The Ukrainian ambassador to the United States said her priorities are seeking “all the weapons we can get,” as Russia’s invasion enters the third month.
Oksana Markarova, speaking in a Washington Post online forum Friday, said, “we don’t ask for boots on the ground.” Even though the initial invasion stalled, “the enemy doesn’t stop.”
She said the war “is becoming more brutal” more than seven weeks into the Russian assault. The Kremlin is now re-grouping its forces for attacks in Ukraine’s east and southeast after the Russians failed to take the capital and other large cities.
“We have to defend our territory; it’s existential,” she said.
Markarova compared the Russian invasion of her country “to a 1939 moment,” where a powerful nation ignores established international laws, brutally attacks a smaller neighbor and sends the world into a global war.
A senior defense official told reporters Monday that Russia continues to attack Mariupol, although the heaviest fighting is currently around Popasna in eastern Ukraine.
Saying Ukraine was grateful for the military and other support it is receiving, she said more is needed because the Russians have not fallen back across the border. Asked about the sinking of Russian cruiser Moskva in the Black Sea after Ukrainian-fired anti-ship missiles hit the ship, Markarova said she was “very glad it will not be able to shoot at our people any more.” She noted the “Russian fleet is a very important part of the invasion.”
The Russian Navy has largely taken a supporting role in the invasion after an amphibious assault near Mariupol early in the fighting. The senior defense official said Monday that there are landing ships in the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea, and Moscow could be preparing to bring more Russian marines to the area around Mariupol.
As for other steps allies and partners could take, Markarova wants more sanctions levied on Russia businesses, particularly in the energy sector, and to apply them to all financial institutions. She added that sanctions on individuals from the Kremlin leadership on down to everyone who remained silent should be increased.
For Ukrainians, the war began in 2014 when the Kremlin annexed Crimea with its key port of Sevastopol, home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet, she said. At the same time, Russia backed separatists in the Donbas, an eastern border region with Russia. Markarova said that during fighting in the east from 2014 to Feb. 24, the day Russia invaded Ukraine, more than 16,000 Ukrainians died in the struggle.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in announcing what he called a cross-border “special military operation” instead of an invasion, also recognized the independence of the separatists’ regions that have been continually supported by the Kremlin with arms and financing.
Now more than 13 million Ukrainians have fled their homes, Markarova said. More than 4.6 million of them, primarily women and children, have become refugees. They all desperately need financial and humanitarian assistance, she added.
“What is the world ready to do to help Ukraine?” she asked.
When asked what Kyiv could do to end the fighting, Markarova asked rhetorically, “why do we have to think what concessions we have to make. … We never attacked anyone.”
She said “it’s Russia that makes it difficult to negotiate.”
The war has entered a new phase, with the movement of Russian ground forces away from the capital, Markarova added.
“When that blitzkrieg didn’t happen” in capturing Kyiv in a few days, “we had the brutal shelling” of large cities, like Mariupol on the Black Sea coast, house-to-house fighting there and atrocities from looting to rapes and murders of citizens in Kyiv suburbs like Bucha, she said. Markarova is from Bucha.
She praised journalists from Ukraine and other nations for their honest reporting on conditions on the ground and for exposing Russian lies over its involvement in backing separatists and seizing Crimea in 2014, its insistence since late 2021 that it had no intention of invading Crimea and its continued denial that Russian forces are shooting civilians.
Following Russia’s condemnation in the United Nations General Assembly, a number of nations have opened investigations into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity. Markarova said, “we try to punish the person who is attacking.”