A Ukrainian MP has told Newstalk that her people are fighting to ensure their children do not grow up as “slaves in a Russian empire”.
Russia continued its assault on Ukraine’s capital Kyiv and other cities across the country this weekend, with local forces offering stiff resistance.
Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said 352 civilians - including 14 children - have been killed as the invasion enters its fifth day.
Yesterday Russian President Vladimir Putin out the country’s nuclear deterrent forces on high alert, insisting the move was necessary in the face of “aggressive statements” from leaders of NATO countries.
Ukraine has said negotiations with Moscow are to take place without pre-conditions on the Belarusian-Ukrainian border. Russian news agencies are reporting that the talks will get underway this morning.
Monday morning I’d normally take my kids off to school. Instead we are all counting the hours of war. 98 so far. Ukrainian children miss out on education only to suffer trauma of sirens and shelling - tragic. #RussiaGoHome #NoFlyZone pic.twitter.com/CMhJGLYLV2
— Lesia Vasylenko (@lesiavasylenko) February 28, 2022
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Ukraine MP Lesia Vasylenko said she expects nothing from the talks – except a reprieve from the Russian barrage.
“There is no development that can happen from that,” she said. “Ukrainians are fighting for freedom. We are fighting for our right to our independence which was acknowledged by Russia back in 1991 and then they decided in 2014 to change their mind. It just doesn’t work like that.
“I am confident that our president, President Zelenskyy, is in those talks explaining exactly the same thing to Putin.
“I doubt that Putin and his entourage are ever going to understand what we are saying and they are just going to continue with their nuclear blackmail land they are going to continue with their threats.
“I think the most valuable thing that can be gotten out those negotiations is the fact that our army is getting a bit of a breather because while those talks are taking place, it is quiet time.”
Keep calm and know your guns. A quick PM training from my father-in-law. Best stress coping technique during air raid night. Tomorrow we’re mastering the AK-47. #Ukraine women armed and ready. pic.twitter.com/5mHjpe6AzN
— Lesia Vasylenko (@lesiavasylenko) February 26, 2022
Ms Vasylenko said that, while the guns are silent, Ukrainian forces are “preparing again to mobilise and continue to standing”.
Asked whether Ukrainians would continue to stand against the invasion, she said: “That is for sure”.
“We have no other choice,” she said. “If we want to live in a free and independent country - and we do; God we do - then we will continue to fight.
“I have three children. I want all of them to grow up as Ukrainians, speaking Ukrainian, in their Ukrainian Ukraine that is independent and free. Part of the EU. Part of NATO. Part of the big European family in which we belong.
“I don’t want them to be slaves in a Russian empire. So, this is what I fight for.”
— Lesia Vasylenko (@lesiavasylenko) February 27, 2022
The Ukrainian MP said the last few days have been a “roller coaster”.
“Yesterday, it seemed like myself and all of Ukraine woke up with kind of positive notes in our voices,” she said.
“This morning, it is a new day, it is a new dawn. We are still alive, we are still awake but all night, all throughout Ukraine now, even in the smallest of towns, sirens were sounding.”
She said she is currently located in a small town near Kyiv that has “nothing but civilians and a whole load of rocks”.
“Last night we had four sirens by my count, so we understand that the Russians are actually hitting us with all they have - and that is a lot - and they are actually now regrouping to hit us even harder,” she said.
“This is a worrying a fact. This is a fact that makes us sit down and think about what else can we do to call on the international community to come into Ukraine right here, right now and help us close the skies.”