Illustration photo – Czech Ambassador to Ukraine Radek Matula.
Prague – Ukrainians are ready to continue fighting, they are not ready to accept concessions, for example in the form of exchanging part of their territory for peace. Compromises are unacceptable for them also for the reason that the Russian war brought Ukraine so much suffering, horror, devastation, terror and human and material losses. Czech Ambassador to Ukraine Radek Matula told CTK in an interview.
Photo gallery: Russian invasion of Ukraine
Matula did not want to predict how long the conflict would last and how it would develop. According to him, Ukrainians are not too optimistic either. He fears that the war will continue for some time, that there is no quick fix. “That soldiers will continue to die on the front, that civilians will continue to die due to barbaric rocket attacks on civilian infrastructure, on residential buildings,” said the ambassador.
According to Matula, Moscow has failed to amass sufficient forces and equipment for a major new offensive, which was discussed in connection with the recent first anniversary of the invasion. “The Russian troops are not doing well at the front, the front is not moving. Russian soldiers went into battle before they were trained and properly prepared, which is obviously a result of political pressure from the Russian leadership,” the ambassador says. According to him, the leadership set goals to occupy the Donetsk and Luhansk regions within the administrative borders by the end of March, but the massive offensive has not started.
The situation around the town of Bachmut is now the most complicated. According to the British Ministry of Defence, mercenaries of the Russian Wagner Group have taken control of most of its eastern part in recent days. If Russian troops push Ukrainian forces out of Bakhmut, Matula doesn't think it will necessarily mark a turning point in the war. It has rather a propaganda significance for Russia, he said. “Russia desperately needs some kind of success and somehow they are promising themselves that it could come in Bakhmut,” he says.
According to Matula, it is stated that the losses are one in five against the Russian troops. “This means big losses for minimal territorial gains. If Bakhmut falls, then the question is to what extent Russia can use it to reach other cities, Kramatorsk, Slavyansk and the like,” he added.
According to the ambassador, the war still creates problems for basically all Ukrainians. “A lot of people lost their jobs. There are divided families because the men are at the front, the women are at home somewhere. There are also divided families because a lot of women went abroad, to Poland, the Czech Republic, other countries, or left conflict areas to other areas in Ukraine,” he said.
Fear of further developments, the possible advance of Russian troops or attacks by rockets and combat drones is omnipresent, the ambassador said. There are problems with travel, sometimes also with electricity supplies. “The biggest problem is that most Ukrainian families have already lost someone in the war,” he added.
However, services, food supply and other goods are functioning in many larger cities, including Kyiv. In the east of Ukraine, it is also a problem that it is not possible to use land and fields. For example, tractors run over mines. “After that, it is reflected in the performance of agriculture and in general the entire economy, industry,” noted Matula.
According to available data, Ukraine needs to demine about 50,000 square kilometers of territory. “Demining is a terribly complicated matter. This is a problem for the future as well, to bring everything back to a condition so that the land and fields can be used,” he added.
The Czech Republic is already negotiating with the Dnieper to participate in the post-war reconstruction of the region< /h3>
The Czech Republic is already negotiating with the town hall of the city of Dnipro and with business circles regarding involvement in the post-war reconstruction of the Dnepropetrovsk region in Ukraine, Matula told ČTK. In addition to focusing on a specific region, the Czech Republic also wants to be involved in reconstruction in individual sectors in which it has know-how and experience.
“We are starting to talk about specific options and we are watching and monitoring the needs on the Ukrainian side in the Dnepropetrovsk region. We are looking at what options are on our side where we can participate in reconstruction and specific projects,” said Matula. “We are also trying to connect scientific capacities and universities,” he added.
He also reminded that last year the government approved a program of humanitarian, stabilization, reconstruction and economic aid to Ukraine, for which the Czech Republic will give half a billion crowns annually between 2023 and 2025. As for sectoral aid, the Czech Republic could focus on energy, transport and transport infrastructure, healthcare, but also on the decontamination and demining of affected areas.
According to the ambassador, the aid already provided by countries in the winter was also necessary , so that Ukraine is not left without heat, electricity or water. “It was about quick help. Modular accommodation for refugees, in energy supply large and small generators, supply of cogeneration units,” he said. According to him, many Czech companies were in contact with Ukrainian energy companies, exchanging lists of what the country attacked by Russia needed. These were, for example, spare parts for transformers or distribution networks.
In the second half of last year, the Czech Republic also focused on the healthcare sector, supplying equipment to hospitals, medical tents or buses that can be used for treating or transporting the injured people. Matula said that he was ashamed in front of Czech non-governmental organizations, but also in front of ordinary citizens who contributed to various collections.