The Ukrainian Amb. in Athens Speaks to “TNH”: We Are Preparing for All Possible Scenarios
February 12, 2022
By Vassilis Koutsilas
Ukraine's ambassador in Athens, Sergii Shutenko. (Photo by Eurokinissi)
ATHENS – The Ukrainian ambassador to Athens, Sergii Shutenko spoke to the «Τhe National Herald» about the crisis that has erupted between his country and Russia and which is escalating dangerously in recent days.
Among other things, the Ukrainian diplomat said that Kiev is preparing for all possible scenarios and called on the international community to impose sanctions on Moscow now, without delay, instead of waiting for further escalation. He did not fail to applaud Greece’s support for his country.
The entire interview follows:
The National Herald: Do you think that Russia is just applying pressure with the military build up on the border or intends to use it?
Sergii Shutenko: I would like to point out that Russia has been using its military forces against Ukraine for eight years. In 2014 Moscow invaded Crimea and occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
What we see now is Russia’s growing appetite towards Ukraine.
While everyone is seeking the answer whether Russia might conduct a military offensive against Ukraine, I would like to speak not about the war, but about restoring peace by deterring Russia and demotivating it from further aggressive actions.
Since taking office President Zelenskyy has launched a number of initiatives to ensure peaceful resolution of the conflict in Donbas, fueled by Russia. Crimea Platform has been launched, as a tool for peaceful returning of Crimea to its homeland.
However, we have not seen an adequate response from the Russian side, which steadily sticks to a long-time strategy of controlled escalation in Donbas and creeping annexation of the occupied territories, including Crimea.
What Russia has been doing – it flexes muscles by amassing contingent of more than 100.000 troops around Ukraine’s borders and justifying its behavior by talking about a mythical NATO threat to Russia.
So we are working with international community on reaching jointly the key goal – to avert war and to ensure peaceful resolution of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.
TNH: What about the readiness of the Armed Forces of your country?
Sergii Shutenko: For eight years of Russian occupation of Crimea and part of Donbas, we have reformed our military forces and strengthened our resilience. Ukraine updated two fundamental documents – National Security Strategy and its Military Security Strategy in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
Now we have the second largest army in Europe with more than 240.000 troops. We have significantly improved our military capabilities by modernizing equipment and upgrading training programs and personal management.
Against the background of Russian provocative maneuvers and military build-up along our borders, Ukraine is preparing itself for all possible scenarios. We will not allow Russia to destabilize Ukraine by implementing hybrid strategies in different dimensions.
TNH: How do people of Ukraine feel about the current situation?
Sergii Shutenko: Ukraine has been under attack for almost eight years, living in this new reality.
During those years, many Ukrainians served in Ukrainian Armed Forces and became battle-hardened experienced veterans. While civil society have matured and strengthened its involvement in all spheres of social life with the strong patriotic spirit. The vivid example is the Ukrainian volunteer movement supporting the Army.
Many Ukrainians are preparing themselves for the possible military incursion by joining the territorial defense units around the country.
Alongside, the more Russia threatens Ukraine, the more united Ukrainian people become regardless of their language and ethnicity in their willingness to defend our country.
TNH: What exactly does Putin want from Ukraine? Does he want certain parts of your country and he uses Ukraine’s NATO membership as an excuse to invade?
Sergii Shutenko: It was stated on multiple occasions, that the collapse of the USSR was a tragedy for Mr.Putin. In order to fix it, Kremlin needs Ukraine as one of the key elements.
I believe that Russia views the successful and democratic Ukraine as a direct threat to its regime. What Russia really tries to achieve – to make Ukraine a bad example, to make it a story of failure, to destabilize it externally and within – by conducting cyber operations, by amassing troops around Ukrainian borders, by sowing panic in political and economic dimensions.
Any “ambiguity” of the West about European and Euro-Atlantic integration of Ukraine has been playing into Putin’s hands. The positive decision of our Western partners on Ukraine’s membership both in the EU and NATO will send a clear message to Putin and is right step towards strengthening peace and security in Europe.
According to the latest polls the support among Ukrainians of European and Euro-Atlantic integration of Ukraine is ever growing.
TNH: What is Ukraine asking from the United States and the European Union at the moment?
Sergii Shutenko: Ukraine is very grateful to many states for political and defense assistance already provided for our country. I believe that received support is stronger than it had been before but the threat is also much severe. We are facing hybrid war. We are under attack in a military, cyber, information, economic and energy dimensions. We have learned how to protect ourselves, to defend our country.
Ukraine’s army is better trained and equipped than in 2014 and highly motivated to defend our country so Russia would pay a high price with another act of aggression.
But of course in order to achieve maximum level of defense strength and resilience we have requested from our Western partners, first of all NATO Member-States, to provide us with defensive weapons and materials.
We call on our partners and allies to be united in responding strongly to any further Russian military offensive against Ukraine.
We ask international community to introduce sanctions now rather than wait until after the escalation.
The possible Russian act of aggression against Ukraine would cause drastic consequences for all Europe. The West should use all its means and tools in order to prevent it.
TNH: What do Greek people that you meet tell you about the current situation with Russia?
Sergii Shutenko: This year we celebrate 30th anniversary of restoring diplomatic relations between our countries and we know that Greece is and has always been a vocal supporter of independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. This key position has been reiterated by the Greek representatives at the parliamentary, governmental and other official and expert levels. Among other principles we share the fundamental one – to solve all disputes by political and diplomatic means.
We appreciate the decision of the Greek Government not to evacuate the diplomatic personnel in Kyiv, moreover to enlarge its representation by appointing the Consular General to Mariupol.
Ukrainian and Greek people share deep historical, cultural and religious ties as well as common views on the development of the world on the bases of international law and human rights.
I know that Greek side is concerned about the well-being and security of Greek community in Ukraine, especially those who reside in warzone. My believe is the more efforts Greece makes towards peaceful resolution of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and stopping Russian aggression, the more protected Greek community would feel itself on the territory of Ukraine.
ANKARA – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday he would cease talking to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and cancel a key meeting between their two governments, accusing the Greek leader of antagonizing Turkey.
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WASHINGTON — Nearly 50 defense leaders from around the world met Monday and agreed to send more advanced weapons to Ukraine, including a Harpoon launcher and missiles to protect its coast, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters.
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