Everyone is distancing themselves from Russia — adviser to Zelensky’s chief-of-staff

19 May, 08:15 PM
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Mykhailo Podolyak (Photo:REUTERS/Kemal Aslan)

Mykhailo Podolyak (Photo:REUTERS/Kemal Aslan)

Due to the lack of resources for the war in Ukraine, the Kremlin is desperately looking for allies, but everyone is distancing themselves from it because they have realized that Russia is only majestic on the outside and weak on the inside, said Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the President's Office in an interview with Radio NV.

He commented on the forecasts that the war could end by the end of the year, whether Ukraine is ready to make territorial concessions, and why Europe is already discussing lifting sanctions on Russia.

- President Volodymyr Zelensky said that French President Emmanuel Macron offered him to cede part of Ukraine’s sovereignty. What territories did Macron have in mind?

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- Generally speaking, these statements not only by Mr. Macron, but also by some people from the European political community are a bit strange, because they come across as: “Regardless of the fact that you lost many civilians in this war; that your infrastructure has been severely damaged; they are pounding the downtowns, residential neighborhoods, so that such a very important figure for European, global politics as (Russian dictator Vladimir) Putin will save face, let’s make some territorial concessions, let him have something.”

Why are these statements strange? Firstly, they concern the ongoing war in Ukraine, and emotionally Ukrainian society will not support such demands in any way.

Secondly, any yielding to the Russian Federation, to the Russian political elite to save face will mean Minsk-3 — a postponed war for a year, two, or three.

This must be understood by Europe's political elite when it makes such statements. And we will not agree to this in any shape or form. Thirdly, any small concession to the Russian Federation will only encourage them to make other claims. Why?

Because the state, the nation of the Russian Federation belongs to people for whom might is right: if you give them an inch, they will take a mile. We understand that.

To be honest, on the 85th day of the war, I don't understand why such thoughts pop up in Europe at all. I understand that they want truce, to return to some of their usual principles of doing business with Russia. That's very cool, right?

That is, you sit, you get gas, you get oil, you earn money as intermediaries, and pro-Russian lobbyists in Europe are flourishing too. But it seems to me that there will be no return to this. Specific large-scale war crimes of the Russian Federation were recorded live. I would like Europe to be more regardful of how we should get out of this war. And this should not be about concessions to Russia, but only Ukraine's priorities.

- The annexation of Crimea and the beginning of the war in Donbas did not stop them from doing business with Russia. Many experts say that in fact France and Germany are most concerned about freezing the conflict and gradually lifting sanctions on Russia. How can we resist this?

- We can resist it, we are already doing it. And not only us. European society is appalled by what Russia has been doing in Ukraine. Emotionally speaking, I do not see any chance for Europeans to say: "Come on, Russia is a civilized state, let's still deem them a civilization." This will not happen.

We see that gradually even the culture of the Russian Federation is being sidelined. Everyone understands that the civilization under the name of the Russian Federation has a slightly different focus, let’s not have anything to do with it.

Of course, there were many people in Europe who earned money with Russia, in intermediary functions, in business, but they will move away from this business gradually, looking for alternatives, which, by the way, is happening now. Of course, some critical business will be conducted with Russia, but overall, it will be a pariah state. 

Thirdly, what is happening is the last attempt of people who have been earning a lot of money from pro-Russian lobbying for 10-20 years, especially in Germany, to prove that Russia is still a country with which some business can still be done. It will not work out for them. This is not 2014 and not 2015. Everything that revolved around Crimea was the fear of Europe, but at the time it was a proxy war, a small war in Donbas. It started very quickly, ended very quickly, and the scale was not as large as it is today. 

Today, Europe is horrified because it is witnessing a ferocious, large-scale war. This has definitely radically changed public opinion in Europe. And they definitely do not want to say: "Let's make Crimea-2, for example, from the Kherson Oblast, just so that there is no war today," because they also understand that Crimea in 2014 provoked a war on such a scale. Any Crimea-2 will provoke an even bigger war in a year’s time.

(EU High Representative Josep) Borrell said specifically that the war must end in the way Ukraine needs it, in particular in the military sense. And Europe will help with the number of weapons and sanctions that Ukraine needs to prove its rightness and its victory.

- At the same time, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is calling Putin. Germany is practicing something slightly different from what Borrell preached.

- They have not yet completely lost their fear of Russia.

 Russia must not be feared, but work must be done to cut it down to the size it deserves, this is first. And secondly – and this is the key thing – I do not see how it is possible to ceasefire without the withdrawal of Russian troops from the territory of Ukraine. This is nonsense, right? This means that they will remain today on the lines of demarcation on which they are today.

- New lines.

- These are new lines! But this is unacceptable for Ukraine! And the president has repeatedly said this.

We have to drive them out not even to the territory from which they began their special operation, but further. This is now a matter of principle for Ukraine. Because we have Bucha on the one hand and Mariupol on the other.

I believe that the only scenario that Europe and Ukraine should follow is the Iron Curtain scenario, so that Russia is very, very far from human civilization – not geographically, but at least beyond some borders.

- How to take the words of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that part of the sanctions should be lifted from Russia in order for Ukraine to be able to export agricultural products. This was reported by our colleagues from The Wall Street Journal. Isn't it too early to lift sanctions on Russia?

- (Russia) is a very idiosyncratic civilization and it understands only direct force and direct violence. That is, the world must say: "The rules are as follows. If you do not follow them, you will have such problems." Sanctions should only increase from today.

There should be the sixth package of sanctions, which is still unfinished, where the key is a direct and indirect energy embargo; and the seventh package, which should permanently limit Russia's financial capabilities, i.e. any financial transactions through Russian banks.

By the way, today two key banks – Sberbank and Gazprombank – are integrated into the global financial system and continue to operate. This is nonsense. During the war, during these three months, Russia received about EUR 100 billion, which it spends directly on the murder of Ukrainian citizens.

And when any of the leaders of international institutions says that sanctions should be lifted because something needs to be taken out of Ukraine, I think that anything can be taken out of Ukraine within the framework of export programs only if Russia withdraws its own — for example, ships from the Black Sea — from the part we need for transportation corridors. Let's convey to Russia that they must move some distance and not hinder the export of Ukrainian grain to world markets.

- Negotiations between Ukraine and Russia have been suspended. You mentioned one of the reasons: "Russia still does not quite properly perceive the developments taking place in the world in connection with the large-scale Russian invasion." How exactly do they fail to perceive these developments properly? What do they not understand?

- Of course, the emotional background has changed. Of course, negotiations have been suspended today. For us, this is an important position of the President of Ukraine: when he says that we need to start negotiations, we will do it, but today it is unfeasible.

Russia still does not understand the ramifications of the war. It is under the illusion that they can achieve some military success in eastern Ukraine. It cannot. It is still entertaining illusions that they may parry sanctions that have not yet begun to work in full. But this is not the case.

Russia has not yet fully understood that it is a global pariah, that no one communicates with it on an equal footing except Eritrea and Venezuela – certain countries that have no influence on global politics whatsoever. Russia has not yet realized that it has completely lost its reputation, both historically and situationally.

That is, it is a country with a very toxic reputation, which is excluded from sports events, from certain competitions, and from the Olympics. This is a country that will be banned from participating in any manifestations of civilization.

- Andriy Taran remained the Minister of Defense of Ukraine until Nov. 3, 2021. On May 4, he was appointed Ambassador of Ukraine to Slovenia. Many were outraged by this fact. For example, journalist Yuriy Butusov openly accused former Minister Taran of ignoring all military needs during his term. How can you comment on that?

- This personnel decision has already been made. I would not say that everything was ignored in terms of military government orders. I would like us to consider this without (populism).

Of course, any process moderator, any operations director, always makes some mistakes. It seems to me that today the Ukrainian army is proving that it is much stronger than many people thought. Let's not poor-mouth ourselves and not make out that everything was ruined here. Why otherwise can we oppose, as they said, the "second army of the world" with great success?

If there were any mistakes, they will be analyzed, but only without speculation. I think when the Ukrainian army wins, then we will draw a line on who did what and how. 

- There is a statement by Kyrylo Budanov, head of military intelligence, that the war with Russia will reach a turning point by mid-August and end by the end of the year. What is this information based on?

- This is the head of intelligence. I think that our Main Intelligence Directorate is very professional, and they certainly have a much larger amount of information that characterizes the state of the Russian troops, and our capabilities, which are growing in connection with the supply of weapons from our partners.

Any war is mathematics that executes specifics: how many artillery shots we can make, how amount of supplies we have, what is the moral component in our army, and at the same time intelligence usually analyzes the mood in society. Obviously, in Ukraine all segments of the population are mobilized – a powerful volunteer movement, the army is intent on making Russians pay up.

There are clear processes taking place in Russia nowadays – panic. They hysterically support this Z-campaign, trying to convince people that it is right, that is, it is right to go to another territory, kill someone there and claim that they are doing it for something.

Even the speeches of Putin and Patrushev, who say they inflicted "preventive" blows because there could be aggression from Ukraine, (testify) that they are already looking for excuses for what they did.

What will be the moral component in Russia when they announced that they would bring Ukraine to its knees within at most five days, but today is the 84th day and they have no chance to do so? There is absolutely no pro-Russian support in the occupied territories. Yes, there are some cases of collaboration, but they are insignificant.

The border areas of Russia are gripped by extreme panic: there are constant explosions, and military enlistment offices are catching fire for some reason. It is clear that Ukraine is not doing this, right? This is what karmic law does. Everything you have done evil for Ukraine will return to Russia tenfold, a hundredfold. They feel subconscious that they will definitely have to pay up for this. Hence this analytical assessment by Kyrylo Budanov.

- Precisely because they have no successes, we observe such a "Satan's ball" among the racists (Russian fascists) about the evacuation from Azovstal. How do we react to this? 

- We have to go our own way. Of course, we need to prove that Ukraine is much stronger than it seemed to some. We need to prove that we are the leaders of this region, that we need to be treated with great respect, that we should not be approached with weapons, because these weapons will be turned on them. And they will have to pay very dearly for it.

We need to do informational work, and explain to the world that nothing is over yet: there are a lot of crazy people in Russia who want to kill; that Ukraine is the only country that can oppose this, which will put Russia in their place. We need to prove all this.

We must not insult each other, we must continue to support each other. These are all key elements.

- On May 16, the Collective Security Treaty Organization summit took place, which includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Russia. Do they remain allies of the Russian Federation?

- First, Russia is such a tough state that it is now hysterically looking for allies who could attack Ukraine. They promised to do everything themselves, but, as I see it, there are not enough resources, so they want to enlist the support of other countries.

But the behavior of the CSTO representatives shows that there is no chance at all that the organization will take part in it because it understands the consequences for itself – both legal and reputational. And it understands that Russia is a giant with feet of clay. Therefore, I think these countries are already trying to distance themselves from this war, to be on the neutral side.

 Even Belarus will try to stand somewhere neutral. Of course, it provided its territory for the attacks, but it does not want to take part in the war.

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