NV interviews National Security and Defense Council chair Oleksiy Danilov

21 April, 07:04 PM
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Oleksiy Danilov (Photo:President's Office of Ukraine)

Oleksiy Danilov (Photo:President's Office of Ukraine)

Ukraine first suspected Russia was preparing a full-scale invasion on Sep. 6, 2021, secretary of the country’s National Security and Defense Council Oleksiy Danilov says.

On that same day, the Russian news outlet RBC released an article that hinted at the military threat.

According to Danilov, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin remains intent on crushing the Ukrainian state and subjugating the country.

In an interview with NV Radio, Danilov talked about Russian efforts to build up its military reserves, the flow of Western weapons to Ukraine, Putin’s chat with Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov about assassinating Ukraine’s leaders, and the inevitability of the total de-Russification of Ukraine.

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NV: Is the long-anticipated Russian offensive underway, or is this still a prelude?

Danilov: In the morning (of April 20) fighting broke out along the front lines in Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kharkiv Oblast. That was them probing our defenses, unsuccessfully. They will continue these probing attacks. Their major offensive is a matter of time.

I’d like to caution against expecting this to be the last and decisive battle (of the war), I think that’s too optimistic. We have a lot to deal with still. It’s far from the proverbial “last battle.” It will be but one of the battles we have had to fight since 2014.

NV: For how long can Russia continue to burn up their reserves and resources?

Danilov: From what we can gather from the intelligence our partners supply us with, it could last for two, three, or four weeks. I’d like to reiterate: we can’t allow ourselves to underestimate and downplay the strength of our enemy – it’s a huge country with a large population. What they lack is finesse and intelligence. They clearly have a lot of manpower to draw upon: recruits from Buryatia, Tuva are trained and deployed to our territory. Recently we notice some Libyans and Syrians on the front lines – so-called mercenaries. Meaning, it’s difficult to say when they will run out of manpower.

It's clear, however, that Russia is getting stretched thin in this regard.

NV: How would you estimate the effectiveness of these Syrian and Libyan fighters?

Danilov: It’s difficult to say. We have photos of some of these people that were defeated in Popasna, Luhansk Oblast.

It’s unclear how well they fight. The climate here is different, as is the nature of conflict itself. I suspect they didn’t expect what’s in store for them here.

NV: What are their numbers?

Danilov: That platoon was completely destroyed. It was a small one, around 20-25 people. Hard to say how many of them are scattered around the parts of Donbas that were under Russian occupation since 2014. I don’t think we’re talking thousands. It could be around 300-500 (people): Russia would struggle to bring in more, given that the war is ongoing there (in Syria and Libya).

NV: Mariupol. Do you think there is a way to relieve the city, its defenders and residents?

Danilov: If we could conceivably do anything at all, we would have done it a long time ago. Unfortunately, we don’t have a solution yet.

It’s a sore spot that remains in our focus, but we don’t have a concrete way to evacuate the wounded, killed, and civilians. We have made dozens of suggestions, but we understand who we’re dealing with here.

Mariupol is in a difficult, painful situation. We would have pounced on any opportunity at all to remedy it, but so far, we haven’t come up with anything. We need heavy weapons, armored vehicles. We still aren’t getting enough of those to enable our military to lift the siege of Mariupol.

NV: Can we expect our western partners to ramp up their aid, considering that the enemy is gearing up for an offensive in the east?

Danilov: Weapons are arriving every day. The thing is, we expected them much earlier.

It’s an open secret that no one expected us to resist the invasion and defend our independence. Countries of the world were expecting us to surrender in a matter of days, even as they were very well aware of Russia’s intentions. We knew of them, too. But the world didn’t believe that our country, our citizens, our president, and our military would resist.

NV: France is ready to guarantee Ukraine’s security. Do you think there’s some formula here for mutual aid, besides the Washington treaty? Ukraine is rather weary of the whole concept of “security guarantees.”

Danilov: Security guarantees for us would be three-fold. First, we have our people. Second, our military and defense. Third, our weapons. Those are the three things I believe in.

Everything else are just pinky-promises by sitting leaders, who will leave office, leaving their successors to try and wiggle out of the agreement. Besides, every country interprets (security guarantees) in its own way.

My faith is in our citizens, military, and weapons, that have already proven their worth in battle, as some of the most formidable in the world. Many were amazed that we took out the Moskva (flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet) with Ukrainian-made missiles.

NV: Could Ukraine strike at the Crimea Bridge? It’s being used to support Russian operations in Ukraine.

Danilov: We would have already done that, if we could. The moment the opportunity presents itself, we’ll definitely do so.

NV: Earlier, you mentioned the persistent threat to Ukraine’s political leadership. As far I understand, it was supposed to be realized by the Wagner Group (Russian private military company, PMC). Today I heard that Ukrainian military have hit Wagner somewhere in eastern Ukraine. Can you either confirm or deny?

Danilov: For starters, let’s dispel the notion that these Wagner people are some sort of super-elite soldiers. They are common, garden variety scoundrels, mercenaries, hired to kill. They’re not even close to being elite, since no self-respecting member of said “elite” would ever join these squadrons.

They don’t have anything to do with Putin’s plans. Which, by the way, remain unchanged. I don’t know why people decided that Putin had changed his mind.

The plan was straightforward: destroy the Ukrainian state and nation, occupy the country. It was disrupted by our military, citizens, and the president. That’s the first point.

Second, regarding assassinating out leadership. On Feb. 3, (Chechen leader Ramzan) Kadyrov got his orders from Putin, in person. They agreed upon a plan to “liquidate” our president (Zelensky), and Kadyrov vowed that his goons would carry it out. Our intelligence was keeping tabs on these developments.

On Feb. 26 – two days after the invasion – three groups moved into Ukraine, expecting to be able to roll into the very center of Kyiv. We were tracking all three of them. One got destroyed by our military, and the other two left Ukraine afterwards. They are now in Donetsk Oblast and in Mariupol, but they are keeping their distance from the fighting, lounging in safety.

NV: Where is Kadyrov himself?

Danilov: I don’t know where he is. I can say that was never even close (to Ukraine). All those staged photos of him allegedly in the warzone are utter nonsense. He’s probably sitting at home.

NV: How’s the progress in documenting (Russian) war crimes? It’s important to remove any doubt other countries might have about who’s responsible for the atrocities.

Danilov: We’re doing everything we can to include the international community in this process. It’s too early to say how long it will take, there are rules and procedures to follow. But I’d like to ask, when was MH17 shot down?

NV: In 2014.

Danilov: Right, and we’re in 2022. To this day, the world still hasn’t made their final conclusions, still hasn’t said that Russian military used a Russian Buk missile to kill 298 foreign citizens. Citizens of NATO countries died, were killed by a Russian missile, and yet the alliance never held any meetings to discuss it. That’s disappointing.

A killer will keep repeating his crimes, until he is stopped.

If only Russia was contained after his invasion of Georgia in 2008… The world stood aside then, the French brokered some kind of deal, their president held several meetings with Putin. Where did that get us? Georgia still doesn’t control their lost territories.

The process then repeated in our Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. The French and Germans also facilitated discussions and agreements. Eventually, (German President Frank-Walter) Steinmeier suggested we should give up our independence by way of his formulae, and now he’s upset we didn’t invite him to Kyiv.

Instead of telling Putin to get out of our lands, as established in 1991, they were fostering their relationship, business ties, building natural gas pipelines. Money is their priority. That’s a problem for democratic countries, when economic interests start to outweigh human lives.

Every country has its own interests in this war.

NV: There was an event in the Vatican, where a Ukrainian and a Russian women carried a cross together, symbolizing the call for peace. Will the Pope visit Moscow?

Danilov: Why do they keep trying to fraternize us? We’ll sort it out ourselves.

It’s disappointing to see the church prioritize its own agenda over the lives of our children. They would do well to pray for the (208) Ukrainian kids whom Putin killed in this war.

(The Pope) is planning to visit (Moscow Eastern Orthodox Patriarch) Cyril to talk to him. What is there to discuss with someone who openly says “Go ahead and kill people”? He’ll arrive in Moscow soon.

NV: Meeting the Russian patriarch who consecrated this war.

Danilov: Russian priests, on Cyril’s command, are calling for our citizens to be killed.

NV: What are we to do with this fifth column (Moscow’s church) in Ukraine?

Danilov: Oh, it will be gone. Few understand what will happen after our victory. We’ll have a total de-Russification of business, politics, and other realms of our lives. There will be nothing Russian left here.

NV: Don’t you think we can’t wait with that? We should be doing it right now.

Danilov: Our people, our citizens will do it on their own. It’s just that our most engaged citizens are fighting (the Russians) right now.

NV: We want the process to be legal and transparent, though.

Danilov: Of course, in full accordance to the law. We will have laws that regulate these things, sanction institutions, and so on. Russia is a big country: if you like it so much – go ahead and move there.

I’ll give you an idea of the threat we’re facing. On Sept. 6, 2021, Russian defense minister (Sergey) Shoigu wrote an article for RBC. He was talking about how to develop Siberia economically, and it was clear that suggested using the labor of our people in NKVD-style camps. Exactly like (the Soviet Union did) in WWII.

Remember how many trips to Siberia he took with Putin. Fishing, hiking. That’s their dream – to build cities there with the hands of our citizens they would deport there after the war.

NV: Is it possible to exchange Viktor Medvedchuk?

Danilov: Nobody there (in Russia) wants him, as far as I understand.

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