The former president raised the alarm: “In a few hours he can bring the troops to the border and Zelensky is unprepared.”
FROM OUR REPORT KIEV But will there be this invasion?
“The problem with Russia is hybrid warfare. It is a type of war that I have known well, even before I became president. It is a complex war, made up of direct invasion, of cyber-attacks, of orchestrated fake news, of well-financed fifth columns inside Ukraine, of an international activity of discrediting our country ”.
But the feeling is that now there is also a propaganda war. From Russia as well as from America. And that the danger is agitated, more than real …
«This hybrid war is all in Putin’s hands. And it’s not propaganda, I assure you. The fact that Russian troops on the border have increased from 80 to 130,000 men in a few months is a certainty. Our security has lowered, after Putin’s Anschluss of Belarus: to the threat over 2 thousand km of the Russian border, we must now also add the 1,100 km of the Belarusian border. We are surrounded on three sides. In recent months, we have closely monitored the Russian troops: they have acquired a very modern S-400 anti-aircraft system, they have sophisticated tanks, air forces with Iskander ballistic missiles. These things were not seen before. Now yes. And if this happens, then there is some reason behind it. Do they say that 130,000 soldiers are not enough to attack us? Over the past six years, Russia has built railways and roads that go in depths of up to 300 km – in just a few hours, they can bring troops to the border. This situation is dangerous, believe me. All the intelligence services see it. The allies tell us it is the highest level of danger since the Second World War ”.
Petro Poroshenko looks more than his 56 years. His face is tired. He leads the opposition, runs an industrial empire like a “chocolate king”, a newspaper and TV tycoon, investments in cars, a personal fortune estimated at one and a half billion dollars. But the stress is for these hours of siege. As a former Ukrainian president, between 2014 and 2019, he faced the Russians in the Donbass. He knows the enemy well. And he has no doubts: “He is a madman and must be stopped.”
What is Putin’s goal?
«In 2014, he only wanted Donbass and Crimea. He declared that he wanted to found a state called New Russia. O Little Russia. That includes half of Ukraine: Kharkiv, Dniepro, Donestsk, Lugansk, Odessa… Wherever they speak Russian, he thinks it’s Russia. And that people are ready to welcome him with flowers. But today no one would applaud him: the Ukrainians have had 14 thousand dead, they do not accept provocations ».
Do you want to conquer Kiev?
“Eight years ago, no. I don’t know now. They are different situations. Putin doesn’t have a single reason to attack us. We have no territorial disputes, we have no unresolved problems. It would just be the attack of a madman. With no reason. And if before many Ukrainians considered Russia one of their best friends, now they see it as their worst enemy. In 2014, support for NATO membership was only 16 per cent, and for the EU it was 33. In 2019, it had reached 64 per cent for NATO and 70 per cent for the EU. For me, who have always been in favor, it is a great result. But Putin also contributed to this result. Today the Donbass, conquered by Putin, is a suitcase without a handle. Uncomfortable: the standard of living falls, industries are destroyed, this is a catastrophe for Putin. His illegal move was to issue Russian passports. Do you know how many there are in the occupied territories? More than 800 thousand. There are nations in Europe that have fewer of them. From the international point of view, this is a typical occupation ».
Why this emergency right now?
«Putin is not a normal person, he does not see himself only at the head of a nation: he believes himself to be halfway between an emperor and God. I spent many hours with him and I know what his game is: exploiting the situation. In 2008, he attacked Georgia and took advantage of favorable international conditions. The same in 2014, annexing Crimea and invading Ukraine, without finding a real reaction. He signed the Minsk peace accords with me, but then ignored them beautifully. Reactions? None. He also entered Syria and Libya, using Wagner’s mercenaries, and nothing happened. Last year, in April, he moved his troops to the Ukrainian border. And what was the result? Got a meeting with Biden! The same one who just before had (rightly) called him “killer”! No punishment! Putin has understood that in recent months blackmail worked, because everyone was weak: Merkel is gone, in France they have elections, Italy had to elect the head of state, Hungary had a particular situation, in Austria s ‘the chancellor was resigned … Now the strong response has come from the United States and Great Britain. Crossing your fingers, it will also come from the EU ».
Do we have to die for Ukraine?
“There is no need. We can protect our land if they attack us. We don’t expect Americans or Italians to come and fight for us. We have 250,000 soldiers and in a week we can have 500,000. Strong and motivated. We only need more modern defense systems, for example to prevent Russia from turning off our communications. The Russians know they can pay a high price if they shoot their Grads. I’ll tell you something. When I bought the new Javelin anti-tanks from the US as president, the deal with the White House was that I wouldn’t have them on the front line. I had to keep them in storage. But I pretended nothing had happened and publicly said that every Ukrainian brigade would have them: do you know that the next day the Russian tankers refused to go to the border? They were afraid of being pulverized. It is psychological warfare, arms supplies from abroad are a great deterrent. We know that Russia has one of the strongest military in the world. But we have experience and are called to protect not only the Ukrainians, but also the Europeans. Tomorrow Russia is capable of entering any of your countries, as it did with us. In Latvia, Estonia, Poland. Or in Bosnia: how far is Bosnia from Italy? ».
What answer do you need?
«Let’s make Russia weaker. How can we weaken it? With sanctions: its economic growth is zero, it has stagnation and recession. Let us enhance Ukraine’s military capabilities, with defense and non-attack weapons: we must show that this absurd decision has a very high price. When tens of thousands of Russians return to the coffins, Putin will perhaps understand that it would have been better to avoid this foolish step. Sanctions are also needed on the gas pipeline, which is more about safety than energy or the economy: Europe is now paying for having ignored the safety factor of Nord Stream 2 ».
The Ukrainian army has improved. Stop it?
“In 2014 it was a complete disaster but when I left, in 2019, the army was better trained, motivated, better equipped. Now the feeling is that it has gotten worse again. We have to spend at least two billion dollars. Remember what Churchill said: if you want peace, you can capitulate in two hours and in two hours you will have peace, but you will not have the country, the sovereignty, the freedom, not the people, you will have nothing more ».
Are there spaces for mediation? In these hours, Boris Johnson and Erdogan are on the move …
“I really appreciate. the efforts of my friend Boris Johnson. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Ukrainian President Zelensky said that we can have a meeting with Putin in Jerusalem, in the Vatican, in Istanbul, go to know… We must remember that all this depends on the good will of one person: Putin. He is not interested, we have to be stronger. My rule is that don’t trust Putin and don’t be afraid, everything he promises never happens. It will never take a step towards you. Don’t trust and don’t be afraid. If you are afraid, you have lost ».
Europeans are not united. Germany doesn’t want to hit Putin…
«We must do our best to be united. In 2014, many Russians said that Europeans would never be united. But then there was the decision on European sanctions. They played a crucial role. If Europe breaks over Ukraine, it is its defeat ».
But why does NATO continue to consider Russia an enemy? Wouldn’t the real enemy be China?
“Do me a favor. Whoever tells you this, take it to Ukraine. I organize a special bus, for mothers who have lost children, for people who have lived under heavy artillery for eight years. Without reason, without explanation. China may not be the best neighbor, but I don’t know if it has ever started a war in the last 70 years: it has so many exports, it would have an economic collapse. Putin, no. He is not afraid of an economic collapse. He has nothing to sell to his people. No wealth, no freedom, no democracy. The only thing it can sell is: ok, we are in a serious situation, but we have Crimea! Do you have the largest nation in the world and you don’t know what to do with your territory? His people are tired ».
Two weeks ago, you returned to Kiev from Poland. To face a trial for high treason …
“A targeted, stupid accusation. I am in the Guinness Book of Records for the number of criminal investigations against me. They accuse me of anything. An absurdity. Garbage. But I want to be responsible and say stop to internal struggles: we Ukrainians must stand united. As leader of the opposition, this is the hand I extend to President Volodymyr Zelensky: if we are united, we are strong. And if we are strong, we can beat Putin. Unfortunately, I see that Zelensky is not ready for this. He is irresponsible. He is more afraid of me than of Putin. And this is a tragedy ».
If war breaks out, what do you do?
“I fight. As I did when I was president ».