A translation of an interview with the Adviser to the President of Ukraine, Mykhailo Podolyak by Kanal 24 (Ukraine), from 17.03.2023.
“Our soldiers have already destroyed thousands of Russian invaders, in particular, many in the Bakhmut direction. Meanwhile, Ukraine is accumulating resources for a counteroffensive, which should be a surprise for the enemy.”
Original article: https://24tv.ua/intervyu-mihaylom-podolyakom-pro-pidgotovku-kontrnastupu-syurpriz_n2275897
By Alina Vyshnevska (for Kanal24, @24tvua)
Translation by @Anastasiya1451A
Original video interview in Ukrainian:
The development of Ukraine after the liberation of the territories
Interviewer: The occupiers completely wiped off the face of the earth the city of Popasna in the Luhansk region (pre-war population of 20,000) – this is something that they admitted to. However, just a couple of days ago the Russian mercenary group “Wagner” boasted that they had taken a village inhabited by 2 people until 2022. They told about the heavy battles with which the village was taken.
Podolyak: It is the village of Zaliznyanskoe. There are literally 3 buildings in that village. And I just want to note one thing: there is no such thing as so-called “L/DPR” – there are territories that are temporarily occupied by Russia. There is no Luhansk or Zaporizhzhia region that joined Russia. There is only a common act of aggression – a war initiated by Russia against Ukraine, and it has corresponding goals:
-to destroy the maximum number of citizens of Ukraine – civilians, military – it does not matter.
-to destroy the maximum number of Ukrainian towns and villages in the occupied territories.
-to loot, if not destroy, everything that is in the occupied territories.
-to try to stay there for a certain time, as they in Crimea, unfortunately for you and me, stayed for 8 years.
Crimea was stolen and robbed. Today, [Russians] are taking everything out of there, because they understand that it won’t be like in 2014. When Russians went in and appointed some criminals, such as Aksyonov, as the heads of unrecognized administrative units, it will be for a certain time. They understand that this won’t last in 2023. Therefore, they gradually begin to take everything from Crimea – to evacuate their families [to Russia], to take away the material values that they have accumulated during this time.
But in between, there is no difference in what kind of documents they write, what kind of administrative arrangements, etc. It will not be discussed at all. Russia must necessarily lose, because only after that we will be able to hold negotiations with Russia within the framework of international institutions. It is also key for us to record everything that they have to compensate Ukraine.
The rebuilding and development of Ukraine after the liberation of its territories is a huge cost that we will need to cover somehow. I understand that when a country wins a big war, investors come here because it will be a huge brand of freedom. And there will be a lot of people who would want to invest in Ukraine.
This is very important, because it will not be so much about profits, although those who want to make big profits will come as well. After all, there will be a boom here. And this will be an investment in symbolism. But in order to correct historical injustice, we need to take a huge amount of money from Russia [as reparations].
This is why it is important to record these facts about Popasna, other settlements that were completely or partially destroyed. Just look at Mariupol!
In Russia, there is this individual, Faizullin, he heads the Russian Ministry of Construction, who says that they built something there in Mariupol. 2 houses were built for the exhibition, and the surrounding buildings and infrastructure were completely destroyed. There just is no Mariupol as such. There is no Bakhmut either – from the point of view of what kind of cities they were before the Russian invasion.
If you look at Donetsk, where fat men like Pushylin are running around, there is no Donetsk. This is a strange, criminal, uncomfortable, completely destroyed city. Such cities cannot exist in the modern world. There is nothing to do there.
In 8 years, they did not make it into a “model, magazine cover” city, they made Donetsk look like any other city in Russia. I do not mean Moscow and St. Petersburg, but any other city – destroyed, uncomfortable, neglected – one that cannot exist in the modern world.
Thousands of destroyed occupiers near Bakhmut
Interviewer: The senior military adviser to the delegates of Great Britain to the OSCE at the Security Cooperation Forum in Vienna says that Russia lost at least 30,000 killed in the Bakhmut. At the same time, we saw that they managed to occupy only 0.004% of the territory for the month of February. In fact, 30 thousand were killed for 25km2 [the size of two London Heathrow Airports].
Podolyak: Let’s record who exactly the Ukrainians killed near Bakhmut. These were the most prepared remnants of the Russian army – those who know how to fight. All others in Russia – these are mobilized – a completely different level of training.
For me, it is much more important that Russia today has a certain resource depletion. They have much less ammunition. They reduced the intensity of shelling. Yes, it is high, but it is not what it was six months ago.
Russia is hysterically looking for shells in other markets, including Iran, North Korea, and China. Do you understand now the intensity of this war?
And this creates an important sense of panic in the military and political leadership of Russia. They understand that they calculated this war expecting it to last a certain number of days, for which they did not care how many missiles, shells, etc. they would spend.
When they say that the war will drag on for years, I ask: where are the resources? It is not a question of dragging out the war when you take a machine gun and use firearms. After all, the intensity of the war is great, so where are the shells, missiles, etc.?
Therefore, they spent not only 30,000 soldiers on the Bakhmut offensive. In total, they spent 3 thousand tanks. Although Russia wrote before the war that 12,000 tanks were in storage in Russia. But let’s be objective. There are not 12 thousand, but much less. And there are even fewer of those capable of combat. Almost everything has already been destroyed.
Therefore, they search hysterically. In Belarus, they took away everything that was in stockpiles. But not all tanks are ready for use, because this is Belarus [and] Russia after all – they steal everything internally. Therefore, war is Mathematics.
Russia’s lies about losses in the war
Interviews: They are absolutely abysmal with Maths. On the subject of losses, Russia reports that no more than 9 thousand soldiers KIA, and about 100 – 500 thousand were destroyed, and even a couple of Leopard tanks.
Podolyak: This is very good. [Kremlin] counts on the fact that the world has not changed since 2014. Russian propaganda is built in the same way as it was in 2014 when they talked about “green men”, “Nazis” running in Ukraine, and so on.
When you look at not very smart people, you understand that they are inadequate. And they fight in the same way – they don’t consider the numbers, they don’t plan correctly, they don’t understand that this is a different type of war.
It’s very good, we are lucky. We are not lucky with the number of these people – there are a lot of them. It is unfortunate that they took everything they could from the territory of the former Soviet Union and are now using it against us. In particular, the missiles that we transferred to Russia as part of the Budapest Memorandum are the same X-101, X-55 that are hitting our cities today.
Yet, it is very good that they claim this ridiculous number of destroyed HIMARS, that they have only 9 thousand losses. This actually demoralizes the [Russian] domestic public. When you hold tens of thousands of funerals all over the country, and you have a new wave of mobilization going on, and many people are taken from you, and [the Russian leadership] says that you lost only 9 thousand. Then Russians ask themselves internally (they don’t talk about it publicly): “You said that the whole army was 1 million 20 thousand people on the eve of the invasion of Ukraine. So where are they? What 9 thousand? Where is another million?”
When Russia lies and the lie goes on for 3 days, then people in Russia react as if it was the truth. But when the war lasts more than a year, and people look around and realize that someone was killed there, and here, and over there. Someone was mobilized here. Then they realize that they are being lied to, and that it all looks very negative.
But in addition, there is a large number of accidents in Russia. Today [the interview is from 17.0.2023], one of the FSB buildings was blown up in Rostov-on-Don. Missiles, that are constantly falling [Russian S300 missiles failing at launch], drones that are constantly flying over the entire territory of Russia. Moscow is now being covered with all these newly installed “Pantsyri”, “Buk”, S-300, S-400.
People are in a pre-panic state. And this will break through at some point and internal uncontrolled processes will begin [in Russia]. We need to destroy more so that there are more people back in Russia getting the “KIA notices” from the frontline.
I keep saying this, but not because I’m bloodthirsty, no. I say this because it is the classic psychology of war. Unfortunately, we have a trench war here.
You started talking about “Oscar”, about the film “All quiet on the Western Front” [a story of a German WWI soldier deeply scarred by the futility and horrors of war]. Unfortunately, this is the only factor that will speed up the internal protest [in Russia] – not a political one, but a protest out of fear. These uncontrolled protests in Russia will accelerate significantly.
Interviewer: Security forces report that ammunition continues to be detonated at a warehouse in Rostov-on-Don. Tanks of fuel are burning nearby. Rescuers require body armour to protect themselves from debris. But you have air defence systems there. Is it inadequate?
Podolyak: They have everything, but it doesn’t work. Russia is a pretend, fake-country – the “Potemkin village”. Unfortunately, for a long time, Russia invested in the image of a monster country. And unfortunately, Western political elites bought this image and were very afraid of Russia.
And, as it turned out, when you start harshly resisting Russia, there is nothing there, a lot of things have been stolen, as is typical of Russia. “Steal!” is the key slogan of Russia. Therefore, just wait and we will see all kinds of internal processes in Russia.
China’s survey of Russia
Interviewer: We can only guess about the real reasons for Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow. Maybe he wants to show the US that he, too, can unite around himself those whom Americans did not win over and will demand some concessions for himself, such as Taiwan. Maybe it is a personal visit to Putin to put pressure on him and make him take some unpleasant decisions, for example, about ending the “special military operation”.
Podolyak: I look at it a bit differently. It is extremely dangerous for China to unite Belarus, Russia and other toxic countries in a union. This does not provide a strategic advantage, on the contrary, it is toxic for China itself and reduces the room for manoeuvre that Beijing can have. Especially now.
China is looking for its place as a global player. After all, it is an economic global player to some extent. But from the point of view of political processes, China does not influence those so much.
And today there is a window of opportunity to replace Russia and take over the global game. But for this, you need to understand how you should behave.
And here, first of all, China wants to look at the psychological state of Russia.
Secondly, [Xi] wants to prolong this war a little, he does not want it to stop here and now. But China does not want anyone to win this war. That is, he wants it to last for a certain time, while he looks for a trading platform where China can gain something.
China does not have this at this moment. Therefore, it seems to me that this kind of visit is probing the ground for whether China can get Russia under control. Will there be unanimity or a certain split in the Russian elite? Will we see an almost psychologically destroyed Putin? And will China be able to drag out the war for a certain time until it develops this trading platform on which China will dominate.
[Xi] will not talk about strange “peace initiatives”, which are not such in essence, because, remembering his 12 points, there is no logic and logistics in this plan. Therefore, this seems to me to be a demonstrative act – not to propose a solution, but in order to put psychological pressure on Russia.
Interviewer: We also drew attention to the fact that before Xi Jinping’s visit, a map showing the division of Russia into “originally” Chinese territories “emerged”. For some reason, [Kremlin] did not respond to this map [de facto Chinese territorial claims] on Russian TV. Yet, this map is public knowledge.
Podolyak: We will talk about maps when we begin to finalize the war. There will be certain areas with ethnic minorities [of the Russian Federation] that will move separately. Indeed, the Buryats, for example, can move in the direction of Mongolia, because they are ethnically closer to it than to the strange, artificial Russian Federation.
Xi Jinping’s visit should give some morale boost to the ultra-patriotic circles [in Russia], who should be shouting: “Come on! Look, we are supported. Let’s keep fighting.” The goal is to prolong this conflict.
After all, China takes a very pragmatic approach to the fact that it is necessary to develop a new world architecture, to take over the functions of a global player, to draw a logistical trajectory until the end of the war, so that Beijing receives strategic advantages.
It is important to note that among these strategic advantages there are no interests of Belarus or Russia. There are interests of Kazakhstan, because it is important for China from a trade point of view. But the interests of Russia and Belarus will definitely not be a factor in China’s strategic initiatives.
Preparation for the counteroffensive of the Ukrainian Armed Forces
Interviewer: Politico reported our losses of 100,000 [KIA, MIA & WIA]. Yet, then Politico immediately gives information that Ukraine’s counteroffensive will begin in May. The publication even presents 2 possible scenarios.
Podolyak: I find it a bit ironic when journalists say what counterattack scenarios Ukraine will use. Maybe, they should take a direct part in the work of the General Staff of Ukraine and plan operations then? If they understand so well what exactly where and when to do.
Firstly, newspapers should not discuss the timing of the counter-offensive. It should be a surprise for the enemy. It can only be said that the following months are required to accumulate a certain resource. After all, an offensive requires tools in a certain amount, which must be accumulated. We understand how long this will take logistically.
Secondly, even the military does not need to talk about the priority directions or scenarios of the attack. Ukraine is much more creative than Politico journalists think. We have already proven this many times during the war. In particular, in the Kharkiv region or with what is happening now in general along the frontline, especially in the Donetsk direction.
The main thing is that both the military leadership – in the Armed Forces and the Ministry of Defence, and the political leadership, first of all, I am talking about Volodymyr Zelenskyi – have a completely consolidated position that we cannot stop midway. We need counterattacks at a certain point. And this requires a concentration of resources.
We cannot simply retreat or advance without being prepared for different scenarios and taking into account all the risks. All this is discussed at the Headquarters of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, where collective decisions are made, and all scenarios are openly discussed. The only thing that isn’t there is Politico or any other journalists.
Let’s not get carried away by peer reviews or journalistic publications on these hyped topics. Let’s wait for the development of events. We have no other option but to go on the counterattack at a certain time according to a certain scenario. Otherwise, there will be no statehood of Ukraine.
Stopping somewhere in the middle, as it was in 2014 – when the territories remained under the occupation of Russia – will mean that after some time, Ukraine will not exist as a state. After all, Russia today at various levels, including Vladimir Putin, fixes its position: “Ukraine must be destroyed as a state and a territory where Ukrainians live.”
Propagandists who have gone over to the side of the enemy
Interviewer: I watched the video of Tatyana Montyan, who says that during this year Donbas is “bombed” more than it has been in 8 years. And Oleg Tsarev suddenly actually admitted that the Maidan was needed. What happens to the propagandists who at one time sold out and went over to the side of the enemy? Have they opened their eyes?
Podolyak: Let’s not call them Ukrainians, it is very important. It’s not that they see, but they simply never knew Ukraine, its heart and soul. They did not know that Ukraine is always resisting to the end, that we will not give up our right to be free.
They did not understand this, because they are slaves in their essence. After all, Russian imperialism is slavery for the domestic market. These people are Russian in essence – not in terms of culture, ethnicity or literature, but from the point of view of understanding that you are a slave.
But today they realize that they made a mistake, and that after Russia loses, they will not have a chance to remain free. We will get Tsarev, and Montyan, and many others. We are talking about dozens of people, and we clearly understand who played which role…
Today, they are terrified of the future in which Russia will not exist in the form they adored. That is, there will be no totalitarian empire that will bring anyone to their knees. And these people will pay a personal price for the fact that they wanted such an empire to exist. This is the main problem of these people. They are trying to somehow explain their position.
Let’s remember what the same Montian said at the beginning of the full-scale invasion: “3 days – and everyone will be on their knees, they will come running with flowers.”
This is a much deeper question than it seems at first glance. It’s not about what these people say. The question is that if we want to get a more or less fair world as a whole, then people have to be responsible for their words and actions. If a person is a criminal – they should be put in prison.
No need to look for excuses for these people. We have to bring this war to an end, and, in my opinion, we have to rebuild the inner space as well. We should be more open and fair in our country. We need to be fair and honest in the biographies of all the people who for 30 years have contributed to the fact that we are now losing Ukraine’s best sons and daughters.
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