The AP Interview: Estonian PM says Russia not weary of war

The AP Interview: Estonian PM says Russia not weary of war

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — The West should not underestimate Russia’s military capabilities in Ukraine, Estonia’s leader told The Associated Press, saying that now that the war enters its fifth month, Moscow’s forces are in it to long term.

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said in an interview on Wednesday that Europe must ensure that those who commit war crimes and attempted genocide are brought to justice, noting that Russian President Vladimir Putin escaped punishment for annexing the Estonian peninsula. Crimea in 2014 and supporting an insurgency in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine that killed more than 14,000 people even before this year’s war began.

“I’ve heard that, you know, there’s no threat anymore because they’ve run out. No, they haven’t,” he said of the Russian army, which failed to take Kyiv in the early stages of the war and now concentrates its firepower in the east..

“They still have a lot of troops that can come (to fight). They are not counting the lives they are losing. They’re not counting the artillery they’re losing there. So I don’t think we should underestimate them in the long run to continue like this,” Kallas said, despite the low morale and corruption that Moscow forces worry about.

Kallas praised the unity Europe has shown in punishing Russia for the invasion that began on February 24, though he said it was clear from the start that it would be “increasingly difficult over time” to hold together.

“First, we did the sanctions which were relatively easy. We now turn to the sanctions which are much more difficult. But so far we have achieved unity, even though we have different opinions,” he said in the interview at Stenbock House, a government building where he has his office and holds cabinet meetings.

“This is normal for democracy. We debate, we discuss and then we arrive at the solution. So far, it has been a negative surprise for Putin that we are still united,” Kallas said.

She said that she was hopeful that Ukraine would be granted the status of a candidate for the European Union. at the bloc’s next summit in Brussels, despite initial divisions on the matter. The EU’s executive arm, the European Commission, supported Ukraine’s bid In the past week.

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Some countries “were very skeptical two months ago,” Kallas said, but now there are “different signals coming from different member states … that they are on board.”

Estonia, which shares a 294-kilometre (about 180-mile) border with Russia, has taken a hard-line stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Kallas has criticized other European leaders for talking to Putin and has advocated isolating Moscow entirely, leaving the decision on how to end the war to Ukraine.

As the war dragged on, some in the West suggested reaching a negotiated peace deal with Russia, even if it meant Ukraine would cede territory. Kallas has warned against it.

In his comments to the AP, he noted that this is exactly what happened after Moscow annexed Crimea, backed separatists in industrial Donbas and seized territory in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

“For us, it is important not to make that mistake again like we did in Crimea, Donbas, Georgia,” he said. “We have already made the same mistake three times saying that, you know, negotiations, negotiated peace is the goal. … The only thing Putin hears from this is that ‘I can do this because there will be no punishment.’

“And every time, every next time it will be with more human suffering than the last,” he added.

In Ukraine, those who commit war crimes and “carry out or attempt to carry out genocide” must be prosecuted.

Sanctions against Russia will take effect over time, he said, and you just have to have “strategic patience.”

Kallas defended criticism that the sanctions appear to hurt ordinary Russians and have failed to deter Putin so far.

“And I still think that, you know, the Russian population should also feel the effects, because if you look, the support for Putin is very high,” he said.

Kallas added that Russian soldiers brag about the war crimes they commit “in front of their wives and their mothers.” And if wives and mothers say, ‘It’s okay what you’re doing there’… I mean, this is also the war that Russia and the Russian people are waging in Ukraine,” he said.

On the domestic front, Kallas, 45, is fighting for his political future when Estonia’s two-party government, led by his centre-right Reform Party, collapsed in early June when he ousted the junior partner Center Party. , after disputes over welfare and spending. trouble amid rampant inflation in the Baltic nation.

Kallas, who has led the Reform Party since 2018 and became Estonia’s first female prime minister in January 2021, began coalition talks this month with two other parties, and they are expected to reach a coalition agreement early this month. July.

Otherwise, Kallas will face the grim prospect of ruling a weak one-party minority government until the next general election scheduled for March 2023.

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Jari Tanner in Helsinki contributed.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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