“Even a year after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the situation is very unpredictable,” said Hanna Shelest, director of Security Programs at the Foreign Policy Council “Ukrainian Prism” and editor-in-chief of the Ukraine Analytica Portal.
To our question about whether the West has done enough for Ukraine, she added that “the situation is improving, but you cannot say about the West as something united and whole, you have different politicians and different countries. In general, it seems to me that we have received the support of those who are important”.
Furthermore, our interlocutor points out that, unfortunately, Russian influence in the Balkans is growing, whether through the church, the media or various Russian activities in the Balkan countries, such as the recent protests in the north of Kosovo, where, according to her, influence is also the Russian factor.
Geopost: Hanna, thank you very much for this interview for The Geopost, one year after Russian invasion in Ukraine, how is the situation in Ukraine?
We cannot say that the situation is improving because each month something new is happening, and the situation is very unpredictable. We have liberated 50% of what Russia occupied in the very first days but at the same time we have a total destruction of some towns on the east and we have the recent tragedy of blowing up the Kakhovka dam, so that’s why you cannot say that the situation is stable or stabilizing, it is unfortunately the same dangerous because you have daily air raids, you have daily shooting of the territories all around Ukraine and you have disasters brought by Russian Federation.
Geopost: Has the west done enough for Ukraine and do they understand enough situation there?
They are definitely improving and you cannot say about the west as something united and whole, you have different politicians and different countries. In general, it seems to me that we got support of those who are important, they can be small or big countries, it’s not about the size, it’s about their opinion and willingness to help Ukraine, and for Ukraine the support of Portugal is not less important than support of the United States because sometimes smaller countries can have a bigger will to help Ukraine, better understand what is happening.
You have some countries who are eager to deliver weapons, you have some countries who are eager to deliver the economic support and humanitarian support of Ukraine. So, at the same time, is it enough, you never know, you are always unsatisfied, especially in terms of weapons because we are asking weapons to defend us, not to make any aggression against the Russian Federation, we just need them to liberate our lands, to de-occupy our land, to liberate the people living there so we don’t have new and new tragedies as we are experiencing, and in this case, more weapons, more ammunition is definitely necessary.
Geopost: You have traveled a lot in Balkans, Russia have a lot of influence in Balkans, especially in Serbia, how do you see Russian influence there?
Unfortunately, we see that the Russian influence is growing, I remember my conference in Budva (Montenegro) in 2015 when I was talking about the Ukrainian experience the first year, and at that time, I warned (and there were people from all countries from the region), look to the Russian activities, they work through church, they work through media, do you know the business that in your countries are owned by Russian Federation, do you know politicians that are traveling a lot, and they were laughing, like, don’t worry we are not in their interest and then we saw just in few years how the situation changed.
We saw the attempt of Montenegrin coupe, we saw demonstrations in other countries, we saw the campaign against the Northern Macedonia entering the NATO, we see Kosovo-Serbia incidents and each time there were Russian roots there, we had even the attempt of assassination of some of the leaders at the territories who’ve been ready to provide some support to Ukraine, so unfortunately, because the countries of the region being concentrated that much on domestic issues and problems that existed they lost the momentum of catching and cutting the increased Russian influence in the region.
Geopost: We have incidents in north of Kosovo, what is your comment from your perspective?
The issue is that with such incidents, especially one it is “spontaneous” rebellions happening in some of the territories, we started searching the social networks, we start looking were there any incidents or calls for such actions as unfortunately very often we can find the Russian roots there or somebody who is pretending to be local.
There were cases in US with “Black Lives Matter”, with the elections, there were a lot of cases like these in the countries of the region and we know the Russian interest are in Serbia and in Kosovo.
We can remember 1999 perfectly, they still, in all their argumentation about Crimea, they remember Kosovo. So, they make the Kosovo parallels, it’s still all a lot in Russian propaganda discourse, the same with those in Mitrovica and with the support of Serbia, they are protecting the villagers rights or Slavic rights, so, that is all the time there and I assume that a certain support is happening, either a diplomatic or political level or the money level, but that is up to the security services of the Balkan countries to learn the situation better and to find out what is really behind these protests. /TheGeopost/