Zelenskyy accuses Iran of engaging in 'blood money' deal to arm Russia
'They're killing our people. So what trust can we talk about?' says Ukraine's president
Tehran may want to talk with Ukraine about claims that it's arming Russia with deadly "kamikaze" drones but — in an exclusive interview with Canadian media — President Voldomyr Zelenskyy said Wednesday he doesn't trust the words of Iran's leaders.
The Ukrainian president sat down with both CBC News and CTV News for a roundtable interview at his office in Kyiv. Zelenskyy told Canadian reporters he doesn't believe Iran's public denials.
"They're killing our people," Zelenskyy said. "So what trust can we talk about?
"Iran supplied [Russia] with drones, [they] supply murders, murders of Ukrainians. This is their agreement. A financial agreement. Blood money for Iran."
Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani repeated Tehran's denials in a media statement late Tuesday and — for the first time — expressed a readiness to engage in "dialogue and negotiation with Ukraine to clear these allegations."
Ukraine's foreign minister has proposed to Zelenskyy that he cut diplomatic ties with Iran following a wave of drone attacks across the country which killed several people and damaged infrastructure.
Several times during the interview, Zelenskyy paused to check his phone for text updates on missile and drone strikes and reports of successful engagements by the country's armed forces.
WATCH: Interview with Ukraine President Voldomyr Zelenskyy
Loud bangs could be heard outside the president's office at one point during the interview. Zelenskyy pointed to the ceiling and said the air defences were working.
Zelenskyy said the Ukrainian government has no doubts that Iranian Shahed-136 "kamikaze" drones were behind the attacks. He said allied nations have separately provided intelligence that backs up his government's position. He did not address reports that suggest Iranians are training Russians in the use of the drones in Crimea.
"They cannot be trusted," Zelenskky said, "And I emphasize, it is not people. They are also brainwashed inside the country, in the same way Russia does it. They tell their people, 'We did not sell anything,' but all this is a lie, [a] clear lie. They kill our people."
The full interview with the CBC's Briar Stewart on the war, and the toll it's taking on Ukraine and Zelenskyy personally, airs tonight on The National at 9 p.m. ET on CBC News Network, 10 p.m. ET on CBC TV and on CBC Gem.
The Ukrainian president also called on the international community to demand that Russian troops and private security contractors leave the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, which has been occupied for several months. If they don't, he said, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) "should break all their relations with Russia."
The IAEA's director general Rafael Mariano Grossi doubled down in recent days on the agency's urgent call for the establishment of a safety zone around the plant.
"It needs to be said loud and clear — demilitarization of the whole station," Zelenskyy said. "Not just the words. All the military men need to leave the territory of the station."
There are 500 Russian troops at the power plant armed with "explosives," the president said.
"We need calls and serious conditions from IAEA, from partners, from Europe, from the world, a UN resolution — leave tomorrow, right away," he said.
Canada has given Ukraine 'very powerful support' — Zelenskyy
Zelenskyy also expressed gratitude during the interview for Canada's support, saying he appreciates the fact that he never has to stand in line to speak with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
He sidestepped a question about his government's plea for more armoured vehicles beyond what Canada already has promised and delivered.
Zelenskyy chose instead to praise the Canadian government's swift delivery of monetary aid, which has helped to keep the Ukrainian economy afloat.
"It is a very powerful support," Zelenskyy said. "Not every state is able to boast about something like this, although Trudeau doesn't boast much either.
"I am very grateful to him. I understand that this money is not the government's but, first and foremost, this money comes from people, taxpayers. That is why I am very grateful."
As of last summer, Canada had offered Ukraine up to $620 million in bilateral loans, $500 million of which had been disbursed.
In addition, Canada also donated $1.4 billion in additional loan resources to the Ukrainian government through a new Administered Account for Ukraine at the International Monetary Fund (IMF). That's in addition to the $500 million-plus in military aid announced in the last federal budget.