President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky believes that China has economic leverage to put pressure on Vladimir Putin in order to end the conflict.

In an exclusive interview with The South China Morning Post, the Ukrainian leader urged the Asian superpower to use its vast political and economic influence over Russia to stop the fighting.

“It’s a very powerful state. It’s a powerful economy… So it can politically, economically influence Russia. And China is [also a] permanent member of the UN Security Council,” Zelensky said. The 40-minute Zoom interview was his first interview with an Asian publication since Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine.

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“I am sure that without the Chinese market for Russia, Russia would feel in complete economic isolation,” he said. “This is what China can do – restrict trade (with Russia) until the end of the war,” the president of Ukraine said.

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Zelensky also urged China to use its status on the UN Security Council to “show” countries that they need to abide by international norms.

“If we are acting without legislation, then why do we need a Security Council at all, if any country… or a few countries in the world can simply decide to violate the rules by military means?” he asked.

The Ukrainian leader said he understood China wanted to maintain a “balanced” attitude towards the war, but it is important to note that the conflict was based on Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine’s sovereign territory.

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“The Russians are invaders… this is a war on our territory, they have come to invade. China, as a big and powerful country, can come and kind of put Russia [in] a certain place,” he said. “Of course, I would really like China to reconsider its attitude towards Russia,” Zelensky said.

The President of Ukraine also expressed his desire to have a phone conversation with the Chinese leader. “I would like to talk directly. I had one conversation with [President] Xi Jinping that was a year ago,” he said. “Since the beginning of the large-scale aggression on February 24, we have asked officially for a conversation, but we (have not had) any conversation with China even though I believe that would be helpful,” the president of Ukraine said.

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Zelensky said Xi was one of the few world leaders to have visited Ukraine “at least once,” adding that the Chinese leader warmly recalled his ties to the eastern European country during a phone call between the two leaders last year.

Asked if he would welcome Chinese help to rebuild his war-torn country, Zelensky said he hoped “China, Chinese business” and “the whole world” would help the process.

“I would very much like the whole world [to unite] over this process. It is very difficult for us to overcome this,” Zelensky said, adding that Russian missile strikes have destroyed infrastructure in many cities.

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