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The second president of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma, who headed the country from 1994 to 2005, gave the BBC Ukrainian Service the first and so far the only one after the start of the war interview. He spoke about the first days of the invasion, openly drawing analogies between Russia and Nazi Germany, talked about the goals of Vladimir Putin, which he pursues in Ukraine, and also spoke about the possibility of using nuclear weapons and the prospect of starting a third world war. Meduza publishes excerpts from Kuchma’s interview.
About the first days of the war
I, like most civilians in my country, were caught in bed by the Russian full-scale invasion. Such is the tradition, probably, of all fascists, regardless of country and era, to attack us at four in the morning …
Psychologically, I was ready for war – after all, as a child I survived the first fascist occupation of my homeland, and I also had no illusions about the aggressive nature of Putin’s Russia. But, in spite of everything, the Russian invasion was a shock to me. Probably, I hoped until the last that the one who gave this inhuman order had something human left.
On whether the war could have been prevented
Only by agreeing to the terms of Putin’s ultimatum. Then there would be no invasion, but a gradual subjugation of our state. And then Bucha would be not only in Bucha, but everywhere where the Russian occupier would enter. It seems that Churchill said after Munichthat he who chooses dishonor in order to avoid war will receive first dishonor, and then war.
What happened in Bucha
- How people were killed in Bucha Detailed reconstruction of events. And analysis of the “versions” of the Kremlin propaganda
All seven relatively peaceful years after the Minsk agreements, the Ukrainian authorities had to prepare for a military clash with the Russian Federation. Yes, the Ukrainian army from the first minutes of the attack manifests itself as an army of heroes. Our warriors destroyed not only the elite of the Russian army, but also the legend of its invincibility, showing the whole world that it was not even a legend, but a “Russian folk tale”. But heroism can produce even more impressive results when it is supported by the latest technology, modern weapons.
About Putin’s plans
Putin and his entourage now want to maintain their power. To do this, it is necessary that the foundations of the regime not be shaken. So that the Russian man in the street with megalomania gets his portion of the drug, which creates that very virtual reality where he feels like the ruler of the world and a heroic winner.
What will the authorities sell him as a victory? What they can. The destruction of our infrastructure and our industrial potential, which will be passed off as “demilitarization”. The trial of the “Azovites”, which will be announced as the very mythical “denazification”. The complete occupation of the so-called LDNR, the land corridor to the Crimea, the Dnieper water …
Putin wanted the destruction of the Ukrainian state, and will receive our second birth.
How the war could end
It is not necessary to count that Putin is about to die. That sanctions are about to kill Russia economically. That the Russian inhabitant will suddenly begin to see clearly and come out to an anti-war protest. Nothing like that will happen. Ukraine must fight and decide everything on the battlefield.
I don’t think the war will end soon. Putin still wants to gnaw out some kind of “victory”. In the conflicts of the modern world, they usually try to find solutions when everyone wins to one degree or another. This is not our case. Too much grief, destruction and horrors brought Putin to our land. There can only be one winner in this war, and I believe that we will be the winner.
On the probability of nuclear war
Nuclear threats are always serious. But I exclude the use of the Russian strategic potential. As for tactical nuclear weapons, the situation is more complicated. Nuclear-free Ukraine is not able to adequately respond to Russia. Namely, the feeling of impunity is the main engine of Putin’s actions.
If the state of affairs at the front threatens Putin’s political positions and the stability of his regime, then the Kremlin may use tactical nuclear weapons. But I am sure that a clear warning from, for example, the United States, about a military response to the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear Ukraine is quite capable of stopping it.
On whether Russia will attack other countries
The danger threatens not Lithuania or Poland, but the post-Soviet republics outside NATO. Allusions to Moldova and northern Kazakhstan have already become familiar, and now Georgia is also mentioned in this context. After all, Russia attacks only those who are weaker than it at times, and even better – weaker by an order of magnitude.
Throwing down a real challenge to NATO is not about Russia. In a conventional war, NATO will grind the Russian army to powder; in a nuclear war, Russia will simply be destroyed. Will Putin start a war in which there will be two options – lose or die? A normal person would give only one answer. But it’s normal…