Last week, the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, Ruslan Stefanchuk kicked off a working visit across the Scandinavian nations - Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. A number of meetings took place during the trip. In an interview with Ukrinform, the Ukrainian Parliament Speaker revealed some details of his latest talks.
READINESS OF UKRAINE’S PARTNERS TO TRAIN UKRAINIAN PILOTS ON F-16S INDICATES THEIR INTENTION TO JOIN THE CREATION OF AN AIR COALITION
- You are now in Sweden, and before that you went on official visits to Norway and Denmark. What is their purpose and what messages did you convey to partners?
- All actions taken by Ukraine’s top leadership are about systematic work. Immediately after the President reached serious agreements at the level of Northern European countries, I got the opportunity to consolidate these agreements and guarantee a certain outcome for Ukraine at the parliamentary level.
In particular, while in Norway, we managed to agree on getting extra NASAMS, more MLRS, ARTHUR counter-battery radars, and other required systems.
Also, Norway adopted a historic aid package, establishing a support facility for Ukraine, which lays down 75 billion Norwegian kroner. It will be operating for the next five years, that is, during both martial law and the recovery period. This is a fantastic example of support.
As for Denmark, negotiations were held on military and financial aid to Ukraine, as well as support for reconstruction. But it seems to me that the most important thing we are bringing back from this country is the agreement that Denmark will start training Ukrainian war pilots on F-16 fighter jets. We are very well aware of what this first step means. This means that in just a few months, we will be talking about a second step that will fully establish our superiority in the sky, which will help us close our sky.
- The creation of an air coalition is one of the Ukrainian government’s priorities. Do you feel that representatives of the Scandinavian nations are ready to join the coalition and send Ukraine modern fighter jets?
In the near future, we will be talking about a full-fledged air coalition
- I will not rush ahead of things. This is the type of information that should remain behind closed doors. The issue of arms supply is a really sensitive one. But I’d say that a formula was proposed for the Scandinavian nations, by which, say, these countries’ parliaments could sign off a joint letter, which would allow us to understand that precisely at the parliamentary level, these countries express their readiness to transfer their latest F-16 aircraft to Ukraine.
A few months ago, no one believed these fighter jets could be supplied to Ukraine, but today Denmark and other countries have expressed their readiness to train Ukrainian pilots, which clearly means that in the near future, we will be talking about a full-fledged air coalition that will give Ukrainians the opportunity to feel as secure as possible. This will bring us battlefield advantage, allowing us to achieve the main goal, which is driving the Russians out of Ukraine.
- You announced an increase in the number of Norwegian NASAMS air defense systems for Ukraine. What are those numbers? When could these extra systems be delivered to Ukraine?
- I can’t name a specific number, as well as the terms. But, talking about the terms, I should note one thing: the bureaucracy and everything else that’s sometimes in place in democratic countries will definitely be adjusted by the Ukrainians.
At the end of the day, we will receive the highest quality, most motivated, and best-prepared fighters. The Ukrainian Army is the world’s No. 1 as it adopts the NATO experience, has NATO weapons at hand, and does everything to defend not only Ukraine but also the entire eastern border of NATO.
- What is the general sentiment among partners regarding the increase in arms supplies to Ukraine?
- Situations vary. No one in the world was prepared for Russia launching a full-scale offensive. Therefore, some types of weapons and ammunition are simply not available in the numbers that Ukraine needs today. But the general mood that we saw, in particular at the G7 summit, the general mood that prevails around the world, points to their readiness to support Ukraine.
Our partners initially said they would help as much as needed, but now they say that they will support us until our victory and beyond. I like this wording much better. This means that the European nations, our allies, are ready to invest in post-war reconstruction as well.
I observe an extremely obvious fighting spirit in partners. I think that when Ukraine begins to effectively purge its territory of all this Russian abomination with the help of the weapons we receive, the aid will only expand. I am confident that we will be able to complete all operations to liberate Ukraine from the invaders as efficiently as possible.
It is necessary to implement the Peace Formula pu forward by the President of Ukraine, which includes all the components of our vision of the "Peace for Ukraine" concept. This is not only about our victory on the battlefield, not only about the restoration of sovereignty and independence in the temporarily occupied Ukrainian territories, but it is also about fair justice, fair sentences handed down by a special tribunal and the International Criminal Court to the highest military and political leadership of the Russian Federation, all responsible for this war.
In addition, this is a matter of rebuilding Ukraine. The history of the reconstruction of Ukraine should become the success story of the entire civilized world. This is absolutely understandable because only by rebuilding Ukraine can we show the power of democratic institutions.
Today, Ukraine fights. It fights for democratic principles. The world's task is to prove to everyone after Ukraine's victory that there is strength in democracy, international law, values and principles of the civilized world.
WE HAVE TO FIGHT NOT ONLY THE EXTERNAL ENEMY – RUSSIA – BUT ALSO THE DOMESTIC ENEMY – CORRUPTION
- What do international partners ask you most often? What are their interests?
- The first question I am asked concerns Ukraine's needs. This shows that everyone is concerned about the topic of war in our country.
The second question I am asked is related to integrity: "How can we be sure that Ukraine utilizes the funds in accordance with their intended purpose?" I have a very simple answer. It boils down to the fact that in Ukraine there is now a great demand for zero tolerance for corruption. The president of Ukraine and the top leadership of the state clearly prove this.
For example, regarding the situation of the head of the Supreme Court Vsevolod Knyazev, who was documented to have received a potential illegal benefit in the amount of $2.7 million, the reaction was instantaneous. A similar reaction was shown in relation to the Ministry of Defense procurement row. This shows that now the president of Ukraine, Verkhovna Rada, and entire political leadership are doing everything to remove friom our state the label alleging that corruption reigns in Ukraine.
Now we’re facing a massive task – to defeat not only the external enemy, the Russian Federation, but also to defeat the domestic enemy. It is about corruption, which sometimes manifests itself at different levels of power.
AT THE VILNIUS NATO SUMMIT, WE SEEK TO RECEIVE ASSURANCE REGARDING THE ACCEPTANCE OF UKRAINE'S APPLICATION FOR MEMBERSHIP
- Regarding NATO. Ukraine has high expectations for the Alliance summit in Vilnius in July. What attitudes prevail among partners from the Scandinavian countries on the issue of Euro-Atlantic integration of Ukraine?
- Thanks to the work of President Volodymyr Zelensky, today we have 18 countries that have expressed their readiness to support Ukraine on its path to NATO. We really want Ukraine to receive at the Vilnius summit the assurances about the acceptance of our accession application, as well as a clear understanding of the terms and process of Euro-Atlantic integration.
For a long time, we’ve been told about the “Finlandization" of Ukraine, that Ukraine should follow the path of Finland. Now we are ready to follow the path of Finland, which became a member of NATO in a short period of time. We choose this path and we wish success to Sweden, which is already one step away from joining the Alliance.
We are ready to walk this path with dignity and become the next member of NATO. For Ukraine, this issue is extremely important, but it is the same for the Alliance. The Ukrainian Army joining NATO will mean that the Alliance's capabilities will be strengthened to the maximum.
- What meetings are you planning to hold in Sweden, and with what messages will you address your partners?
Let's postpone Ukraine’s favorite sport of verbal brawls until we seal our victory
- In Sweden, meetings are planned to be held at the highest level - with the King, speaker of the parliament, and prime minister. I will also address the Swedish Parliament. The messages are the same everywhere: support and help for Ukraine, fulfillment of the promises undertaken. We cannot wait for a supply of weapons for a longer period than Ukraine needs. I am concentrating on this issue as much as possible to help the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Everything else will come after we win.
The only goal and desire is Ukraine's victory in this war. Any arguments and internal squabbles should be postponed. Let's postpone Ukraine’s favorite sport of verbal brawls until we seal our victory. We must do everything to preserve our statehood, to preserve our Ukraine.
AT THE DIPLOMATIC LEVEL, COMPLICATED WORK CONTINUES DAILY TO ENSURE SUPPORT FOR UKRAINE
- Historic events are unfolding at the moment: the world is showing unprecedented support for Ukraine. Undoubtedly, this is primarily due to the heroic struggle of the Ukrainian Defense Forces, but at the same time, active political work at the diplomatic level continues. For example, now President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky is making a number of landmark official visits, participating in important international events. What is the outcome of this international activity by the head of state?
- Four years have passed since the inauguration of President Volodymyr Zelensky. We all felt some elation because it was a confirmation that Ukraine is a democratic state with the right to choose. And it is for this right that the state fights even today.
After the inauguration, the head of state made some very important political steps: he announced the dissolution of the Verkhovna Rada and did a reshuffle in the Cabinet of Ministers... Four years on, it seems like it’s been a lifetime. Ukraine has seen so much over the years, including COVID-19, which no longer seems so terrible because a full-scale war has begun.
On February 24, 2022, perhaps the most terrible event in recent history took place in Ukraine. If we talk about the role of the individual in history, Volodymyr Zelensky is the president who preferred his place in history books to a place on the Forbes list.
By the way, this is a unique case where the head of state broke the age-old tradition of "managing" Ukraine in exile in the most difficult times for the state. Let's be honest because, as history shows, Mazepa in 1709, Skoropadskyi in 1918, and Hrushevskyi in 1919 made a different choice. This should be appreciated. And we must not make the mistakes that Ukrainian leaders made, including 100 years ago, when they lost Ukrainian statehood amid internal squabbles. The war is not over yet. Victory is yet to be achieved. Therefore, it is necessary to unite and protect this unity. After all, while earlier we started from the thesis that "each of us is President", now, apparently, it is becoming more and more obvious that "President is each of us."
Today, perhaps, there is no more important issue in the world than Ukraine prevailing in this war
Despite the fact that the war has been going on for more than a year already, the level of support for Ukraine does not decrease. The president of Ukraine is currently at the G7 summit, which has now actually turned into the "G7 + Ukraine" format. Before that, he took part in the summit of the Arab Nations League. Even earlier, he visited Italy, Germany, France, and Great Britain to increase to 18 the number of countries that formally support Ukraine on its way to NATO. This is already the majority of all Allies.
Besides, the head of state traveled to Northern Europe, where he managed to seal agreements on support from the Nordic countries and agree on issues related to the establishment of an international compensation mechanism.
At the diplomatic level, painstaking work takes place every single day. The President, Parliament, and Government – all are involved. But at the base, there is no doubt, stands the heroism of the Ukrainian people and the great feats of the Ukrainian military. All of us as a group do not allow the topic of Ukraine to fade across the world and work to get rid of some obvious fatigue. We invite you to support us in our just fight.
Today, perhaps, there is no more important issue in the world than Ukraine prevailing in this war.
After all, it is victory that paves for us the path to peace. All civilized countries need this peace. The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, proposed a formula for a just peace. These are 10 clear and specific points. We are ready to cooperate with all nations that seek to participate in the peace process but these 10 points should lie at the base of future peace. A just peace. Peace on Ukraine's terms.
- Thank you for this interview!
Photo by Vadym Sarakhan, Verkhovna Rada press service