Yulia Tymoshenko on the war in Ukraine: “It’s a chance for the free world to kill this evil” | Ukraine

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Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has described Vladimir Putin as “absolutely rational, cold, cruel and black evil” and claimed he was determined to go down in Russian history alongside Stalin and Peter the Great.

In an exclusive interview, Tymoshenko dismissed the suggestion that the Russian president was “crazy”. “He acts on his own dark logic,” she said. “He is driven by this idea of ​​a historic mission and wants to create an empire. This is his hyper-objective. It comes from a deep inner desire and belief.

Tymoshenko, leader of the 2004 Orange Revolution and twice prime minister, had several individual talks with Putin. They held talks in 2009 after Putin, then prime minister, cut off gas supplies to Ukraine. Tymoshenko ran for president in 2010, 2014 and 2019, finishing second twice, then third.

Up close, Putin was “always cautious” in what he said and always suspected he might be taped, she said. “He comes from a KGB school,” she said. Before the full-scale invasion of Russia in February, he made no secret of his belief that there was “no nation like Ukraine, and no people like Ukrainians”, she said. .

His ambitions went beyond seizing Ukrainian territory and overthrowing its pro-Western, pro-NATO government, Tymoshenko suggested. Its geopolitical goal was to take control of Belarus, Georgia and Moldova as well, and to control Central and Eastern Europe, including the Baltic States, just as Moscow did in Soviet times, she said.

Yulia Tymoshenko and Vladimir Putin in Yalta, Ukraine, in November 2009. Photograph: Aleksandr Prokopenko/EPA

Tymoshenko was in Kyiv on February 24 when Russia launched a multi-pronged attack in the early hours of the morning. She said political rivalries and peacetime grudges immediately disappeared. That morning, she visited the presidential administration with other opposition figures and met Volodymyr Zelenskiy, against whom she ran in 2019.

“We hugged and shook hands. Everyone was shocked, pale and scared. None of us had planned to leave Kyiv,” she said. “Everyone knew that We had to hold out until the end. We agreed to support our president and our army and work for victory. Zelenskiy’s decision to stay in the capital and “overcome his fear” was important, she said .

As Russian bombs fell, Tymoshenko took refuge in the basement of the modern office building that belonged to her Batkivshchyna political party in the Podil district of Kyiv, repeatedly hit by missiles. When asked if she was ready to shoot Russian soldiers, she replied: “Yes. I have legal weapons. The Kremlin put me on a casualty list, sources say. We were prepared.

The Russian government has always considered her an enemy, Tymoshenko said. She underlined her support for Ukraine’s accession to the EU and NATO. In the 2010 presidential election, she opposed Viktor Yanukovych, who was backed by Moscow. She attributed her defeat to the outgoing president at the time, Viktor Yushchenko, a former ally of the Orange Revolution.

The following year, Yanukovych had Tymoshenko imprisoned in a case widely seen as politically motivated. “Putin and Yanukovych imprisoned me. Yanukovych was never an independent actor. He was always Putin’s puppet,” she said. She was released from prison in 2014 when Yanukovych fled to Moscow after Maidan anti-corruption protests. A few weeks later, Putin annexed Crimea and sparked a separatist uprising in eastern Ukraine.

Protesters in Maidan Square, Kyiv, in February 2014
Protesters in Maidan Square, Kyiv, in February 2014. Photography: Emeric Fohlen/NurPhoto/REX

Tymoshenko spoke in her downtown office decorated with the Ukrainian flag and photos showing her with Western leaders, including Margaret Thatcher. She hailed the “incredible unity” of the “anti-Putin coalition” and singled out the UK and Boris Johnson for special mention, along with the US, Canada and Poland. “We see Britain as part of one big Ukrainian family,” she said.

Last weekend, French President Emmanuel Macron said it was important not to “humiliate” Putin – a phrase interpreted to mean that Ukraine would have to sacrifice some of its territory in exchange for a realpolitik deal with Moscow. Tymoshenko said France and Germany – criticized for their slow arms deliveries – should not be ostracized as Europe grapples with its worst security crisis in decades.

But she added that Ukraine’s international partners must understand that the only way to end the war was to crush Russian forces on the battlefield. Without naming anyone, she said they should not become “co-conspirators with evil”. She added: “There is no peace agreement with Putin because it does not lead to peace. This would lead to a new war several years later.

The stakes for her country were existential, she said. The Kremlin’s goal was to “depersonalize” Ukraine, strip it of its language and culture, and leave it weak and “atomized.” The civilized world had a unique opportunity to stop Russia and prevent it from spreading “war, corruption, blackmail, disinformation and deprivation of liberty”, she said.

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Russia has largely given up claiming it was only targeting Ukrainian military infrastructure, Tymoshenko said. The killing of civilians – in towns in the Kyiv region such as Bucha and Irpin, as well as in other areas – was cruel and deliberate, she said, with Russian soldiers following instructions from Moscow.

“It is an inseparable part of their genocide against the Ukrainian nation,” she said. “What happened in Mariupol was even worse than in Bucha, Irpin and Hostomel. I am confident that we can retake Mariupol and find out the extent of the horrific massacres taking place there. It was a tragedy, a human catastrophe of unimaginable magnitude.

Considering his words, the veteran politician concluded, “This is a great battle for our territory and our freedom. This is a historic chance for the free world to kill this evil.

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