In an interview with Ukrainska Pravda, Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council (RNBO) Oleksiy Danilov chief told about when Ukraine started preparing for war with Russia, why Ukraine’s partners thought Ukraine would fall to Russia, how long the war could last, and what chances the war offers Ukraine. We bring you the main points of the interview.
When Ukraine started preparing for Russia’s invasion
Russia’s invasion was not a surprise, Ukraine started preparing for war far before the first reports of troop buildup on 30 October 2021.
However, Belarus’s participation was a surprise; a few days before the invasion, the Belarusian Minister of Defense promised not to take part in phone calls with Ukraine. Belarusian territory was used to directly attack Ukraine.
Some say Ukraine should have evacuated more civilians before the war, but it’s physically impossible to evacuate the whole country, and it’s impossible to predict where the intense battles will be taking place. What happened in Bucha, Irpin, Hostomel could have happened in any other part of the country. However, we couldn’t even imagine how Russians would treat civilians, it’s beyond comprehension.
On how Ukraine prepared for war
We prepared for war by organizing its territorial defense. The RNBO adopted decisions, formed the officer corps of the territorial defense battalions.
We put lots of effort into ensuring that communications are stable, that there would be no blackout, because that would cause panic. On the eve of the invasion, we were distributing additional communication equipment from of our partners.
Ahead of the invasion, Ukraine also planned out how the administration regime would work under martial law.
About plans to assassinate Zelenskyy
All the information provided by intelligence agencies of Ukraine’s partners ahead of Russia’s invasion concerned concentration and filtration camps, as well as the assassination of Zelenskyy and the political command.
In the first days of the invasion, the plans for Zelenskyy assassination were confirmed over and over, I had to inform him each time, causing his irritation.
On 22 February, Ukraine got a top-secret document stating that Zelenskyy’s assassination could take place at the nearest time.
“I immediately contacted the president, we met, he said: ‘What, again?’ I answered that this should be treated very seriously, you are the highest official of a great country. And do not joke about it in any case, because it is a very serious thing.
Accordingly, his personal security, the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, the Prime Minister, the Head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the State Security Department were notified,” Danilov recalled.
However, Zelenskyy rejected all proposals to leave Kyiv. “Come what may, I can’t leave all this, we’ll stay because Kyiv is the capital.”
We had other centers from where it is possible to direct the country and make decisions. They were prepared, as well as object number one [Danilov is referring to the Soviet-era bunker in Kyiv capable of withstanding a direct nuclear strike, in which Zelenskyy and a close circle is staying during Russia’s war – Ed].
About how the west thought Ukraine would lose
The intelligence agencies of Ukraine’s partners predicted a partisan war and believed Ukraine couldn’t withstand the second most powerful army in the world. One of them gave Ukraine 21 days at the most.
All their calculations said we can’t fight, they were irritated when I tried to prove to them that this is not exactly correct, said we don’t understand, don’t grasp all these problems.
“But there is one thing I kept telling them, and I had many meetings. I told them Ukraine has one weapon that few people know about — our will, the willpower of our society, will of our nation. This is one of the most powerful weapons available today. This is our land, we have nowhere to go.”
Western intelligence on the eve of the Russian invasion thought Ukraine was tired of it all, doesn’t want to fight.
“But you simply need to know our soul. They don’t grasp it. Many ppl don’t really know us. When times get tough, the true nature of the person shows through,” Danilov told.
On how long the war will take
The territories that were liberated — Kyiv, Zhytomyr, Sumy, Chernihiv oblasts — were liberated thanks to our military and the resistance. Few people know how well the partisans worked in Sumy Oblast — it held first place among all the regions in terms of the partisan movement.
Hard to say how long war will take; processes have already started in Russia. I said many times that Russia’s collapse will be the result of this situation. It will fall apart as an artificial formation, and this will happen in our lifetime.
One thing is clear, however: it will be hard for Ukraine, there will be battles, and everything depends on our army and partners.
Our partners were reluctant to give us arms at first because they didn’t believe in us. Step by step this is changing, I think this aid will increase.
The stronger Ukraine Army will stand, the stronger our partners’ aid will be.
Russia doesn’t want a victory by 9 May; it wants a victory over Ukraine. Their goals are unchanged: destroy our country, our nation, our president.
Destruction of the president can be either physical or political. The first option didn’t work, they can now try the second one
The destabilization of Ukraine is still possible, and when we made a decision to bring all TV channels into one infospace, the national telethon, it was about the country’s existence, not freedom of speech.
Maybe there will be a ceasefire after 9 May, but we need to understand that until one of the sides wins, the war will not end.
RNBO gave instructions on possible chemical attacks to the relevant organs, and hospitals are stacked with antidotes. We also prepare for a possible nuclear strike.
I believe there will be a big war in the world in 10-15-20 years, and Ukraine’s defense potential is a great asset.
I don’t believe in any peace treaty with Russia. Ukraine has had many, many of them in our history. And Russia constantly violated them.
Hard to say who the mediators in Ukraine-Russia talks could be. France and Germany mediated for eight years in Donbas and still don’t understand why elections under occupation are a bad idea.
Zelenskyy changed the policies of many countries with his behavior and his direct appeals. He proposes to return truth to politics.
Regarding Mariupol – Ukraine appeals for help everywhere it can [to establish a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians, wounded Ukrainian defenders in besieged city-Ed], but the Azov Regiment stationed in Mariupol is like a red rag. “They [partners] somehow believe that [Azov] are Nazis, like all of us [in Ukraine].”
I want you and me to be aware that now because the guys are there [holding defense in the besieged city], they are drawing away large groups of Russian troops. When we started sending helicopters there in the night, they said to bring ammunition, not food or water.
If there was at least one physical possibility to solve this problem, we would have done it.
Did Ukraine need to start negotiations with Russia? We needed to establish humanitarian corridors, organize prisoner exchanges. These are people’s lives!
On Ukraine’s historical chance
This is our historical chance to build a [proper] country. Moreover, if processes that existed in Ukraine over the last 30 years persist after the war’s end, the Lord won’t forgive us, won’t grant us the opportunity to build a state; it must be completely new: sincere, open, like our president now.
Nobody expected what Zelenskyy was and is doing, I am proud that we have such a president. He is the only president in the world who spoke in almost all the world’s leading parliaments. This is the joint work of Zelenskyy, our citizens, and most of all, of course, Ukraine’s military.
The Lord is giving Ukraine a chance, and we must not lose it. He gave them to Ukraine before – in 1991, 2004, and 2014. We treated them irresponsibly; now for this chance, we pay a very high price.
For me, Ukraine’s victory in the war is a chance to finally build our country.
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