this is bbc news. we'll have the headlines and all the main news stories for you at the top of the hour, as newsday continues straight after hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk, i'm stephen sackur. it's impossible to be certain about vladimir putin's intentions, but russia's actions suggest a major military offensive in ukraine may be imminent. troops and equipment have massed close to the ukrainian border, russian officials talk of losing patience. from the us and nato allies,
we hear dire warnings, but we also see internal divisions. well, my guest is ukraine's defence minister oleksii reznikov. is ukraine ready for war and how will it respond? defence minister oleksii reznikov in kyiv, welcome to hardtalk. hello, mr steve. minister, do you believe that war is imminent? i would say that...
i would like to emphasise that war was started in 2014, then the kremlin occupied our peninsula, crimea, and sevastopol and after part of lugansk and donetsk. so, the war is going on eight years in ukraine. i guess what i'm talking about is the possibility that there may be a major military offensive launched by moscow involving the 100,000 and more troops, and the massive arsenal that vladimir putin has put on the border next to your country. do you believe that is coming soon? i believe that in kremlin, they didn't make their decision yet. and i hope they will continue the diplomatic and political negotiations with nato ally, and i hope they will not come through our border. the united states warned just
the other day that russia may well be preparing not necessarily a straightforward military operation, but something much more complex, involving false—flag operations, that is using their forces to pretend to conduct operations on the behalf of your government. also, cyber attacks — and we did see a major cyber attack on your government's online activities last week. do you believe these are all connected? yes, i believe, i do. i think that they started the campaign for destabilisation in ukraine. so i think that cyber attack was a part of hybrid war, which was started, as i mentioned before, in 2014. so the hybrid attacks is a part of a hybrid war. and i think that the main goal of kremlin to make mess in ukrainian cities and trying
to change the political power in our country. minister, you've been talking very tough in recent days. you said this not long ago. "russian troops will not be able to hold any territory that they take. "instead, ukrainian occupied land will burn "beneath their feet. "the human cost for ukraine would be catastrophic, "but we ukrainians will not mourn alone." now, that is very tough and passionate talk. but surely the reality is that russia's vast military arsenal could and would overpower your forces relatively quickly. ah, we have 250,000, or more, 261,000 in our ukrainian army. we have the options to have territorial
defending forces, 130,000. we have 400,000 veterans of ukrainian—russian war, so i am sure that we have a capacity to deter this activity from the moscow. russia has five times as many soldiers and tanks. it has 13 times your air power, it has 16 times your naval power. are you really saying to me that the ukrainian people, 40 million and more people, are prepared to endure catastrophic losses to try and confront this force, when it clearly is a fight that you're ultimately going to lose? i'm sure that the ukrainians are ready because, as i mentioned before, this war come to our country eight years ago.
so for us, for ukrainians, it's not any use that kremlin trying to change our destiny. and yes, it will be a disaster, not only for ukraine, it will be a disaster for europe because probably... ..couple of million migrants, our refugees will be staying in ukrainian—polish border, or probably between poland and germany also. and i think and i'm sure that our partner, strategic partners like the united kingdom, also, they can help us, for example, you know that my colleague ben wallace, secretary of defence of the uk, yesterday made his statement that we got from uk the special "santa claus" gifts to ukraine, and it will help us to make this invasion very, very, very difficult for russians.
do you think that you're getting enough support from the united states and your allies in europe? because, as you say, the british have said they're going to send you short—range anti—tank missiles, and a few personnel to train your forces in how to use them. the united states has sent you hundreds of millions of dollars worth of self—defence equipment, but germany isn't prepared to send you anything at all. and you asked notjust for defence equipment, defensive, but offensive military equipment, and you're not getting that from anybody. i think that the response for this hybrid attack would be also hybrid. i am sure that the united states, united kingdom, with european partners, can make more for our defence. i mean, in economic sphere like sanctions, and it
could be done before the invasion, not after. it's very important step to do it before, not after. and we can stop them. and deter them. yes, now we can talk about economic sanctions, and you can ask passionately for massive sanctions to be put on vladimir putin. the americans have talked about doing it, but they certainly haven't done it yet. and again, there appear to be divisions. the germans, it seems, are expressing reservations about blocking russia from using the swift electronic transfer system because they fear it would disrupt massively the whole international financial system. what do you make of the divisions you see amongst your western partners? i think that they have also next kind of options like huge
fortune of the russian oligarchs, which are the close circle of the president of russia. and i think that the official finance agencies of the european countries or united states could show them that it's very easy to freeze these accounts with their fortunes. do you think that — let's look in detail at the way the west is responding. do you thinkjoe biden, for example, really gets the threat that you believe vladimir putin poses to all of european security? after all, he had a summit with putin more than six months ago. he said he was going to watch putin's actions very carefully. but since then, we have seen russia consolidate its control in belarus. we've seen russia use its energy leverage in europe. we've seen russia send troops to kazakhstan.
it doesn't seem vladimir putin is intimidated byjoe biden. i would like to remind you the very famous british movie — yes, minister — and one season, or one episode, described as the "salami tactics of russians". and i think that their philosophy — don't provoke russia — didn't work, don't provoke russia in 2008 in bucharest summit of nato. after that was invasion in georgia. salisbury case, after that was the prague case, and after that was the crimea and east of ukraine. so i think that this is the answer. they are trying to be like...
indistinct ..and they fighting not with ukraine, they are fighting with the nato allies, with the civilised world. and i think that all presidents, not only president biden, all presidents or chancellors of the civilised world should comprehend it and make their decision right now. yes, you want the western friends and partners that you have to make big decisions. the truth is, the divisions within them are apparent. the germans, for example, have now, of course, seen the nord stream 2 gas pipeline completed. they have now got to make a decision about whether they formally begin to use it. now, the new german chancellor, 0laf scholz has said that if russia launches an attack on ukraine over the border with all of those forces, he said everything will need to be discussed. but he hasn't actually said that the nord stream pipeline would be abandoned. do you think it's time
the germans said that? i'm sure it's time because next, er, news in bbc, for example, will be the russian submarine in the baltic sea near the nord stream pipeline. for example, like they do it in black sea or azov sea, and it will be the challenge for baltic countries. so, i think that it's time, and it's time not today, it was yesterday. are you disappointed, are you disappointed with what you hear from berlin and maybe from some other western capitals too? i am realistic and an optimist, so i cannot be disappointed. i am trying to find out new arguments for our colleagues in berlin, because berlin and paris, it's members of the normandy format, and they're trying to do their best in minsk
process and normandy process. so, i will not criticise official berlin. i will hope that they will understood, or understand, sorry, what is going on in reality. now, minister, you are a former member of the soviet armed forces. i dare say that you feel you understand the mind—set in moscow quite well. so, i'm going to ask you this — do you understand why vladimir putin regards nato's presence on russia's flank as such a grave danger to russia's long—term security? i think that civilised world still playing chess, according to zbigniew brzezinski, with the russians. but the russians are playing poker with you and using the bluffing tactics. i know russians very well.
they're very pragmatic. they're raising the stakes. but for vladimir putin, who has written an article suggesting that historically ukraine and russia are one nation, who has also said it is absolutely unacceptable for nato to be putting more military forces into the former soviet space, and who says that if nato were to offer ukraine membership, that would be a fundamental threat to russia's security. he's notjoking. he's not playing poker. this is a very strong and real feeling in russia, is it not? but the next argument from their side will be baltic countries, poland, czech, slovak, hungarian. they will remind you about the warsaw agreement and probably the next target will be berlin wall. the berlin wall was falling,
and we will have a new appetiser in russian minds about western berlin and east berlin. do you think it was a mistake, if you reflect on ukraine's recent history, for ukraine to decide that it was going to make it a key strategic objective to become a nato member? first of all, nato doesn't appear to want you right now. and second of all, that was provocative to russia, was it not? as i mentioned before, their philosophy, don't provoke russian, doesn't work. it was in 2008. and what do we have? we have occupied crimea. we have part—occupied territories of luhansk and donetsk district. we have occupied luhansk and donetsk, and we have more than ten million people who this war touched. as you've said repeatedly
in this interview, the conflict in east ukraine has been running for some nearly seven years now. why did you walk away from talks last year, saying that you were no longer prepared to take part in the minsk negotiations? surely, that played into the hands of a russian narrative, saying the problem is with ukraine, not with moscow. oh, yes, i know these narratives like old songs, old —fashioned songs, but... we know that the minsk agreement was signed by the russians and ukrainian side with 0sce. so, it's the trilateral contact group — russia, ukraine and mediator 0sce. nothing else. that's it. no, but you haven't really answered my question. you walked away from those negotiations last year, and i'm wondering again whether, on reflection,
given the situation you are facing today, whether that was a mistake. no. i walked away, it was a decision of my president to ask me to change my position. for two years, i was a negotiator, so i have a new chair and i should be in these shoes. yeah, but i'm just looking at something that your boss president zelensky said just the other day. he said, "you know what? "we must tell the truth. "we will not be able to end the war without "talks with russia." it sounds like mr zelensky in some ways is looking for a way to get back to the negotiating table now with the kremlin. yes, but nobody wants to go to the war, and i'm still sure that we have to use all possibility using the political, diplomatical ways to resolve this conflict with the russians.
but you're hardly going to resolve the conflict with the russians if you're demanding more and more weapons from the united states and other nato allies, if you're refusing to talk, on the basis of the minsk negotiations, about the future of the donbas region. i am not quite clear what you're offering to russia in terms of a constructive dialogue. i think that we can, er... ..wondering the position of united states, great britain, france, according to the budapest memorandum. it was signed by russians also as well. mm. it's agreement. yes. that, of course, goes back to the 1990s, but you have to live in the real world of today. i'm just wondering whether you would acknowledge that, in the end, the best way out of this crisis for ukraine
and the one that is going to save tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of lives of your countrymen and women, is for ukraine to find a way of going back to vladimir putin with some sense of compromise. for example, you could say to putin, we will not seek nato membership. would you be prepared to do that? no, no, no. if you will check our constitution, you will see that we have the article in our constitution. i remind you that it's a fundamental law, as a lawyer, and we have the position in the constitution of ukraine that the nato ally, it's our aim, and we will be in this ally. like aspiration. now, minister, in our conversation, you've said to me that the ukrainian people will be steadfast, they will fight, if necessary, across your country against any russian invasion.
for that to be true, you need your country to be united and strong. but right now, your country is deeply divided and economically weak. that's a big problem for you, isn't it? no, i cannot agree with you. we are not divided, because we have a very united parliament of ukraine. we have only 10% of politicians with the pro—russian moods, other than, they are, i would say, like "orange" politicians party. and they are pro—western, pro—democratic, pro—liberal politicians. so, we are united. and you mentioned the economic problems, but last year, we finished
with a very high level of gdp. well, forgive me, minister, but the data would suggest that you have the third lowest per capita national income in all of europe, only ahead of kosovo and moldova, and your people are going through another bout of inflation, of rising energy prices. and not only that, i say your country's divided because your former president is now on trial for treason. he has thousands of supporters, and your government is still beset by allegations of deep, endemic corruption. all of that adds up to a ukraine that is very weak at this time of possible war. i think that you have, er, you are not good informated, because our government has 22 members of government — ministers, my colleagues — and you have not any, any evidence about the corruption in our government, because there is no corruption in our government.
so, it's like the old—fashioned song also about the corruption, that during this eight years of war, we did a lot of reforms. we have anti—corruption court, we have anti—corruption agency, and etc, etc. so, it's a former narrative also. but, yes, we have to fight with the corruption more, but it's the old narratives that we are divided by the corruption. before we... you can check my declaration is public, about all my accounts and all my assessments, and you can check all assessments of our members of parliament, members of government, etc. you can check also the same declaration of your members of parliament. yes. minister... you will find out the difference. my experience of ukraine suggests that it's not necessarily accusations aimed at members of the cabinet and government.
it's accusations aimed at some of the so—called oligarchs, some of the most powerful people in your country, that matters. good, good sentence. and you know that we, our parliament, adopted the modern law, anti—oligarch law, and we are ready to continue our fighting with the oligarchs. and you will see. mm. minister, we're almost out of time. the diplomacy continues. the americans are going to be, i believe, coming to kyiv. i think mr blinken is coming soon, the secretary of state. the germans are in moscow today. what is your message to the diplomats who are trying to avert a dramatic escalation of the conflict between you and moscow right now? i would say that the main message, let's show to the kremlin that you seriously understand all the threats, and you can make this
invasion, er, very... ..expensive for them, and you can start with the sanctions on this moment before, not after. if they do not, will you regard that as a betrayal? it will be very late, because it will be a lot of blood in the land and it will be a lot of refugees. it will be a disaster for europe, because this war is not only east of ukraine. this war is going in east of europe. i am seriously saying it. 0leksii reznikov, i thank you very much forjoining me on hardtalk.
hello. there is lots of dry weather in the forecast for the rest of this week, although many of us will see a little bit of rain through the first part of wednesday as these frontal systems push southwards across the uk. now, these weather fronts are cold fronts. as the name suggests, the air behind is turning a little bit colder. and i think you'll notice that particularly given the strength of the wind. but the weather fronts will bring some cloud and some outbreaks of showery rain southeastwards across england and wales to the day, tending to fizzle all the while. any fog in the southeast should clear pretty quickly, i think, and then most places are looking at sunshine through the day, albeit with a scattering of showers — some of these wintry — especially in the far north, where we could see snow to quite low levels, particularly in shetland. just1 degree in lerwick in the middle of the afternoon, 9 or 10 further south. and as we head through wednesday night, we'll keep
some showers going around northern, eastern and some western coasts. many places will be dry with clear spells, the winds will falljust a little lighter and temperatures will drop, with quite a widespread frost. maybe staying a little bit milder for some of these western parts — 4 degrees there for belfast and for plymouth. now, as we get into thursday, it's looking like a beautiful winter's day for many with lengthy spells of sunshine. some showers grazing west wales and the far southwest of england, some for north sea coasts as well. temperatures, well, no great shakes, topping out between 4 and 9 degrees in most places. as we head through thursday night and into friday, high pressure really reasserts its influence, the centre of the high across southern parts of the uk. close to the centre of the high, i think it will remain relatively chilly, particularly if we see any fog lingering for any length of time. but up towards the north, we start to bring the winds in from the atlantic, so it'll start to feel a little bit milder. lots of cloud, though, filtering through northern ireland, and particularly into the western side of scotland.
further south, some early frost and fog. some of the fog could linger. that will peg the temperatures back. maybe just 5 or 6 degrees in some places, whereas further north and west, 10 there the high in stornoway. and as we look towards the weekend, i think the highest temperatures will be generally across the northern half of the uk, although there will be quite a lot of cloud here and some patchy rain in the far northwest. further south, frost and fog could continue to feature, but it will remain largely dry.
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