President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of committing genocide and attempting to eliminate the "whole nation" of Ukraine, a day after the discovery of mass graves and apparently executed civilians near Kyiv.
"This is genocide. The elimination of the whole nation and the people," Zelensky told the CBS program Face the Nation, according to a transcript provided by the network on Sunday.
"We are the citizens of Ukraine. We have more than 100 nationalities. This is about the destruction and extermination of all these nationalities," Zelensky said amid a chorus of international outrage over the behavior of Russian troops in Ukraine.
Three days after the invasion started on Feb. 24, Ukraine filed a complaint at the International Court of Justice in The Hague accusing Russia of "planning acts of genocide."
In the interview aired on Sunday — after footage aired around the world of civilian bodies littering the streets of the town of Bucha near Kyiv, and a Ukrainian official said 280 bodies were buried in a mass grave there — Zelensky seemed to go further.
"We are citizens of Ukraine and we don't want to be subdued to the policy of Russian Federation. This is the reason we are being destroyed and exterminated," Zelensky said, according to the CBS transcript.
"And this is happening in the Europe of the 21st century. So this is the torture of the whole nation," he added.
Zelensky also called for a complete withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine "to their borders that existed prior to the 24th of February, at least."
"This would make us to — start discussing other questions about the de-occupation, about how do we live on after this," he added.
"So I can't even have a meeting when the shelling is going on. So first the ceasefire. Then we can have a meeting with the Russian president," said Zelensky.
"Let's simply sit down together. The two of us, we will discuss. At a point in time when the end of the war will come, and after we discuss the security guarantees together and the neutral non bloc status but preserving our sovereignty, a strong army," the president said.