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Kiev Military Brass: We Will Not Negotiate With Separatists

A sit-down with a top Ukrainian defense official, who lays bare the realities on the ground in the embattled country and draws clearly the lines that will not be crossed

In Luhansk — Photo: Igor Golovniov/ZUMA
In Luhansk — Photo: Igor Golovniov/ZUMA
Paweł Gawlik

KIEV — Andriy Gabrov, senior advisor at the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, predicts that the story of Crimean nationality isn't over. "In two years' time, we will be back in Crimea," he says. Gazeta Wyborcza"s interview with Gabrov follows.

GAZETA WYBORCZA: What is the most difficult part of your antiterrorist operations?
ANDRIY GABROV: We cannot evacuate civilians from the area of clashes. In addition, the population of the Donbas region is indoctrinated — they think that we are the modern-day “Bandera people” named after Stepan Bandera, a controversial Ukrainian nationalist who fought against the Soviet Union who have come there to kill them.

The pro-Russian separatists, on the other hand, are welcome?
They are, but it does not mean people claim Russian governance over the region. They simply do not accept the current government. They want a different one. To which say, "That is what the upcoming elections are for. Go vote and choose your president." Although they already had their president, and they should be brought to (ousted President Viktor) Yanukovych"s Mezhyhirva Residence to see where their money is. Anyway, those times are over. Ukraine got up from its knees.

Are you running any informative campaigns in the east?
Not exactly. But I recall a day when our troops were stopped near Sloviansk by a group of 100 inhabitants. After a three-hour discussion, 80 of them went home. We did not persuade the other 20, but still it was a great success. I think that Ukraine has to prove to those people that they are of the same importance as those in Kiev or Lviv.

How do you assess the separatists' strength?
There are thousands of them, and additional troops are coming as Russians bring Chechens over. But the separatists are not able to coordinate their forces. To give you an example, they brought a group of Chechens dressed as civilians. An hour later, they brought another group of Chechens, but dressed in uniforms. The first troop took the second one for Ukrainian army members, so they opened fire and killed their own men. After discovering the truth, they simply buried their comrades in the woods. When this conflict is over, it will take time to discover all its victims.

Why are the pro-Russian separatists excluded from negotiations?
We cannot negotiate with separatists. If someone wants to grab the Ukrainian flag and burn it, then we should chop their hand off. We need to give an example. We do that once or twice, and there won't be a third time. If we accept the separatists' ultimatum, tomorrow everybody will raise their hand against the Ukrainian insignia.

What will happen if the Russian army enters the territories of eastern Ukraine?
I doubt it will ever happen. Putin will not cross the border officially. The only reason for this conflict is to show to Russians that any Maidan-like initiatives in the motherland will cost them dearly. Russia is a dictatorship, but in one year’s time people will stand against it.

Can Ukraine afford running military actions for several months?
We all have to make sacrifices now and fully fund — from loans, from the IMF — the army. A state is strong by virtue of its army.

Do you think Ukrainian reluctance to use force in Crimea was a mistake?
Yes it was. If we had strongly opposed the annexation of Crimea, we would not have to deal with Donetsk now. We should have responded very sharply from the very beginning.

You run operations only in Donbas. Are you leaving Crimea behind?
We will be back there in two years. By that time people will realize that what is not yours is not good for you. We have the support of Tatars, and the rest will follow. We say that Crimea is Ukrainian. The world feels exactly the same way.

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Limits Of Convenience: Why Russia-China Cooperation Won't Last

Moscow and Beijing may seem like strategic partners, but it's revealing itself clearly as a marriage of convenience. And ultimately they are naturally competitors, wary if the other grows stronger.

Limits Of Convenience: Why Russia-China Cooperation Won't Last

February 2022. Vladimir Putin attending the remony of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin Pool / Planet Pix via ZUMA Press Wire
Petro Shevchenko


Long before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping were growing closer. China’s goal? To revamp the current world order, significantly weaken the West and its leaders, and to become the world-dominating figurehead over and above the United States.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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Russia’s war in Ukraine has become an essential element of this plan to destabilize the global situation.

When the West began imposing stringent sanctions on Russia, China instead chose to economically support Putin and left its markets open to accept raw materials from Russia. But don’t think this means China is Putin’s lapdog. Quite the contrary: Beijing has never helped Moscow to its own detriment, not wishing to fall under the punitive measures of the US and Europe.

At the same time, the Russian-Chinese alliance stirred dissatisfaction amongst the elite in both Beijing and Moscow. China was not expecting Russia’s plans to occupy Ukraine in a matter of days to fail and as a result, China’s aim to destabilize the West alongside its Russian partner failed.

Add to this the various alliances in the West emerging against Beijing and fears for China’s economy on home turf is beginning to grow.

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