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Prime Minister Janša on BBC World Service

Prime Minister Janez Janša gave an interview today for the BBC World Service. Most of the interview was devoted to the visit of the Prime Ministers of Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Poland to Kyiv.

The Slovenian Prime Minister began by saying that he and the Polish and Czech Prime Ministers had travelled through the western part of Ukraine and that from the train they could see that the region along the Ukrainian-Polish border was also preparing for war, although it was quite far from the existing battlefields. “Personally, I do not believe Russia will get that far,” said the Prime Minister Janša.

He went on to say that the talks with the Ukrainian leadership had revolved around important topics, particularly sanctions, aid to Ukraine, military aid, the future of Ukraine after the war and the framework for lasting peace. “We brought with us the OECD’s draft plan on how to assist Ukraine after the war. The plan is ambitious, but what matters most at the moment is how to help Ukraine defend itself. Only when Russia is met with strong resistance from Ukraine will it be ready to negotiate”, said the Prime Minister. He added that a lot of aid had already been offered to Ukraine, but the problem was that not all promises had been kept. “Time is of the essence. Every day counts in hundreds of lives on both sides. We have discussed specifically how to speed up deliveries and how to prioritise what is needed in Ukraine,” said the Prime Minister.

Asked about Zelensky’s demeanour and whether he inspired courage, the Prime Minister said that he knew from his own experience how it feels when you have not slept for two or three weeks. “Of course you are exhausted, but the energy level is high. Zelensky exudes the determination of the whole Ukrainian people, which is why so many people support him”, said the Prime Minister, adding that he had held talks with all the members of the opposition last week and they all expressed their support. “Ukrainian politics was very turbulent before the war, but now it is very consolidated and united,” said the Prime Minister. “I have never seen so much unity in my life, both among the people and the politicians,” added the Prime Minister, stressing that Russia was probably not counting on so much unity, but on Ukrainians fighting among themselves, but that was not happening.

“When you talk to people from the world of politics, particularly ministers, you see that everyone shares this determination. Even onscreen, you can feel all this energy and how the Ukrainian nation is experiencing a rebirth in this difficult situation. I personally believe that there is no country on the European continent right now where the fundamental values of European civilisation are being defended more than in Ukraine,” said Prime Minister Janša. He added that Ukrainians were risking their lives not only to fight for their territory, but also for their way of life, “and we have to respect that, and that is why we must help them”.

On the question of whether Ukraine should join NATO and the EU, the Prime Minister said that neither NATO nor the EU were without fault, but that both the EU and NATO were established not for economic well-being but to bring peace to the continent after two world wars.

“If Ukraine is prepared to amend its constitution, as joining NATO and the EU is written in its constitution, and if it is prepared to give up its NATO membership, then this is something that will have a great impact on Russia. Russia cites NATO membership as the main reason for its invasion of Ukraine, and if the Ukrainian leadership is prepared to change that, Russia will no longer have any reason to continue the invasion.” “We must stop pretending that the situation as it currently stands is normal and that joining either of the two alliances takes years and years of negotiations,” said the Prime Minister. He added: “For Ukraine, EU membership represents security that is institutional.” “Ukrainians have been cheated in the past, particularly in 1994 when the great powers signed the Budapest Memorandum, by which Ukraine agreed to relinquish its nuclear arsenal. The great powers then assured Ukraine its territorial integrity and political sovereignty. In the last two decades, we have seen that no one has kept their promises. And the Ukrainians are not going to buy the same promises, they need institutional guarantees,” said the Prime Minister. He went on to say that if we wanted permanent peace in this part of the continent, all commitments had to be written in a peace treaty. “And this peace treaty must be signed not only by Russia and Ukraine, but also by the countries that signed the Budapest Memorandum 26 years ago. We therefore need the great powers to sign, as this treaty will last several generations,” said Prime Minister Janša.

Asked whether other European leaders will also travel to Ukraine, the Prime Minister said that he believed so. “Some of them even very soon,” he said, adding that this is very important. “When boarding the Ukrainian train, I could see in the eyes of the train personnel how happy they were that someone is coming. Because, frankly, in the last three weeks, all they were able to see was everyone from other countries, such as ambassadors, leaving. We need to reverse this trend,” said the Prime Minister. “Our first proposal after returning from Kyiv was for the EU to send a representative back to the Ukrainian capital to have someone there who could physically represent the EU as a whole. I urge other countries to do the same,” said the Prime Minister.

Asked what will happen to Russian President Putin, who is rather isolated at the moment, the Prime Minister said that only four UN Member States supported the military aggression against Ukraine, while 141 were against it, which is a major defeat for Russia.

“As for President Putin’s future: if he is willing to negotiate, then he will have some influence on what happens to him in the future; however, if he is not willing to negotiate and is defeated militarily, which is quite possible, then he will not be able to decide his own future,” said the Prime Minister, adding that “we are calling him to the negotiating table”.  “At some point, Mr Putin will have to decide whether to withdraw Russian military forces from Ukraine, and when Russian forces are withdrawn, sanctions will also be lifted. The faster the withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine, the faster the lifting of sanctions against Russia,” said Prime Minister Janez Janša.

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