Ukrainian diplomat demands reparations in Russia peace deal

Ambassador in London says Moscow 'has to pay for everything' damaged in Ukraine war

Ukraine's ambassador to Britain Vadym Prystaiko spoke at a defence conference in London on Monday. PA

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A senior Ukrainian diplomat on Monday called on Russia to be handed a reparations bill as part of any peace deal to end the 10-week war.

Ambassador in London Vadym Prystaiko said Russia “has to pay for everything” after its missiles ravaged Ukrainian cities and unleashed a humanitarian crisis in Europe. Ukraine’s economy is projected to almost halve in size this year.

Mr Prystaiko, who described himself as a hardliner on the talks and said his views were not Ukraine’s official negotiating position, said the prosecution of alleged Russian war crimes should also form part of any settlement.

Face-to-face peace talks have not taken place since March 29, shortly before the grim discovery of civilian corpses in areas near Kyiv that had been occupied by Russian forces.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown no sign of calling off an invasion which he lauded in a Victory Day speech on Monday, marking 77 years since the Soviet victory in the Second World War, as an echo of that conflict.

But Britain’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who said it was Russia “mirroring the fascism and tyranny” of the Nazis, said Mr Putin had given himself a possible way out by focusing his rhetoric on capturing the eastern Donbas.

Ukraine has said it could negotiate in a situation where Russia and its allied separatists retreat to the territory they held on February 23, which included portions of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the Donbas.

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his speech during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia. AP Photo

It proposed in the stalled talks that the two presidents, Mr Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskyy, decide the future of the Donbas face to face and that the two sides have breathing space to discuss the Crimean peninsula in a deal that would span 15 years if a ceasefire agreement was reached.

On the question of Ukraine’s future alliances, Mr Prystaiko told a King’s College London defence conference that the country was still seeking EU membership but that its proposals did not envisage joining Nato.

But he indicated that hardliners such as himself would seek to add another condition to Ukraine’s demands by saying Russia should be made to pay for the damage it has inflicted.

“I can’t see why we have to look into the pockets of western taxpayers’ money for the after-war reconstruction. I believe Russia has to pay for everything,” he said.

He said “the best way out of it is if Ukraine wins militarily”, echoing what western colleagues such as Mr Wallace have said about wanting to strengthen Ukraine’s negotiating position.

US and European officials say Russia’s offensive has been plagued by problems including technical failures, poor intelligence and low morale among troops after hopes of a quick victory were dashed.

Ukraine has received ever more heavy-duty weapons from allies, including lorry-mounted cannon from France, anti-aircraft tanks from Germany and Starstreak air defence systems from Britain.

Mr Wallace said at the same London event that western sanctions, although criticised by some for failing to push the Kremlin into a rethink, would eventually bite when it struggles to refurbish its depleted armed forces.

Although the Russian leader did not, as some had anticipated, announce a major change in strategy in his Victory Day speech, Mr Wallace said Mr Putin showed signs of shaping a narrative that the war was now about the Donbas.

But he issued a warning that for Mr Putin, despite his woes on the battlefield, there is “one component he still has in his back pocket … which is brutality”, he said.

“If you win your war by killing, murdering, raping, bombing civilian territories, breaching all human rights, all Geneva Conventions, corruption and that becomes the battle-winning component, the message that sends around the world to other adversaries around the world is incredibly dangerous.

“That’s why it matters to the international community and should matter, that if Putin is successful in Ukraine, then watch out.”

The London conference attended by former senior Nato generals was later to hear a draft declaration on the defence of Europe.

Updated: May 09, 2022, 1:46 PM