Three months of Russia invasion, Ukraine vows to remain resilient till victory is achieved
As Russian aggression against Ukraine continues, the Charge d’Affairs, Embassy of Ukraine in Nigeria, Bohdan Soltys has decried the high level of crimes against humanity going on in the occupied regions of Ukraine. He told Bridget Chiedu Onochie that Ukraine will fight as long as it is necessary to win noting that Ukraine’s victory means restoring its sovereignty and territorial integrity within the internationally recognized borders
What exactly is the war in Ukraine all about?
Russia started an aggressive war against Ukraine. Ukraine did nothing to provoke such aggression. Ukraine is a friendly nation who wants to live in peace and harmony with everybody. Russia started this war because it wants to restore the evil empire – the Soviet Union.
What is the current situation with the war?
We fight against the Russian aggressor, defending not only our state, but also democratic values and freedoms, and the right of nations to freely choose their own future. Ukraine’s victory will be a victory for the whole Europe, which will become much safer and secure when Russia’s military machine will be dismantled and Kremlin’s capacities to launch invasions against other countries will disappear.
Russia is preparing for a long-term war, constantly replenishing its occupation forces and hoping for a “war fatigue” to weaken assistance provided to Ukraine. Ukraine, with the support of our partners, will fight as long as it is necessary to win. Ukraine’s victory would mean restoring our sovereignty and territorial integrity within the internationally recognized borders: this approach is shared by our partners. As of today, 20 percent of Ukraine’s territory is occupied. 82 per cent of Ukrainians would not agree to cede territories in exchange for peace. The ceasefire in itself cannot be an objective. We will strive for the withdrawal of Russian troops. Ukraine will liberate its territories based on the principle of maximum preservation of people’s lives.
Russia’s current objectives are to occupy the entire territory of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, secure the land corridor to Crimea and complete the occupation of southern Ukraine. The situation in Donbas, in which Russia has concentrated its forces, remains the most problematic. Ukraine’s coast of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov remain blocked. Russia continues launching missiles (2503 as of June 4) and air strikes on civilian and military infrastructure throughout Ukraine. Lukashenko’s regime in Belarus continues to provide logistical support to Russia and increases military pressure on Ukraine’s north without directly going to war.
Even though Russia has thrown all its resources against Ukraine, the war is not going as planned by Kremlin; none of the key objectives has been reached by it. Ukrainian defenders repelled attacks of the first weeks of the war and forced Russian troops to leave the Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy regions. Counter-attacks regularly take place in the Kharkiv and Kherson regions. Russia suffers daily heavy losses in manpower (31.000 as of now) and military hardware, its resources (although still enormous) are depleting fast. Kremlin did not dare to declare a general mobilization and continues to replenish the losses with forced conscription (including in the temporarily occupied parts of Ukraine), raised maximum age for voluntary enlistment, mercenaries and private military companies. The population of the Russian controlled areas of Ukraine continues to fiercely resist the occupation.
What is Belarus’ position in this war?
Lukashenka’s regime in Belarus continues to provide logistical support to Russia and increase military pressure on Ukraine’s Northern border without directly going to war. Russian troops in the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova remain in full operational readiness with the same purpose of diverting a part of Ukraine’s military.
How are the negotiations between Ukraine and Russia advancing?
Given all the crimes committed by the Russian army in Ukraine, continuing negotiations with Russia is a challenging task. They must be based on restoration of territorial integrity and Russia’s compensations to Ukraine. No negotiations will take place until Russia leaves the territories occupied since 24 February 2022. We have proposed a new system of security guarantees, which is currently under discussion with possible guarantee states. When the war ends with Ukraine’s victory, Russia will face a radically different situation. Ukraine’s Armed Forces will be interoperable with the NATO. Russia’s neighbours, Finland and Sweden have applied for NATO membership. NATO allies are expected to define Russia’s behavior as a direct threat to the Alliance in an upcoming strategic document. Putin’s regime will be shaken by international isolation, economic crisis and decreased popular support.
What impact does Russian aggression have on civil population?
Faced with military defeats and vigorous resistance, the Russian troops continue indiscriminate attacks on Ukrainian cities with missile strikes and heavy artillery. Dozens of thousands of civilians lost their lives, many more were wounded. Nearly 220,000 people lost their homes. More than 13,000 civilian infrastructure facilities were destroyed and damaged, including roads and bridges, educational and medical institutions, water and electricity networks, cultural and religious sites. Vast areas are mined.
The worst humanitarian situation remains in the localities along the front line and in those temporarily occupied by Russia. The most worrisome locality is the city of Mariupol almost entirely destroyed by Russian attacks, with dozens of thousands of casualties and forceful deportations by the Russian occupiers. Looting, tortures, willful killings and abductions are widespread in the occupied areas.
Millions of Ukrainian citizens were forced to flee from war; almost 12 million became IDPs and more than five million (mostly women and children) left abroad. To support the IDPs, the Government of Ukraine launched the assistance programs that help with accommodation (most problematic issue as of now), new jobs and financial support for the initial period after relocation. Nearly 0.5 million were deported by Russia to its territory or to the occupied parts of Donbas. Almost 300 000 Ukrainians were rescued through the humanitarian corridors. The number of Ukrainians returning home is exceeding those who are leaving as the Russian troops are pushed back and security situation improves.
We are grateful for warm hospitality demonstrated to our refugees in European countries and elsewhere. Humanitarian assistance continues to flow to Ukraine; it remains critical to millions of Ukrainian citizens affected by the ongoing war.
How does the war affect the economy of Ukraine?
One of Russia’s key goals in the war it has launched is to destroy Ukraine’s economy, to make us a “failed state”, which would not be able to resist Russia’s pressure and influence. As a result of armed hostilities, destruction of infrastructure and interrupted logistical chains (most critically, blocked Ukrainian ports), a major part of economic activity has been stalled in Ukraine. Every next day of the war makes the situation even worse. So, we need to defeat Russia and liberate our territories as soon as possible.
As of June 1, the GDP of Ukraine dropped by 35 per cent. The monthly budget deficit caused by war is nearly $5 billion. Russia’s invasion has damaged or destroyed up to 30 per cent of Ukraine’s infrastructure at a cost of $100 billion. The overall infrastructure and economic losses have already exceeded $600 billion.
The unravelling global food crisis provoked by Russia’s war against Ukraine can still be avoided if Ukrainian ports are unblocked. Ukraine is ready to resume exports from the port of Odesa. Given that Russia doesn’t abuse the trade route to attack the city of Odesa, the solution on guarantees from Russia needs to be found together with the UN and partners. Meanwhile, as Russian occupiers continue stealing grain, we expect all countries to refrain from buying it.
The Government of Ukraine is making every effort to keep Ukraine’s economy afloat (supporting relocation from the war zone, cutting red tape, launching lending and state financial leasing programs, ensuring welfare benefits to IDPs and restoring infrastructure in the liberated areas).
The generous financial and technical international assistance is warmly welcomed. This is a contribution of our partners to their own security, as defending Ukraine prevents Russia from bringing new wars and crises. Grants are a priority as Ukraine should not bear the increased debt burden being in defensive war. We expect the international companies which had been working in Ukraine until February 24, to resume their activities in the liberated areas. Those companies which left Russia are invited to open regional offices in Kyiv.
Restoring and increasing Ukraine’s export is a critical element of post-war recovery. We appreciate the opportunities provided by the recent decisions and announcements by the EU, UK and Canada to remove duties and quotas on Ukrainian exports. The US will temporarily suspend a part of tariffs on Ukrainian steel.
Does the war in Ukraine pose any threats to other countries?
Russia’s war against Ukraine is a threat to global food security: About 90 million tons of agricultural produce remain blocked in Ukraine. If Ukrainian ports do not resume export, this will cause a large-scale humanitarian crisis in the world. About 400 million lives are at risk of unstable access to food, malnutrition and famine. Russia’s statements that sanctions against it are the reason of rising food and energy prices throughout the world are fake. It takes place as a result of Russia’s war and blockade of Ukrainian ports. Russia is blackmailing the world by food and energy in the hope that it would force Ukraine to end the war on Kremlin’s terms.
In their aggression, do Russian troops comply with international law of war?
During their invasion into Ukraine, the Russian troops systematically violate the norms of international humanitarian law and international human rights law: deliberate and indiscriminate attacks on civilians; their use as hostages and human shield; execution and rapes; forceful conscription and kidnapping; attacks on medical personnel and facilities; use of banned weapons and many others. Ukrainian law enforcement agencies launched investigations into 16.000 war crimes and crimes of aggression committed since February 24. Russia flagrantly violates international law (including by attacking civil ships, Ukraine’s environment and cultural heritage) and Ukraine’s sovereignty (by introducing its laws, passports, currency and education in the occupied territories of Ukraine). Russia flagrantly violates international law (including by attacking civil ships, Ukraine’s environment and cultural heritage) and Ukraine’s sovereignty (by introducing its laws, passports, and currency, education and phone codes in the occupied territories of Ukraine).
President Putin and his proxies responsible for the war against Ukraine have to be sentenced as war criminals. The war launched by Kremlin is widely supported by the Russian society, which shares responsibility for it. Russia must be recognized as a state-sponsor of terrorism, and the Russian Armed Forces must be recognized as a terrorist organization.
We welcome all steps made by the international institutions to bring Russia to justice, as well as statements made by the heads of state and government throughout the world on Russia’s responsibility for war crimes. All cases of violation of the provisions of international and humanitarian laws must be registered by the respective international bodies.
A separate investigation into the crime of genocide is being conducted. The International Criminal Court opened its own full-fledged investigation at the request of 42 countries and joined the joint investigation team of Ukraine, Lithuania and Poland.
Russia’s diplomatic and political isolation must continue; the international organizations need in particular to consider banning Russia’s membership for blatant violations of international law (as, for instance, the Council of Europe did) and dismissing Russian citizens from their Secretariats to eliminate Russia’s influence.
How can other countries help Ukraine?
In order to be able not only to defend itself but also to liberate the Russia-occupied territories, Ukraine needs modern NATO standard arms (air defense and UAVs, artillery systems, MLRS and tanks, armored vehicles, combat aircraft, anti-ship missiles) and ammunition. We need constant logistical support including fuel and finances to accelerate the victory. In the long run, Ukraine must be entirely re-armed, ensuring interoperability of our Armed Forces with the NATO countries.
Sanctions against Russia must be further strengthened and expanded as well as introduced by those countries which have not made this until now. The world has to stop buying Russian commodities (most notably, oil and gas), which continue to finance Kremlin’s war against Ukraine (as of May 23, the EU paid 54 billion EUR for fossil fuels to Russia since its start). The oil embargo within the EU sixth package is the priority now. Any lifting of sanctions has to be agreed with Ukraine. Russia’s frozen foreign exchange reserves and assets abroad need to be used for compensations to Ukraine and Ukrainian citizens for the damage dealt by Russia’s war; this can be done through a multilateral agreement.
Ukrainian people are dying for the freedom of Ukraine and Europe. Support for Ukraine’s accession to the EU increased to a record 91 per cent, the highest figure in the history of independent Ukraine. We strive for a full-fledged EU membership; no alternative options would be appropriate. The first step will be obtaining the candidate status in June. European integration must be an integral part of Ukraine’s economic recovery. Trade and transport between Ukraine and the EU should be liberalized as fast as possible.
Russia must be economically and politically isolated from the world, losing its levers and capacities to influence decision-making in other countries (withdrawal of private business, banning Russian propaganda channels, ending Russia’s influence in politics, diplomacy, business, sports, culture, research and other spheres, introducing visa regime, expelling from international financial institutions etc).