Interview by Chargé d’Affaires a.i. of the Russian Mission to the EU Kirill Logvinov for the Greek “Kathimerini” Newspaper, 15 February 2023

Submitted on Wed, 02/15/2023 - 18:51

1.The war in Ukraine approaches a tragic milestone, the completion of one year. Is there any hope that it could end soon?

Speaking, as you put it, about the war in Ukraine, instead of asking us, you’d better address this question to Kiev and its supporters, including the EU and its Member States. Over the past year, attempts were made to force Vladimir Zelensky to the negotiating table. However, judging by the escalation being fomented by both the Ukrainian President and the Western countries assisting him in every possible way, Kiev is not interested in this. Russia's special military operation will end when the Russians living in Ukraine are firmly guaranteed that they and their children are free to speak their native language – just as Greeks are free to speak Greek.

2. One year ago, Russia did have its grievances against the West, but did not face any imminent threats - even the perspective of Ukraine joining NATO was anything but imminent. Why did president Putin make such a risky decision?

It is a forced decision. In recent years and months, the trust we placed in the West, which failed to honour its commitments, has waned. We once believed promises that NATO would not expand eastwards. Then the western countries assured us that Russian security concerns would be addressed. Later, they said they were working with Vladimir Zelensky to implement the Minsk Agreements. Yet, all these words turned out to be empty. In fact, they did not want to hear us, Russian proposals on security guarantees were ignored. I wonder what exactly you mean by an imminent threat. Should we not be concerned about the fact that NATO has long been at our borders?

3. Which are the specific objectives of Russia in Ukraine? The annexation of Donbass? Of all four provinces declared Russian regions last September? The replacement of president Zelensky’s government?

Sorry to disappoint you –  none of the objectives you have outlined are among those of the special military operation. And we are certainly not in the business of replacing governments in third countries. Russia's actions are aimed at ensuring the security of our state, guaranteeing the rights of Russian speakers in Ukraine and protecting the civilian population of Donbass. For more than eight years, the inhabitants of Donbass were bombed on a daily basis, the Russian language and Russian culture were banned in Ukraine. And for some reason, the West did not care. The main difference lies in how we view the events: you call it annexation of Donbass, and for the residents of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Lugansk People’s Republic, Zaporozhye and Kherson regions this as a result of their conscious choice in favour of a safe life as part of the Russian Federation.

4. By the end of 2021, president Macron proclaimed NATO “brain dead” and Germany made preparations for the inauguration of Nord Stream 2. Today NATO is more united than ever and all EU member states follow the Americans supporting Ukraine against Russia. Isn’t it a spectacular failure for the Russian leadership?

Could you, please, tell me when the EU Member States did not follow the Americans, relieved to share their foreign policy sovereignty with the US? The saddest thing is that the EU is giving unlimited political, financial and military support to Ukraine quite consciously, and not because it is afraid of letting the overseas partner down. And Germany, rejecting Nord Stream 2, puts its national interests at risk – we don’t comment on other governments’ decisions. Should this indeed be a failure, it is not ours, but Europe's. We basically see no logic at all in the EU's current policies.

5. For the first time after the age of Peter the Great, Russia cannot count any friends or allies in Europe, more broadly in the Western world. Isn’t this a disturbing factor for the long- term development of your country?

The Russian leadership's concern for the security, prosperity and well-being of its citizens is not measured, as you put it, by the number of friends and allies in Europe. Russia does not see the globe as a place divided into the Western world and the Eastern world. We work and will continue to do so with those who are willing to develop equal and mutually beneficial relations. And those who yesterday pledged friendship to us, and today joined a common chorus wishing my country a strategic defeat have become a disturbing factor for Russia’s long-term development.

6. United States and European countries decided the delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine, including battle tanks Abrams and Leopard. Does it mean that a dramatic escalation of the conflict is now inescapable? 

Your question is rhetorical. The West wants to further escalate the conflict by all means. Many are reasonably wondering why the US and the EU would not stop supplying arms – and the conflict would be over then. It simply means they are not interested in this.

7. Should we worry about the danger of the conflict going nuclear?

We have never threatened anyone with nuclear weapons. The West is using the point about the alleged possible use of WMD by our country to provoke us into making response statements and to put pressure on those states that refuse to accept the interpretation imposed on them about the genesis and development of the crisis in Ukraine. Russia is fully aware of the responsibility it bears as a nuclear power.

8. Do you share the assessment that with this war, the EU- Russia relations crossed a point of no return? Could we envisage a return to normality? Under what terms?

If the actions undertaken today by the West against Russia are considered as a war, no return to the past could be envisaged at all. Should normality imply the EU's ability to genuinely take our national interests into account, including security guarantees, then of course we will be ready to discuss this with the West. That said, Russia's proposals for building a security architecture, which is our legitimate interest, should not be interpreted as some sort of preconditions.

9. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated recently that “we used to be friends with Greece”, but the bilateral relations were severely damaged because the Greek leadership “submitted to the American demands”. Again, is this something irreparable? Russian- Greek relations survived the Cold War, in spite of the fact that Greece was a NATO member. Why not now?

Greece should realize that all the actions taken and being taken against Russia today have already had a very serious impact on our perception of the European Union and its Member States. We have to draw our own conclusions and develop a realistic vision of what interaction with the EU should be in the future. Rather than thinking of a way to “repair” the relations, the West should make an effort to listen to what Russia has to say.