Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was “absolutely unprovoked” and is an “attack against humanity,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told Al Hadath in an interview which aired on Thursday.
“The Russian war against Ukraine is absolutely unprovoked and unjustified. Even if Russia had any concerns with regards to NATO’s policy, these concerns should have been addressed at the negotiating table. Instead, Russia preferred war,” said Kuleba.
“If anyone knocks on your door, you do not immediately fire back with the rifle killing that person. You first try to understand who is knocking and what does he want. Russia decided to fire and kill,” he added.
On February 24, Russia invaded Ukraine in what it called a “special military operation” which has caused mass displacement, both within the country and externally, with over twelve million Ukrainians believed to be seeking asylum in Europe so far, according to the United Nations’ recent estimates.
A great deal of the heavy fighting has been taking place in the east of Ukraine, namely in Mairupol’s Azovstal steel plant which Moscow is struggling to seize complete control of. Many civilians have been sheltering inside the steel plant, waiting to be permitted safe passage and evacuations, which the Red Cross said on Thursday was successful and well underway.
Russia’s plan is ‘failing’
The official told Al Hadath that Russia’s initial plan of taking over all of Ukraine had failed.
“I would like to remind you that the initial plan of Russia was to conquer entire Ukraine within days. Since the beginning of the invasion, this plan failed,” Kuleba said. “Then Russia said it will conquer Luhansk and Donetsk region of Ukraine in full, and this plan is also failing. Russia has not achieved a strategic goal on the battleground of Ukraine.”
According to the foreign minister, the two cities that are “suffering” from Russian occupation are in the country’s south: Kherson and Mariupol.
“Yes, they control them, but these are two sieges out of many others, which Russia wanted to take under full control and failed to do so. The situation on the battleground is extremely heavy, difficult because Russia throws a lot of weapons and infantry against our forces, but our soldiers defend their land and they hold the line, they hold their positions and Russia’s plan of offensive is failing.”
Kuleba also said that as the foreign minister of Ukraine, “everything I’m saying is based on factual information what my country had to go through.”
He also added that he has lived through the war himself.
“Russia’s plan was to capture Kyiv in the first couple of days of the invasion and after seeing Kyiv captured, they expected the rest of Ukraine to fall to their knees. This did not happen,” the official told Al Hadath.
“Russia can say 100 times that they are winning, that they reached all the objectives of their operations, but tell me, if they’re so successful, why did they retreat from Kyiv and Northeast of Ukraine when they realized that they cannot make any gains?”
Russia has claimed that the main aim of their “operation” was to protect the two self-proclaimed Russian-backed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, the country’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, told Al Arabiya in an interview last week.
Lavrov had also claimed that their actions in Ukraine were a “response to what NATO was doing in Ukraine” to allegedly “prepare” Ukraine “for a very aggressive posture against” Russia.
“It’s the Russian propaganda that managed to explain to the Russian people that the Russian retreat [from Kyiv] is an offensive in the opposite direction,” he added. “Unlike Russia, we [Ukrainians] live in a free world where anyone can say anything that [he] wants. This is not a war launched by the West against Russia.”
He continued, “Anyone who claims this distorts reality and serves the purposes of Russian propaganda. This war was launched by the Russian Federation against a sovereign neighbor who did not pose a threat to it.”
According to Kuleba, Ukraine is “an independent nation that makes its independent choices. We made the choice to be a country that will live up to the European standards of life and safety. Russia did not want us to be independent. They wanted us to live inside of the Russian world where there is no prosperity and no safety.”
Pope is ‘most welcome’ in Ukraine
The foreign minister also said the Pope is welcome in Ukraine, following reports that he had requested a meeting in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin to try to stop the war.
“The Pope is most welcome in Ukraine. Millions of Ukrainians belong to his church and for them, he is the head of the church, and they will be more than happy to see him in Ukraine and to pray with them in order to support my country and our people in this in this tragedy,” Kuleba said.
Pope Francis said in an interview published on Tuesday that he asked for the meeting with the Russian president but had not received a reply, Reuters reported.
The pope also told Italy’s Corriere Della Sera newspaper that Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church, who has given the war his full-throated backing, “cannot become Putin’s altar boy.”
The Pope, who made an unprecedented visit to the Russian embassy when the war started, told the newspaper that about three weeks into the conflict, he asked the Vatican’s top diplomat to send a message to Putin.
He said the message was “that I was willing to go to Moscow. Certainly, it was necessary for the Kremlin leader to allow an opening. We have not yet received a response and we are still insisting.”
He continued: “I fear that Putin cannot, and does not, want to have this meeting at this time. But how can you not stop so much brutality?”
Kuleba believes the pope “understands what Russia did in Ukraine is an attack on humanity and it’s beyond comprehension and it goes against God’s will.”
He also said “Ukraine appreciates a clear denunciation of Russia’s war against Ukraine by the Pope. That was expressed on a number of occasions, and his prayers for peace in Ukraine.”
The foreign minister said he has “no doubt” that the pope will visit Ukraine but cannot confirm when, or if he will first visit Russia.
“I have no doubts that first he will visit Ukraine. And … the people of Ukraine will whole heartedly welcome him while he goes to Russia. I'm afraid he will not be warmly received, but it’s up to him to make his choices, and I respect his right to do so.”
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