Ukrainian official: Ukraine not asking EU countries to mediate with Russia

Ihor Žovkva.
Ihor Žovkva. Source: Ukraina presidendi kantselei

Ukraine appreciates world leaders' attempts to mediate with Russia but did not request they do so, Ihor Zhovkva, deputy head of the Ukrainian president's office, told ERR. Russia is also dragging out negotiations, hoping to gain leverage with victories on the ground.

Ukraine has not asked leaders, such as French President Emmanuel Macron, to contact President of Russia Vladimir Putin on Ukraine's behalf, Zhovkva told Monday's broadcast of weekly current affairs show "Välisilm".

He said the government appreciates that world leaders are making clear to Putin that his actions and the "barbaric acts" of his soldiers are unacceptable. However, the discussions need to bring results.

Speaking about Macron, who has communicated with Putin several times, Zhovkva said: "Any effort is appreciated, it is not that we asked him to do this but he made his choice and he is doing this and he is sharing all the information, all the knowledge he got from President Putin with President Zelenskyy so the number of contacts between Macron and Putin are also that high. But again we need these efforts to be resultful and we hope they will be resultful."

Asked if more visits from foreign leaders are planned after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's visit last Saturday, Zhovka said there will be more this week and next. He would not reveal who due to "security" reasons.

He said the visit of EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and other top officials was "very important for us in terms of our European integration".

Zhovka said President Zelenskyy will continue to speak to parliaments around the world to raise support for Ukraine, he has already spoken to half of the EU member states, the UK, USA and Korea. He will address Estonia on Wednesday (April 13).

"But, believe me, Kyiv is reviving and Kyiv will be a capital for any foreign leader to visit and show support and concrete results of these visits," Zhovkva said, speaking from his office in Kyiv.

Asked what he thought about the visit of Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer to Russia on Monday, Zhovka said Ukraine had been informed about the visit before it was announced.

"But [it was] very important he made his visit to Kyiv before his visit to Russia," he said.

During Nehammer's visit to Ukraine, the officials discussed EU accession and sanctions. Zhovka said the chancellor was "eager" to mediate between Russia and Ukraine and he said he "appreciated" the efforts "to bring peace to my country".

Estonia's support needed for stronger sanctions, swift EU accession

Asked what Estonia can do to help Ukraine further, the official said the country's leadership is "very active" but help is needed to strengthen sanctions.

Ukraine "demands" embargos on oil and gas, that all Russian banks be disconnected from SWIFT, personal sanctions on politically exposed persons and the non-issuance of EU visas for Russians. Estonia should help push for these, Zhovka said.

More weapons are also needed.

"We know Estonia is doing much for us, especially considering the size of your country ⁠— you are really brave and good enough to give us support in terms of weapons. That is what we demand from any country of the European Union. We need to defend ourselves, we are doing it ourselves, we do not need boots on the ground but we need equipment, we need additional ammunition, we need heavy weaponry, we need something to protect our skies, so with the help of partners, the European Union, we will win," he said.

Additionally Estonia can help skeptical countries agree to accelerate Ukraine's entry into the EU and to convince them to enforce stricter sanctions.

"We can only stop the aggressor in Ukraine together, otherwise it might spread its aggression to other countries and that is probably not the choice the European Union would like to have," he said.

No more memorandums

Discussing future security guarantees and the Budapest Memorandum, which saw Ukraine give up its stocks of nuclear weapons in the early 1990s for "assurances" of protection in the future from other countries, Zhovka said this must not happen again.

"We were given not even guarantees but assurances," he said. "And when we tried to implement the only mechanism in the memorandum — that was consultations — we even failed to do this, neither in 2014 when the aggression of Russia started and we were demanding consultations but no one agreed, nor again in 2022," he said.

A future treaty needs to be a "legally binding document" between all parties, he believes.

"Not only Ukraine and Russia, and should be ratified in the parliaments of each country and should have an exact mechanism of what will happen if Russia dares to make an aggression against Ukraine again."

Russia dragging out negotiations

Turning to negotiations with Russia, Zhovka said it is Russia who "drags" the process out.

"It is Russia who expects there will be some major victories on the ground that will let them get to the usual practice of ultimatums and red lines," he said.

"At the beginning, they would not listen to the Ukrainian delegation's position they would only talk about their positions and demands. Their tactics changed when we started to have some successes on the ground."

Zhovka said Russia and Ukraine should not be the only parties at the negotiating table calling for EU, U.S., UK, Turkey to pull up chairs too.

"We need international partners to guarantee our security to make sure this does not happen again, not only against my country but against any country of Europe," he told presenter Tarmo Maiberg.

"Any hour, any day, any night of the war, unfortunately, brings death to Ukrainian soldiers, brings deaths to Ukrainian civilians, women and children, we want to end the war as soon as possible, we are ready for the diplomatic solution to this war."


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Editor: Helen Wright

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