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Interview of the Ambassador of Ukraine to the Republic of Cyprus H.E. Mr. Ruslan Nimchynskyi to the Cyprus Daily News
24 July 2023 10:06

The Vilnius NATO summit has just ended. How do you assess its results? Can we say that Ukraine’s path to NATO has become irreversible?

 The NATO Vilnius summit was a significant milestone on Ukraine’s path to membership in the Alliance.

A qualitatively new level is reached with the establishment of the Ukraine-NATO Council which will serve as a platform for advancing political dialogue, engagement, cooperation, and, finally, Ukraine’s NATO membership.

An outstanding decision of this summit was the cancellation of the MAP (the Membership Action Plan) for Ukraine.

Moreover, Ukraine received a clear signal that the accession process will not be never-ending. NATO leaders have clearly stated that Ukraine’s membership in NATO is only a matter of time, and that Moscow has no say in the matter.

We believe that our NATO partners understand that the strongest possible guarantee of making sure there’s never a war in Europe again is Ukraine’s membership in the Alliance. The Alliance has a strong record over the post-Cold War years of contributing to stabilization in Europe. I am sure, Ukraine`s membership in NATO will stop further wars, will provide the basis for a more stable relationship with Russia, will contain Russian threats in the future.

The only way to take care of that threat over the long term is to bring Ukraine into NATO and deter a future Russian invasion in Europe.

The war between Russia and Ukraine has been going on more than 500 days.

It was the reason for some experts to declare that European society and political elites are tired of it. They say that the war should not end on the battlefield but at the negotiating table. Do you share this point of view? Is there room for negotiations with Russia?

Negotiations with Russia might be possible once its occupation forces leave Ukraine’s territory.

Every single day our cities come under attack by Russian rockets, civilians are killed, infrastructure is destroyed, and a significant territory of Ukraine remains under Russian occupation.

Ukraine is a peaceful country. We have learned lessons of WW2 and know well how devastating the war can be. Of course, we would prefer to de-occupy our land by non-military means and save people’s lives. However, how can peace be negotiated with those who won`t stop destroying your country and killing children, women, the elderly?

The recent Russian terroristic attacks against seaports in Odesa and Mykolaiv have threatened the world’s food security. Russia has pulled out of the «Grain Initiative» and continues to destroy the seaports infrastructure and mining the transit corridor. Through these actions Russia puts millions of people around the globe at risk of hunger and rising food prices in most vulnerable regions.

Russian occupation of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant poses an immediate threat of a nuclear incident, which will have global implications. We have a credible information that Russian troops have mined some plant’s infrastructure and its parameter for a possible act of nuclear terrorism.

We are dealing with predators who won’t stop until they lose on the battlefield. Ukrainians will never surrender! They are fighting the war that no one living today has ever seen on our continent.

At stake is much more than the fate of an independent Ukraine. If Russia’s invasion goes ahead, it will create chaos across the continent and shatter the relative stability that most Europeans have grown accustomed to since the end of the Cold War. Russia`s aim is to replace current security arrangements by instigating the fear of insecurity and grand geopolitical bargains.

We see that the European Union’s support for Ukraine is increasing every day. The military, financial and humanitarian aid to Ukraine from the EU countries is increasing. What is the share of Cyprus in these efforts and how is it expressed?

 The Government of Cyprus has provided financial and humanitarian assistance in support of Ukraine, offered proper conditions for the stay of temporarily displaced Ukrainians on the island, their employment, access to education, medical services and rehabilitation. We are sincerely grateful for this unprecedented humanitarian aid of Cyprus.

Equally important for us is the support of the Republic of Cyprus for our European integration. In recent years, Ukraine has implemented a significant part of the EU legislation defined by the Association Agreement. We have become powerful and mutually complementary trading partners. Ukraine continues to actively integrate with the EU in many sectoral areas, becoming closer to its internal market.

I hope to see Cyprus among our European partners, who have already announced their readiness to provide multifaceted assistance in the recovery of Ukraine.

Cyprus together with U.S. and Irish experts has offered training of Ukrainian demining personnel. This assisting effort is critically important as we continue to deal with huge mined areas that Russian invaders have left preparing to Ukraine`s counter-offensive.

Of course, we need more military assistance to protect our civilians and to succeed in liberating our land.

Does the Government of the Republic of Cyprus support Ukraine’s desire to regain control over its territories within the internationally recognized 1991 borders?

The Government and the people of the Republic of Cyprus stand with Ukraine, genuinely understand the pain and suffering of our people. This support is felt during every meeting I have with Cypriot officials, lawmakers, businessmen and ordinary people.

The Republic Cyprus, as a country that remains divided for almost 50 years, is the strong defender of the fundamental principle of sovereignty and supports the territorial integrity, independence, and sovereignty of Ukraine at the bilateral level and in the framework of international organizations and the EU institutions. Cyprus` position is clear and unwavering — Ukrainian territorial integrity and sovereignty should be restored in the framework of internationally recognized borders.

On its part, Ukraine fully respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus and supports the negotiation process between the two communities of Cyprus under the UN auspices aimed at the reunification of Cyprus on the principle of bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with political equality, in accordance with the UN SC resolutions.

Recently, more and more voices of «well-wishers» are heard offering to sit down at the negotiating table with the aggressor and end the war through negotiations. Do you have a such proposals from Cypriot politicians?

Ukraine welcomes the genuine desire for peace in our country expressed by various countries. No country in the world desires peace more than Ukraine.

However, we will never accept any initiatives aimed at ceding Ukrainian territory or freezing the conflict rather than achieving peace. Ukraine needs real peace, not appeasement.

Ukraine requires a comprehensive, just, and long-lasting peace based on President Zelenskyy’s Peace Formula. The Formula is consistent with the UN Charter and relevant General Assembly resolutions.

Ukraine’s Peace Formula remains the only realistic and comprehensive plan for restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity and ensuring respect for the UN Charter, as well as security and justice for the entire international community.

How have moods and attitudes towards Ukraine changed from the beginning of the invasion to the present day in Cyprus?

The Republic of Cyprus has provided Ukraine with constant support and comprehensive assistance since the very beginning of the full-scale invasion of Russia. We are deeply grateful for the solidarity with our citizens and the hospitality of thousands of Ukrainians who temporarily left their homeland. We sincerely thank your Government and every Cypriot for this.

Do you see the activity of Russian lobbyists in world capitals nowadays? How it shows up and could their activities negatively affect the world’s opinion on Ukraine?

This problem should be considered in several dimensions.

If we are talking about professional lobbyists, then according to our observations, responsible companies and their representatives have distanced themselves from serving Russian interests or clients. There are a few reasons for this. First, it is obvious that being involved in serving Russian interests has become a “mauvais ton”. On the other hand, the lobbying structures with many years of solid professional record worry about their business reputation. They are cautious and selective in contacts with Russian clients. We can also assume that such changes are driven by responsible political establishment and business.

Any possible manifestations of lobbying in Russia’s interest can also be attributed to the inert nature of some processes and to hesitations in adapting to new realities, as Russian penetration into all spheres of life in many European countries was enormous. I believe that eventually the remaining sympathizers of the Russian Federation will finally get rid of dangerous stereotypes about Russia and realize the predatory and hypocritical aspirations of Russian partners.

The simple-minded lobbyists are usually guided by ideological values and clichés, stocked in their heads subconsciously since their student days in the former USSR. Sometimes their strong attachment to Moscow is explained by other circumstances that should be attributed to other areas of activity, not a lobbying activity. The weight of this category remains significant. But, if you look at the scale of pro-Russian events across Europe, it becomes clear that their number is decreasing for obvious reasons.

European democratic societies are strong enough to be guided by principles and values of the civilized world, and to strengthen their immunity to insidious Russian viruses. Fortunately, they make important decisions for our country that encourage us with optimism and allow us to be able to tame Russian overlords.

 A significant number of people in the world still misunderstand the essence of Russian aggression. Some call it, for example, a territorial dispute between Russia and Ukraine. Others, repeating Russian narratives, speak of Russia’s alleged protection of the Russian-speaking minority in Ukraine. Why is this still possible and what does Ukrainian diplomacy do to explain what is happening?

            There is a famous Mark Twain`s quote: “A lie can travel half way around the world while the Truth is putting on its shoes”.

The nature of what is happening and the reasons for the persistence of the stereotypes you have mentioned can be easily explained. Since 2014 when Russia occupied the Crimea and started its aggression against us, the Russian propaganda has managed to proliferate many anti-Ukrainian fakes and lies. For a long time, the Russian propaganda machine and the accompanying mechanisms have worked unconditionally and at full capacity. This allowed Russia to impose subjective and manipulative clichés based on Russian narratives.

The perception of alternative information requires time to understand and reassess many events. Diplomacy has its own instruments and communication channels to deliver the truth. But what is more important is the positive role and active position of Ukrainian communities in many countries that communicate publicly with local media, opinion leaders, other institutions and stakeholders to promote the image of Ukraine, debunk Russian mythology about «one people», «common historical heritage», “spiritual bonds”, “Ukrainian nazism” etc.

In this context, I want to thank our Cypriot friends who are sincerely open to interaction with us on issues of representation of Ukraine, its identity in historical, cultural and other spheres.

 Cyprus received a large number of Ukrainian refugees. The Government of the Republic of Cyprus does a lot for their accommodation and assistance. However, the war continues, and the flow of refugees does not stop. Does the Government of the Republic continue providing assistance to Ukrainian citizens seeking asylum in the country? What programs had the Government of Cyprus developed to assist Ukrainian refugees?

 A very important and timewise question. First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to the authorities of Cyprus and Cypriot businessmen for their efforts to create comfortable conditions for Ukrainians. We deeply appreciate it! Since June 1, 2023, there have been changes in the hospitality policy of Cyprus, aimed at protecting vulnerable groups of our compatriots, adaptation and socialization of citizens that are able to provide for themselves independently.

A lot has been done to address the needs of vulnerable people — pensioners, persons with disabilities, single mothers with small children, others. In addition to the resettlement programs, the Cypriot side has committed to ensure appropriate conditions for temporary protected Ukrainians to be able to adapt to life in Cyprus. Job fairs for Ukrainian refugees are held repeatedly.

Enormous efforts have been made by some generous Cypriot businessmen who continue helping Ukrainian kids in Cyprus and giving them the possibility to attend schools and kindergartens, improving their everyday life. Of course,  I would like to pay special tribute and thank the Ministers and staff of the Ministry of Social Welfare, Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Tourism for their excellent work.

 Do you think that the motives of Russian aggression are seen correctly by the world? Do people in European capitals realize that Putin has started a war with the entire civilized world, not only Ukraine? Do they understand that by helping Ukraine, they are saving themselves from a repetition of the events in Bucha and Mariupol on their territory?

 These questions cover many aspects. At the beginning of the full-scale Russian aggression in February 2022, Moscow was guided by the intention to conduct a «Quick and Compact» military campaign against our country. The approaches of some capitals at that time were reduced to counting the hours on how long Ukraine will last.

As a result of heroism of the Ukrainian Army and uncompromising stand of President Zelenskyy, the resistance and stability of the institutions of power at all levels, the extraordinary and effective self-organization of Ukrainian society, the Russian blitz-krieg has failed. From this moment on, the transformation of views on the Russian aggression against Ukraine begins. The world’s perception of the real objectives of the Russian Federation is becoming more holistic and comprehensive.

The civilized world rejects Russian brutality and unhuman war against Ukraine. The high level of international consolidation in support of our country is the clear evidence. We are grateful for the willingness of our foreign partners to provide Ukraine with everything necessary for victory, even at the expense of their own needs.

If we look at the situation in a broader context, without exaggeration it was Ukraine that prevented the Russian invasion of Europe and, at the cost of extreme sacrifices, now defends the EU and NATO countries from the Russian aggressor. All the tools provided to Ukraine by our allies and partners from around the world give us the strength to confront the aggression of the Russian Federation. Despite the efforts of the Russian Federation and its supporters, the civilized world is still consolidated in support of Ukraine.

You have mentioned the tragedy in Bucha, Mariupol… Unfortunately, these tragedies are replenished every day. Yesterday night Russia launched yet another massive attack on the Odesa city and the region. According to media one person was killed and 22 people, including four children, were injured. The historical Transfiguration Cathedral was badly damaged by strikes.

In the civilized world those tragic events are perceived as genocide of the Ukrainian people, who have repeatedly experienced this in the past because of Russian and Soviet imperial ambitions. These events should cement the solidarity of the world in support of Ukraine.

What do you think needs to be done to strengthen sanctions against Russia?

Contrary to the statements of the Russian Federation and its supporters, sanctions have a significant impact on Russian economic indicators and business activity. The use of certain instruments of international sanction policies against Russia has a delayed effect, so observers sometimes have the impression of their low effectiveness.

At this stage, it is necessary to focus on the localization of some gaps in sanctions policies and instruments. Urgent and effective measures are needed to strengthen control on the export of critical technologies and on the proliferation of dual-use goods.

New solutions aimed at reducing Russia’s income from energy exports are necessary. In this context, we are talking not only about the application of sanctions, but also about overcoming the problems of national egoism by traditional Russian energy buyers.

What role has Russian diplomacy played in preparing Russia’s war against Ukraine, and have its efforts to justify this war and the Russian army’s war crimes in Europe and Cyprus in particular been successful?

The role of Russian diplomacy in the war preparations against Ukraine has already been partially investigated by experts in international affairs. Investigations will continue, also in the framework of criminal cases in international court instances.

Speaking about the current state of play, the efforts of Russian diplomacy are more focused than ever on attempts to fragment international solidarity in support of Ukraine, to prevent the growing isolation of Moscow in the international arena, to enlist at least ad hoc support from the world’s leading political and economic centers.

For this, Russian diplomacy uses existing tools and methods. From primitive blackmailing to attempts to make countries and even continents hostages of the situation. Their usual tools are helpless diplomatic demagogy, banal bribery, or encouragement to partnership through the provision of various preferences. In this regard, it is very important that countries clearly identify and give political and diplomatic definitions of the intentions of the Russian Federation.

It is also worth pointing out that Russian attempts to justify aggression against Ukraine and war crimes are meeting less and less support. The use of narratives is not able to justify the tragedy in the mentioned Bucha and Mariupol, the daily destruction of the civil infrastructure of Ukraine.

However, this direction requires increased attention from Ukraine and its international partners, because Russia reaches to more sophisticated means of influence, replacing the brutal and large-scale propaganda.

 What kind of relationship do you have with your Cypriot colleagues? Do you find among them understanding and support for your efforts?

 My contacts with my Cypriot colleagues, and Government representatives are productive and oriented to meet the current needs of Ukrainian-Cypriot relations. They are characterized by a real partnership, and the ability to quickly respond to the needs of both countries.

We have enough capacity to find pragmatic and rational solutions, which is very important in the conditions of the hostility of Russian diplomacy.

Very important parameters of our relations are their dynamism and fruitful contacts at all levels. Together with our colleagues, we manage to ensure the consistency and predictability of Ukrainian-Cypriot relations both at the bilateral level and within the framework of multilateral diplomacy.

 Russia has led itself beyond the limits of the civilized world by its behavior. How do you see relations between Ukraine and Russia after the war?

 I completely agree with the remark that Russia is outside the civilized world. Russia, which always emphasizes its greatness and the world significance of its culture and science, cannot be classified as a modern and civilized country anymore. What Russia brings today to the world is the barbarism and hatred, massacres and killings, high-level blackmailing and lies, total disregard for a human life and the international law.

Regarding Ukraine’s relations with Russia. Not after the war but after the victory. Our victory. And it will be immediately followed by the establishment of Russia’s full cooperation with international judicial bodies. Another priority will be the reparations and resources from Russia to restore the economy and infrastructure of Ukraine. And next generations of Ukrainians will be able to explore how our relations with Russia might look like.


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