By Luis Ángel Reglero
Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine, Jun 9 (EFE).- The only way Russia’s invasion of Ukraine can end is by liberating Russian-occupied territories, former deputy prime minister Oleksandr Vilkul tells Efe in an interview.
The politician turned military official is in charge of the military administration in the southeastern Ukrainian region of Kryvyi Rih.
His counterattack against invading forces in Kryvyi Rih city when Russia’s onslaught began in late February has garnered him recognition as a military chief after serving as Ukraine’s deputy prime minister between 2012 and 2014.
Question: What is the situation in this part of the country near the front line?
Answer: It is under the control of Ukrainian forces. The Russians were very close to the city but, thanks to our army, we pushed them back and now the front line is about 50 kilometers south of the city. There are defense systems, mortars, and artillery near the front. There were hard times, but the attacks have stopped now.
Q: How did you stop them? It was impossible in other places like Kherson, how did you do it here?
A: The first weeks of the war were difficult because we had no artillery, the Territorial Defence Forces were being established, and there were about 600 members of the National Guard. That’s why we blocked the airport road so that the Russians couldn’t take it.
On the second day of the invasion, they tried, but they could not after several battles. They were about 200 meters away, (…) we saw them through some cameras, and we kicked them out.
On the third day, they tried to attack the city again from the Mykolaiv area, but we blocked the road with heavy weapons and they couldn’t get through. Then they stopped and were counterattacked by Ukrainian helicopters.
Q: Do you think the situation could end up as a ‘frozen war’ in which Russia keeps the territory it controls and the world forgets about the conflict?
A: I do not think we have any option other than liberating occupied territories. We need the help of Europe and the United States with weapons. In any kind of frozen war, Russia will strike again after a year or two.
Q: Before February 24, did you think that Russia would dare to invade?
A: I did not expect Russia would attempt a large-scale operation, in the middle of Europe, in the 21st century.
Q: The conflict in Donbas, on the other hand, dates back to 2014. Do you see this invasion as another phase of the same war?
A: Of course, it is the continuation of the war that started in 2014, but different, because they did not use missiles, it was a local conflict. Now it is a large-scale war.
Q: When could the war end?
A: We are ready for any situation, but we need weapons to be in a winning position and to take back all the territories of Ukraine. It depends on whether they (other countries) give us weapons. We fight for our homeland, for all of Europe and the world.
Q: In your opinion, are the governments in Europe and the United States aware of this?
A: I take this opportunity to thank you for your support, but we insist on what president (Volodymyr) Zelenskyy has said, that we need more weapons.