Defiant Ukraine ambassador warns Putin ‘we’ll fight to the last of us’

Ukraine’s Ambassador to the UK sent a message of total defiance to Russia via the Daily Express yesterday Vadym Prystaiko insisted his countrymen would fight to the last man before they entered into any negotiation from a position of weakness. He sent a blunt and distinctly undiplomatic message to the Russian elite, unprintable in direct translation and best expressed as, “**** Off…please.”

He was sceptical of reports that Ukraine might be willing to cede Crimea in a peace negotiation and insisted Russia must first remove itself from all Ukrainian territory.

He said: “We cannot negotiate with people who came and killed our people and destroyed our nation.

“For us the resolution is the Russians have to get away from our lands.

“So we have to fight to the very last of them or the very unfortunately the last of us as well.

“After the war is over we have to co-exist with the Russians. This is where we want to negotiate because the lives of our next generation will depend on the outcome of these decisions. Unfortunately, the current generation will have to fight.”

He spoke of the reported 40,000-strong “storm brigades” being prepared for a spring offensive against the Russians.

He said: “Whoever says there are 40,000 men in these brigades I would like to point out we have mobilised a million men.

“The men will be better trained, better equipped and work with better intelligence than the Red Army. They will be a much more flexible fighting force.

“Our counter-offensive might put us in a higher position where any negotiations with the Russians would be more successful.

“We have proved by our actions and by many lost lives that we are not negotiating peace on Russian terms, we want our terms to be heard.

“Our terms are quite easy first of all: get out of our lands.

“The easiest message to send to Russia is: “Get away from us.”

“We have a saying in Ukraine which is almost universal among the people. It is “Go away, please.

“The accent is on the word please but the other word we are actually using is not for the paper. A better translation would in fact be “**** Off…please,”.

He went on: “We don’t want to be a part of the Russian project any more. It is not attractive to us.

“They are looking for greatness. We just want to survive, we want to live and we will fight with everything we have.

“Russia has bitten off more than it can chew with the invasion of Ukraine. We are a bigger country than they are used to attacking.

“They are still talking in terms of great power, nuclear deterrence, assured destruction.

“We Ukrainians say no to this, no thank you.”

Mr Prystaiko, a 53-year-old father of two grown-up sons, said he was encouraged by the NATO response to President Putin’s nuclear sabre rattling and the recent Russian threat to send nuclear weapons to Belarus.

He said: “The two countries in the world which have real first-hand experience of a nuclear catastrophe are Japan in World War II and Ukraine because of Chernobyl.

“Believe me, we know exactly what is being threatened. But what would you expect us to do, stop fighting because Putin keeps playing this card?

“We cannot. In fact a poll of the Ukrainian people asked if there was a nuclear attack should we stop fighting and 82% said no, we fight on. We have no choice.

“The Nato powers refused to say exactly what their retaliation would be if Putin used nuclear weapons but they said in effect: “We dare you”. I thought this was quite a good answer.”

The Ukrainian determination to fight on in the face of mounting losses was brought home when Mr Prystaiko was asked how many of Ukraine’s military personnel and civilians had died in the war.

Visibly saddened at the thought, he said: “It has been our policy from the start not to discuss our losses.

“When the war is over we will acknowledge this. I think it will be a horrible number.

“But this is where we differ from the Russians again. Every Ukrainian life to us is precious.

“The Russian elite do not seem to care how many of their soldiers are killed.”

He said a huge morale booster for his country had been the UK response: “I am proud and humble to be in the UK after it has shown such support to us.

“Providing homes for my countrymen, people have even been coming to the embassy with cash in envelopes and toys and clothing to try to help us in any way they can.

“Politically, Boris Johnson is still a revered figure in Ukraine for encouraging others, particularly EU countries, to do more to help us.

“How much do my countrymen care about his domestic political troubles when he did so much so soon to help us? Zero.

Asked if Rishi Sunak was doing enough to maintain that support he replied, “Absolutely” but said the Ukrainians needed long range artillery and missiles, tanks and air power to beat the Russians.

He quoted Churchill saying: “When your country was fighting the Nazis in the Second World War, Winston Churchill appealed to the United States:”Give us the tools and we will finish the job.”

“I repeat this now and ask the NATO powers directly toive us the tools so we can finish this job”

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