Full transcript: Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal on “Face the Nation”
The following is the full transcript of an interview with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal that aired Sunday, April 24, 2022, on “Face the Nation.”
MARGARET BRENNAN: You met with a number of Cabinet officials and President Biden himself. What is the message you’re bringing from Washington back to President Zelenskyy?
MARGARET BRENNAN: What message are you bringing from Washington back to President Zelenskyy?
PRIME MINISTER DENYS SHMYHAL: So, first of all, we have great and amazing m-meeting with President Biden, with all United States officials. We have great meetings with international financial organizations and with ministers of finances of many countries, G20 countries. And the main message is that civilized world is absolutely great to support Ukraine in this situation and Russia begin this full scale war against Ukraine. So this is the main message with- which I have after meetings here. And the United States especially support us in all the spheres- in military sphere, in financial sphere and in humanitarian sphere, because we now have huge challenges in our country because of this war with Russia.
MARGARET BRENNAN: There have been a number of world leaders, the U.K. from Austria, other countries who have come to Ukraine to see for themselves what’s happening. Is it important to you to have a U.S. official come to Ukraine?
PRIME MINISTER SHMYHAL: It’s a very important political symbol and a symbol of uniting for the countries and politicians and nations. When our partners go to Ukraine to see by their own eyes what’s happened, which atrocities and war crimes Russian Army and Russian Federation made in Ukraine during this 58 days of this bloody war in Ukraine. So it’s important signal and issue for our nation when our partners are represented in Ukraine.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you have reassurances from the U.S. that the Americans will reopen the embassy in Ukraine soon?
PRIME MINISTER SHMYHAL: We are waiting this. We hope that it will happen nearest time.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Did they give you any dates or promises or just hopefully when it’s safe?
PRIME MINISTER SHMYHAL: No, a decision will be made and we will wait for this when it will happen.
MARGARET BRENNAN: When we look at what’s happening in Mariupol, how should Americans understand what happens once Russia has control of that city?
PRIME MINISTER SHMYHAL: Mariupol now is surrended by Russian army- surrounded sorry. Mariupol now is surrounded by Russian’s army. Part of Mariupol is occupied by Russians, but another one part where is located Azovstal, big enterprise, 25% of city- plosh?. 25% of city area. So some thousands of our soldiers, some thousands of civilians together with them. It’s mostly women and children are hiding in the basements of this enterprises. Soldiers are protecting the civilians but quantity of Russian soldiers, quantity of Russian techniques is times times more than our soldiers. But now we have heard that Russians begin to bomb- bombing this- bombarding this enterprise, this shelters, where our soldiers and civilians are saving from their bombs. And we ask Russians, we ask all of our partners to stop them and to create green corridor and to let these people go out of there to save their lives. Because it’s very important, because there in Mariupol we know the facts when small children and babies were died because of dehydration during this 58 days of war. So there are terrible atrocities, terrible war crimes on the Mariupol territory. And when we will have liberated this, we will open to the world huge quantity of this military crimes and this atrocities which Russian army is making there right now and how we see this in Bucha, in Irpin, Hostomel and other cities in Kiev, Chernihiv, and some regions so the same they are doing in Mariupol.
MARGARET BRENNAN: There have been satellite images of mass graves around the city.
PRIME MINISTER SHMYHAL: Absolutely.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Your government has said Mariupol might be a red line. And because of the atrocities, diplomacy may not be possible. Are we at that point, has that line been crossed?
PRIME MINISTER SHMYHAL: I think that Bucha was one of the uh – game changer for the civilized world, for our society. But Mariupol is like symbol of brave Ukrainian soldiers and civilians for two months protect the city from Russian invasion, from Russian atrocities. So this is like symbol for the world. And I think that it will be a red line for the all civilized world, not only for Ukrainian society, for Ukrainian government, for Ukrainian people. So we will protect our country. We will protect our cities. And Mariupol will stay till the end because of our soldiers who say that we will stay here and protect our city till then.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I heard you say that it might be the worst catastrophe of the century. So do you believe after doing something like that, that Russia can negotiate in good faith?
PRIME MINISTER SHMYHAL: Russia done many atrocities and many war crimes in Ukraine. But we understand that this terrible war could be finished only on the table of negotiations with presence of- presence of our partners, of world leaders, of civilized countries. But we should sign some papers about finish of this war. So in any way, but now, we are, in our society and our army, guys and girls are so brave and they are prepared to protect our country as long as it is needed. And we feel support of United States, of President Biden personally, of all officials from United States, from European Union, from all other countries, from Canada, for example. And we will fight and all civilized world support us. And we feel this and it encourage us, encourage our army, our soldiers, our people. If you know more than 200 peoples, mens and womens were coming back to Ukraine in the first days of the war to stay and to protect our country. They come from all around the world, from all countries where they live, work. So our people from all around the world are prepared to protect our country. And we are so much encouraged and so much, so much brave Ukrainian peoples are that we will fight till the end, till the win, till the glory. So it’s very important for us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: President Biden says he will go to Congress next week and ask for more money to provide weapons to Ukraine. The last time that happened, it took three weeks for Congress to sign off on funds. Do you have three weeks to wait?
PRIME MINISTER SHMYHAL: When the war is gone- so we count every minute, every hour, not every day, not every week or month because every minute and every hour soldiers, civilians, children, women are dying. Because of this we need faster decisions. But the United States, European Union, civilized world make many faster decisions and we are so much grateful for this. We need more support. I told on all of the- our meetings that we need four issues. First one is ammunition and weapon for our country to have possibility to protect ourselves, to make this weapon to our army, and to stop Russians invade Ukraine and go next countries, democratic countries and democratic world. The second issue is sanctions because its influence right on the budget of Russia, which is financing terrorism and genocide against the Ukrainians. The third- the third issue is financial support because we would like to safe macroeconomic stability of our country, because we understand that when war will finish, we will- we will recover our country in very fast way if we will save now macroeconomic stability and economical stability, stability of our businesses, our social and humanitarian obligations. And fourth issue is our European’s perspectives, because Ukraine understand and all of our people understand that our future is in the civilized world, in the United Europe, but not in the former Soviet Union or Russian empire. So it’s our civilized choice of our society.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But we know the next few weeks are critical. A group of lawmakers has talked about setting up field hospitals on the border of Ukraine, setting medical supplies. Is that the kind of immediate help you need?
PRIME MINISTER SHMYHAL: The big battle for Donbas begins 5 to 4 days ago. We see this because of this big battles, big. So I will repeat, the big battle for Donbas, as Russians name it, begins five days ago. We see it because of quantity of casualties from both sides and Russian are pressuring dramatically on our army. But our soldiers are staying on their positions, protecting and we will do it. We have support from our partners in military sphere, in financial sphere. So this is crucially important for us. And we will have this nearest time and we will have this now. So we are grateful to our partners and especially the United States for this.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But specifically, is it medical supplies you need most? Is it heavy weapons? Is it just cash?
PRIME MINISTER SHMYHAL: You mean for the army? For the soldiers?
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
PRIME MINISTER SHMYHAL: So, first of all, we need weapon. The second issue is medical support. But many countries support us in this medical sphere because they take our injured soldiers and make for them rehabilitation medicines. So everything is under support of our partners. The cash in sense of our budget is very important for social and humanitarian responsibilities of our state to our people, to our citizens, mostly for civil persons.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And that’s 4 to $5 billion a month Ukraine needs.
PRIME MINISTER SHMYHAL: Yes. Yes because—
MARGARET BRENNAN: Did you get pledges for that here in Washington?
PRIME MINISTER SHMYHAL: Yes, we have many negotiations with G20 countries, their ministers of finances of these countries, the international financial organization, IMF, World Bank. So all of them approve this amount and all of them are in the sense that we need humanitarian support for internally displaced persons. We have 7 million internally displaced persons. We have more than 10 million persons which are suffering on the frontline or on the territories near of this frontline. They are also suffering on the occupied territories. So we ask government, we ask countries should support all of these people and bring them food, water, medicines. So it also cost, for example, in March, we spent $1.1 billion only for these seven millions of internally displaced persons. But now, after liberation of some territories of Ukraine, we need also support by finances, by technologies for mine cleaning activity, because more than 120,000 square miles are under mining and bombs. So we should spend money and time to clean this territory and to let people to go back to their houses because their houses also are mined. And some of the families going back to their house opening the washing machine or freezers, and there is- this all is mined. Garages, basements, everything is mined by Russians,. And many people, civilians, people are dying now on the liberated territories because of this mining of their houses.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And there’s mining, I understand, in the Black Sea, closing off those ports so that Ukraine can’t sell its commodities, can’t sell its grains and move those shipments out.
PRIME MINISTER SHMYHAL: The biggest challenge for the civilized world is future food crisis, which Russia creates right now blocking the seaport of Ukraine because traditionally Ukraine is one of the biggest supplier of wheat, corn and other food products for African, Asian and some European countries. More than 90 million stone- tons of food production Ukraine supply through the sea of ports. Now, Russia, first in our history, in history of the last centuries, block the seaports of another country and don’t let us to export our production. It’s impossible to make by the railroads or through the rivers. It’s possible to only through the seaport, so because of this, we ask our partners to make some steps to open this green or blue corridor for—. So we ask our partners to open this green or blue corridor for- for- not to allow the Russians to make this food crisis in the world.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The U.N. secretary general says he’s flying to Moscow next week to meet with Vladimir Putin. Do you think this is any kind of diplomatic breakthrough?
PRIME MINISTER SHMYHAL: I’m not sure. So many leaders of countries of civilized world, international organization tried to have this negotiation, but it seems that the Russian Federation and Putin are not interested in this negotiation. They are interested in other things. They are interested in genocide of Ukrainians. They are interested in creation of migration crisis in Europe and in the world. They are interested in creation of food crisis, energy crises. So they do just these things and we don’t know. Or they are- I’m not sure they are capable to hold these negotiations in proper way.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Will President Zelenskyy meet with the U.N. secretary general?
PRIME MINISTER SHMYHAL: We have meeting- I think that two weeks ago with deputy secretary general. But if secretary general visited Ukraine, Kiev, absolutely president Zelenskyy will meet him.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well I ask because your defense minister wrote a very sharp editorial in The Wall Street Journal and he said Russia has done everything that the international security institutions were created to prevent. He said the United Nations has failed the people of Ukraine. Do you agree the international system has failed?
PRIME MINISTER SHMYHAL: First day of the war, it was a very hard time because we fight against Russian army and we go through these days. So we go through the first day, thanks to our army, our brave people, and we ask for support from international organ- organizations. I personally call to International Atomic Agency, Atomic Energy Agency to the International Red Cross. We begin to meeting with these organizations on the 10, 20, 30 days of the war. Now we have this support, but first days of war were very hard for our country, for our people. But in any way our people are brave and we will win in this war.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So they were slow to act, the international institutions?
PRIME MINISTER SHMYHAL: First days, first days, first days were very hard for us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Here in Washington you met with some of those international organizations that were set up to prevent wars like this. The IMF, the World Bank, other agencies. Is that working?
PRIME MINISTER SHMYHAL: European Union and International Financial Organization made fastest reaction, fantastically fast reaction. On the first days, the European Union took decision to give Ukraine more financial support. It was immediate reaction. United States immediately react and bring us finances, money for support us and begin supply needed way up on from the first days. So internat- many international organizations reacting in a very fast way, some of them a little bit slower. But now all the civilized world, all the international organizations support Ukraine. United Nations are acting in Ukraine, supporting our internally displaced persons, supporting our refugees in European Union and other countries. Now, we tried to coordinate our cooperation with this international organizations to find the most suffering categories of our people and to support them in the first priority.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you, here in Washington, did you receive promises of more military training for Ukrainian soldiers?
PRIME MINISTER SHMYHAL: We have support from our partners for military training right now. So we are training. We change standards. We study new technologies for our soldiers and our army. So everything is on its way.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Everything’s on its way.
PRIME MINISTER SHMYHAL: Absolutely.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think the decision by President Biden and NATO to say they will not send troops to Ukraine in- opened the door to more brutality by Vladimir Putin, that he felt he could get away with it?
PRIME MINISTER SHMYHAL: I think that brutality of Russian Federation and Putin begins from the 2008, 2014s when they take the Crimea when they- they occupied Donbas. So from this time, Ukraine asked our partners to make strong sanctions, don’t give Russia to increase their military capacity. Now, I think all the partners understand that some mistakes were done during this last years when Russia dramatically increased their capacities in military sphere. But now all of our partners understand that sanctions should be- it should be very effective. Don’t let Russian to increase their budgets, budget, finance, military expenses—
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
PRIME MINISTER SHMYHAL —expenses, finance terrorism against Ukraine and maybe against- of the other countries, actually creation of this food crisis and the energy crisises, the migrant crisises. This is hybrid aggression against- of civilized world. So this right now.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But by saying the U.S. will not send troops, period. Does that open the door for Vladimir Putin to continue to escalate because he doesn’t fear it? One of the president’s own allies has asked that question.
PRIME MINISTER SHMYHAL: I think that Ukrainian army is professional and brave enough to protect our country and even protect European borders. We always ask, give us the instruments and we will finish the job. So this is very important for us, and this was very important last year to give us all needed instruments and we will do our job by ourselves.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You’re being very diplomatic. Do you believe the U.S. wants Ukraine to fight to a stalemate or to actually defeat Vladimir Putin, to actually win?
PRIME MINISTER SHMYHAL: I personally think that it’s impossible to win the war with- in the- in the battle with a nuclear state. One of the biggest nuclear- one of the biggest nuclear firepower is in Russia. So we may protect our democracy, our length, our families. We may protect democracy in Europe, on our continent, in the world. But I think that this war should be finished when we clean our territories from Russian occupants.
MARGARET BRENNAN: A full withdrawal is the only way to end the war.
PRIME MINISTER SHMYHAL: Sorry?
MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you saying that a full withdrawal of Russian troo- troops is the only way to end the war?
PRIME MINISTER SHMYHAL: I think, yes, if Russians will leave territory of Ukraine, if we’ll have guarantees of safety for our country, from our partners, if we will have a possibility to recover our country and using Russians’ frozen assets. So I think that we can seeing that the war is finished and that Ukraine have a glory in this war.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What are those security guarantees that you need from the United States or from other Western powers in order for your government to sit down and strike a deal with Russia? How do you agree to a treaty of neutrality without certain guarantees?
PRIME MINISTER SHMYHAL: Now, actually, we are on our negotiations with partners. It’s not so simple negotiation. So all the details now on the on on on discussion. Because of this, I can now clearly say that this or this security guarantees are very needed or required for stop and finish of this war. So we will negotiate with our partners and find a proper and correct format for such a secure, security guarantees.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I just want to clarify something you said. You talked about seized Russian assets. There’s a proposal in Congress to seize some of those frozen Russian accounts and use them to repay damage, pay for damage in Ukraine. Did you get guarantees from the U.S. that they’re looking at doing that?
PRIME MINISTER SHMYHAL: We have this negotiations with the United States, with all of our partners, and this should be a very good case for future possible aggressors. They all should understand that world society, the world community will take all of their assets and will pay by these assets for this country, which is suffering because of their aggression. So this is a very important international issue and task and goal, international goal for all civilized world to find a solution how to take this frozen assets and finance recovery of Ukraine in this case. And for future, it should be like standard if some country will make aggression against another democratic countries. It should pay for this, absolutely, for everything.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So the $600 billion you said it will take to rebuild Ukraine, you think that can come from the yachts of oligarchs and bank accounts that the U.S. froze?
PRIME MINISTER SHMYHAL: Absolutely as a minimum for now we count all of this damages which and destroying infrastructure, destroying residential building, houses of the people, or that energy infrastructure, enterprises, infrastructure, losing of the GDP for our country for many years because they destroy part of our economy. So all of this should be paid by Russia. Absolutely.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for your time today.
PRIME MINISTER SHMYHAL: Thank to you so much.
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