Andriy Yermak, the Chief of the Office of the President of Ukraine and a significant advisor to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, remarked that the unity among Ukrainians was of an “unprecedented” nature as the nation celebrated its Independence Day on Thursday.
In an interview with DW, Yermak spoke about Russia’s war in Ukraine, the mood of the Ukrainian people and the level of support Kyiv has been receiving from abroad.
“Let’s not forget that we were once given three days [to hold out against a Russian invasion], then several months. And now it is one and a half years, and we do not only defend ourselves but also liberate our territory,” Zelenskyy’s adviser said.
“It seems to me that we are close to victory,” he added. “Nobody knows how long this period of time will last, but we have already come a long way.”
Kyiv will not rest until “the last centimeter of Ukrainian soil” is recovered from the Russians, Yermak said, adding, “There is nothing that we wish for more than for victory and for peace to return to our land.”
But when it comes to a possible negotiation with Russia to end the war, Yermak rebuked the notion of sitting down with Moscow while their troops continue to occupy any part of Ukraine.
“Our position is clear, it is known to everybody: As long as Russian troops are on our territory there can’t be any question of negotiations,” he said.
Slow progress in counteroffensive
Ukraine finds itself in the middle of a counteroffensive that began this summer. On that front, Yermak told DW that the Ukrainian army was making progress every day, although the advances have been slower than Kyiv wished.
“The reason is primarily that large swaths of territory are mined. Second, we still do not have enough weapons and the third reason is that we are different from the Russians. We think about our people,” Yermak said. “The Russians don’t, they do not count their soldiers. They are cannon fodder that they throw at the battle. They don’t even collect many of their bodies.”
Germany one of Kyiv’s ‘biggest supporters’
Yermak said his government was grateful for the international support that had galvanized on Ukraine’s behalf since Russia’s full-scale invasion began.
“Germany has become one of our biggest supporters. We have recently seen powerful statements from the minister of foreign affairs as well as the chancellor,” he said.
“Today we have no questions about the support for Ukraine, not only within our main partners, the G7, the NATO members, the members of the European Union,” Yermak added.
On the topic of nations in Africa and Asia that have been allies of Moscow and in particular, the BRICS nation group, Yermak said that many of them had voiced support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
“There have been many contacts in recent times including a visit by African leaders. I am convinced that this has changed their position towards this war, towards what is happening,” he added. “It is a war between dictatorship and democracy.