Apr 17, 2022
Ukrainian foreign minister says Mariupol “doesn’t exist anymore” after Russian siege 4/17/22 Transcript
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says the situation in the key port city of Mariupol is “dire” and “heartbreaking.” Read the transcript here.
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Margaret Brennan: (00:00)
We go now to the foreign minister of Ukraine, Dmytro Kuleba. Minister, welcome back to the program. Mariupol’s governor says the city has been wiped off the face of the earth. How long can Ukrainian forces resist Russian control of that city?
Dmytro Kuleba: (00:18)
The situation in Mariupol is both dire, militarily and heartbreaking. The city doesn’t exist anymore. The remainings of the Ukrainian army and large group of civilians are basically encircled by the Russian forces. They continue their struggle. But it seems from the way Russian army behaves in Mariupol, they decided to raise the city to the ground at any cost.
Margaret Brennan: (00:49)
President Zelenskyy said the elimination of military forces in that city will mean an end to all negotiations with Russia. Have you been instructed to stop contact with Russian diplomats?
Dmytro Kuleba: (01:03)
Well, we didn’t really have any contact with Russian diplomats in recent weeks at the level of foreign ministries. The only level of contact is the negotiating team that consists of representatives of various institutions and members of parliament. They can continue their consultations at the expert level, but no high level talks are taking place. After Bucha, it became particularly difficult to continue talking with the Russians. But as my president mentioned, Mariupol may be a red line.
Margaret Brennan: (01:42)
The general staff of the armed forces of Ukraine said last month that Russian soldiers were being told the war must end by May the 9th. What exactly are you expecting in the coming weeks?
Dmytro Kuleba: (01:56)
Intensification of heavy fighting in Eastern Ukraine in Donbas, large scale offensive of Russia in that part of Ukraine, and also desperate attempts of the Russian forces, as I said, and to finish with Mariupol at any cost. These are my expectations. And of course, missile attacks on Kyiv and other cities across Ukraine seem to continue.
Margaret Brennan: (02:24)
This past week, President Zelenskyy released images of a Ukrainian oligarch with close ties to Vladimir Putin, his name Viktor Medvedchuk, saying that Ukrainian forces had captured him. He had been involved in a plot to take over your government. What does Ukraine intend to do with him? Did US intelligence aid in that cap?
Dmytro Kuleba: (02:47)
Well, he’s the citizen of Ukraine, so he will enjoy all procedural rights because we are a country of the rule of law. And then, his future will be decided as part of, on the one hand, legal process, and on the other hand, the political process. We do not exclude any political options, but as I said, we are a country of the rule of law. And first and foremost, he will face responsibility for the crimes he committed against Ukraine.
Margaret Brennan: (03:17)
What exactly was he in involved with here? How much contact did he have with Russia, and what do you mean political solution?
Dmytro Kuleba: (03:26)
Well, he was extremely close to President Putin. In fact, Vladimir Putin is set to be the godfather of one of the daughters of Mr. Medvedchuk, I think. I believe this fact speaks for itself. When I mention political solutions, that the spokesperson to President Putin, Mr. Peskov, said that Russia has no interest in exchanging Mr. Medvedchuk, but we will see how the situation evolves.
Margaret Brennan: (04:03)
The White House says President Biden will not visit Ukraine. A lot of other world leaders have done so. Is it important to you to see a high level US official come? Is it important for the Americans to reopen the embassy in Ukraine?
Dmytro Kuleba: (04:20)
Since the beginning of the new wave of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, President Biden has demonstrated true leadership in helping providing assistance to Ukraine, in mobilizing international community to support Ukraine. So of course, we would be happy to see him in our country and it would be an important message of support to us. And of course, a personal meeting between two presidents could also pave the way for new supplies and of weapons, of US weapons to Ukraine, and also for discussions on the possible political settlement of this conflict.
Margaret Brennan: (05:03)
Well, we’ll see if any officials are sent. I do want to ask you about a report that came out this week, 45 different countries who are part of the OSCE, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, had this investigation into war crimes. And it mainly faulted Russia, it was a catalog of horrors, but it also faulted Ukraine for failing to inform the Red Cross once Ukrainian forces had identified Russian soldiers using facial recognition technology. And according to this report, Ukraine’s apparently sending the images to the families of the dead. Is that accurate?
Dmytro Kuleba: (05:41)
Well, the government of Ukraine is not conducting any such activities. But as it was mentioned in the report aired before my appearance on your show, when you discover 900 bodies of civilians killed, tortured, when you know that dozens who were raped, of course there is a people’s rage and people’s desire to bring those responsible for that to account. And we, as the government, work on legal ways to bring those responsible for these crimes to responsibility.
Margaret Brennan: (06:20)
It also said Ukraine has not permitted the Red Cross to visit prisoners of war. Will Ukraine commit to doing so and to investigate war crimes by its own nationals, if you find that some have been committed?
Dmytro Kuleba: (06:35)
Well, I have good reasons to complain on the way the Red Cross rolled out its operations in Ukraine, since the beginning of the war, and on the visit of the President of the Red Cross to Moscow and the way it was handled. But I don’t do it because we have a good working relationship with Red Cross and we sort out all issues at the working level, in the spirit of co-operation.
Margaret Brennan: (06:59)
All right, Mr. Foreign Minister, thank you for joining us today.