Ukraine's president lashes out at too much 'panic' over Russia tensions

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Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is seen during a call with U.S. President Joe Biden in Kyiv, Ukraine January 27, 2022. Picture taken January 27, 2022. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS

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KYIV, Jan 28 (Reuters) - President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Friday did not rule out a full-blown war with Russia but said Ukraine was not a sinking Titanic and accused Washington and media of fuelling panic that weighed on the economy while there were "no tanks in the streets".

He spoke after Russian President Vladimir Putin said the United States and NATO had not addressed the Kremlin's main security demands in the East-West standoff over Ukraine, but that Moscow was ready to keep talking. read more

Speaking at a news conference for foreign media, Zelenskiy said: "There are no tanks in the streets. But media give the impression, if one is not here, that we have a war, that we have army in the streets... That's not the case. We don't need this panic."

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"I don't consider the situation now more tense than before," he said, but added: "I am not saying an escalation is not possible."

He said the White House was making a "mistake" in highlighting excessively the risk of a large-scale war, and that this was the message he gave U.S. President Joe Biden in their phone call on Thursday.

While he said Russia was trying to intimidate and destabilise Ukraine, Kyiv was propping up its hryvnia currency with FX reserves, as well as seeking military, political and economic support from the West.

He said the country needed 4-5 billion dollars to stabilise its economy, including through foreign investments, welcoming a 1.2 billion euros aid package from the European Union.

"NO TITANIC"

Zelenskiy said Russia should prove that it was not seeking a war with Ukraine by agreeing to an exchange of prisoners. But he said the most immediate risk for his country was chaos within, from cyber attacks to an economic crisis.

U.S. and British moves to recall diplomats were a mistake and an exaggeration, he said: "We are no Titanic. Ukraine is moving ahead."

He said NATO was the only guarantor of hard security Ukraine had in its stand-off with Russia, warning that the military alliance's eastern members might also be exposed to hostile tactics by Moscow.

"This is a very serious challenge for NATO. Some European countries think: let's not risk, let's not take Ukraine in. But, if a full-blown war starts, it will also take place on the borders of some NATO countries."

"If there is major war, it will be not only against Ukraine, not only on the territory of our country," he said.

He criticised Germany for pursuing the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, accusing it of prioritising business deals with Russia over Ukraine's security and territorial integrity.

He also named Britain among countries allowing money laundering by Russians, as well as by oligarchs siphoning money from countries including Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

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Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Natalia Zinets; writing by Gabriela Baczynska; editing by Angus MacSwan, Raissa Kasolowsky and Philippa Fletcher

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