Ukraine has shown NATO, the European Union, the American people, and the world it is a "strong country" with "real heroes," and it is not going to compromise its "independence, sovereignty, or territorial integrity," Ukraine presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak told Newsmax.
"Ukraine has to be in the strong position," Yermak told Rob Schmitt in an exclusive sit-down interview from the capital city of Kyiv on Tuesday, which aired in part on Wednesday's "Rob Schmitt Tonight."
Yermak, as confident and defiant as Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was Tuesday speaking to Newsmax, was also steadfast in the conditions required before any real peace talks, which will have to include financial reparations:
"It's stop the war, it's withdrawal of Russian troops from our territory, and after it, of course, we would like to discuss, 'You have to pay, to compensate,'" Yermak told Schmitt, noting there is no repaying for the deaths, especially the children killed, but Russia will have "to pay to reconstruct our country."
But, Yermak admitted, there is no signal any talks of a compromise to end the war is on the horizon, because Russia is not changing their plans, "and it means that all of the West has to continue to help Ukraine and continue to work for the sanctions."
Also, in order to move on, Ukraine will need a "very strong fixed security guarantee for our country," Yermak added.
A silver lining amid the atrocities Ukraine has faced in the Vladimir Putin-directed "special military operation," Yermak said Ukraine has shown it can withstand arguably the world's second-strongest army.
"Can you tell me how many countries can say the same?" he told Schmitt.
"We have shown all the world that we are brave, that we are strong, that our people are real heroes. I think it's logical that Ukraine can be strengthening NATO and European Union."
Yermak denounced the supposed "doctrine of the open doors" with NATO, calling it a "great mistake" to not permit Ukraine to be a member years ago. Yermak also lamented NATO not being ready to "seat us as soon as possible."
"I think this open door must be working for all countries who want to be with NATO," he said. "But now, in reality, we see it did not work for Ukraine.
"I think that it was a great mistake many years ago in Bucharest that we were very close. And maybe that decision would have helped us not be in the war today."
Yermak said Ukraine "very much appreciates" the "historic" $40 billion in aid provided from the U.S. — "huge money," he said — noting Americans should not view the money being spent on some "distant" country, but being spent to defend the world and ultimately Americans from Putin.
"The aggressors, the appetite of the aggressors, [ramp up] very quick, and if we do not stop Russia here, if Ukraine does not win, they go forward — and it's very quickly this will be in another territory," he warned.
"Today, Ukraine is the front line. Today, Ukraine defends not just Ukraine, we are defending the freedom of all the world, the democracy."
Yermak thanks Americans for recognizing the bravery and sacrifices of Ukrainians for freedom.
"Our people are dying every day," Yermak said. "They're dying, first of all, for Ukraine, but at the same time they're dying today for America as well."
On Working for President Zelenskyy
"I have the honor to say that is my friend," he said. "I can say that I know who is Mr. Zelenskyy. That he is brave, that he is intelligent, he's smart, he is in love so much with Ukraine, and he's a real patriot of our country.
"He's a leader. The people that voted for him, more than 73% of the Ukrainian population was right.
"Many people have found he's a leader not just of Ukraine, but all of the free world. Unfortunately, it's happened after this terrible war. But for me it was not a surprise."
Yermak recalled telling the media he was "sure" Zelenskyy "would be a leader of at minimum Europe and at maximum among the most important leaders of the world."
"Some people in Ukraine politics criticized me and did not believe in it," he said. "They tried to joke about it. But now, maybe for me it will be interesting to look into the eyes of these people and ask: 'What can you say today?'"
War Continues, Proving Ukraine Needs More
Ukraine "very [much] appreciates" aid, Yermak said, calling it a "historical" moment to see so many people and countries around the world "united with Ukraine," but the fact the war is continuing shows Ukraine still needs more.
"But, of course, we need more weapons, we need more sanctions, we need more help," he said, admitting he can understand there was some "hesitation" to support Ukraine with so much from America.
"I think maybe for the first time in history ordinary Americans care [very much] about what happened here, about everything which happened in his terrible war," he said.
"It's the strongest signal of the attitude of Americans and society has for this war," he continued. "We are absolutely sure the Americans are on our side, and they really want Ukraine to win."
Yermak circled back to a quote from Zelenskyy very early on after Russia began the invasion Feb. 24: "Victory of Ukraine will be victory for our partners and our friends, and of course the United States."
On 'Narrative' Ukraine Is a 'Very Corrupt' Country
Yermak said those "old images" are an outdated "narrative" of Ukraine as a "corrupt country," and this war has changed the image of Ukraine in the eyes of the world, because everyone now knows "we could see a repeat of the Second World War."
"I think now after this war, a lot of things change," he said. "And maybe — not maybe, I am sure — it's time to change all this imagination, all this thinking about Ukraine."
Zelenskyy has been the first real reformer in Ukraine, Yermak contends, saying he came into power because he wanted to change the country, and the Ukrainian people "would never accept" a return to the past corrupt ways.
What country has zero % corruption? Yermak asked.
"It's not true Ukraine is a very corrupted country," he said. "Yes, we needed to make some reforms, but it's because we decided ourselves that we want to change, we want to make the lives of our people more successful."
Diplomatic Channels Established for Future
Yermak hailed the creation of a working group to evaluate the effectiveness of sanctions and how to deal with cutting off dependence on Russia energy, including working on "future security guarantees" for Ukraine.
"The name of the sanctions is very good, but by fact, it has not worked," Yermak concluded, adding, "if you receive billions from the export of gas and oil, you have enough resources to continue this terrible war."
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