Putin’s “ultimate goal is to destroy Ukraine,” Ukrainian foreign minister tells CNN

Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba says he knows what Russian President Vladimir Putin’s long-term objective is.

“His ultimate goal is to destroy Ukraine. He’s not interested in parts of Ukraine. He is not interested in even keeping the entire country under his control,” Kubela said during a live interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper.

Putin “wants the idea of the Ukrainian statehood to fail. This is his objective.”

Kuleba’s comments come one day after President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into separatist-held parts of eastern Ukraine and signed decrees recognizing the independence of the Moscow-backed regions.

“What I know for certain, and this was eloquently proved, regretfully, in his address yesterday, is that he hates [the] Ukrainian statehood, he believes that Ukraine has no right to exist,” Kuleba said of Putin. 

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday described Russia’s maneuverings in Ukraine as “the beginning of a Russian invasion.” Biden announced what he labeled “the first tranche of sanctions” to punish Moscow, including on two large financial institutions, Russian sovereign debt and Russian elites and their family members. 

Though Kuleba supports the sanctions as laid out by Biden, calling them an “important” message, he maintains they are insufficient as the situation stands now.

“No sanctions will be enough until Russian boots withdraw from Ukrainian soil,” said Kuleba on CNN. “This is [the] fundamental principle, that we have to keep putting pressure on Russia and we in Ukraine proceed from the fact that the sanctions announced today by President Biden is just the beginning of the process of deterring president Putin and making him withdraw.”

On the topic of specific forthcoming sanctions, Kuleba suggested no single option or possibility should be left off the global table.

“We want every instrument available to be used in order to stop Putin,” he said. “If the price of saving a country is the most, harshest sanctions possible, then we should go for the harshest sanctions possible.”

While Kuleba told Tapper that the moving of Russian troops into the Ukrainian-controlled parts of the Donbas region would mark another crossing of a line by Putin, he noted that the ongoing conflict manifests itself along a multitude of fronts.

“We should be aware of the simple fact: this is hybrid warfare. Russia can attack physically, but also Russian can attack us in cyberspace … We are in a dialogue with partners including the United States about the identification of these red lines which will be responded with sanctions,” he said, adding, “I want to make it clear that we have to get ready to act in a very swift manner because the situation can change literally every hour.”

Asked by Tapper to explain why the United States — which sits thousands of miles from Ukraine — ought to be invested in the conflict, Kuleba pointed to three key factors.

  • “First, in 1994 Ukraine abandoned its nuclear arsenal which was the third in size in the world … We abandoned it in return for security guarantees issued in particular by the United States. We were promised that if anyone attacks us, the United States would be among countries who will be helping us.”
  • “Second, what is happening in Ukraine is not only about Ukraine. President Putin challenges Euro-Atlantic order. If the West fails in Ukraine, the next target of Putin will be one of the NATO members on its eastern flank.”
  • “Third, if Putin succeeds in Ukraine, other players across the globe who want to change rules, who want to bypass the United States, they will see that this is possible, that the West is incapable of defending what it stands for.”

In summing up his explanation as to why the US involvement in the conflict is appropriate, Kuleba said: “All in all … Americans should be interested in keeping the world order as it stands and the future of this order is being decided right now in Ukraine.”

Read more about the CNN interview with the Ukrainian foreign minister here.