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Politics

Ukrainian Amb. Offers His Perspective on War’s Anniversary

February 24, 2023

ATHENS – The Ukrainian Ambassador to Greece Sergii  Shutenko granted an interview to The National Herald on the occasion of the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of his country.

The Ambassador, among other things, took stock of these first twelve months of the war, offered his thoughts on how the war might end, and did not fail to express his thanks to Greece for all the help it is giving his country.

The interview follows:

Τhe National Herald: We have had a year of war. I think it’s a good time to take stock. Please share with us some of your thoughts – and feelings.

Amb. Sergii Shutenko: The world is not the same as one year ago. It has changed dramatically and [has undergone] threats and challenges. The international security system, the respect for international law as well as for human rights, and the credibility and efficacy of key multilateral institutions were undermined. And the source of all these challenges is Russian imperialistic ambitions which were embodied in the invasion of Ukraine.

In just one day, a rules-based order and all democratic countries were challenged in many spheres and they had to deal with it and live in the new reality. But for Ukraine, this reality was a little bit different.

For one year Ukraine had been defending itself from barbaric attacks by Russia, which aims to deprive millions of people of access to their basic needs and thus creating a humanitarian disaster that could spill over far beyond my country. Ukraine, unlike Russia, continues to be a nation run by and for the people, not by a dictator for his own personal gain.

And during this year we are fighting not only for our freedom and independence, but we are also flighting for democracy and its values – human rights, respect for international law, justice, liberty, and equality. Now it’s time not only to take stock of this hard year but to help Ukraine win this war and restore security in Europe and the whole world.

ΤNH:  How and when do you think the war will end?

Amb. Shutenko: The war will end as soon as the last Russian soldier leaves the territory of Ukraine in its internationally recognized borders. We are fighting for our people, for their freedom and independence, and for their right to live in a free democratic country.

What does Russia do? It uses missile terror against the civilian population and infrastructure of another state. The deliberate targeting of civilians is a war crime. By launching missile attacks on civilians sleeping in their homes or rushing to work, and children going to schools, Russia has proven once again that it is a terrorist state that must be deterred in the strongest possible ways.

Russia’s attack on Ukraine is an attack on every country to some extent in one or another sphere. That is why we must unite to restore peace and security in Europe and the whole world.

On November 15, 2022, at the G20 Summit, President Zelenskyy presented 10-point Peace Formula which implementation will bring a comprehensive, just, and lasting peace to Ukraine.

Therefore, the main goal of the Peace Formula is to deprive Russia of the tools to commit the crime of aggression against our country and the world and to guarantee security and justice for the entire international community.

That is why we are working on maintaining the maximum mobilization of our partners for the sake of the struggle for freedom and not allowing our common enemy to split the global pro-democracy coalition.

ΤNH:  Do you fear Russia may actually use nuclear weapons?

Amb. Shutenko: The Russian foreign policy philosophy has not changed since the last century. As with its predecessor, the USSR, Russia was very successful at communicating with the western world through the means of threats and ultimatums, sabotage, bribing, sowing disorder, and coercing.

And it always was the same scenario – divide, demotivate, push psychologically, and conquer. Such tactics worked in all cases previously in Chechnya, Georgia, and Transnistria. The only reason Russians were successful was that the world was not united in its approach to the Russian dilemma. The Western countries were trying to appease Russians each time, they were trying to find the line where the Russian appetite will be satisfied.

But it all changed on February 24th. Once again the Kremlin tried to sow chaos and disorder and split the coalition of democratic states. Russians miscalculated gravely that world’s reaction would be the same as it was in numerous previous times.

But the world reaction was the opposite, even taking into account that Russia tries to dictate its own rules of the game by the means of threats and ultimatums. And nuclear terror is a part of that philosophy aimed at undermining the coalition of unity and support.

TNH: Is there support for Ukraine from Greece? Apart from military aid, I mean moral support. Is Ukraine satisfied? What else would you want from the Greek side?

Amb. Shutenko: First of all, we are grateful to the Hellenic Republic for political support, economic and humanitarian assistance, and for already sent military aid.

Military and defense assistance helps to strengthen our state, saves the lives of the Ukrainian civilian population and the military, and brings victory closer.

From the first days of the unprovoked and unjustified invasion, many Ukrainian citizens fled west in hopes of seeking asylum from the war. Greece also gave a helping hand to the citizens of Ukraine who found shelter in the country. More than 25,000 citizens of Ukraine received temporary protection status in Greece.

People of Greece, as well as the church clergy and municipalities, were the first to respond [and come] to the assistance of Ukrainian people. Many people helped Ukrainians in this difficult time – the Greeks provided humanitarian aid, offered their housing, especially for mothers with children, and helped financially. In a word, they have not only morally supported Ukrainians, but have really helped in various ways.

However, Ukrainians who have not left our country remain the most vulnerable. Because the Russian missile terror, which is targeted at civilians, takes more and more human lives every day. We need far more weapons to liberate our territories from Russian occupation. That is the way every country could help us to save more people’s lives and come closer to the victory.

ΤNH:  Please also comment on Germany’s attitude towards Ukraine throughout the war.

Amb. Shutenko: Let me start with this. Germany was one of the first countries, which condemned the Russian invasion, and throughout the year became a home for hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees seeking temporary protection.

Moreover, Germany is one of the leading developers of military-grade equipment, which it is contributing to Ukraine. Unfortunately, it took some time to put across the importance of western weapons and defense systems for Ukraine and arrange the supply of weapons, but the cynical Russian terror [tactics] made it clear to our Western partners that Ukraine needs their assistance.

Moreover, just a few days ago in Munich the foreign ministers of Ukraine and Germany co-chaired a joint meeting of Ukraine’s and Germany’s top defense industry companies. This important event was organized to directly link the Ukrainian and German manufacturers. Their cooperation will focus on creating new opportunities to strengthen Ukraine.

Step by step with such initiatives we are moving together toward our victory.

And Germany’s continued support of our struggle to live in a free and democratic country is a part of the world’s contribution.

TNH:  The sanctions have not stopped Russia’s aggression. What do you think needs to be done in addition to make them work?

Amb. Shutenko: Today, the Russian federation is the most sanctioned country in the world. Almost 40 countries, which are members of Sanctions Coalitions, have already imposed strict sanctions against Russia. And we highly appreciate that all our allies are standing with Ukraine on this issue.

Ukraine itself, from February 24, 2022 to December 2022, has imposed restrictive measures on 3,668 individuals and 1,610 legal entities by decrees of the President of Ukraine.

It is clear that sanctions work. Slowly but surely they are weakening Russia. That means we need to work harder and probably be more sophisticated in our steps: strengthening control over already imposed sanctions; combating sanctions circumvention; working on the expansion of the sanctions coalition, and imposing new sanctions on areas not yet being sanctioned, especially those which make a profit for the Russian economy.

We hope to continue pushing harder in the energy sector, the IT industry, the banking, and financial sectors, and further oil and gas price caps until a full energy embargo, including nuclear and LNG products, is implemented. The work on freezing Russia’s assets should also be continued, followed by their confiscation.

And it is crucially important to understand that softening of sanctions pressure cannot be allowed, at least until the war is over and the withdrawal of all Russian troops from the territory of Ukraine in its internationally recognized borders.

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