Russia is unlikely to withdraw from a strip of land on Ukraine’s southern coast and defeat Ukrainian forces in the entire eastern Donbas region, Russia’s ambassador in London told Reuters.
Since the February 24 invasion, Russian forces have seized control of much of the territory on Ukraine’s southern flank over Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014. Russia is slowly pushing Ukrainian forces out of two rebel-backed regions. Russia in eastern Ukraine. has recognized as independent states.
Asked how the conflict might end, Russian Ambassador Andrei Kelin said it was hard to see Russian and Russian-backed forces withdrawing from southern Ukraine, and Ukrainian soldiers would be pushed out of all of Donbas. .
“We are going to liberate all of Donbas,” Kelin told Reuters in an interview at his London residence, where Winston Churchill used to discuss World War Two strategy with Josef Stalin’s ambassador.
“Of course it is difficult to predict the withdrawal of our forces from the southern part of Ukraine because we already have the experience that after the withdrawal the provocations start and all the people are shot and all that.”
Russia says Ukraine has repeatedly killed civilians in attacks on Russian-backed separatist-held territory in Ukraine’s Donbas since 2014. Front-line fighting in that region claimed thousands of casualties on both sides long before Russia’s invasion this year.
The ambassador’s comments mark one of the most explicit public descriptions of Russia’s potential end in Ukraine: essentially a forced partition that would leave Ukraine deprived of more than a fifth of its post-Soviet territory.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says that Ukraine will never accept the Russian occupation of its territory and will continue to fight until the last Russian soldier is expelled from Ukraine. The Ukrainian government did not immediately comment on the Russian ambassador’s remarks.
Sooner or later, Kelin said, Ukraine would have to decide: reach a peace agreement with Russia or “keep sliding downhill” toward ruin.
President Vladimir Putin on Thursday accused the West of decades of aggression towards Moscow and warned that if he wanted to try to beat Russia on the battlefield, he could try, but this would bring tragedy to Ukraine.
“Is an escalation possible? Of course,” Kelin said. “If the flow of weapons is organized in such a way that it endangers our strategic situation, our defense, we will have to take serious action against that.”
IGNORE RUSSIA’S CONCERNS
Kelin said that the West did not understand the real causes of the conflict and had ignored Russia’s concerns.
“The narrative is very short: Russia has been aggressive against an innocent Ukraine,” Kelin said. “This is not true at all.”
Putin says the “special military operation” in Ukraine is necessary because Moscow had to defend Russian-speaking people against persecution that he says the West has ignored.
He also portrays the war as a necessary revolt against the United States, which he says has humiliated Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 by expanding NATO eastward and was using Ukraine to threaten Russia.
Ukraine and its Western backers say Putin has no justification for what they say is an imperial-style land grab against a country whose borders Moscow recognized as the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The conflict in Ukraine began in 2014: after a pro-Russian president was ousted in Ukraine’s Maidan Revolution and Russia annexed Crimea, clashes broke out between Russian-backed forces and Ukrainian soldiers in eastern Ukraine.
Before the invasion, the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission found that all sides were committing human rights violations in eastern Ukraine. He found no evidence of genocide. Moscow has also criticized a Ukrainian law that requires all citizens to know Ukrainian.
Ukraine denies that it persecutes Russian speakers.
Kelin said that Ukraine had been preparing for war for some time, with the help of the United States and Britain. Putin says that Ukraine is being used by the West as part of a plan to weaken and even destroy Russia.
“I don’t think Europe understands what Ukrainian nationalism is,” Kelin said. The result: Russia is closing in on China, he said.
“If sanctions continue to be imposed on Russia, we will take a big turn for China and the East.”
(Reporting by Jake Cordell, editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Frank Jack Daniel)