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    Ukrainian Ambassador: If everyone had reacted like Poland, there would not have been so many casualties [INTERVIEW FOR “Gazeta Polska”]

    “I make no secret of the fact that I have this impression that Russia is making various hybrid efforts and has an influence on certain European politicians. Unfortunately, you can see that it plays a role in the decision-making processes in these countries. However, I believe that fewer and fewer representatives of the political class will trust Russia if Russia can be trusted at all, and such mistakes will not be duplicated in the future,” Vasyl Zvarych, Ambassador of Ukraine to the Republic of Poland, says. The interview was conducted by Tomasz Sakiewicz for “Gazeta Polska.”

    What are the most important challenges for a diplomat from Ukraine who carries out his mission in Poland nowadays? 

    The Ukrainian Ambassador to Poland today is first and foremost a representative of the people and authorities fighting for the independence of their homeland against the Russian aggressor. Time has forced us to change our priorities in talks. Previously, we talked much more about economic cooperation. Now, on the other hand, we are focusing on discussing military aid, and financial aid, so that we can face this tragic situation together with Poland and other partners.

     

    So, do you also represent the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine in negotiations on military aid?

    As much as possible.

     

    I understand that the details of the negotiations are secret, but how do you assess the scale of Poland’s assistance? What impact does it have on the war?

    The support we are receiving from Poland is making a real difference on the battlefield. You are the second country after the United States in terms of the scale of aid. I’m talking about humanitarian and military aid together. In Poland, we have a huge base when it comes to defending our homeland. Having such a partner, we believe that we can win this war.

     

    Poland has fulfilled its commitments to Ukraine. The promised military equipment has been handed over, but are you talking about further tranches of aid?

    We talk about it all the time. Poland’s aid is constant. We have an action plan worked out at least until the end of this year.

     

    How much is this aid being talked about in Ukraine?

    I guess all Ukrainian citizens already know what a Polish AHS Krab or a Polish ‘Piorun’ are. I often emphasize that Polish weapons in Ukrainian hands testify to the true brotherhood of arms. This is noticed by everyone in Ukraine.

     

    Poland has donated a lot of weapons to the Ukrainian army, but you have also purchased a lot recently.

    Unfortunately, I cannot give such details. I can only say that everything is on the right track.

     

    Since the beginning of the war, more than 5 million refugees have crossed the Polish-Ukrainian border. This is more than 10 per cent of your country’s population.

    This is a huge number, but what impresses us, even more, is the openness of the Polish people and solidarity. In my opinion, Poland understands well the situation in which we currently find ourselves. In your history, you have fought for independence and statehood many times. You trust and support people who defend their country with determination. This spirit of solidarity is very evident now. You have opened your homes, and your hearts to the women and children of Ukraine, and this is a very strong foundation for our relations now and in the future. We will never forget this help and will always refer to the solidarity we received from the Poles.

     

    A lot of Ukrainians are making a new life for themselves in Poland. They take up jobs and pay taxes. Is it a result of introduced laws by Polish authorities concerning refugees?

    We are very grateful for these legal regulations that the Polish authorities have introduced. Ukrainians can take advantage of them, and they are very helpful to our compatriots. We encourage every Ukrainian citizen who comes to Poland to obtain a PESEL number because then they can safely take up employment. We also urge people to take up work, because in addition to the obvious financial benefit, in this way you can forget about the situation in Ukraine, at least for a while. I am also proud of how capable my compatriots are, they are not afraid to take up any jobs and are getting very good feedback from Polish employers.

     

    Ukrainian society seems to have changed a lot in recent years. There are a lot of educated people, and the mode of work is also changing. You can see that you are West-oriented.

    This is what Vladimir Putin cannot understand. Ukrainians are a European nation, and we are striving for membership in the European Union. We have nothing to do with this Russian mire that is now trying to impose itself on us. We declare this. We are also very happy that, with the help of the Republic of Poland, we have received the status of a candidate state for the European Union. This determines our future direction of development.

     

    One of the forms of assistance provided by Poland is to step into the role of Ukraine’s ambassador on the international stage. Some countries have not risen to the challenge, such as Germany, which is not clear on which side of the war it is today.

    We emphasize all the time that if all democratic countries had reacted as Poland had done, this war would not have lasted long and there would not have been so many casualties. The attitude of the Poles, I mean, the speed of their reaction, the defence of international law, help for people in need. It illustrates what European solidarity should look like. Such behaviour should be the basis of the European Union because only this will ensure our security in the future.

     

    Don’t you have the impression that the West has failed the test of solidarity? We are seeing attempts to block aid to Ukraine. Poland, on the other hand, has taken in the most refugees,

    and the European Commission refuses to pay the European funds that we are entitled to. 

    I make no secret of the fact that I have this impression that Russia is making various hybrid efforts and has an influence on certain European politicians. Unfortunately, you can see that it plays a role in the decision-making processes in these countries. However, I believe that fewer and fewer representatives of the political class will trust Russia if Russia can be trusted at all, and such mistakes will not be duplicated in the future.

     

    Some, however, are probably not capable of such reflections. Blocking aid to Ukraine is the event of recent days. Perhaps there is such an idea to freeze this war and make a deal with Russia. Such a scenario is undoubtedly very dangerous for Ukraine.

    I agree. Concepts may be different in different countries. However, the only concept that will mean victory for Ukraine and the European Union as a whole, is victory on the principles of international law, and certainly not under the dictation of Moscow. Ukraine’s territory cannot be occupied, including Crimea. Russia must be forced to withdraw and pay for the damage it has caused.

     

    The war has been going on for nearly six months. How do you assess the condition of Ukrainian society after this time?

    Ukrainian society is very determined. Various surveys show that more than 90 per cent of my compatriots do not want to end the war at any cost. We need to regain our territory and push the Russians out of it.

     

    Aren’t you concerned that this war may continue for a long time?

    For the war not to last long, Russia must be isolated internationally. In addition, sanctions, which will be impossible to circumvent, and military support for Ukraine. These are the three pillars that will allow us to end the war quickly.

     

    Do you think the concept put forward by Jarosław Kaczyński of introducing peacekeeping forces on Ukrainian territory is feasible?

    The concept presented by President Jarosław Kaczyński is worth consideration. After the Russian troops withdraw from Ukraine, we will indeed need some additional support. I think various options will be considered.

     

    Do the authorities consider the possibility of Ukraine joining some security-enhancing project?

    Our goal is to join the European Union and the North Atlantic Alliance.

     

    However, Russia demands Ukraine remain neutral.

    I think this is a false condition. Russia does not need any conditionality for its aggressive actions. Its demands for neutrality are not taken into account at all. We are a sovereign country and the Ukrainian people have expressed their desire to join the EU and NATO. Russia has nothing to say here. The example of Sweden and Finland shows that it is not impossible to enter the structures of the Alliance. Ukraine’s membership in NATO will also significantly improve security in our region.

     

    Would Ukraine be interested in building a common security concept, where the centre of this would be Warsaw, which will bring you into the EU and NATO?

    Warsaw’s role is huge. The war unleashed by Russia will significantly accelerate the process of building a certain security model. We will certainly analyze how effective this security model is and whether it can guarantee protection for all the countries in our region. Warsaw’s voice in all this is crucial. We remember the time of the war in Georgia and the famous speech of the late Lech Kaczyński in Tbilisi, in which he accurately predicted what the future would look like. This shows how important the analyses coming out of Poland are. The rest of the countries should always take them into account. Warsaw knows the risks best, which is why I do not doubt that the centre of these analyses will be in the Polish capital.

     

    You were a diplomat in Turkey for a long time. How do you assess the country’s conduct in recent months? What is Turkey’s point in this war?

    Turkey has great potential in the region and wants to use it to build peace around itself. At the moment, it is balancing between Moscow and the West. Turkey wants to play the role of a mediator, a peace contributor. Ukraine has very good relations with the country, and we greatly appreciate its efforts to settle conflicts peacefully. Its authorities know that we care a lot about peace, but not at any cost. We need to regain Crimea and Donbas.

     

    Does Turkey support these demands?

    Turkey supports the integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine’s borders. Those borders are recognized by international law. Turkish authorities at various levels often emphasize this position.

     

    Ukraine was severely damaged economically by the war. According to the latest data, GDP has fallen by 30 per cent. Can this be rebuilt quickly?

    We will strive to do so, and I believe we can, with the support of our European partners, the United States, Canada, etc. The result of this war will certainly be greater integration of the economies of Ukraine and the EU. Already quite a few Ukrainian businesses have moved, among others, to Poland but the connection with the homeland remains.

     

    Until next April, the EU is abolishing tariffs on Ukrainian exports. This move is expected to help rebuild the Ukrainian economy.

    I hope that after April next year there will still be some form of favouritism towards Ukrainian business because this is crucial to the reconstruction of our country. We have already worked out a plan for rebuilding Ukraine, which is spread over the next 10 years. We need about $750 billion for this.

     

    When the war broke out, were you in Ukraine?

    Yes, in Kyiv.

     

    You heard the sirens. What have you thought at that time?

    At first, we were all in shock, but I quickly learned that we were capable of instant mobilization. I heard the first explosions on the morning of February 24. My children also reacted immediately, and we started gathering the most necessary things so we could evacuate quickly. We went downstairs to the shelter and then began working 24 hours a day, seven days a week to mobilize international opinion to support us.

     

    Didn’t you think that you had been attacked by nuclear power and it would be very difficult to repel the aggressor?

    None of us had any doubt at the time that Russia would lose. The sign of weakness was the attack itself – brutal and inhumane. For a large country, a member of the UN Security Council, and a nuclear power, this kind of assault on another sovereign state is shameful and shows the weakness of both the president and the rest of the political elite. Russia has no chance in this war.

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