The Ukraine war was the result of a “lot of miscalculation of Russian propaganda”, Kyiv’s ambassador in India, Igor Polikha, said today as the Russian invasion completed one month. He also said he would be the “happiest ambassador” if India’s position moved closer to Ukraine.
“It is like the second World War when Nazis were destroying towns, villages, hospital, everything,” Igor Polikha told NDTV in an exclusive interview.
On India’s tough balance on the Ukraine war, the ambassador said he appreciated New Delhi’s moves, including the abstention at the UN yesterday on a Russian resolution on the “humanitarian crisis in Ukraine”.
“Yesterday’s vote in UN was moved by Russia. India was together with 12 UN Security Council members, which abstained. Russia got only one supporter – China,” Mr Polika said.
He also praised Foreign Minister S Jaishankar’s statement on India’s humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
At the same time, he also pointed at US President Joe Biden’s comment on India’s “shaky” response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, compared to other allies of Washington.
“I understand deeply India’s foreign policy essentials. As an Indologist I can understand many official and unofficial things. As ambassador it’s my duty to push our position. I cannot comment as an ambassador,” he said cautiously.
But if India were to take a stronger position against the Russian war, he said, he would be “happiest”.
“I will be the happiest ambassador if the position of India is moving more and more towards Ukraine,” said the envoy, who calls himself an Indophile.
The war had caused “really incredible mental strain for all of us”, said the ambassador.
Mr Polikha said his daughter, who lives in Ukraine capital Kyiv, came close to Russian shelling just 200 metres away. “It took me two days to find her. She was in complete shock,” said the ambassador.
He also said relatives and friends in other parts of Ukraine, especially the east and north, were “spending a lot of time hiding from shelling”.
“Me, my wife, people from my embassy… we are afraid… we start every morning checking and rechecking how our family, dearest friends are, what’s happened to them, what is their psychological mood and so on.”
Mr Polikha said no one, least of all the Russians, expected the war to stretch this far. The Russians were not even releasing the count of military casualties, he said, claiming that more than 10,000 Russian soldiers were believed to have been killed in the war – “by the most conservative estimates”.
“The Russians were sure that the war will end in four days,” he said.
“There were lots of miscalculations of the Russian command, of the Russian propaganda… The top leadership of Russia was sure that everything will end in a few days. According to their propaganda, they were told that at every corner, the Russian army will be welcomed with flowers, everywhere there will be ‘swagatam samitis‘ (welcome committees),” the Ukrainian envoy said.
The Russians were also not expecting President Volodymyr Zelensky to become a rallying point, he agreed.
“Zelensky has extensive reserves of internal strength. There is a very cynical joke – you know the background of our President – he was a comedian. But after the start of the war many started saying the war in Ukraine showed that a comedian has become a political leader and unfortunately, many political leaders have become comedians,” Mr Polikha remarked.