EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW SERGII SHUTENKO UKRAINIAN AMBASSADOR IN GREECE

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After the 2nd World War and in peacetime, Russia’s attack on Ukraine is an unprecedented event.   We want your comment on this fact.

Let me start with the following. The 24th of February did not come as a surprise to Ukrainians. It was not the day we mark as a start of the invasion.

It all began eight years ago in 2014, with russian attempted annexation of Crimea and inciting the war in Donbas and fueling it with human and logistic resources over all these years.

These eight years are one big unprecedented event.

Russia violated the rules and principles of the world order, created after the Second World War, by trying to change the internationally recognized borders of the sovereign states by seizing the territories, constantly violating the international humanitarian law, bringing terror and injustice to the occupied territories and their inhabitants. Russia did all that over eight years and we were warning the world about that.

So active all-out war should have been a logical extension of the aggression, started by russia eight years ago.

And it didn’t catch us unprepared and it is one of the reasons why russians have failed their ‘blitzkrieg’ operation, to conquer Ukraine in three days.

And now they are trying to eliminate us for our resilience and the will to live in a free and democratic state.

They have been committing an open genocide against Ukrainian people and our state, trying to erase the history, traditions and culture in the occupied territories.

Do you think that Ukraine will be able to resist Russia to the end?

The Ukrainian army bravely fights for the shared values and the security of the whole European continent.

The war in Ukraine is not only about the fight for freedom and independence, territories and national identity of the Ukrainian people.

It is about something more important not only for the people of my country, but for the whole Europe.

Ukraine has withstood a direct military confrontation with russia. Ukrainians showed heroism and resistance in the struggle against the aggressor who came to our land to destroy the Ukrainian state and eliminate our nation and identity.

Despite russia’s domination over Ukraine in military equipment and personnel, Ukrainian defenders have managed to liberate Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy regions and continue bravely holding the line in Donbas.

However, the situation there is very difficult and remains tense.

The Ukrainian miracle of being able to withstand such a brutal force has a number of ingredients. Capable and highly motivated military, leadership and courage of President Zelenskyy, advanced weapons and stiff sanctions imposed by our partners, the incredible power of Ukrainian people with its highly developed horizontal ties, advanced social cohesion, solidarity, ability to quickly self-organize, and its ability to unite in the face of fear.

But I know for sure, that constant and timely assistance to Ukraine is the best investment in the peaceful future.

What are the most serious disasters you have in Ukraine from the Russian bombings?

Its more than 120 days of the war, and russian officials continue to lie to the world that russian military is targeting only military infrastructure.

In reality, we see a different picture everyday – hospitals, kindergartens, schools and churches destroyed, civilian houses razed to the ground and other critical civilian infrastructure damaged.

On May 30, 2022, as a result of the shelling of the city of Sviatohirsk, the Holy Mountains Lavra of the Holy Dormition was destroyed, two monks of this monastery and a nun were killed, and three monks were wounded.

Every day they destroy our cultural and religious heritage, which stood out the horrific times of the Nazis occupation.

Even more, according to the military intelligence, russians had already used most of their high precision weaponry on Ukrainian targets, so now their shelling will become even more indiscriminate and imprecise.

But this is not the most tragic thing.

We will rebuild and repair the damage done by the war.

The tragedy of this war is human casualties and massive suffering it brings, the psychological terror, which russian occupational force is bringing to Ukrainians.

People all around the country, not even close to the frontlines, have to live in constant fear of being bombed, in any part of Ukraine, anytime.

How reversible is the situation, with the basic infrastructure in your country, so that they can come back as they were before the Russian invasion?

As estimated by the Ministry of Economy of Ukraine and the Kyiv School of Economics (KSE), the overall Ukraine’s economic losses due to the war, taking into account both direct losses calculated in this project and indirect losses (GDP decline, investment cessation, outflow of labor, additional defense and social support costs, etc), range from $564 to $600 billion.

The total amount of direct documented damage to Ukrainian enterprises has already reached $11.5 bln, educational institutions — $1.6 bln, medical institutions – $1.1 bln and kindergartens — $576 mln. As of the beginning of June, the amount of damage to railway infrastructure and rolling stock amounted to $2.7 billion.

We will restore every house, every street, and every city. Russia must compensate Ukraine for all the damages it suffered.

The European Commission has already proposed establishing a “Rebuild Ukraine” facility to channel grants and loans to our country.

Our partners will help to rebuild Ukraine’s infrastructure.

I call on to continue supporting Ukraine and its people in financial, humanitarian or any other meaningful way.

During the war with Russia, what have been the successes of your armed forces so far?

One of key pillars of the Ukrainian successful resilience is the perception of Ukrainians of what needs to be done and why and what we are fighting for.

Russia has brought a war to our land and we are protecting our land, our families, our values and our heritage.

Thus, our armed forces have unanimous support of the people of Ukraine, government and businesses alike, strong volunteer network and we are acting as one entity with a common aim.

Successes come every day, when we constrain the advance of the russian occupational force, which is times larger and better equipped than we are.

With being almost a second largest army in the world, russia, for more than 120 days of its so-called “special operation”, was not able to reach any of its objectives in Ukraine.

With the events taking place in Ukraine, can broader geopolitical developments arise?

From the start of this violent invasion, we have a unanimous support of the world for our country, for our people and for our army.

Putin’s war in Ukraine is not about the NATO or European Union. He considers them weak and divided.

It’s about the values Ukrainians possess – about our will to self determination and the right to speak whatever language we want, our dreams and aspirations.

Thus, Ukraine has been fighting not only for itself, we are fighting and shielding the basic principles of democracy and human rights, which all European family nations share.

If Ukraine loses, russia will not stop there and will move further, which might lead to a direct confrontation with NATO countries and thus to the global confrontation and the nuclear war chances arise multifold.

For our fight against the russian horde, until the hostilities are ceased and russian troops leave the whole territory of Ukraine, my country needs constant flow of support.

We have the will and people to stand firm against the aggressor. But, if the support ceases to come, we will have nothing to fight with. But together we prevail!

When do you think there will be negotiations with Russia with a view to ending this war?

Every conflict ends with negotiations. But russia continues to chant its mantra on finishing the so-called “special military operation” and reaching its objectives and clearly demonstrates its unwillingness to sit and negotiate any meaningful peace pact. We are confident that if we are to agree on somethings with russians today, they will not stop tomorrow.

They will cease the war today, regroup and will invent other reasons to invade once again tomorrow. It would be a constant nightmare. So this revisionist menace has to be stopped today.

The sanction pressure should be constantly increasing to suppress the military economy of the aggressor and up to the moment russia losses its will to invade. At that very moment, we can start talking about real negotiations and finding the means to ending this war.

The food crisis is knocking on Europe’s door. Will it be possible to find a solution to this very serious problem?

I would like to stress that russian invasion of Ukraine is a real threat to global supply.  Ukraine’s exports comprise more than 10% of all wheat, 14% of all corn and 47% of all sunflower oil in the world.

Ukraine has been meaningfully contributing to global food security and did not restrict exports of food even in the difficult times of the pandemic.

The unravelling global food crisis provoked by russia’s war against Ukraine is of artificial nature.

Russia is the only reason why this crisis has appeared. Russian occupiers continue stealing grain. We expect all countries to refrain from buying it.

Only russia’s defeat would allow Ukraine to reopen its Black Sea ports and revive its export.