President Zelensky has said he “didn’t understand” recent comments made by Donald Trump in which he claimed he would stop Russia’s war on Ukraine “in 24 hours”, saying he could have done so while previously in office but didn’t do so.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, he said: “I didn’t understand when Donald Trump said ‘in 24 hours I will bring Putin and Zelensky to the table and end the war.’

“He could have done that, but it didn’t happen. Yes, the question probably wasn’t pressing at the time because there was no full-scale invasion.

“But our territories were occupied.”

Trump was elected president in 2016, two years after Russian forces invaded and illegally occupied Crimea and the parts of the Donbas. The war in Donbas continued throughout all four years of his presidency.

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The only time Ukraine came on the radar of US politics in any major way during Trump’s term in office was during a scandal in which Trump tried to coerce Kyiv into investigating his political rival Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, by threatening to withhold aid to Ukraine.

Speaking on Thursday evening, the former president suggested that if he was re-elected to the White House, the current U.S. military support for Ukraine could instead be replaced for a push for negotiations in which Kyiv would likely lose territory illegally occupied by Russia.

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Zelensky was asked if the prospect of a Trump victory in next year’s U.S. presidential elections adds pressure to successfully end the war before a possible change of administration.

“Of course, I want the war to end as soon as possible. It has nothing to do with if the (U.S.) administration will remain the same or change,” he replied.

“President Biden is the president during a full-scale war and has been more helpful to us than President Trump, if we are talking about administrations. But at the same time, we must remember that there was no full-scale war at that time and I’m not sure how Trump would have acted at that time.

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“In a situation like this, you are afraid of changes. And to be honest, when you mention a change of administration, I feel the same as anyone – you want changes for the better, but it can be the other way round.”

Trump’s comments came on Thursday night during a town hall event on Fox News, where he also said he “got along with Putin” and made bizarre comments about the current waves of Russian missile and drone attacks against Kyiv.

When asked about Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, he said: “I want to stop that war, I don’t want that war to continue.

“And I’ll stop that war, mark my words, I’ll stop that war in 24 hours.” 

The event’s host Sean Hannity then interrupted to say: “Mr President, let me ask. Serious question. How do you stop that war in 24 hours?” 

He replied: “I will get them into a room, and I know an exact way. You tell one ‘you’re not going to get anything unless you make a deal.’ You tell the other one ‘they’re going to get a lot unless you make a deal.’

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“And you just sit them, and you put them, and you have to make a determination.”

Although Trump did not say which one was which, his comments appear to suggest he would force Ukraine to accept the loss of territories illegally occupied and annexed by Russian forces with the threat of rewarding President Putin with even more if they refuse to accept his offer.

Elsewhere in the interview with The Wall Street Journal, Zelensky said his enemy Russian President Vladimir Putin "should be afraid of the strength of the world."

He called him a "cornered animal, he is afraid to lose his life".

Zelensky also expressed frustration at Western leaders ahead of the NATO summit in Vilnius next month, as pressure has grown to grant Ukraine a roadmap for joining the alliance.

"If we are not acknowledged and given a signal in Vilnius, I believe there is no point for Ukraine to be at this summit," he said.

He acknowledged that Kyiv understood it was not possible to join NATO during the Russian invasion. 

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