In the heart of Kyiv – guarded by checkpoints, sandbags, soldiers and guns – is the city’s military hub.
Here we meet Oleksii Danilov, the head of the country’s national security council – President Zelenskyy’s The most trusted security advisor.
Mr. Danilov is not a shrinking violet. We talked for 20 or 30 minutes, during which time his dark gaze never left mine and his concentration never sank. He is adamant that the war will be won and Russia will bear its consequences.
Determined too, we should know the respect and affection he has for the UK. I wonder if he has any message for the new prime minister?
“Britain has been helping us since the first days of the war,” said Mr. “When Boris Johnson As prime minister, he communicated a lot with our president. On the first day and on the most difficult days, he was in constant contact with him.
“I’m sure the next prime minister will do the same for our country, as Johnson and Truss did, and it will be a continuation of the tremendous help that the people of the UK are doing.
“We have a great common goal and we are aware that we are on the side of the light of the whole of Europe and the whole civilized world. In addition to military aid, soldier training and acceptance. Our refugee, you have asked us for the help of a common family. And this moral help is very important. It is outstanding.”
However, his cheers faded. We talk about a series of grim trials. For example, rockets and drones have rained down on several cities and towns, destroying critical infrastructure and depriving the nation of electricity.
“These are the things on which people’s lives depend – the work of hospitals, schools and the lives of the elderly. This is humanitarian terrorism,” he said.
Then there was the Kakhovka Dam, which he said was exploited by the Russian military “with a huge amount of explosives”.
There are claims that Russia might blow it up to stop Ukrainian troops moving towards Kherson.
“We’ll have to wait and see but if they blow it up the idea of water supply in Crimea will be gone in 10 or 15 years, or maybe forever.
“Then the question is why do they want Crimea if they are going to leave it without water.”
As for Kherson himself, he said the situation was “not easy” but he did not expect the Russian army to “retreat on their own … they have their own plans, which I think we understand”.
I think he was the one who laid the groundwork for a brutal battle.
He also feared that a new front might open up in the north.
Russian troops are said to be massing in Belarus (a country whose leaders Mr. Danilov particularly despises), raising the specter of them crossing the border and heading south to Kyiv. He told me, a subject he discussed with Mr. Zelenskyy just before we met.
“Belarus has been occupied by the Russian Federation for a long time,” he said. “Russia does everything it deems necessary there, especially when that concerns the military sector and the work of Russian special services. In fact, they are occupied.”
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So could Belarus be the base for an attack?
“Yes, indeed, from that side, after a certain period of time, certain unpleasant events can happen to our country. They have solved this question. And they can move on. a large number of his army in a short time precisely by air and rail to Belarus.”
He told me that Ukraine no “dirty bombs”, despite the Kremlin’s claims, and no necessary materials (“since 1994 when we provided everything [Soviet-era nuclear weapons previously stationed in Ukraine] to Russia for free”) and “we’re not going to deal with this anyway – we’re not North Korea, Iran or Russia”.
And then we come to the awkward bit of the interview.
Before meeting Mr. Danilov, I reviewed the views of several senior European diplomats. A topic that is constantly undercut – what can end war? Would Ukraine accept a deal where, for example, it gives up land occupied by Russia since 2014 in exchange for NATO membership?
Mr. Danilov’s gaze turned to a glare.
“I don’t know who you talk to in Europe and what these people have to do with our independence,” he said, frowning.
“Let me remind you. Once upon a time, a French character [he refers to former President Nicolas Sarkozy] tried to negotiate with Russia regarding Georgia, Georgia lost part of its territory. After the figures from France and Germany forced us to sign the Minsk agreements [in 2014], we lost part of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. But we have not stopped fighting for them, and we have not stopped defending it, because it is ours.
“This is our constitution, this is our law, this is our land. Let them [European leaders] give their land to Putin. I wanted to see how the community, its constituents and their children would react.
“Look, you can’t incite terrorists. Because in the future, their desire to catch, catch and catch one more time will only increase. This is a dangerous behavior. They have set an example for them. Nazi Germany So we have a very good memory. Now Putin isn’t much different from Hitler – he’s just a modern Hitler.
“From 1941 to 1945, Germany was at war with almost the whole world. In May 1945, it was left in ruins. The same thing will happen to Russia. They have to endure it. .”
So I wonder, how can Ukraine and Russia be reconciled. After all, even if the war ended, geography would not change – they would still share a long border.
“Firstly, I don’t see that Putin will stay in power for long,” Danilov said. “He is doing everything in his power to bring Russia down. It is Putin who is destroying Russia with his actions.
“Secondly, other countries coexist with neighboring countries, and it is not necessary to go to war. It is not necessary to clarify relations by military means. And where will the border be? I have many once said that Ichkeria [Chechnya] will be free, Tatarstan will be free, and many countries will be free. Whether it will happen this year, or next year, or in the near future – let’s see. “
And this is the view that has captivated and inspired so many in Ukraine – a story of total victory: that Ukraine will win, Russia will be defeated and Putin will fall.
The truth is that there are many people across Europe hoping for an agreement to end the war but I think they will have a hard time convincing Mr.
For the past eight months, Ukraine has been telling its people that they are fighting to save all of their country.
To move the target column now would be difficult.
“Our society,” he said, “demands the liberation of all our lands from the Russian invaders.”
He didn’t look or sound like a man ready to change his mind.