Because we cannot see preparations similar to what took place months before Russia invaded Ukraine, it is unlikely Russia will attempt a new push on Kyiv from the north at the start of next year, EU Ambassador to Ukraine Matti Maasikas told "Esimene stuudio."
It has long been speculated whether Belarusian troops could join Russian forces in attacking Ukraine, which picked up momentum when Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Minsk earlier this week. Maasikas suggested that while the visit suggests the war is not going well for Russia, it shouldn't be seen as an indication that Belarus plans to directly intervene, or that the next attack on Kyiv could come from Minks.
"It is true that the Russian president has usually visited Minsk when something has been very wrong. And I believe it is also true this time. /.../ But no military analyst considers the Belarusian military ready to go to battle. The war is very unpopular in Belarusian society and military circles. What they [Russians] can do is to bring more weapons and units to Belarus to threaten Ukraine. But there will not be an assault on Kyiv from there in the near future," he said.
Maasikas added that a new attack on Kyiv can be all but ruled out altogether.
"They prepared for the campaign for three or four months. We can see no such preparations now. An attack on Kyiv next year is extremely unlikely," the ambassador said.
He said that the Ukrainians have retained their optimism even in the current situation where Russian attacks on power and heating infrastructure are forcing them to go without. Polls suggest 82 percent of Ukrainians are rather optimistic about next year.
"There are parts of Kyiv that can go 24 hours without power. People have coped just fine. No poll suggests moods are faltering, and people have not started to leave the country in greater numbers. /.../ Man is a terribly adaptable animal. We can see it manifesting in the streets of Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv," he said.
Maasikas said that Ukraine is pretty adept at repairing destroyed infrastructure despite continued attacks.
"The Ukrainians have started better protecting their substations, relocated air defense batteries. They have been given quite a lot of necessary equipment. EU system operators have upped power exports to Ukraine. Until the next [Russian] attack creates the need for new repairs."
The ambassador highlighted as crucial the fact EU Member States recently agreed on an €18-billion Ukrainian aid package. It is what Ukraine asked from the EU to cover next year's fiscal deficit. Ukraine's fiscal deficit for this year is 50 percent.
"It is the first long-term funding decision, and the first payments are scheduled for January," Maasikas said.
Editor: Marko Tooming, Marcus Turovski