Ambassador of Ukraine to Spain
He is in constant contact with the Spanish authorities, most recently very recently, and is grateful for Spain’s “unwavering support” for Ukraine. The Ukrainian ambassador, Serhii Pohoreltsev, is concerned about the breakdown of the grain export agreement: “we must ensure the failure of Russian food blackmail and guarantee the unimpeded export of Ukrainian foodstuffs”.
Is there any news on Spain’s military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine?
We are working intensively with the Spanish authorities. I would like to underline the positive dynamics of our cooperation. The third visit of the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to Ukraine since the beginning of the full-scale Russian armed invasion reaffirms Spain’s unwavering support for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders.
Spanish government representatives have repeatedly stated that Spain will be firmly committed to supporting Ukraine for as long as necessary. In Kyiv Pedro Sánchez announced after the meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that Spain would provide 55 million euros in financial assistance and would soon send new heavy equipment. At the last meeting of the Defence Ministers of the Ukrainian Defence Contact Group, Spanish Defence Minister Margarita Robles announced that a new shipment of light weapons and heavy calibre ammunition would be sent over the summer. Among the military equipment that has already been sent to Ukraine so far: dozens of M-113 TOA infantry vehicles, Leopard 2A4 tanks, anti-aircraft systems, grenade launchers, light weapons and ammunition, light and heavy vehicles, ambulances, etc.
Do you think Spain can help more?
Spain supports Ukraine within its means and has been with my country since the first days of the large-scale Russian aggression, sending us military materials and giving us considerable humanitarian support and financial assistance. We appreciate Spain’s vital support to Ukraine, thank it for the assistance provided and hope that it will continue effectively until our complete victory over the Russian aggressor country. We invite Spanish companies to join the campaign and help procure armoured ambulances for Ukraine.
What is their analysis in Kyiv of the Wagner Group’s recent “rebellion” and subsequent developments?
The war waged by the Kremlin against Ukraine is returning to Russia. The Prigozhin rebellion is a rehearsal for the great unrest to come. Prigozhin’s virtually unimpeded march towards Moscow showed that Russians were unwilling to defend Putin’s regime and were prone to change the dictator. The Kremlin masters were unable to maintain internal stability. In the midst of the crisis, the Russian elite began to flee Moscow. Putin’s regime will never be as strong as it was. The cracks will continue to widen.
Do you think Putin has shown his real weaknesses in recent days?
Yes, Wagner’s armed rebellion became a “vivid illustration” of Russia’s vulnerability. Putin has shown his weakness, fear and confusion. The weaker Putin becomes and the closer he comes to inevitable failure, the more likely he will choose to retreat. It is therefore critical to redouble support for Ukraine. This is a unique moment to force Putin to end Russian aggression.
We know little about the situation on the frontline and your government is remarkably secretive about what progress may be taking place. Does this mean that progress is slower than expected?
The counter-offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine is developing. Ukraine is successfully conducting counter-offensive operations on several fronts simultaneously to restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders. Our strategy is to do everything possible to save the lives of our military while the counteroffensive is underway.
Do you still consider the supply of Western fighter jets, of the F-16 type, to be essential?
Without a doubt, F-16s are vital to the defence against Russian attacks. An air coalition is currently being formed. Some countries are willing to supply fighters to Ukraine and have already confirmed their readiness to start training Ukrainian pilots. We know that Spain does not have F-16s, but it has other elements that could help us in this area. We hope that Spain will also join the international air coalition.
What is the mood of the Ukrainian population and troops?
Ukrainians are more united than ever and all are contributing to victory. Support for Ukraine’s accession to NATO and the EU among Ukrainians has reached record levels. Ukrainian troops are highly motivated, professional, efficient and committed. Our military has shown that it can quickly master new types of Western weapons, achieving results on the battlefield.
What are the consequences of Russia’s withdrawal of the Ukrainian grain export agreement?
Food security is one of the important points of the Peace Formula presented by the President of Ukraine last year, the fulfilment of which is indispensable for a just, comprehensive peace. More than 400 million people around the world depend on vital supplies of Ukrainian grain to ensure their food security.
By withdrawing from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Russia is putting millions of people around the world at risk of hunger and driving up food prices. This is part of a deliberate Russian strategy to destabilise countries in Asia and Africa. Russian terrorists want the severe food crisis to trigger social unrest, migration and political crises. Unlike Russia, we remain committed to our obligations: Ukraine has always been and remains a vital guarantor of food security for many countries around the world.
Just after ending the grain export agreement, Russia demonstrated its true attitude towards global food security by attacking key Ukrainian seaports, Odessa and Chornomorsk, with numerous missiles and drones. Russia deliberately attacks Ukrainian silos vital to global food security in order to achieve its political goals.
No country in the world has the right to blackmail the world by destroying the infrastructure of grain supply chains, threatening global food security. The result will be that prices will skyrocket again. We will not allow Russia to use food as a weapon.
Through joint action by the international community, we must ensure the breakdown of Russian food blackmail and guarantee the unimpeded export of Ukrainian food. Together we must protect the world’s most vulnerable populations.
On 1 July 2023, Spain took on the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. What do you expect from the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EU?
It is very symbolic that the first event of the Spanish Presidency of the EU was held in Ukraine. Spain has shown solidarity in supporting our European and Euro-Atlantic aspirations, as expressed in the joint statement by the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Prime Minister of Spain Pedro Sánchez.
I would like the Spanish Presidency to associate itself with the EU’s historic decision on the start of negotiations on Ukraine’s EU membership. In June last year we obtained the status of the candidate country. The EU and transatlantic allies showed exemplary unity in terms of humanitarian, economic and military support for Ukraine.
For Ukrainians, who give their lives for freedom and democracy, what has already been done by the Ukrainian people is the best confirmation of their compatibility and compliance with the essentials that define the European Union space.
Ukraine is an example of stable governance, public institutions capable of functioning under unprecedented challenges, an active, aware and highly organised civil society.
It is essential for Ukraine to start negotiations on EU membership this year and to see the EU’s doors open now. Ukraine remains firmly committed to meeting the requirements of the European Commission. We are confident that the EU countries will support the decision on the start of negotiations on Ukraine’s EU membership.
Are you satisfied with the results of the NATO Summit in Vilnius?
NATO needs Ukraine as much as Ukraine needs NATO. The Vilnius Summit represented a significant milestone on Ukraine’s road to Alliance membership. NATO leaders have made it clear that Ukraine’s accession to the Alliance is only a matter of time. Allies remain committed to increasing their political and practical support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression as necessary, as reflected in the G7 Leaders’ Joint Statement, which was joined by other countries, including Spain. The Ukraine-NATO Council was established to act as a platform for advancing political dialogue and cooperation towards Ukraine’s NATO membership. Ukraine has proven to be a valuable asset to the Alliance, successfully repelling Russia’s full-scale invasion.
When and how can peace be achieved?
There are preconditions for Ukraine to discuss any peace initiative as long as such proposals do not involve any territorial concessions by Ukraine or a frozen conflict.
Last year the Ukrainian president presented the 10-point Peace Formula:
- radiation and nuclear safety;
- food safety
- energy security;
- the release of all prisoners and deportees;
- compliance with the UN Charter and the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and world order;
- withdrawal of Russian troops and cessation of hostilities;
- stopping ecocide, the need for urgent protection of nature and the environment;
- prevention of escalation;
- setting an end to the war.
Only real actions such as the withdrawal of Russian troops from the territory of Ukraine, the cessation of attacks by the Russian terrorist army against the Ukrainian infrastructure, the release of all prisoners and deportees, especially children, will give way to the peace process. I would like to stress that the forced deportation of Ukrainian children constitutes the crime of genocide. Increased pressure on the aggressor state is needed to stop this cruel and barbaric practice. Until these conditions are met, any peace negotiations will be premature as Russia would use them as a pause to regroup, replenish its forces and attack again. To date, Russia gives no indication that it is ready for real negotiations.
What is the current situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant?
The situation at the nuclear power plant is very threatening. Russian terrorists are pushing the world into the abyss of a nuclear catastrophe. Since the first day of the occupation, Russian forces have continued to fire rockets near the nuclear facility and have deployed military equipment and ammunition on the territory of the plant. There is also credible information that Russia has mined the plant and is considering committing a terrorist act.
The Russian leadership is using the mining of the plant to blackmail Ukraine and the international community in order to stop our counteroffensive, and to weaken support for Ukraine from its Western partners.
The scale of the challenges and threats are extremely high and require joint and decisive international efforts to avert a potential nuclear catastrophe. Radiation knows no borders and can reach anyone around the world. The international community must act immediately.
The complete de-occupation and demilitarisation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, as well as regaining control of it by the Ukrainian authorities, will ensure radiological and nuclear safety in the region. New sanctions must be imposed, including against the Russian state-owned company Rosatom.