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Russian Invasion: Ukraine calls for more powerful defense equipment as it decries over 17 attacks against civilians

Date:

*As country celebrates “Day of Ukrainian Statehood”

As the war between Russia and Ukraine continues to rage with its attendant socio-economic consequences on the countries around the world, Ukraine government has called for additional more powerful an effective anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense system. In an interview with Bridget Chiedu Onochie, the Charge d’ Affairs, Embassy of Ukraine in Nigeria, Bohdan Soltys, disclosed that since February 24, when the hostility began, Russia has committed 17,314 attacks against civilian targets and only about 300 against the military ones.  However, as moves continue to broker peace between the two nations, Ukraine envoy hinted that such can only be achieved through complete liberation of Ukraine’s territory within the internationally recognized borders.

The war in Ukraine is going on. What is the current situation?

Russia’s offensives in Ukraine have largely stalled but limited ground assaults combined with heavy shelling, missile attacks and airstrikes continue along the front line, especially in the Donetsk region. It became clear that Kremlin’s plans in Ukraine would fail. Russia retains a significant numerical superiority, especially in artillery. Despite this, Ukrainian defenders managed to stabilize situation at the front, including due to the modern high-precision weapons provided by Western partners, which are effectively used to destroy Russia’s logistic bases, ammunition warehouses and command centres. Faced with heavy losses (38,750 killed as of July 20), Russia continues hidden mobilization. The Kremlin has ordered Russian regions to form “volunteer” battalions to be sent to Ukraine. Realizing that it will not win the war on the battlefield, Russia has resorted to the state terrorism. Massive Russian missile attacks, more than 3,000 since the start of war, kill dozens of civilians far away from the front line. Since 24 February, Russia committed 17,314 attacks against civilian targets and only nearly 300 against the military ones (as of 14 July). These deliberate terrorist acts demonstrate the urgent need to provide Ukraine with powerful and effective anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense systems.

Only Ukraine and its people will decide when and how the war will end and the peace with Russia will be reached. 89% of Ukrainian citizens believe that the war must end with complete liberation of Ukraine’s territory within the internationally recognized borders. Russia understands only the language of force. If Ukraine loses on the battlefield, all democratic countries will lose. Support to Ukraine is the best investment into European and world security. The NATO Madrid Summit has clearly defined Russia in its Declaration as the most significant and direct threat to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area. We need to be ready for a long-term fight. We must not allow Kremlin to use its propaganda and growing “war fatigue” to weaken the support provided to Ukraine. It is important that our partners share this approach: at the G7 Summit, the leaders have stated that G7 “will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes”. We want to liberate all the occupied territories (currently, nearly 20 percent of Ukraine’s territory with 2,621 settlements). No ceasefire, demilitarization or disengagement would be appropriate: we do not want to establish another “frozen conflict” or give Russia a respite for preparation for the next invasion. Supplies of modern, high-precision and efficient NATO weapons and ammunition must be accelerated. The sooner we receive at least parity in heavy arms with Russia, the more lives of Ukrainian military and civilians will be saved and the faster the war will end.

There are articles on the internet that the weapons given to Ukraine by other countries are smuggled out of Ukraine and sold in other countries, including in Nigeria. Could you comment on this?

Russia’s fake allegations of weapons smuggling are aimed at cutting military aid to Ukraine. All our procedures for obtaining, storing and using such weapons are transparent and efficient.

 

How does the population of the occupied territories react to the Russian occupation?

The population of the Russia-occupied areas of Ukraine continues to fiercely resist the occupation. Ukrainian citizens do not accept the so-called “Russian world”, which brings only deaths, destruction and fear. The growing partisan activity undermines Russia’s efforts to institute coherent occupational control.

 

What can you say about the recent agreement on unblocking the Ukrainian ports for safe transportation of grain?

Following talks on unblocking Ukrainian ports and grain exports on July 22, an Initiative on the Safe Transportation of Grain and Foodstuffs from Ukrainian Ports was signed. Ukraine did not sign any documents with the aggressor state, Russia. We signed a trilateral document with Turkey and the UN. Russia signed a separate identical agreement with Turkey and the UN. According to the agreement, Ukrainian agricultural commodities and fertilizers, including ammonia will be transported from three ports —Odesa, Chornomorsk and Yuzhny — via a humanitarian corridor. The Joint Coordination Center (JCC) with headquarters in Istanbul will facilitate navigation and other logistics modalities. The initiative fully covers security concerns of Ukraine’s southern regions and ensures that the Ukrainian Armed Forces maintain strong positions in Black Sea. Ukraine maintains exclusive control of its territorial waters. Less than 24 hours after the signing, Putin launched a brutal missile attack on the port of Odesa showing total disrespect to the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres and Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan whom he guaranteed security and compliance with the deal. Ukraine emphasizes the need for strict implementation of the agreements. We call on the UN and Turkey to ensure that Russia complies with its obligations within the framework of the safe functioning of the grain corridor. Should Russia fail to fulfill the agreements, it will bear full responsibility for the deepening of the global food crisis.

 

 

What ways of the war resolution do you see?

President of Ukraine, Mr. Volodymyr Zelenskyy, stresses that in order to prevail, freedom must be armed better than tyranny that aims to destroy it. The President’s top priority now is to ensure swift deliveries of a maximum amount of heavy weapons to strengthen the Armed Forces of Ukraine and save more lives. Ukraine’s effective use of HIMARS in the previous weeks has proven the golden rule of this war: Ukrainian skills and courage plus advanced Western weapons equal Ukrainian victories. This is the reason why we urgently need more HIMARS and similar MLRS as well as 155-mm artillery pieces: Ukraine is capable of winning and ending this war sooner, thus, saving many innocent lives. In the previous weeks, Ukraine has successfully destroyed a number of Russian ammo depots and command centers, proving that Ukrainian servicemen are highly skilled and motivated warriors who can learn to use NATO-style weapons very quickly and put them to effective use.

 

Security guarantees for Ukraine

Today, we should focus on developing effective and comprehensive security guarantees for Ukraine which would protect it from any new potential round of aggression from Russia. Head of the President’s Office, Andriy Yermak, works on security guarantees for Ukraine together with former NATO Chief, Anders Vogh Rasmussen. He works actively on crafting the actual models of security guarantees that are being discussed with partner nations. These guarantees must be included in legally binding and duly ratified international agreements with guarantor states. In 30 years of our independence, Ukraine has been one of the key security donors for the world.

Ukraine gave up world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal in 1994; participated in almost all UN-led and NATO-led peacekeeping missions; played a key role in ensuring global food security; has always been a responsible international actor who contributed to the global peace and security, not shattered it and has never appealed to other nations with requests to put their boots on the ground and help us defend ourselves against Russia’s brutal war that it wages on our country since 2014. This is why we think that the world owes Ukraine security, and we think that now is the time to find appropriate and mutually acceptable formats of providing security guarantees to Ukraine.

Many people have the impression that Russia wants a truce

Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy has emphasized that freezing the conflict with Russia would only give them a break for rest and a new assault later. Russia has swallowed two Ukrainian regions and now says: ‘Freeze the conflict’. Then, it will rest and in two or three years, it will seize two more regions and say again: ‘Freeze the conflict’. It will keep going further. No one in the world has ever wanted this war except Russia and its President, Vladimir Putin, and no other country wants peace as much as Ukraine. But Ukraine seeks a lasting peace, not a ceasefire dictated by Russia. In recent days, Russian officials have pretended they are ready for negotiations. For instance, on July 24, Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, stated that Moscow was prepared to negotiate with Kyiv “on a wider range of issues.” This statement was made right after Russia’s brutal attack on the port of Odesa in violation of agreements regarding the restoration of safe export of Ukrainian agricultural goods. When Russia says it is ready to negotiate, it lies. Ukraine has proposed mutually acceptable solutions before and after the beginning of the full-scale invasion. Russia has consistently rejected all of them. In fact, Russia is not ready to negotiate. Putin’s spokesperson recently said that a peace deal with Ukraine is only possible when Ukraine accepts all Russian ultimatums and lays down arms. Russia remains focused on war, not talks. Recent statement by the Russian Foreign Minister on Russia expanding its war aims also proves they are in a war mood, not a negotiating mood. The only real reason for Russia to talk about negotiations now is its plans to preserve control over the occupied Ukrainian territories.

 

The Russian war against Ukraine will likely impact food security in Africa. What was the prewar trade and economic cooperation between Nigeria and Ukraine? 

In 2021, the volume of trade with goods and services between the countries was $196.7 million. Export of goods was $188.4 million, which was by 271.8 per cent, more than in 2020 when import was $ 8.3 million, which was more by 237.2 per cent than in 2020. The balance was positive for Ukraine by $ 180.7 million. The main items of Ukrainian export – grain (46.6%); ferrous metals (40.2%); starchy products (3.6%); sugar and confectionery (2.1%); foodstuffs (1.4%); alcoholic and soft beverages and vinegar (1.4%); meat and fish products (0.9%).

In 2022, despite the war, Ukraine managed to launch international platform “NAZOVNI”, which is designed to provide diplomatic assistance to Ukrainian exporters in foreign markets, including Nigeria. The project is being executed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine. Embassy of Ukraine in Nigeria works to establish and deepen contacts with business circles of other countries such as representatives of key business associations, importers and distributors. We want Ukrainian exporters’ interests to meet with foreign request.

To what degree would you say the war has affected the economy of Ukraine?

Russia seeks to destroy Ukraine’s economy, to make us a “failed state”, which would not be able to resist its pressure and influence. Every next day of the war makes the situation even worse. The GDP of Ukraine is expected to drop by 1/3 in 2022. Russia’s invasion has damaged or destroyed up to 30% of Ukraine’s infrastructure at a cost of $100billion. The overall infrastructure damage, and lost profits and investments constitute $750 billion. 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 programs for business, finding accommodation and new jobs for IDPs). In the liberated areas, critical infrastructure and residential areas are restored. Reconstruction of Ukraine is a joint task of the entire democratic world and the greatest possible contribution to maintaining global peace. We are grateful to the countries ready to take patronage over Ukraine’s regions, cities or industries affected by the war. At the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Lugano, we have presented our national Reconstruction Plan. In the short term, we need $17.4billion to reconstruct the social infrastructure in the liberated territories. The generous financial ($11billion as of July 5) 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. Trade, transport and energy liberalization and increasing Ukraine’s export is a critical element of post-war recovery. We expect the decisions taken in this regard by EU, UK, Canada, US and Australia to remain in place after the end of the war. Russia must fully pay for its crimes: its confiscated assets around the world should become the main source of financing Ukraine’s economic recovery. Such recovery must start now without waiting for the end of the war. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization made it clear that contrary to Russian claims, the sanctions imposed by the EU and other countries are not responsible for growing food insecurity and malnutrition, as they exclude both food and fertilizers. It is the unjustified Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, especially the destruction of the logistics infrastructure of Ukraine as well as the blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports that is exacerbating an already tight supply situation on world markets. Establishment of an international mission – humanitarian corridor – under the UN auspices, which will take over the functioning of maritime routes for the export of Ukrainian agricultural goods, is one step from being finalized. On July 13, the first round of negotiations between Ukraine, Turkey, Russia and the UN took place in Istanbul. We expect all countries to refrain from buying food stolen by Russia from the occupied parts of Ukraine. The bulk carriers under mostly Russian and Syrian flags are used to transport such food from the occupied Ukrainian seaports of Sevastopol and Berdiansk.

In conclusion, I would like to say that on July 28 (today), Ukraine is celebrating the Day of Ukrainian Statehood. As Ukrainian President, Zelenskyy noted, The Day of Ukrainian Statehood connects many generations of Ukrainian people. Ukrainian people have learnt their history lessons well and they will defend their independence until Ukraine prevails over the aggressor. For decades, Russia has tried to appropriate Ukrainian history and deny the Ukrainian people the right to have their own identity. In fact, over 100 years ago, prominent Ukrainian historian, Mykhailo Hrushevsky in his work “History of Ukraine-Rus” scientifically proved that the history of Ukrainian statehood begins with the ancient Rus’. The Day of Ukrainian Statehood is a celebration of Ukrainian identity, unity and determination to win this war and rebuild Ukraine into a successful and modern European state.
We will win because the truth is on our side.

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