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EXCLUSIVE Putin Russia

Exclusive Interview with Leading Ukrainian Security Issues Specialist Anton Gerashchenko, Part 1

Anton Gerashchenko on the current state of Russia’s war against Ukraine, the prospects and implications.

Editors Note:  This exclusive interview with Anton Gerashchenko was conducted in the Kyiv Post studio on Wednesday, May 24, 2023.

Hello, Kyiv Post viewers. I’m Maryna Shashkova. Today our guest is Anton Gerashchenko, former Deputy Interior Minister and adviser to the Interior Minister of Ukraine. Welcome, Anton. Thank you for visiting us today. I suggest starting with the up-to-date information. I think you are following the situation in Russia’s Belgorod Oblast. As you know, the Freedom of Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps (the Russians fighting against Putin’s regime) are now actively advancing on Russian territory. In your opinion, why is Russia actively pulling weapons and military equipment to the occupied Ukrainian territories but reacts weakly to the situation inside the country?

Everyone who is an enemy of Putin is a friend of Ukraine. That’s why the brave Russians who came to Ukraine after the beginning of Russian invasion – the Freedom of Russia Legion, the Russian Volunteer Corps – sacrifice their lives and health to defeat Putin’s arbitrary, criminal regime. They are our friends and we should help them as much as possible.

The answer to the question of where they get their weapons is known – they bought them on the arms market.

Their invasion of Russian territory and “liberation” of even a small part of it means that Putin’s regime is bankrupt. Despite their shouting about protecting the territory of Russia from the attack of the so-called Ukrainian Nazis – i.e., us – for 15 months, they were not even able to protect themselves. I think that after these events Putin will be forced to move a significant number of troops from the south and east of Ukraine to defend Bryansk, Kursk, and Belgorod regions. This will play into our hands. If this is not done, then I think that the Freedom of Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps can freely enter Belgorod, Kursk, Voronezh, and then Moscow.

I would like to note that the UN charter – Article 332, if I am not mistaken, – provides that a defending country can use any methods, including bringing war to the territory of the aggressor. Nazi Germany could not be defeated if the allies did not start fighting on its territory.

Our international partners have repeatedly, publicly and privately, urged Ukraine not to conduct any military operations on the territory of Russia because there is a threat of nuclear strike on the part of the Russian Federation. Do you think this is possible?

I think the best thing to happen is that Putin suffers a stroke. In my opinion, the best scenario for the fastest end of the war is the death of Putin. Experts from the Ukrainian Institute for the Future, our analytical center, believe that there is a 90 percent probability that in the event of Putin’s death, whoever succeeds him – be it Mishustin or someone else – will be forced to stop any military actions, negotiate with Ukraine about compensation, and return all the occupied territories to us.

However, there is a 10 percent probability that dross like Prigozhin can come to power in Russia, given the fact that Prigozhin, who nine months ago sued a journalist who called him head of PMC Wagner, received material compensation. However, now everyone knows that Prigozhin founded this criminal organization, that this military company consists of tens of thousands of armed people, and this is the person who can become Rasputin for Russia. He can become the one who succeeds Putin. Then the war would continue.

So, the physical liquidation of Prigozhin, which our Armed Forces are trying to do, will also facilitate a quick end of this war.

Can he become the person who organizes a revolution in Russia, or not?

In fact, he lays the foundations for this because his criticism of [Defense Minister Sergei] Shoigu, [Chief of Staff Gen. Vitaly] Gerasimov and others is actually criticism of Putin. He simply does not mention the word because Putin keeps those who, according to Prigozhin, allow him to fight.

It’s clear. What about his constant statements that Wagner captured Bakhmut, then that it did not capture Bakhmut. Why is he doing this, for PR?

Prigozhin is showing everyone in Russia that only he and his private military company based on violence and war crimes can somehow fight against the Armed Forces of Ukraine, while all other Russian armed formations are unable. He is right because Vuhledar, Maryinka, and Avdiivka remain Ukrainian after 15 months despite their efforts, including air and artillery strikes, etc. That is why he tells the truth when saying that PMC Wagner is their only combat-ready organization. However, it also tried to capture Bakhmut for eight months. This is more than the long heroic defense of Sevastopol.

Every day we have all sorts of news – both bad and good – coming from the front. The bad news is that we are losing many of our military men. The good news is that we all are waiting for a counteroffensive. Little by little, more positive information about it appears. As you predict, we are already crossing the finish line. Are we capable of beating Russia in the near future?

This means that there will definitely be a counteroffensive, it will definitely be successful, because the level of organization of the Ukrainian army is higher than that of the Russian troops. The level of patriotism, the understanding of why we should defend our land is also higher. The mobilized Russians do not even understand what the so-called “special military operation” is and why they are thrown into the territory of Ukraine where they die and become disabled. Therefore, the victory of Ukraine is only a matter of time.

I would not speculate here and say that the Russians have already run out of missiles and shells. They are a very dangerous adversary. The Russians have also started producing drones that cause serious damage to our country, in particular, Lancet drones. We also produce many drones.

I can tell you that the First World War was a war of artillery, the Second World War was a war of motors, tanks, planes and trucks, while the Third World War, which is going on now, in my opinion, is a war of drones. Whoever has more drones, both reconnaissance and strike, will win.

Of course, we can’t help but be happy because weapons such as long-range cruise missiles are being transferred to Ukraine, as well as the Patriot system, which we all dreamed about a year ago. Now Kyiv is one of the most protected locations in the world, in terms of air defense. It can compete only with Washington and Tel Aviv.

Moscow is no longer a city protected by air defense because drones fly there. They say that all drones should be banned. We say, “Please ban all Russian drones from flying. However, Ukrainian drones will fly over Moscow as long as it takes.”

So, it is a matter of time. Of course, there will be a counteroffensive in summer but there is no need to hurry our military because an ill-prepared counteroffensive means greater losses. As such, it is better to start later but have a result. We are not interested in the time of counterattack but the outcome.

Are we winning in the information war in Russia?

Look at the events that took place last Monday [May 22] after the Russian units’ incursion into Russian Federation territory. The area they temporarily occupied was 20-30 square kilometers, but it was a complete shock for the entire Russian information space from Vladivostok to Kaliningrad. Some 140 million Russians – 100 million Russians excluding children – were very demotivated. They saw that the whole state, which was built on the myth that Putin is wise, strong and invincible, that they were building the best country was a fake. All this made it clear that even the vatniki [pejorative for who support the modern political regime in Russia and its domestic and foreign policy], who still trusted Putin, no longer trust him.

In general, Russia seems to be following the scenario of 1917, when Tsar Nicholas II, like Putin, completely lost touch with reality and constantly made wrong decisions, which led to his removal from power. In the case of Putin, it would also be nice if he physically disappeared from the face of the earth.

At the same time, there were other negative events. The Soviet Union was created, so it’s definitely necessary for Russia to disintegrate.

However, then Ukraine became independent for the first time. The Central Rada[the revolutionary parliament created in Ukraine in 1917] was formed. At that time, Ukraine’s independence did not last, because unfortunately the leaders of the Central Rada were not ready to create a strong army. Today, we have the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which are one of the strongest and most effective in the world. So, there will be no such questions now.

There will be a question of what will happen to Russia after Putin. Will it break up? There will be 25 more nuclear states, because Tatars and Bashkirs are so different. Do you understand how much all these regional leaders in the Russian Federation hate Putin? They can say publicly that they are with Putin, fulfill his criminal orders, mobilize their people, but they all hate him. Such power cannot exist for long.

What will happen with 25 separate nuclear states, as you say?

I think that everything will be fine, we will win and get our territory back. Most importantly, it should be a new world order in which the aggressor, like fascist Germany and Japan, will pay in full for everything that was done. I believe that Russia should pay compensation of at least a million dollars for every dead Ukrainian, child, soldier, or elderly person – at the least. It should pay material compensation for everything that was destroyed. I think the numbers are already close to a trillion.

Since they won’t have the money, we’ll take oil, gas and other natural resources.

Part 2, covering relations with Belarus, the accident in which Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky and his team died, and the battle against corruption, will follow.

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