said that, in the end, it had made his society stronger.
“It could’ve gone one way, to divide the country, or another way – to unite us,” he said.
“I’m so thankful. I’m thankful to everybody – every single partner, our people, thank God, everybody – that we found this way in this critical moment for the nation.
“Finding this way was the thing that saved our nation, and we saved our land. We are together.”