6th Jul 2022

Ex-ambassador in Kyiv: EU leaders should be 'ashamed'

  • Kostiantyn Yelisieiev (centre) was Ukraine's ambassador to the EU from 2010 to 2015 (Photo:
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"Let me tell you how I felt when I listened to the EU leaders announce their sanctions: You should be ashamed of yourselves for the rest of your lives that you left us all alone at this moment to face Russian aggression," Ukraine's former ambassador to the EU, Kostiantyn Yelisieiev, told EUobserver from Kyiv on Friday morning (25 February).

"Yesterday I evacuated my family from the city and if anything was to happen to them, you should feel ashamed for the rest of your lives," he added, voicing raw emotion.

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The 51-year old, a Russian-speaker from the Donetsk region in east Ukraine, is known personally to many in Brussels from his time here between 2010 to 2015, when he negotiated a landmark free-trade treaty and contended with Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

He later served as an aide to former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko before creating a think-tank in Kyiv.

But now, after getting his family out of the city, Yelisieiev has armed himself with a Kalashnikov rifle, and he is staying behind in Kyiv to prepare for armed resistance against Russian paratroopers.

"I am on the list. Poroshenko is on the list," he said, referring to US warnings that Russian forces planned to kill or detain people on pre-prepared lists of pro-Western sympathisers if they conquered the capital.

"Maybe tomorrow I won't be able to talk to you anymore, so that's why I need to get this message out today," Yelisieiev said, speaking by phone from the Podil district in the city centre.

"And put this down in red ink: You will be next," he warned EU leaders.

"The next will be the Baltic States and then the Warsaw Pact countries, because that's how Putin has imagined the restoration of the Soviet empire. Even the streets of Dresden [in the former German Democratic Republic], where Putin used to work as a KGB [Soviet-era intelligence service] officer, are not safe," Yelisieiev said.

Russian ground forces were beginning to lay siege to "the gates of Kyiv" on Friday morning, according to Yelisieiev.

Russian missiles also hit residential buildings overnight, Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted at 04.57AM local time.

"Horrific Russian rocket strikes on Kyiv. Last time our capital experienced anything like this was in 1941 when it was attacked by Nazi Germany," he wrote. "Isolate Russia. Sever all ties. Kick Russia out of everywhere," Kuleba wrote from Kyiv.

Earlier Friday, EU leaders agreed additional sanctions on Russian banks and oil refineries, but they held back harsher measures, ostensibly to keep some in reserve to counter further escalation by Russia.

Nato leaders will also hold an emergency video-summit later in the day.

Yelisieiev did not call for Nato to fight Russia — but he did say members of the Atlantic alliance should be pouring in arms to help Ukrainians defend themselves and throwing everything they had at Putin to hurt the Kremlin financially.

Belgian beer

They should ban Russia from SWIFT, an international bank-payments system, and stop buying Russian oil and gas, Yelisieiev said. EU and Nato countries should also seize Russian commercial ships and aircraft at their ports and airports and ban Russian aviation from their airspace, he added.

"You've chosen to protect your luxury lifestyles, eating Belgian chocolates and drinking Belgian beer. You chose economic welfare over protecting human lives," Yelisieiev said.

"I'm addressing the EU leaders, because I hope normal people in Europe don't feel the same way. I hope people in Europe are going to come out onto the streets to show what they think about this war," he said.

"Our [Ukrainian people's] only crime was that we wanted to come closer to Europe," the former diplomat added, glancing back at the course of events since the fall of the USSR in 1991 and Kyiv's two pro-Western revolutions in more recent years.

Weapons to Ukraine? It may be too late

Weapons shipments may not be much of a quick fix for Ukraine in the face of an integrated and well equipped invasion force like Russia's.

Tusk turns on former partners over Ukraine 'disgrace'

Donald Tusk, the Polish president of the EU Council until 2019 and current chair of the European People's Party broke with normal diplomatic niceties to lambast Germany, Hungary and Italy as having "disgraced themselves."


Has the EU gone far enough on sanctions?

This is how sanctions work: to be credible, those who put these measures in place must be willing to accept negative effects on both sides. To make a difference, EU countries will have to be ready to bear the costs.


Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways

For the most part Nato and its 30 leaders rose to the occasion — but it wasn't without room for improvement. The lesson remains that Nato still doesn't know how or want to hold allies accountable for disruptive behaviour.


One rubicon after another

We realise that we are living in one of those key moments in history, with events unfolding exactly the way Swiss art historian Jacob Burckhardt describes them: a sudden crisis, rushing everything into overdrive.

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