Ukraine’s former state minister Poroshenko: “We will not trade our freedom for electricity”

I had an interview with Petro Poroshenko, one of the most influential figures in Ukrainian politics, Zelensky’s predecessor and rival, former president Petro Poroshenko, when I went to Kiev in the first month of the Ukraine War.

In the midst of the war, when the Russian soldiers were a few kilometers away, Poroshenko had turned his office into headquarters, made statements of support to Zelensky, with whom he had been in great hostility before the war, and started to fight against Russia as a true pro-Western.

The content of that interview boiled down to the discussion of the Ukrainian military uniform I wore to avoid freezing, whereas the former president explained how he trained the Ukrainian army, which had been resisting against the Russian army, one of the strongest armies in the world, for 10 months in his own time, and listed the reasons for the resistance of the people.

I heard that Poroshenko quietly came to Istanbul last weekend. However, when I contacted him, he had already returned to Kiev.

As the war entered its second year, I offered to contact the leader, who carried out various diplomatic contacts between the USA and the EU, from the labor office in Kiev, where we interviewed last year, and he accepted. But this time, the conditions were more difficult, now they have moved the order to the hangar under the building, the electricity in the city is completely cut off, they are trying to survive with their own generators. During this interview we made in front of the cameras for Habertürk TV, the electricity went off and on a few times.

Poroshenko explained the latest situation in Ukraine under those difficult conditions, the reasons for his visit to Istanbul and his critical contacts in the USA.

Petro Poroshenko: It is so nice to see you again.

-You too, Mr. President. Thank you for accepting our interview offer.

This is where we spoke to you last time.

-Yes, it has been almost 10 months, it will be 1 year since the war started. How do you feel yourself? Is it safer or has the danger increased compared to last year?

The struggle of our forces in Kiev was certainly very successful. Russian forces were 5 km from my house when we spoke to you. We had weapons and clashes were taking place on the borders of Kyiv. My whole team was fighting here. Now they continue their struggle in Bakmuth, Soledar, in the eastern and southern regions. We do our best at the highest possible price, with the lives of Ukrainians. As I speak here, my team continues to fight there. Although the Russians claim victory, this is not true.

Conditions in Kiev became very difficult. We don’t have electricity. We supply the light from generators. This is a volunteer center. From here, we collect and send the necessary materials for the soldiers fighting at the front and the occupied civilians.

-Are the places where people live in Kiev right now in total darkness?

Yes like that. There is no electricity, there is no water in some areas, there is no heating, and it is not 12 degrees like Istanbul, but minus 6, minus 8 degrees. Conditions are very difficult. We have no electricity, no water, no heating, but we have no fear. We are confident that the threat and blackmail of Russia will come to an end. Putin’s attack on our infrastructure has not diminished our belief in victory. We would never consider exchanging freedom and democracy for electricity and gas.

-Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksi Danilov claimed that the Kremlin’s former Ukrainian negotiator and former Deputy Prime Minister Dimitriv Kozak had secret talks with European officials to persuade Ukraine to a peace deal. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, denied this claim. What is your comment?

Do not trust Putin. Do not trust Putin’s spokesperson. He manipulates public opinion and never tells the truth. I can’t comment on the question you asked, but I say don’t trust Putin.

4th Anniversary of the departure of the Ukrainian Church from Moscow

-You were in Istanbul last weekend, you met with Patriarch Bartholomew at the Patriarchate on the 4th anniversary of the Ukrainian Church’s connection to Istanbul and its autocephalous status. January 6 is an important day in the history of Ukraine. What effects did this decision have on Ukraine? What changed? Do you think Russia saw this move as a justification for attacking Ukraine?

First of all, it is necessary to see the meaning and importance of this step. The separation of the church from Moscow and the receipt of the Tomos certificate from the ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul united all Ukrainians and Ukrainian churches. It strengthened the national identity. Yes, I was in Istanbul a few days ago, I came upon the invitation of the Ecumenical Patriarch, Mr. Bartholomew, and I would like to thank him in your presence. The Ukrainians gave tremendous support to the step we took 4 years ago. Today, the population of the Moscow church is only 4 percent. Think about it, only 4 percent! Especially in the occupied areas, people flocked to the Ukrainian Church. Because they saw what Russification was like. On January 6, Metropolitan Epiphany held the first ceremony in Kiev’s largest church, and thousands of Ukrainians flocked to the church. This means a lot to us.

“If Erdogan comes to Kiev this year, it will mean a lot”

-Let’s go from Istanbul to Ankara, because Turkey has a very different role in this war, Turkey is the country that maintains relations with both Russia and Ukraine, can talk to both sides and acts as a bridge. President Erdogan continues the dialogue and carries out diplomacy for peace. At what stage do you think these efforts are?

I cannot say that President Erdogan is in the middle. For 5 years, I had a very positive, side-by-side relationship with Turkey. Let me remind you that the first response to the Russian attacks was with Turkish Bayraktar guns. The Turkish President finally told Putin that immediately withdrawing his forces from Ukraine was the only condition for a ceasefire. Erdogan did not allow Russian warships to pass through the Straits. We see before us a reliable partner. Negotiations should begin as soon as Russia withdraws and we should negotiate on Crimea. Turkey has taken a very clear stance against the illegal occupation of Crimea from the very beginning. By 2023, this war should end and Ukraine’s NATO membership should be discussed. If President Erdogan visits Kiev this year, it will mean a lot. He has a lot of friends here.

“US will continue to impose sanctions until Russia is defeated”

-You made important contacts in the USA in December. You went to the Pentagon, to the White House. You say that the West should increase sanctions against Russia, but there are discussions in the West about the consequences of the sanctions, and some countries in Europe are even considering whether to continue this policy. What would you like to say about the difficulties they faced and their recent discussions?

First of all, I do not agree with the thesis that there is a sanction fatigue in the West. This is not true. In my meetings with the Pentagon and the National Security Council in Washington, we agreed that peace can be achieved by doing certain things. What are those things? Providing weapons to the Ukrainian army, embargoes and sanctions on Russia, financial support to Ukraine and paving the way for future NATO membership. Don’t be fooled by the tales that without Russian gas, Europe is frozen and needs Russian gas. Russian gas is below $60 per barrel in market conditions. It is unacceptable for Russia to use this money to kill Ukrainians by making $1 billion a day from gas from the West. Preventing this means not only support for Ukraine, but also investment in their own security. That’s why I have no doubts, we have confirmed in our meetings at the US State Department that the sanctions policy will continue until we win.

-The White House asked the US Congress to allocate $38 billion for Ukraine. Any progress on that?

We are grateful for the support given to us and I remind once again that this is support for global peace. Evaluate the 38 billion dollar support to Ukraine by considering the Russian spending on its military. Today I learned that the budget allocated to the Russian army to strike Ukraine is thousands of billions of dollars a year. This is a war not against Ukraine, but against global democracy and peace. It is our duty to stop Putin.

– The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine announced that the 36th prisoner exchange took place and 50 more Ukrainian soldiers returned home. What is your comment on the prisoner exchange?

Unfortunately, we have around 3,500 soldiers held captive by the Russians. There are 12,000 missing, and we know most of them are alive. In this case, 50 people a week is never enough. Of course it is important but not enough. We expect more active support from international organizations such as the United Nations and the Red Cross. In this regard, I would like to remind the important role played by President Erdogan.

-Mr. President, are you hopeful that peace will come in 2023? Do you think there is light at the end of the tunnel?

The light at the end of the tunnel depends on different factors. The first is the unity of Ukraine. The second is the strength of our army. Third, the attitude of the international coalition towards Russia and Putin. Together they can save the world from Putin. I see light at the end of the tunnel, I am hopeful. The sooner Putin sees that this is not the end, the better it will be for Ukraine, the world and indeed for himself.

-Thanks a lot, I hope to see you again soon in a safe Kiev…

Thank you, we look forward to seeing you again…