What Ukraine and Russia Ex-Presidents Say About the Prospect of War

The previous presidents of Ukraine and Russia have given their views about tensions between their countries that could spill over into war.

Petro Poroshenko, who led Ukraine until 2019, told The Times of London he was worried that Kyiv's army would be inadequate to deal with an onslaught by Moscow-led forces, as he invoked the example of British wartime leader Winston Churchill.

However, Dmitry Medvedev, whose presidential stint between 2008 and 2012 interrupted the tenure of Vladimir Putin, told Russian state-run news outlets that Moscow doesn't want war.

Poroshenko said he believes Putin considers Ukraine to be "just a piece of the puzzle" of his wider aim to "recreate the Soviet Union 'second edition.'"

"Putin perceives himself between an emperor and a god," Poroshenko told the Times. "He thinks he can do anything he wants."

However, Medvedev told news outlets, including Tass, "that a war is not wanted under any circumstances, no one is looking for a war, and everything must be done so that there is no war."

With more than 100,000 Russian troops pressed up against the border with Ukraine, and President Joe Biden warning that an invasion could happen next month, Poroshenko was worried that there were shortcomings in Ukraine's military readiness.

Ukraine has vastly improved its military capabilities since 2014, when Russia seized Crimea, but Poroshenko urged other NATO members to follow the U.S. and the U.K in providing weapons because "supplying them urgently is significantly better than to supply them late."

"Soldiers on the front line receive less pay than the security guy in the supermarket," said Poroshenko, who called for more expenditure for the Territorial Defence Forces, "so as to increase the price Putin pays for an invasion."

In his interview, Medvedev said that the onus was on the West to "agree on security guarantees" that include Moscow's demands that Ukraine does not join NATO and that the alliance draws back from Russia's borders.

Concern About NATO

Medvedev said Russia's demands were "very specific, and they capture our concerns," adding that if Ukraine were allowed to join NATO "we will have a new military base and new types of strike weapons right on the border with the Russian Federation."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the written responses by the U.S. didn't address Moscow's concerns about NATO's eastward expansion.

However, in an interview on Friday, Lavrov suggested there could be further diplomacy ahead, although he warned against sanctions.

Poroshenko faces treason charges linked with coal purchases from pro-Russian separatists in the east of his country. This has created unease among U.S. and European diplomats who say that the government of his successor, Volodomyr Zelensky, is pursuing a vendetta.

Despite his differences with Zelensky, he said a common adversary should unite them.

"I cannot say that I like Zelensky, and I am definitely confident that Zelensky doesn't like me, but this is not of interest to the Ukrainian people. They want to see —if we have a Putin in front of our door—our unity."

Poroshenko also believed that Kyiv's politicians would do well to follow the example of Churchill, who "created a government of national unity."

He said that politicians in Kyiv "should learn very attentively British history and take into account that Churchill is extremely popular in Ukraine."

 Dmitry Medvedev (left) and Petro Poroshenko
Former presidents of Russia and Ukraine, Dmitry Medvedev (left) and Petro Poroshenko are shown in this split image. Both gave interviews in which they discussed the tensions by Russia's border with Ukraine. Getty

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