Russia may try to seize some Ukrainian territories under the pretext of "protecting" the Russian-speaking population, in particular Kharkiv, which "will be the beginning of a large-scale war," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said.
According to Ukrinform, he said this in an interview with The Washington Post.
"If Russia decides to intensify the escalation, of course, they are going to do this in the territories historically inhabited by people who had family ties with Russia. Kharkiv, which is under Ukraine government control, could be occupied. Russia needs a pretext. They will say that they are protecting the Russian-speaking population," he said.
According to Zelensky, after the occupation and annexation of Crimea, "we understand that this is possible and may happen."
"But I don't know what they are going to do because these are big cities. Kharkiv has over one million citizens. It's not going to be just an occupation; it's going to be the beginning of a large-scale war," he said.
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He also stressed that Ukraine does not forget about the occupied territories.
"They [the Russians] want us and the world to forget about Crimea. They have occupied it and nurtured the separatists in Donbas. They will be ready to give us Donbas if we forget about Crimea. No one is going to forget Crimea," he said.
When asked whether Russian President Vladimir Putin would try to establish a Russian-controlled government in Ukraine, Zelensky said that this was impossible.
"Even if they do, this would be the shortest-lived government because people will simply not accept it. Maybe Putin thinks that the majority of Ukrainians support him and his policies. I think this is a big mistake to think like that," Zelensky added.