“After Bucha, the West must give Ukraine any weapon.” Interview of the head of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry Dmitry Kuleba to the BBC

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The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmitry Kuleba told the BBC’s HARDtalk program about the help and reaction of the world community Ukraine expects after reports of atrocities by Russian troops in the city of Bucha, which official Moscow continues to deny.

Host Stephen Sakur asked a number of difficult questions to the Ukrainian Foreign Minister. Here are the most interesting excerpts from the interview.

“Russia is much worse than ISIS when it comes to mass killings”

BBC: We know that Ukrainian troops have now entered many towns and villages around Kiev that have been abandoned by Russian troops. What did they see there?

Dmitry Kuleba: The picture we found there is horrifying. It is very difficult to talk about it. We have already found more than 400 bodies of killed, tortured and deliberately shot civilians. There is evidence that these were not accidents, that they were deliberately killed by the Russian military. There are women who have been raped and killed. There are reports of teenage girls who were also raped and killed by Russian soldiers. The Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine is investigating these cases. But I am afraid that as our army enters more and more villages and cities liberated from Russian troops, the picture will become even darker. And the worst is yet to come, because we do not yet have full access to Mariupol. And in Mariupol the situation is much worse.

BBC: What you have described is inconceivable. We already know that Moscow has said that this is not true, that it is a fake, a staging. What are you doing to ensure that not only do your investigators gather evidence, but independent investigators and observers can get there and witness crimes?

Dmitry Kuleba: From the very first moment we learned about the possibility of visiting Bucha, we immediately turned to international institutions, including the International Criminal Court, and asked them to send prosecutors, send independent observers who could record and collect evidence. We also allowed foreign journalists to come and see everything with their own eyes and tell the international audience about everything. And we are ready to set up a joint investigation team, which will include all countries wishing to investigate these cases in accordance with their jurisdiction.

BBC: Your President Zelensky said that he had no doubt that he was sure that all those responsible would be brought to justice for the atrocities in Bucha. Speaking of them, you have used the word “genocide” and intend to hold him accountable. Do you really believe this is possible?

Dmitry Kuleba: Yes. What we have seen in recent weeks proves that Russia is much worse than ISIS (the Islamic State group banned in Russia) when it comes to atrocities and massacres. The massacre in Bucha is one of the cases, and there are more such villages and settlements. We know military units that have been stationed in every Ukrainian village and town where crimes have been committed. In most cases, international justice is slow. But we will work very hard to punish not only those who committed these crimes, but also those who ordered them or did nothing at the time they were committed. And also the political leadership of Russia, which made all this possible by sending the Russian army to Ukraine and dehumanizing the Ukrainians in the eyes of Russian soldiers who committed all these crimes.

BBC: I know that the Ukrainian parliament has passed a law granting the right to all Ukrainians on the front to kill Russian soldiers, and you have distributed and are distributing weapons to all civilian men between the ages of 18 and 60. Do you think this fact, among other things, could have influenced the behavior of Russian soldiers in Bucha?

Dmitry Kuleba: I hope you are asking this question without trying to draw parallels between the behavior of those who defend themselves and those who attack. We have given weapons to all men who are ready to defend Ukraine and their families. We have no evidence that Ukrainian civilians attacked or tortured Russian soldiers in Bucha or other cities. Everything that was done in Bucha was done intentionally and without any excuses.

“After Bucha, the West must give Ukraine any weapon”

BBC: Do you think that what happened in Bucha will change the course of this war?

Dmitry Kuleba: The Bucha massacre must eliminate any hesitation and reluctance on the part of the West to provide Ukraine with all the necessary weapons, including planes, tanks, multiple rocket launchers and armored vehicles, to protect our country and free it from the Russians. The same goes for sanctions. If any of my colleagues from Europe or overseas try to tell me that any sanctions are inappropriate, too harsh and should not be imposed, I will regard it as a betrayal of the victims of Bucha and the civilians of other cities who have been killed. The Bucha massacre is changing the rules of the game as to how the West should continue to support Ukraine.

BBC: It seems that you are boiling with anger now, Mr. Minister. You posted on Twitter video, in which you address the allies and say that if they do not provide you with weapons, they will share responsibility for the massacre in Bucha and for all other crimes committed by Russia in the occupied territories. Do you really mean that? That is, do you accuse those who say they are your allies of potential complicity?

DMitry Kuleb: I’m serious. I appreciate everything our partners have done, some of whom have done more than they could have imagined before the war. I am grateful with all my heart. But in the course of the war and as everyone understands that many more villages and towns of Ukraine in different parts of the country remained under Russian rule … And we do not know what is happening there. I do not take any half measures. We are not asking for anything extraordinary. We are simply asking you to provide us with everything we need to liberate our country in order to prevent more Russian crimes and save the lives of civilians … I am the Minister of Foreign Affairs of a country that is sacrificing itself at the forefront. And when I can’t force my colleagues from European countries – and when it comes to certain sanctions, even from the United States – to impose these sanctions, I’m sorry, because I couldn’t convince them, so more Ukrainians must die. I have heard hundreds of words of sympathy and admiration from my partners in the last weeks since the war began. But I am ready to exchange every word of sympathy and admiration for a tank or a plane, or an embargo on gas and oil, which will help me save lives in Ukraine.

“The future of this war will be decided on the battlefield, as well as in the cabinets where decisions are made on weapons and sanctions.”

BBC: Given what you have just told me about what Russian troops have done in Ukraine, how can you talk about any negotiations, when you describe Russian troops as rapists and murderers, do you say that they are worse than ISIS terrorists? How, given the tone and vocabulary you use, can you seriously talk about negotiations?

Dmitry Kuleba: As I have already said, Russian officials know what Russian troops are doing, about their criminal behavior. And whatever Minister Lavrov says there, he knows the truth, he knows about the atrocities of the Russian army in Ukraine. The last time we met in Istanbul, we both knew where each side stood. Negotiations do not mean that I personally, or my country, will forgive what the Russian troops did.

BBC: But still, how will this happen? What, after all these accusations, will you sit quietly and discuss the status of Crimea and Donbass? All this diplomacy seems like a fantasy. What is real now is that you will either win this war on the battlefield or lose it. And this has nothing to do with diplomacy.

Dmitry Kuleba: The future of this war will be decided on the front lines, on the battlefield, as well as in those cabinets in Europe and North America where decisions on sanctions and arms supplies will be made. I must recognize that diplomacy in these conditions is not the central pillar of a peaceful settlement, a peace process. We must conquer the world on the battlefield. That’s right. But every war, every single war in the history of mankind ended in an agreement, and we must understand what the basic parameters of this agreement will be.

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