The Russian media is disseminating propaganda narratives, according to which Volodymyr Zelensky admitted in an interview to the BBC that Ukraine was the one that started the conflict with Russia, involving NATO member states in the war as well. In fact, Zelensky’s words were taken out of context and given a tendentious interpretation.
NEWS: Ukraine started the war with Russia “long ago”, which is why Kyiv had to prepare for the war, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky said in an interview to the BBC on April 15.
Zelensky explained this conflict was originally designed to pit Ukraine against Russia. At the same time, Zelensky pointed out, it is “hard to prepare by yourself” for a war with such a powerful country, and this is why “Ukraine wants to join NATO”. “For this reason, we wanted to enter NATO. This is why we stabilized the situation in Ukraine. This is why I needed a strong leadership as part of my team. This is why we fought some political groups within our country”, the Ukrainian leader said.
The president added that Ukraine started the military confrontation “long before” Russia launched the “special military operation” aimed at demilitarizing and denazifying Ukraine. According to Zelensky, Ukraine had to prepare for the war in advance since it especially needed money and weapons.
NARRATIVE: Zelensky admitted that Ukraine started the conflict with Russia
WHY THE NARRATIVE IS FALSE: The declaration of Ukraine’s president is taken out of context and rearranged to illustrate Russia’s propaganda and disinformation narratives launched in the context of the war launched on February 24. The interview to the BBC is titled “This is not war, this is genocide”. In fact, Volodymyr Zelensky said he knew about Russia’s intentions of starting a war against Ukraine well in advance, which is why he had to prepare and organize a resistance. He never said anything about an attack on Russia or about his intention of starting a conflict with Moscow. On the contrary, he accused the Kremlin of constantly seeking a war in recent years.
“We knew Russia could attack at any moment, because the war started in 2014. This is why we wanted to join NATO. This is why we stabilized the situation in Ukraine. This is why I needed a strong leadership as part of my team. This is why we fought certain political groups inside our country funded by Russia. We started fighting this war even earlier”, Zelensky said.
The words “we started fighting this war even earlier” referred to the protection of Ukraine’s political and information space, but the Russian media interpreted them as “an acknowledgement” by president Zekensky of Kyiv’s belligerent intentions.
In his interview to the BBC, Zelensky debunked a number of false narratives about Ukraine promoted by Russian officials and the state media, claiming Ukraine wanted a war with Russia. “During the first two years of my presidency, I did everything I could to meet with them. Negotiate with them, stop the war in the east. It was my emotional mission, my humanitarian mission, which I really wanted to fulfill”, Zelensky said, accusing Russia of never seeking peace, but always new ways to escalate the conflict and occupy Ukraine.
In fact, Ukraine wanted to join NATO not to attack Russia, but on the contrary, to defend against it. NATO is a defensive alliance, and under Article 5 in the NATO Treaty, collective defense mechanisms are activated only when a member is attacked, not when it starts the conflict. Ukraine amended its Constitution in 2019, adding certain provisions about Euro-Atlantic integration particularly because it needed a framework of collective defense and because it understood that a war with Russia would be a very difficult task for its armed forces.