Zelensky’s adviser for Europe: “The war can spread to the Baltic countries and Poland” | International
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Ihor Zovkva (kyiv, 1980), the main adviser to the president of Ukraine, Volodímir Zelenski, arrives at the interview with EL PAÍS with a clear message so that the visits of European leaders to the country’s capital materialize in decisive gestures for their admission to the the European Union. With this claim, the advisor to the Ukrainian president on European and NATO affairs wasted no time in reproaching Pedro Sánchez for avoiding a more determined commitment to defend Ukraine’s entry into the EU. According to Zovkva, Ukraine has stopped knocking on the doors of NATO, but has begun an individual negotiation with European countries to prevent them from continuing to buy gas and oil from Russia given the impossibility of reaching a common position in Brussels. As a forceful argument to call for greater European involvement, this high-ranking position in Zelensky’s cabinet warns that the conflict also threatens the EU countries.
Ask. The head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, has recognized in an interview in EL PAÍS that it is impossible to agree on a veto on the purchase of Russian gas and oil, but it opens the door for each country to do it on their own. What do you expect from this message?
Response. We are waiting for the sixth package of sanctions against Russia to come into force and for each country to apply it in its own way and do what it can. In the case of Spain, only 3% of its oil consumption comes from Russia. It is not that important, so it could do it because every euro that Spain pays to Russia is used for military equipment, be it tanks, artillery or missiles, and that gives them the possibility of bombing and continuing this war for longer. This is a moral choice of each country, which must put oil products on one side of the scale and the lives of dying Ukrainian children, women and soldiers on the other.
P. Will they negotiate with each country to stop buying oil?
R. Yesterday [por el jueves] We talked about it with the president of Spain and the prime minister of Denmark, but before that also with the leaders of Portugal, France, Germany… The sixth package of sanctions is being prepared and Borrell will make his proposal. The decision will then depend on each European country and, of course, my president is talking to all of them.
P. Germany continues to be the great Russian client.
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R. Germany is very slow. It is changing gradually, although still insufficient. And a week before the war Olaf Scholz was here and his position was very different from what he is announcing now. Even his position on coal. But we are not going to focus on Germany, because if all the countries of the European Union opt for the embargo, Germany will eventually join.
P. Borrel said that the war is won on the battlefield.
R. Of course the fate of every war is decided on the battlefield. It’s undeniable. And now we are with the battle for Donbas, because the development of the war depends on that battle. We already know that Russia did not invade us now, but in 2014, when it occupied Crimea and other territories, but now we are in another stage where they want to occupy everything and our army is fighting so that Ukraine does not lose an inch of our territory.
P. The phrase has been controversial because it leaves little room for negotiation strategy.
R. Russia approaches negotiations depending on how well or poorly it is doing on the battlefield. At the beginning of the war, when they thought they were going to conquer us and occupy the whole territory in three or five days, they did not even talk about negotiating with the Ukraine. They didn’t listen to us. But when they saw that they could not conquer kyiv, Kharkov, or Odessa, they began to listen to us to at least study the peace conditions to analyze them. Now our weak point is Mariupol because people are surrounded and they can’t even get out. Our president has made it clear that if these people die, the negotiations are over. In general, it is a very difficult negotiation from a moral point of view, because what has happened in Bucha or the barbarities that we have seen have a great influence on us when we sit down to talk. It is a challenge, but the president believes that these negotiations with Putin are necessary.
P. And what time are they?
R. The conversations continue, but it is only about contacts by videoconference because they have not yet given us the answer to our proposal for the security guarantees that we have requested. They are waiting to see how the Donbas battle ends to position themselves.
P. And the negotiations with the countries called to provide security in the event of an attack on Ukraine?
R. That negotiation is alive. We are talking to the leaders of the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy…. We have even discussed the matter with the Spanish president, to whom we offered the possibility of becoming a country that would help guarantee Ukraine’s security.
P. Have they advanced in their process of convincing the European Union for their admission?
R. On February 28, four days after the invasion, our president sent an application to be a member of the European Union because even if it is in Ukraine, this is a war for European values. Our soldiers are dying for these values and we know perfectly well that there is a procedure to follow to enter the EU, but we fill in the questionnaires in record time. We are willing to go through this procedure, but not waste so much time for the European bureaucracy. We do not want to spend 15 more years, but to do it as soon as possible.
P. It is usually a long process.
R. The Ukrainian people cannot afford to wait that long. For the soldiers who are dying every day, the mothers and children who are being killed, we cannot make them wait many years. Now we are not talking about joining the European Union. We want a decision that is symbolic, that allows us to look from there and move forward. I have a study on the Spanish population that says that 80% support Ukraine’s entry into Europe. There are almost 250,000 Ukrainians in Spain and they already know how we are and that we are educated, hard-working people with an integrated population, but unfortunately during his visit on Thursday we have not heard from the President of the Spanish Government his willingness to support Ukraine’s entry into the European Union. Ukraine will not understand Spain’s position if it does not become a candidate for the EU in June.
P. Did the Spanish position seem lukewarm to you?
R. If there are unused weapons in Spain, that are left over and that do not condition the country’s security, they can help Ukraine a lot at this time. Spain can not only vote for Ukraine’s membership, but also convince others to do so. The reopening of the embassy seemed like a brave gesture to me.
P. After almost two months of war, do you maintain the harsh criticism that Ukraine made of NATO at the beginning?
R. If you ask the Ukrainian population, support for NATO is the highest it has ever been, close to 70%, but NATO is not ready to make us members. We feel that this door is closed and we do not want to knock on a door that is not willing to open.
P. NATO, in practice, is the United States and President Biden has given him great recognition.
R. But just as I was saying before with the European Union, if of the 30 NATO countries, 29 support us and only one country says no, they will also accept. And if they don’t want to guarantee a no-fly zone, we ask them for weapons and tools to do it on our own, but that hasn’t happened. The allies could offer us security guarantees so that this war does not repeat itself in a few years. Either with a protocol or with instructions on how to proceed in the event that Russia attacks Ukraine or any other country again.
P. Are the promised weapons arriving?
R. The problem in Ukraine is weapons and ammunition, but there is more. When we were with Pedro Sánchez, the Spanish president announced a list of the ammunition they plan to send us, but this shipment is insufficient and slow. And right now to unlock Mariupol, we need tanks, armored cars, artillery and missiles. If we receive them quickly and in sufficient numbers we will be able to stop this war as soon as possible and for the whole world it will be much cheaper and more profitable to stop it now. I don’t know when or how, but the war may spread to the Baltic countries and to Poland.
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