According to Oleksiy Danilov, Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC), February and March were the hardest months when Ukraine's fate hinged on making the right decisions and proper actions. He remembers the first days of Russia's full-scale invasion when the situation was very complicated, but he had no fear. It became a little easier in April, after the Ukrainian army repelled the Russians from Kyiv and kicked them out of Kyiv Region.
Danilov notes that the Kremlin is still determined to take Kyiv and trying to persuade Aliaksandr Lukashenka, the self-proclaimed president of Belarus, to join the Russian forces in the war against Ukraine. The latter is still reluctant as he is aware of the inevitable consequences.
The same can be said of Iran, whose ballistic missiles Russia wants to receive in order to replenish its badly depleted missile arsenal.
Kyiv Post asked Danilov what is in store for the Kremlin under the circumstances, whether China is helping Russia and whether Moscow has managed to circumvent sanctions to enable it to manufacture weapons.
The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Valeriy Zaluzhny, recently warned that Russia is gearing up for a new offensive on Kyiv. What is happening on the northern front?
We are preparing for any developments.
Each section of the frontline is important and none is left without attention and control of the General Staff.
We know what is happening in the temporarily-occupied territories of Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk Regions, and Belarus.
Do you see any activity in Belarus?
Activity started back on Feb. 24 and hasn't stopped anywhere. Russia continues to rape Belarus.
It's hard to say if the Belarusians will go to fight against our people, because it depends on many factors that we don't have influence over.
But we know for sure that the Belarusians don't want to fight against us. We’ve never done anything bad to them.
Should people evacuate from Kyiv Region because of a possible new offensive from Belarus?
It's a matter of personal choice.
The people can make their own decisions, receiving the colossal amount of information from TV, radio, social networks and other sources. In Ukraine, unlike Russia, all information is freely accessible.
At the moment, I can't take on the responsibility and tell people to evacuate or stay. It's up to them to decide individually.
But in the event of a real threat the authorities will provide all the necessary information and will react in the proper manner.
What do you know about the recent meetings between Lukashenka and Putin? How much did they mention Ukraine and how did Lukashenka respond to the Kremlin's urge for Belarus to join the war?
This wasn't the first time that Putin tried to drag Lukashenka into the bloody meatgrinder.
I say once again: Lukashenka understands that if he goes for it, he is finished, and very soon too. No-one in Ukraine, Belarus or elsewhere in the world will forgive him.
I can say that Belarus and Russia have entirely different visions. They are different nations, even though Russia says they are fraternal.
Do you mean Lukashenka once again gave no clear answer to Putin?
I don't know what he gave or didn't give. We look at actions.
What do they show?
The actions show that there's no final agreement yet. But it doesn't mean Putin won't keep trying to pressure Lukashenka.
Some residents of Kyiv Region who were under Russian occupation in the spring say that after Feb. 24 they saw Belarusian soldiers together with Russians. Besides, Belarus provides its territory to Russia for missile strikes on Ukraine and the deployment of Russian troops, weapons and equipment. Why do we continue to say that Minsk hasn't officially entered the war yet?
Because we know what we say. When you say that someone saw some Belarusians there, I can just as well say that someone saw aliens.
There were no people in Belarusian military uniform. If they had been there, then there would have been photos.
I have been in Kyiv since Feb. 24. In the first two weeks I got huge volumes of information from a great number of people that helped us, but there wasn't a single case of any Belarusian military presence.
Belarus is occupied by the Russian Federation. The Russian military behave there as though they are in their own backyard. When, God forbid, Minsk decides to start military action, we will react.
In which frontline sections, apart from Bakhmut, can Russian forces step up operations?
In all of them.
We have the frontline, and the enemy’s forces can act this or that way in any of its sections. We need to hold the line along the entire front.
What do you know about Russian armaments? Do they continue to manufacture weapons and missiles or are they unable to do this because sanctions leave them without components?
They are unable to manufacture precision weapons and they are running out of missiles. They only have sufficient amounts of missiles for S-300 launchers, but those missiles are not long-range ones.
That's why Russia is holding talks with Iran on supplies of missiles. At the moment, Russia hasn't received any, but as soon as it does, we'll know about it.
What is holding Iran back from supplying missiles to Russia?
If Iran resorts to such a step, the international community will definitely respond. Iran has been under sanctions since 1979, but, as we can see, it has been able to bypass sanctions.
After the war, we'll find out how Iran has managed to manufacture the kamikaze drones that it sends to Russia. I think in the near term we'll know what companies have supplied parts for them and why.
Is it true that some Iranian companies that make drones are owned by Russians?
Where did you get this information?
We were told of this by Oleksandr Novikov, head of the National Agency for Prevention of Corruption.
We don't have such information.
Has Russia used missiles produced in 2022 yet?
Yes, there have been fresh missiles. But they are unable to produce such missiles in large quantities.
It's a complicated technological process.
So, can we say that Russia has also learned to bypass sanctions?
Now they are using up the remainder of previously stored parts and we know how many missiles they can still make. If brand-new missiles appear, then we'll say that sanctions don't work.
So far, we can't say so.
Are there facts of illegal Chinese supplies of weapons or technologies to Russia?
No-one can answer this question today. I can only say that today Russia doesn't get substantial, powerful support from China. We'll see what happens tomorrow.
Can China influence the Kremlin with regard to the war against Ukraine?
Of course it can. In fact, China will subjugate Russia if the West doesn't draw the right conclusions.
In 1994, Russia guaranteed our security and, at the request of our partners, we handed our huge arsenal of nuclear weapons over to Russia.
Russia is now blackmailing us and the whole world with nuclear weapons.
In the 1990s, instead of supporting Ukraine, Kazakhstan and other [post-Soviet] countries, the West decided to make Russia the security monopolist in the post-Soviet space except for the Baltic States.
That was their big mistake. I think they understand it now.
As long as there are nuclear weapons on Russian territory, Ukraine and the whole world cannot be safe.
Matches, sharp things and weapons must be taken away from a madman.
Is there a threat of China becoming a new monopoly in the Asian region?
We are talking about different things here. China already has nuclear weapons and a powerful defense industry.
The issue here is whether China will seize Russia or part of it. That's a big question and a challenge to the world.
This summer, Russia repeatedly threatened to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine. Then it went silent. What happened?
It went silent after China warned it against such a step. The Russians always show obedience to China.
Do you see any strange movements in Russian totalitarianism that may provoke the collapse of the Russian Federation?
Russia will definitely collapse, and they are striding towards the end. They are destroying their own country.
From the very day they decided to unleash this war against Ukraine, Russia will not exist in its present form and within its present borders.
Could the Ukrainian army reach Russian territory to defend Ukraine?
Yes, definitely. If there’s a need to be where we need to defend our country, we will be there, and we won't ask anybody.
All that talk about provoking someone is sheer nonsense.
According to Ukraine’s General Staff, Russia has lost more than 100,000 in the war against Ukraine. How many have we lost?
We've lost many fold fewer. We know how many, but we can't make the figures public.
Believe me, they are way different from the figures that the Russians claim.
Are they losing so many troops because they’re sending untrained soldiers?
There are many other factors. One of them is that we have modern weapons. Using them, we can kill hundreds of Russian troops with a single shot.
The Russians don't have such weapons and that's our advantage.
But more importantly, our men and women fight very professionally.
Ukrainian law-enforcers have taken action against the Moscow Patriarchate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which might well be one of the Kremlin's main agents in Ukraine. Why right now?
Action was taken when documents became available proving that some of the clergy were liable under Article 111 of the Criminal Code, which is high treason.
It doesn't matter to us if a person wears a cassock or a suit. We don’t fight against the church. We fight against those who harm our state, who support and collaborate with the invaders.
The National Security and Defense Council ordered this action to be taken. Now let them prove that they have no ties to Russia.
I wish it had been taken a lot earlier. Now these people say they have many parishes, but it's because after independence in 1991, land plots in all cities were just handed out to them and no-one cared to check who was running or supervising this or that church.
I can say for certain that if a person is a suspect under Article 111, it makes no difference to us which parish they belong to.
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