“Give us the tools and we will finish the job,” a senior Ukrainian official said, citing Winston Churchill when asked what the West could do to help fight off the Russian invasion.
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“If you cannot close [the Ukrainian airspace], please give us the weapons. Give us the aircraft and the systems to protect ourselves from Russian aircraft and rockets,” Advisor to Ukraine’s Defense Minister Markian Lubkivskyi said.
Speaking to Al Arabiya English from an undisclosed location in Ukraine, Lubkivskyi maintained that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was not going as Moscow and its leader, Vladimir Putin, had planned.
Nevertheless, he warned that Ukraine needed help in the air and that officials in Kyiv were still trying to convince the West that a no-fly zone was necessary.
“This is very important for us in terms of protecting our people because we are very strong on the ground. But we cannot fight against Russians in the air.”
According to European and Western officials, Putin anticipated that he would be able to take control of Kyiv and force its government to step down in exchange for one allied with him.
But the Russians are still trying to enter the capital city.
“This is their main plan, and they concentrated a significant number of forces in the northern part of Kyiv, and they’re trying to enter into our capital,” Lubkivskyi said.
While most European countries and the US have been reluctant to provide fighter jets to Ukraine for fear that they could be seen as a member of the war by Russia, the Ukrainian official said talks were still ongoing over the matter.
“I believe that in the coming days, we will get more weapons. And today, it was also announced by the Minister of Defense of Ukraine Mr. [Oleksii] Reznikov, who said that Russians will be surprised,” Lubkivskyi told Al Arabiya English without elaborating.
While he thanked the West for all the help it was providing and the sanctions against Russia, he lamented the delay in action by the West to arm Ukraine and punish Russia ahead of the attack.
“I have to say that, unfortunately, these efforts were too late. If we had sanctions against Russia and weapons to support Ukraine two weeks earlier, we might fight more efficiently. And I think that we could, in that case, protect the lives of our soldiers and our people,” Lubkivskyi said.
Calling on the West to “be brave like Ukrainians,” he warned: “If you leave us, Putin will come to your homes; it's absolutely clear to me.”
Government staying in Kyiv
Lubkivskyi insisted that the Ukrainian government, led by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, would remain in Kyiv.
“And you know, I think that our society is so united and supporting each other, it's impossible for Putin to get a victory in this bloody, bloody war,” said the advisor to Ukraine’s Defense Minister [Oleksii] Reznikov.
Asked about the Ukrainian army’s success so far in repelling Russia’s attempts to seize Kyiv, Lubkivskyi pointed to motivation.
“I will remind you that this is the eighth year of the war. So, we have a lot of people with experience, a lot of soldiers who have passed through a war already. They are well-trained, and they are well-equipped,” he said, referring to the initial Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. “The Ukrainian army today is different from the Ukrainian army in 2014… And the motivation of Ukrainians is very high because we are not attacking; we are defending ourselves.”
Diplomatic solution still possible
The Ukrainian government still believes that negotiations are the best way to reach a solution.
Lubkivskyi also vehemently rejected accusations by Russia that Ukraine was not allowing citizens to flee areas where a ceasefire was agreed.
He cited the upcoming talks to be held in Turkey between the top diplomats of Ukraine and Russia as proof of Ukraine’s will to reach a peaceful solution.
“We are ready to find a way to stop the war. And the main thing we are asking for and our main request is to stop the fire. A ceasefire is the number-one task for everybody,” Lubkivskyi said.
He added: “We are a peaceful nation. We don't want to fight, but we will defend our motherland. This is absolutely clear for everybody.”
Russia and Iran nuclear deal
Lubkivskyi raised skepticism over the efforts by the US to strike a nuclear deal with Iran after former President Donald Trump withdrew from the previous agreement in 2018.
“We should be very concerned with a potential Iran nuclear deal. Russia is the major beneficiary, and this will bring instability to the Gulf into the Middle East. So, we should be very careful with that,” he said.
With reports suggesting that a deal was imminent over the weekend, last-minute demands from Moscow have delayed a final agreement.
Russia said that it now wanted guarantees from the US that recent economic sanctions against it in response to the invasion of Ukraine would not impact its economic and military cooperation with Iran.