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26 Apr, 2023 19:31

Zelensky’s top adviser blames US for Ukraine conflict

Mikhail Podoliak wants NATO membership for Ukraine and total victory over Russia
Zelensky’s top adviser blames US for Ukraine conflict

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s top adviser, Mikhail Podoliak, praised a ‘Ukrainian victory’ resolution proposed by US lawmakers on Wednesday. Washington, he said, seeks to make amends for a 'historical mistake' by admitting Kiev into NATO and endorsing its war aims.

“The House of Representatives’ resolution is unequivocal: The United States, unfortunately, along with other Western countries, encouraged Ukraine to give up nuclear and other weapons to ensure security and stability in the region under safeguards. This was a wrong policy that was misinterpreted by the aggressor and led to a major war in Europe,” Podoliak tweeted.

Kiev has insisted for years that the US was obligated to protect it from Moscow because Ukraine agreed to return atomic weapons to Moscow under in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, in exchange for guarantees of territorial integrity. Former US President Bill Clinton offered an “apology” for that in an interview with the Irish broadcaster RTE earlier this month. 

Moscow has maintained that the arsenal wasn’t Ukraine’s to begin with, but belonged to the Soviet Union, of which Russia was recognized as the sole heir. Russia has also pointed to Zelensky’s statements about re-acquiring nuclear weapons, made in January 2022, as justification for its current military operation.

Only the “return of the occupied territories back to Ukraine, bringing war criminals to justice, and the country's full membership in NATO,” would help bring security back to Europe, he added.

Podoliak's comments came in response to a resolution proposed by US representatives Joe Wilson and Steve Cohen, a South Carolina Republican and a Tennessee Democrat. Though its text has not been made public, the Ukrainian government appears to be familiar with its contents. Kiev’s ambassador in Washington, Oksana Markarova, tweeted on Tuesday that it “includes important elements” of Zelensky’s “peace formula.”

From what anonymous congressional staffers told Yahoo News, the resolution practically echoes Zelensky’s talking points, declaring the US policy to be restoring Ukraine’s 1991 borders and having Russia pay reparations and for its leadership to be put on trial for war crimes. 

“Perhaps the most important feature of Western civilizational culture is the ability to analyze past experience and acknowledge mistakes,” Podoliak told Yahoo when reached for comment about the resolution on Tuesday. This was presumably a reference to the resolution’s claim that the US had wrongly pressured Ukraine to give up nuclear weapons.

The US continues to claim it is not a participant in the conflict, but insists that Russia “must lose” and has provided more than $100 billion in financial and military aid to Kiev over the past year.

The Wilson-Cohen resolution will need to be approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee before getting a vote before the full chamber. A companion resolution was introduced in the Senate on Tuesday evening, sponsored by Democrats Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, and South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham.