Diplomatica: New ambassador from Ukraine wants costly Russian sanctions increased
Published on: December 22, 2015 | Last Updated: December 23, 2015 11:06 AM EST
The new ambassador of Ukraine believes the best way to get Vladimir Putin’s forces out of Ukraine is to make his expansion efforts so costly that the Russian leader has no choice but to retreat.
“We want to make sure that at some point, this invasion is so costly for the Russians that they have to pull back,” Ambassador Andriy Shevchenko said. “There are two prices they can pay. First, it’s the risk of losing too many lives through Ukraine’s strong army and strong defensive weapons. Second, it’s the sanctions, and (they’re) already very painful for Putin.”
He noted that of the several empires that existed 100 years ago — the British, the Ottoman and the Austro-Hungarian to name but three — only one persists.
“We’re on the right side of history,” Shevchenko said. “Our goal is to make sure Russia stops as quickly as possible. Three countries have been successful in that. The first was Poland 100 years ago. They made sure Russia pulled back, and that’s how Poland was recreated as a country. Then Finland in 1938 and 1939. It became more and more expensive to stay, so they pulled back. Afghanistan was the third.”
Canada, he said, has shown “real leadership” in being one of the first countries to impose sanctions.
Asked to estimate how many lives have been lost, he said he thinks the number is higher than UN estimates of 10,000. Many are missing, he said, including one of his wife’s cousins, who went missing in July 2015 from the streets of Donetsk.
“We haven’t heard from him since,” said Shevchenko. “I think he was probably killed because if he survived, he would have found a way to get word back. It’s terrible to see that war has been brought to this very peaceful and educated country.”
This is not the first tragedy the ambassador has witnessed. The 39-year-old has been a witness and participant in much of Ukraine’s history over the past 20 years, first as a print and broadcast reporter — his first job was as a Kiev correspondent for the Edmonton-based Ukrainian News — followed by an eight-year, three-term stint as a member of Parliament.
“I’ve seen many surreal, dramatic things,” he said, adding that he was involved in the Orange revolution, and the more recent Euromaidan protests. “I was out the first night until the last morning, when the snipers started shooting at peaceful protesters.”
He’s learned that politics isn’t just about giving speeches and sponsoring laws, though he did usher 60 pieces of legislation through the Ukrainian parliament in his short time. “I now know it sometimes means being on the front line, building barricades, protecting people from the police, helping the wounded, carrying the dead or identifying the bodies.”
As for his latest career move, he said being a diplomat is another way to serve his country. He noted that Canada is close to the hearts of Ukrainians, as one of the first countries to acknowledge its independence, and one of the first to respond when Russia annexed Crimea. Now he’s looking for more defence co-operation.
“We really need political support from Canada and human support from the Canadian people,” he said. “We are fighting a war. Sometimes here in Ottawa, you don’t see it’s a war. When you’re on the ground, it’s clear it is a full-range conventional war, with tanks, shells, everything.”
His second priority is trade. Ratifying the free-trade agreement inked between Canada and Ukraine in July will be key. He said Ukraine is a market of 45 million people with cheap energy and labour and a huge demand for new technologies and foreign investments.
His final goal is to establish a visa-free regime, something he’s hoping to finalize with the European Union in the coming year.