Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said his country’s goal in the current conflict with Russia is complete victory and the restoration of Ukraine’s borders as of 1991. He spoke this week with VOA Ukrainian Service’s Ruslan Petrychka about developments in the country since Russia’s invasion earlier this year.
VOA: What goal do you set for Ukraine in the war with Russia?
Reznikov: The all-Ukrainian plan is the complete de-occupation of the territories occupied by the Russian Federation and return to the internationally recognized borders as of 1991. Not 2014, ’15. Not February 24, 2022. The ultimate goal is the victory of Ukraine and its restoration within its borders as of 1991. This is the main plan.
The “cool-down” of the military situation is possible. I do not see a possibility of “freezing” — what people tend to call a conflict — because it is not a conflict. It is a war. This is an open war between two regular armies, and one army invaded the territory of its neighbor without any legitimate explanation or right to do so. Therefore, this war is for survival. We will be defending ourselves to survive.
VOA: Per your assessment, how many combat-ready troops have Russian forces assembled near Ukraine’s borders or in the occupied territories?
Reznikov: I may be wrong, but according to the latest military reports, there seems to be about 115 so-called battalion-tactical groups, of which 105 are actively deployed, and 10 are on rotation for replenishment or rest. In sum, there are up to 135,000 people.
VOA: What new military equipment do you expect to receive from the United States and other Western countries?
Reznikov: We are certainly expecting support and assistance from our partners. We are hopeful that a political decision will be made to give us [an] ATACMS [Army Tactical Missile System] that would allow us to hit targets up to 300 km away. This would also allow us to preserve more lives of our soldiers — men and women — and inflict very successful damage. We are hopeful to finally receive Western planes that would allow us to dominate the sky due to their better radars, range, maneuverability and speed. And of course, receiving tanks would also give us an advantage. Today, the modern world can easily provide us with technology to assure our victory and compensate for the imbalance in manpower [between Russia and Ukraine].
VOA: Are you satisfied with the latest $1 billion assistance package to Ukraine from the U.S.?
Reznikov: I am very pleased, because it contains many 155 mm ammunition for the artillery systems that we have received before. It also contains quite a significant number of missiles for HIMARS [High Mobility Artillery Rocket System]. Also, missiles that allow our military to destroy and blind Russian radars. It helps us weaken their air defense system and therefore act more decisively. Hence, we are very satisfied with the assistance package. This is a tremendous help. And I will repeat once again that I hope that a political decision regarding the ATACMS missiles will soon be made. The HIMARS have changed our battlefield strategies significantly, therefore the ATACMS will be a great addition to benefit Ukraine and the civilized world.
VOA: Has Ukraine lost in battle any of the HIMARS systems delivered to Ukraine by the U.S. so far?
Reznikov: I can confirm with absolute responsibility that not a single HIMARS was lost. Therefore, when you read Russian mass media or social networks about “a soldier Ivanov with a Kalashnikov breaking into a truck where he destroyed 12 HIMARS” — all you can do is laugh, shake your head and say, “Well, this is simply their system of propaganda.” It’s total nonsense.
VOA: Do you have any agreements with the U.S. for not hitting Russian military objects in Crimea with the weapons systems provided?
Reznikov: We have an agreement with the United States that we will not be using the weapons provided to us by our partners, the United States, to target the territory of the Russian Federation. However, if we are talking about de-occupying the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine where our enemies are located, then accordingly, we have no such restrictions.
VOA: What measures has Ukraine put in place to monitor and provide control for the use of U.S, weapons systems delivered to Ukraine?
Reznikov: We have several levels of such interactions [to control the use of delivered weapons] because to me, it is fundamentally important to retain and even grow the level of trust. It is essential to maintain this support. And from my first appeals to [U.S. Defense Secretary] Mr. Lloyd Austin and other ministers at the Ramstein conference [on April 26], I said directly in my speech, “Please help us create a system of maximum transparent control of weapons so that you could have open access to this information. We open this information for you completely. Send your emissaries and controllers, even if you would like for them to go to the front line. Feel free to control it according to your own systems.”
And some countries did send their representatives to us immediately according to their security regulations. I will emphasize once again that we are totally interested in the transparency of those things, because if some people are saying that there is some smuggling involved, all that is are propagandistic narratives aimed at weakening this very support and lowering the level of trust.
VOA: What is your message to the world on the eve of Ukraine Independence Day on August 24?
Reznikov: I want to ask everyone — please believe in Ukraine. We continue to pay for our independence. We may have gained independence a little easier than other countries have, as we have not paid so much in blood. But now we are paying a lot, and we are washing our independence with blood. I want to add that today, the Independence Day of Ukraine is simultaneously the Independence Day of many European countries. Therefore, I ask you not to give in to the syndrome of fatigue. Stay with us, and we will win together. Ukraine will win. Everything will be Ukraine!