Mykhailo Podolyak, the adviser to the head of the President’s Office, tells Kyiv Post when Ukraine should expect the much-needed tanks that have been pledged; why the surrender of Soledar was announced two weeks after the fact, and to what extent the town is of any business interest for Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of PMC Wagner; and why this spring will be decisive not only for Ukraine but also for Russia.

President Volodymyr Zelensky in his daily address on Jan. 26 said that the Supreme Commander-in-Chief’s Headquarters had discussed Russians’ plans and how to counter them. Could you give details?

I can’t, because it would be inappropriate to talk about counterplans, thus prompting the Russians to change their plans.

I want to emphasize once again that it is undesirable to talk about our plans, countermeasures, and directions. We will work in all directions. Talking a lot about this, we allow the Russians to adjust their tactical plans. This can significantly increase losses, in particular on our side. Moreover, we show the Russians that we are concentrating our forces in certain directions. As a result, they can destroy our positions.

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I think that after 11 months of war, since our military intelligence has been very effective, it would be correct to say that we know what Russia is preparing and from which directions. We know what is happening in the northern direction, from Belarus. Our partners help us receive information from satellites. We know exactly what kinds of depots and where they are located in Crimea. We know what is happening in the border regions of the Russian Federation.

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We communicate with our partners, in particular intelligence services, about Russia’s further plans. This allows us to plan counteroffensive operations.

Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Oleksiy Danilov in the last interview for Radio Svoboda said that the Russians were accumulating forces in the Zaporizhzhia Region. Does that mean we are also preparing for a possible counteroffensive from this direction?

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Undoubtedly, at this stage of the war Russia and we are concentrating certain reserves. For the Russians, the situation now is a question of the survival of their political system. For us, this is a question of the survival of the state.

It is clear that there will be some active measures in the spring. However, even today, we are already seeing such actions in the Luhansk and Donetsk directions. That is, the offensive is underway.

Do you mean counterattacks from both sides?

We are advancing, and Russia is advancing too.

Daily, there are more than 100 combat clashes along the entire front line, but mostly in the Donetsk and Luhansk directions. The positions are shelled more than 1,000-1,200 times from all types of MLRS and artillery. It is a fierce war. We understand this, and our partners monitor the situation as well.

The attack on Iran’s sanctioned production facilities will not lead to the Third World War.

Every war has certain stages. Today, we are passing through one of the key stages of the war – the stage of seizing the initiative. Whoever seizes it will lead according to his own scenario until the end of the war.

You mentioned satellites that help Ukraine obtain information in wartime. Does Russia receive satellite data about our positions?

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Russia has certain technological developments. After all, it focuses on space exploration, and they have spent significant resources on building a system of military satellite control. However, all this is at a different technological level – a more backward one. This does not mean they do not have these capabilities. Simply the technological development of Ukraine’s partners is higher than that of the Russian Federation. That is very good, because if Russia were a modern state, we would have many more problems.

U.S. President Joe Biden announced that Ukraine was preparing for counterattacks. That is, military plans are partially revealed to the whole world. Don’t such statements play into the enemy’s hands?

These are not specifics. He talks about the political component of the war. He is right. At today’s stage of the war, we are preparing for certain more intensive actions after the change of weather conditions. Reserves are being accumulated both here, with the help of our partners, and in Russia. In order to seize the initiative, we must carry out certain counteroffensive actions because it is necessary to determine who will dominate at this stage – this is a political component.

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It’s great that President Biden understands this. And not only him, the President of Ukraine is also aware of this.

The Donetsk Region is the toughest point of the front today. How much is the enemy superior to us in terms of human resources and weapons?

Russia really has huge human resources measured in tens of thousands of people. It is impossible to say the exact number because there are constant rotations, and newly mobilized fighters trained in Belarus keep arriving. There might be 40,000, 50,000, 60,000 soldiers. However, they do not come in such groups. They come in groups of 500 to700 people. There are still a lot of tanks.

However, I want to say a few important things. Yes, numbers matter, this is an attempt to suppress our military. Nevertheless, modern warfare is about creative planning. In addition, NATO weapon standards are higher than those of the modified old Soviet weapons used by the Russian Federation – that is, in Russia quantity prevails over quality.

Therefore, when we talk about the tanks we’ll be getting, their tactical qualities are more effective than the Russians’ tanks.

The President always tells our partners that it is necessary to speed up the supply of weapons because this is the only opportunity to protect the east of Ukraine, which Putin is destroying.

How many casualties are recorded in this direction every day?

Only the General Staff comments on anything related to casualties on the side of Ukraine.

Why did Ukraine lose Soledar? Maybe there were some miscalculations?

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You know, that’s a very simplistic approach. There’s no such understanding that we lost or gained something. This is a war.

We concentrated forces around Soledar and Bakhmut to defeat the Russians in this direction. About three or four months ago, they believed they had captured the most combat-capable units there and could seize the initiative, but they did not succeed.

For the Russians, the situation now is a question of the survival of their political system. For us, this is a question of the survival of the state.

As for Soledar. We crushed many Russians there, showed them that they will not advance farther. I want us to be calm about the General Staff’s decision on withdrawal of troops. They perform tactical tasks that allow minimizing losses, aligning the front line, and bringing in additional reserves.

The Russians did not break through the front line entering Soledar. On the contrary, they came there exhausted, having lost many people and armaments. It is difficult for them to advance farther in such conditions. Believe me, the situation is difficult but under control.

Why was the information that Ukraine no longer controls Soledar made public two weeks later?

What to comment on and at what stage are the elements of warfare.

I do not see any nuances. This is not concealing information. Comments are made at the Armed Forces’ discretion.

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In addition, the battles in Soledar lasted for a long time. Despite the fact that the city was completely destroyed and units of Wagner fighters had entered it, our military were still on the outskirts of Soledar. That is, they were fighting and destroying the Russians.

There is no attempt to hide anything. Maybe something was commented on incorrectly or the society’s expectations were too high. But we try to speak correctly about such topics.

Prior to that, foreign media wrote that Soledar was important for Russians, in particular for Yevgeny Prigozhin, from a business point of view, because of the salt mines. Is this really the case, and have the first attempts to export salt reserves already been recorded?

Such cases have not been recorded because Soledar is still an area of heavy fighting.

You know, this is going to sound strange, but fighting to take over the salt mines… What for? They will still not control this territory, maybe they will take three or four trucks with salt. But what does this get Prigozhin, for example, in terms of influence in Russia?

From an economic point of view, Prigozhin has unlimited credit – he gets money for everything. Moreover, at the beginning of operations in the Donetsk direction, almost the entire Russian army acted on Prigozhin’s call. And again, what is the benefit of a few trucks full of salt in this case?

Prigozhin had a completely different task. He wanted to significantly increase the level of his influence in Putin’s inner circle – and he achieved it. Now he hopes to dominate the Russian political hierarchy after the war, even in the face of Russia’s defeat. But this will not happen.

When will Leopard and Abrams tanks appear at the front?

Let me start with the fact that the main thing is already clear: there will be enough tanks. To form several tank assault brigades, we need 450 tanks. Today, certain officials of NATO countries say there will be more than 300 tanks. And we will definitely receive the entire amount of new, modern European and American tanks – Leopard, Abrams, Challenger, Leclerc (negotiations with the French are still ongoing).

As for logistics. It will take some time. But Ukraine works differently than other countries. First, we accelerate training. The military are already being trained. Secondly, the logistics will not last for months – maybe a month or two.

Our partners understand that the world will be safe when Russia is defeated. Otherwise, there will be perpetual war. Therefore, they will provide us with everything. The next rounds of negotiations will concern aircraft and long-range missiles to destroy warehouses on the territory of Russia. This will help us advance more efficiently and decrease casualties.

Today, we are passing through one of the key stages of the war – the stage of seizing the initiative. Whoever seizes it will lead according to his own scenario until the end of the war.

We need attack and fighter aircraft in order to destroy the mobilized Russians and close the sky against missiles and drones.

Germany says that under no circumstances will it agree to provide fighter aircraft to Ukraine.

I want us to correctly evaluate the role of Germany. Yes, they are slow in making decisions. In the last century, Germany was the country that actually destroyed freedom in Europe and is still atoning for that. Today, Germany is gradually taking on the role of a leader who wants to protect freedom in Europe. This is a very complicated historical process. The German society perceives everything differently, it is difficult for them, but they are readjusting. The Germans give us a lot of weapons, and now they are the first among those who give consent to transfer Leopard tanks to us. Likewise, they will be those who will transfer aircraft to us.

Will we get the final decision on aircraft and missiles on Feb. 14 at the Rammstein meeting?

I’m not sure it will be on Feb. 14, but it will be in the coming weeks.

Are the Ukrainian military already being trained to operate F-16s?

Let’s not talk about this now.

How can an attack on Iran’s military facilities affect the further course of the war between Ukraine and Russia? Can it result in the Third World War?

Of course, we do not yet know all the information regarding the attack on Iran’s military facilities, including the extent of destruction, the amount of penetration, the number of facilities, the disruption of production chains, and so on. But preliminarily we can say that a number of influential countries are extremely concerned about Iran’s active militarization, their stable and significant violation of sanctions, and active intervention in Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Our partners understand that the world will be safe when Russia is defeated. Otherwise, there will be perpetual war.

It is obvious that we are witnessing a transition from words and resolutions to concrete actions regarding Iran’s drone and missile programs. After all, Iran is an absolutely uncontrolled country with large-scale aggressive intentions, which are constantly extended. On the one hand, Iran provokes escalation in various directions in the Middle East. On the other hand, it deliberately participates in the massacre of civilians in Ukraine, transferring certain types of weapons to Russia. We must finally admit that without Iranian technology, Russia would look much more primitive from a tactical point of view and would have much fewer options for attacks on our critical civilian infrastructure.

Therefore, in my opinion, the direct effect on Iran (through strikes against prohibited production) will significantly reduce options available to Russia and thus lower its destructive potential, which is extremely important.

And no, the attack on Iran’s sanctioned production facilities will not lead to the Third World War. This will be an exclusively local but very effective educative moment which proves that time is up for those who have deliberately violated international law in the past.

Did Ukraine know about the preparation of this operation? Who carried out it – Israel, the United States?

Such operations are not discussed in advance. It also makes no sense to expand the circle, let’s say, of those “ideologically involved” who do not directly participate in making decisions on such actions. Such operations should not be discussed by anyone, except for specially authorized representatives of the countries’ governments, should they consider it necessary to draw public attention to certain information.

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Comments ( 1)

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Cesar Lazo
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Thank you Maryna, great in depth interview

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