EU must stop paying Putin billions daily for energy resources, says Ukrainian MP

Kira Rudik says first 100 days of Ukraine conflict ‘only the beginning’

The EU must stop paying Vladimir Putin “billions of euros every day for energy resources” if it is serious about ending the war in Ukraine, member of the Ukrainian parliament Kira Rudik has said during a trip to Dublin.

Speaking on Saturday morning, Ms Rudik said Europeans already struggling to pay energy bills would face a greater shock by autumn if Putin’s assault on Ukraine continues. “Does any country that relies on Russian gas and oil they think he’ll become a better person?”, she asked listeners to RTÉ's Brendan O’Connor show. “He will weaponise the energy and every single country reliant on his energy will suffer. So to win this war, Russia needs to be weakened and for that countries need to stop buying their energy resources.”

Food prices will also continue to rise over the coming months, as exports of basic food supplies from Ukraine continue to be blocked, said Ms Rudik, who is also the leader of the opposition liberal Golos party.

“Before the war started, Ukraine was top three world producer of wheat, grain, sunflower oil, tomatoes and corn. There’s 10 weeks of grains left in the storage of United Nations. In a couple of weeks, we will start burning crops to free up space for the fresh ones, when people in the world will be starving. And it will be the tragedy not only for Ukraine, it will be the tragedy for the whole world.”

The war in Ukraine risks becoming “the new normal”, said Ms Rudik. The past three months of conflict are “only the beginning”, she said, adding that Putin had already being fighting for eight years.

“I do not want right now us to underestimate Putin ... this is why we need more weapons.” Ms Rudik said that those weapons would be used to fight back on Russian territories.

The suggestion that Ukraine give up some of its territories to end the bloodshed is unthinkable, she said. “I could ask you, which Irish territories are you willing to give up? I’m sure you would not pick anything because it’s your land and people died to protect this territory. How can we give that up?”

If Ukraine does hand over eastern territories, they risk condemning the people in those regions to further death and destruction, said Ms Rudik. “They’re destroying the houses. They’re cancelling all the human rights. They’re treating people like slaves, they’re taking our children to the east or Russia.”

Ms Rudik commended Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy for his strong leadership during the war, despite their conflicting political beliefs during peacetime. “I didn’t think he could do it. It’s a good example that you never know what is in us until we are cornered and have to stand up. He’s doing a great job right now. We all know that I’m opposition and I can tell you that with my hand on my heart.”

She recalled how just two days before the Russian assault on February 24th, the Ukrainian parliament was debating whether to outlaw fireworks. Ukrainian officials now dream of the day when they can get back to debates around taxes or voting rights. Discussing these issues is a “privilege” of living in a “democracy”, she said. “We are fighting to get this ability back, to be able to fight about things like fireworks.”

A whole generation of Ukrainian children have been traumatised by this conflict, she said. “You want them to grow up and have everything and they will be able to build new Ukraine ... right now we are robbed of that.

“We have children asking us, are we refugees mammy? We have teenagers who have seen dead bodies and have to carry out the bodies of their loved ones. We have children who know how to react to air raid sirens.

“There’s many games that you teach them so it’s all a game. When they are travelling it’s a journey and when they are somewhere abroad it’s temporary. But we know it will never be the same.”

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast