‘I’m not afraid’: Defiant Zelensky reveals his location in Kyiv and says ‘beast’ Putin will move on NATO members next if Ukraine falls and begs Biden to declare no-fly-zone despite risk of nuclear war

Ukraine’s president has warned the West that Vladimir Putin will not stop once he has conquered Ukraine, telling a U.S. television channel: ‘We will come first. You will come second. Because the more this beast will eat, he wants more, more, and more.’

Volodymyr Zelensky 44, described Ukraine as a ‘zone of freedom’ that needed to be preserved. 

‘And when the limits of rights and freedoms are being violated and stepped on, then you have to protect us,’ he said. 

He added: ‘Today, war is here. Tomorrow, it will be in Lithuania, then in Poland, then in Germany.

‘This is serious.

‘United States is far away, but in recent days, I do feel that United States are closer to us.’

The former actor, whose wartime leadership has impressed the world, on Monday emerged from his bunker in Kyiv and returned to the presidential palace, declaring: ‘I am here, I am not hiding, and I am not afraid of anyone.’

He gave his Facebook audience a tour of the palace, joking: ‘We used to say Monday, Monday is a hard day. 

‘But it is war in our country, so every day is a hard day.’

Zelensky told the embattled country, on day 12 of the Russian invasion: ‘We are all in our places working, where we should be. My team is in Kyiv with me.

‘We are all fighting, we are all contributing to our victory which will surely happen.’ 

And, in an interview from the palace with ABC News, Zelensky once again appealed to the United States to enforce a no-fly zone. 

He spoke to Joe Biden on Saturday night for 40 minutes, and pressed the issue with the U.S. leader. 

Such a move would see fighter jets from the United States and its NATO allies patrolling the air space above Ukraine, and shooting down any Russian jets that enter – effectively putting the West at war with Russia, in World War Three. 

Zelensky, asked about concern widely expressed of the dramatic escalation, brushed off the fears and insisted it was the best way for the U.S. to help Ukraine. 

‘I told him that for us, the most important thing today is the security in the sky,’ Zelensky said.

‘We cannot allow Russia to be active there only, because they’re bombing us, they are shelling us, they are bombing us, they are sending missiles, helicopters, jet fighters – a lot of things.

‘But we are not doing this because we don’t have the sky.

‘We don’t control our sky.’

Muir asked if he was concerned about NATO forces shooting down Russian planes, and Zelensky replied: ‘What do you mean, to shoot down Russian planes?

‘If the missile is flying – yesterday, for example, the missile hit the university in the city of Kharkiv, and the dormitory.

‘And the same missile hit the tumor, pediatric clinic in Kyiv, so, if this missile is flying, so, are you thinking whether to shoot it down or not?

‘I think there is no any other answer, but to – yes, yes, they need to be shot down.

‘You have to preserve lives.’

He added that he was confident U.S. forces were up to the challenge. 

‘I’m sure that the brave American soldiers who would be shooting it down knowing that it is flying towards the students, I’m sure that they had no doubt in doing so,’ Zelensky said.

Seated at his desk in the presidential palace, Zelensky said he felt Biden and the U.S. were able to do more.

The U.S. and its NATO allies have so far sent 17,000 anti-tank missiles to Ukraine, as part of a $350 million aid package agreed on February 26 – day two of the conflict. 

Yet Zelensky said more could be done. 

‘I’m sure that the president can do more. I’m sure he can,’ he said.

‘And I would like to believe that – that he’s capable of doing that.’

Over the weekend, Biden and his aides were debating the possibility of helping Ukraine with better fighter jets.

Under Biden’s scheme, Poland would give Ukraine its MIG fighter jets, which Ukrainian pilots are trained to fly.

In return, the U.S. would replace the Soviet-era planes with modern F-16 American fighter jets.

Antony Blinken, the Secretary of State, said on Sunday that the ‘green light’ had been given to the plan.

Poland, however, quickly said that they had not agreed any plan. 

Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, has repeatedly voiced concern about the proposal, believing it would drag his country into open conflict with Russia.

Russia on Sunday said that they would consider air support – such as allowing Ukrainian planes to use bases in neighboring Romania or Poland – an effective entering of the conflict. 

Zelensky on Monday said that the plan had indeed been discussed, but the decision lay largely with the U.S. 

‘We asked not only the United States, we asked many other countries – I’m not going to name them,’ he said. 

‘We looked into this question. We know where these Soviet planes are stationed, which countries host them. And we asked these countries. 

‘And in many ways, it is the United States who will decide.’

The father-of-two was asked how long Ukraine can hold out against the Russian onslaught, which began on February 24.

He admitted that Kyiv was unrecognizable after the Russian bombardment.

The cities of Kharkiv and Mariupol have come under heavy shelling, with Odessa’s noted opera house now surrounded by fortifications ahead of an expected amphibious attack.

Towns surrounding Kyiv – among them Irpin, Zhytomyr and Cherniahiv – have been subjected to intense bombardment.

Yet Zelensky said that his country’s resolve remained strong. 

‘I’m sure the Ukrainians are prepared to stand against Russia for their entire lives,’ he told Muir.

‘Even the cities that were occupied by Russian military, they have seen the response and feedback from ordinary people.

‘These ordinary people didn’t have machine guns. This courage is something that is unprecedented.

‘And Russian soldiers don’t even have that courage.

‘The problem is that for one soldier of Ukraine, we have ten Russian soldiers.

‘And for one Ukrainian tank, we have 50 Russian tanks.

‘But we are destroying them.

‘And this difference is – the gap is closing.

‘But the question is how long can we withstand?

‘Many things depend not just on us. We will endure.

‘And even if they come into all our cities, there will be insurgency, insurgent war.

‘And no one will give away our independence.’

The United Nations has recorded at least 1,120 civilian casualties so far across Ukraine, with 364 killed and 769 injured, including scores of children. The real toll is likely to be significantly higher.

Horrifying video, shared widely on social media and broadcast on repeat on U.S. cable news, showed civilians being killed as they fled the Russian missiles.

Blinken said on Sunday he had seen evidence to suggest that war crimes had been carried out. 

Yet Zelensky, asked whether he thought Putin was deliberately targeting civilians, replied: ‘Why would I care? The result is the same.

‘People are dying. The bombardment of the schools and kindergartens, the universities, the dormitory, the bombardment of a nuclear power plant without even thinking that Europe may disappear if it really hits the unit.

‘Every minute, every hour, every day the same things are happening. People are dying.’

Muir asked Zelensky whether Putin himself was a war criminal.

‘I think that all people who came to our land, all people who gave those orders, all soldiers who were shooting, they’re all war criminals,’ he replied.  

‘I think he is capable of stopping the war that he started.

‘And even if he doesn’t think that he was the one who started, he should know one important thing, a thing that cannot deny, that stopping the war is what he’s capable of.’

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said early on Tuesday that when he meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Turkey on Thursday he will propose direct talks between the Ukrainian and Russian presidents.

‘We want talks between the president of Ukraine and Vladimir Putin since he is the one who makes the final decisions,’ Kuleba said on Ukrainian television.

A Russian general was killed in the fighting around Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, which Russian forces have been trying to seize since the invasion began, the Ukrainian military intelligence agency said.

It identified him as Maj. Gen. Vitaly Gerasimov, 45, and said he had fought with Russian forces in Syria and Chechnya and had taken part in the seizure of Crimea in 2014.

Another Russian general was killed earlier in the fighting.

A local officers’ organization in Russia confirmed the death in Ukraine of Maj. Gen. Andrei Sukhovetsky, the commanding general of the Russian 7th Airborne Division.

Sukhovetsky also took part in Russia’s military campaign in Syria.

In New York, meanwhile, Ukraine’s U.N. ambassador says 12 days of an all-out invasion by Russia has brought Ukraine to ‘the brink of humanitarian catastrophe of potentially global nature.’

Sergiy Kyslytsya, speaking Monday at a U.N. Security Council meeting on the crisis, accused Russia of blocking numerous attempts by Ukrainian authorities to evacuate civilians through humanitarian corridors.

He said Russians shelled depots with evacuation buses near Mariupol and blew up the railway near Irpin in the Kyiv region to prevent evacuation by train. He said Russia bombed and launched missiles at those cities and others like Kharkiv on Monday.

Kyslytsya said Russia must stop violating cease-fire arrangements and allow safe passage through humanitarian corridors, end disinformation, and implement the U.N. General Assembly’s resolution calling for an immediate stop to fighting.

Ukraine as a major wheat producer has been ‘one of the guarantors of global food security’ but this has been challenged by the war and ‘the implications at the global level will be catastrophic,’ he said.

Kyslytsya said Russian shelling had destroyed schools and hospitals and killed and wounded doctors. He said and the country was running low on critical medical supplies. 

He urged U.N. humanitarian agencies to respond quickly.