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Story Publication logo April 12, 2022

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister on Military Aid, Russia’s Shift East and the Prospect of Peace


Ukraine refugees flee to Hungary

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Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday his war in Ukraine will continue until it has achieved the goals he set forth, and he insisted all was going according to plan, despite dogged Ukrainian resistance. This came as Ukrainian officials investigated the possible use of a chemical agent in Mariupol. Simon Ostrovsky sat down with Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba to discuss the war.

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Judy Woodruff: Russia's President Vladimir Putin said today that his war in Ukraine will continue until it has achieved the goals that he set forth. And he insisted all was going according to plan, despite dogged Ukrainian resistance that forced the Russians to retreat from an assault on the capital, Kyiv. Meantime, Ukrainian officials said that they are investigating the possible use of a chemical agent against their troops in Mariupol, where the mayor said today that 21,000 people have been killed during the ongoing siege. On that trip to Iowa this afternoon, President Biden had some of his harshest words yet for Putin, and he tied the war to America's energy crisis, as we said.

President Joe Biden: Your family budget, your ability to fill up your tank, none of it should hinge on whether a dictator declares war and commits genocide a half-a-world away.

Judy Woodruff: The administration had previously made a point of not labeling Russian killings in Ukraine genocide, instead calling out Russian war crimes. Before Mr. Biden spoke today, but after Putin's remarks this morning, special correspondent Simon Ostrovsky sat down with Ukraine's foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, in Kyiv.

Simon Ostrovsky: Mr. Foreign Minister, thank you for agreeing to speak with me. The question that's on everybody's mind is, how can the world help Ukraine? In your opinion, what hasn't the United States, what hasn't the Euro-Atlantic alliance done yet in order to support Ukraine in its fight in this war with Russia?

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukrainian Foreign Minister: Well, there are three ways to help Ukraine here and now. The first one is to provide Ukraine with all necessary weapons. Second is to impose the harshest sanctions on Russia, third, to provide Ukraine — Ukraine with macro-financial assistance that will help us to keep the economy afloat, because we are at war. Russia is attacking our critical infrastructure.

Simon Ostrovsky: What is the urgency of weapons supplies right now? Why do you need these weapons now, and not later?

Dmytro Kuleba: In the beginning, you hear, no, this is not going to happen. Then you hear, OK, we will give you this, but this is it. We cannot give you anything more. Then you break this wall again. And then people tell you, OK, you can get this as much as you need, but you cannot get that because it's too sophisticated or it's offensive, not defensive. In the end, we get everything. But the time between the initial question that we asked and the moment when we get it is wasted. And the price that we pay is human lives, is destructed — destroyed houses and villages and the war taking place in Ukraine.

Simon Ostrovsky: You have said that, eventually, Ukraine always gets what it asks for, but there's a lapse in time. Well, what about those MiG jets that Poland promised and NATO and the United States blocked?

Dmytro Kuleba: Two weeks ago, the real message that I was receiving about it was, impossible. Two days ago, the message was, we are working on it. And that's just to reinforce my point that, in the end, we get what we need.

Simon Ostrovsky: We've been looking at the atrocities that were perpetrated by Russia while they occupied areas around Kyiv. And it's just horrible to imagine what's happening in the areas that are still occupied by Russia right now.

Dmytro Kuleba: It will be much worse. But the situation in Mariupol is much worse. The situation in the occupied Donbas, in the occupied south, south of Ukraine, is also very bad. But after the massacre of Bucha, Russia, of course, will try to conceal evidence and traces of its atrocities in the currently occupied territories.

Simon Ostrovsky: What do you say to critics who want to see a negotiated solution with Russia who criticize the supply of weapons to Ukraine because they believe that it will escalate the conflict?

Dmytro Kuleba: Well, the perfect-case scenario for Russia would be disarmed Ukraine, raped, tortured, killed by Russian army, and no one is coming to help her. And when you hear statements like this, like the one that you mentioned, this is exactly what Russia wants to do, wants to have. It's not the West who provides us with weapons who launched the war. It's not Western soldiers who commit crimes and atrocities in Ukraine. To provide Ukraine with weapons is actually to prevent further escalation, because, the stronger we are, the more careful Russia will be in launching its next attacks.

Simon Ostrovsky: Do you think there is an opportunity for a negotiated settlement? Vladimir Putin today said that peace talks have reached a dead end.

Dmytro Kuleba: I don't think that the deal can be signed now, as we see how Russia is unfolding its offensive operation in Donbas. I think that the moment for negotiations will be after the end of the battle for Donbas, when both sides will understand the prospect of this war.

Simon Ostrovsky: I have heard it said that an energy embargo on Russia would end its appetite for war in a matter of months. Do you believe that?

Dmytro Kuleba: Well, within days, maybe weeks.

Simon Ostrovsky: Why are you so confident of that?

Dmytro Kuleba: Because war needs money. We analyzed Russia's revenues. I don't think you have to be a rocket scientist to understand where the money come from. And they all come from oil and gas. All the sanctions that have been imposed today are important, but their true effect will be felt in midterm and long-term perspective. If they run out of gas and oil revenues, their economy will be in tatters and their war machine will simply stumble. If they see that we are weak, if we see — they see that we don't have weapons to defend ourselves, of course, they will be tempted to move further, to advance.

Simon Ostrovsky: What's nation? Let's talk about a peace agreement. Is Ukraine willing to make territorial concessions to Russia in order to achieve a peace settlement?

Dmytro Kuleba: No, Ukraine will not make territorial concessions to Russia in order to achieve peace settlement. I'm copy-pasting your question in my answer to avoid any misunderstandings or double interpretations.

Simon Ostrovsky: But, surely I mean, some people watching this program will find it unbelievable to imagine that Ukraine will give no territorial concessions in order to achieve peace to end the war. They will say it's not realistic to expect the war to end without some kind of a territorial concession.

Dmytro Kuleba: I can tell to those people that, since 2014, the recipe that was — the recipe of ending the war that was proposed to us by our partners, including the United States at that time, was, make a concession here, and Putin will step back. Make a concession there, and it will pacify Putin. And it never worked. Stop looking for excuses why not to help Ukraine, and stand by us to make Putin concede, not Ukraine.

Simon Ostrovsky: Your position seems to be there's only two ways for this war to end: Either Ukraine wins or Ukraine loses.

Dmytro Kuleba: No, no. There is one way for this war to end. It's Ukraine wins. Everything else is just tactics.

Simon Ostrovsky: Mr. Foreign Minister, thank you for speaking with the "NewsHour."

Dmytro Kuleba: My pleasure.


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