As an active member of the international community of freedom-loving democratic countries, Korea can contribute to ending Russian invasion of Ukraine by using its leverage with Russia, Ukraine’s top envoy to Seoul Dmytro Ponomarenko says.
Speaking in an interview with The Korea Herald on Thursday, Ponomarenko said that Russia must immediately stop all military activities, the indiscriminate shelling of civilian targets and mass killings of civilians as prerequisite for a cease-fire.
Comparing Korea’s fight for independence and sovereignty throughout history to Ukraine’s current situation, Ponomarenko said that Ukrainian people are now fighting for Ukraine’s statehood and freedom with the support of all of the civilized international community.
He said that Ukraine feels hopeful and reassured “knowing that Korean people know the truth, believe in us, and know how important freedom is to all of us.”
Ponomarenko applauded Korean government’s $10 million donation of humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
According to Ponomarenko, first shipment of approximately $1 million worth of goods was sent on March 9 by air cargo, and the full donation is currently expected to reach Ukraine by June, although work is underway to speed up the process.
“Korea will not stop there and expand its humanitarian and financial support to Ukraine,” hoped the ambassador.
“We are deeply touched that the Korean people express sincere support to Ukraine and will remember it forever,” thanked Ponomarenko.
Ponomarenko added that although Korea excluded the possibility of military assistance to Ukraine so far, Ukraine is seeking to procure supplies of Korean protective equipment such as personal protective equipment, body armor and helmets for Ukraine’s armed forces.
He also expressed appreciation for the anti-war demonstrations held by citizens of many nations throughout the world, saying that the demonstrations show strong support to Ukraine in defending against Russia
“Public opinion also helps us voice the message about the urgent need to stop Russia’s brutal war and take more resolute actions in supporting Ukraine and deliver it to the Korean government,” Ponomarenko said.
Responding about Rhee Keun, a former South Korean Navy special warfare officer who gained popularity on YouTube, the ambassador said that the embassy certainly does not encourage Korean citizens to go to Ukraine to fight and will not accept such requests, respecting the Korean law. Rhee is reported to have entered Ukraine to join Ukraine’s military response.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement regarding volunteer soldiers warning that, under the current law, Korean citizens who participate in the war as volunteers may be subject to legal punishment.
“As I understand, it was his (Rhee’s) personal choice. Neither I, nor the Embassy had contacts with him,” Ponomarenko held.
“We appreciate the readiness of some Koreans to help defending Ukraine, but, as I said, it is illegal here. We respect that,” he added.
When asked how Ukraine would come to peaceful negotiation, the ambassador stressed that Ukraine remains committed to a peaceful political and diplomatic resolution, adding that Ukraine’s leadership was doing everything possible to keep situation under control.
“Ending the war remains Ukraine’s key priority,” underlined Ponomarenko, saying Ukraine will accept alternatives that would not cross red lines such as Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within the internationally recognized borders.
However, despite an agreement to open humanitarian corridors during Ukrainian-Russian negotiations on Feb. 28, March 3 and March 7, Russia undermined those efforts by breaking the cease-fire, said Ponomarenko.
Ponomarenko accused Russia of creating a dire humanitarian situation by deliberately shelling civilians during evacuation from the besieged Ukrainian cities to other places in Ukraine
“Russia is providing only a corridor to its own territory or to Belarus,” he stressed.
“Such ‘green corridors’ could be considered as forcible deportation of protected persons by international humanitarian law.”
“We need international legal guarantees of security, in particular given NATO’s reluctance to allow Ukraine join its ranks,” he referred to appeals and decisions adopted by the Ukrainian Parliament including to the UN on March 3 on the need to send peacekeeping forces to Ukraine.
Ponomarenko condemned Russian troops’ indiscriminate attacks on Ukrainian cities with missile strikes and heavy artillery.
According to Ponomarenko, documents and maps seized by Ukrainian troops from Russian prisoners of war confirm that bombardments of residential areas had been planned in advance.
“Russia is committing atrocities that are unjustifiable, both militarily and morally,” said Ponomarenko.
However, the ambassador hoped diplomacy would become more effective if Russia starts to see dire consequences on its economy.
He said that more and more countries are beginning to realize that European war has already started and Ukraine is at the front.
“The war in Ukraine is not just about Ukraine, there is no doubt that. If Ukraine falls, the Baltic states and Poland will be next target of Putin’s regime,” the envoy said.
He hoped that soon West will realize it is easier to help Ukraine defend itself now than fight Russian troops in their own soil.
By Sanjay Kumar (email@example.com