U.S. President Barack Obama told CNN in an interview that the U.S. would increase economic and diplomatic pressure on Russia until Putin does not decide to use diplomatic means to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine. At the same time, the President of the U.S. thinks that the best support they could lend to Ukraine today is support for economic and other types of reforms.
The Ukrainian diplomatic mission discussed the details of such support and pressure on Putin in Washington recently. Voice of America correspondent Tetyana Vorozhko asked deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Vadym Prystayko about how the meetings with the allies and the Russians are going and what the Ukrainian diplomacy had manacled to achieve throughout the time of the conflict.
According to Prystayko, the Ukrainian diplomats have sufficient proof of the presence of the Russian troops in Ukraine and Russia’s support of the mercenaries, and they present it at almost every international meeting. They also demonstrate them to the Russians.
“I was at the meeting where Lavrov himself said: show me at least one soldier. We show him. No, this one’s not right. No, we won’t look at the map. And so on and so forth,” Prystayko says.
The evidence Ukraine has at its disposal includes the tanks that are only made in Russia. Obviously, the ‘LNR’ and ‘DNR’ couldn’t have constructed them or imported them from another country. Plus the ‘BUK’s, Russian drones, the Ukrainian diplomat notes.
“We are asking out Russian colleagues: what do you want, do you want Putin himself to cross the border barefoot with a flag in his hand, and then will you say that you’re present there?” Prystayko says.
According to him, the issue is not the evidence itself, but whether Putin would give the order to acknowledge it. Russia’s denial of its military presence in Ukraine is not a productive position, as it does not allow for breakthroughs in diplomacy.
“If you remember, in Brisbane, the local Prime Minister told Putin: I know I have to shake your hand but I only have one thing to say to you – get out of Ukraine. To which Putin replied, as the Prime Minister told me, “we’re not there.” To this, the Prime Minister said that they were wasting time on this meeting because they were speaking different languages. Everyone knows you’re fighting there, leading a hybrid war, and you continue to insist that you’re not there,” says Prystayko.
At the same time, according to him, when other countries, such as Greece, doubt Ukraine’s position, they do it not because of the lack of evidence.
“It goes without saying that we know we’re sometimes surprised by the statements made by the President of the Czech Republic, the Hungarian Prime Minister. There are countries, which are closer to Russia, which are tied with economic connections, which would not want to make very radical statements. There is fear. You understand, when they see what Russia is doing with Ukraine, they are afraid of what would be done to them. Their duty is to defend their nations. They are trying to be flexible. This flexibility leads to the aggressor become more and more audacious,” says Prystayko.
And though it is impossible to solve the conflict by exclusively democratic means, according to him, any resolution or declaration in Ukraine’s favor, besides the confirmation of its right, has few practical consequences.
“There is benefit as understood by professionals. For example, the decision the U.N. Council made last year, at which over 100 countries voted in favor of Ukraine, and this evidences the level of support for our position. And this was what all further decisions were based on. For example, the International Organization for Civil Aviation, which is responsible for flight, Ukraine included. We have difficulty ensuring the flight regime. It is possible to base ourselves on the decision made by the U.N. Security Council when decision where it is all right to flight, and where it is not. This decision made last year is a foundation, which all very important steps for us are based on,” says Prystayko.
The same is true in regards to weapons: they are not willing to provide Ukraine with lethal high-tech weaponry, but Ukraine defense capabilities have improved significantly, says the diplomat. Ukraine, according to him, had already made many steps to open up the weaponry market, and can now buy modern weapons to counter Russia’s aggression.
Many regimes prohibit selling weapons to countries which are not allies, but these details do not seem very important when the country is practically bleeding, says Prystayko. However, it is difficult to break through the regimes, the protocols, as these barriers are made specifically for weapons not to spread all over the globe.
“We are not talking about Kalashnikovs, we have enough tanks. We can produce tanks and some simple weaponry. What is important to us is high-tech weaponry, anti-artillery batteries, to stop the batteries that are shooting at out cities, anti-sniper equipment, armored apparatuses, machines, anti-mine equipment. We start with bulletproof vests, uniforms, helmets, and have now moved on to anti-battery radars, anti-mine robots, anti-sniper equipment, special defense, special equipment, does. We are buying modern rifles, armored cars already. So it’s a different level,” says Vadym Prystayko.