Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit
In honor of Independence Day, Rapid City Journal is providing unlimited access to all of our content from June 28th-July 4th! Presented by Extreme Fireworks
AP

The AP Interview: Estonian PM says Russia not weary of war

  • Updated
  • 0

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — The West should not underestimate Russia’s military capabilities in Ukraine, Estonia’s leader told The Associated Press, saying that as the war enters its fifth month, Moscow’s forces are in it for the long haul.

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said in an interview Wednesday that Europe should ensure that those committing war crimes and attempted genocide are prosecuted, noting that Russian President Vladimir Putin escaped punishment for annexing the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and supporting an insurgency in eastern Ukraine's Donbas region that killed over 14,000 people even before this year's war began.

“I’ve heard talks that, you know, there is no threat anymore because they have exhausted themselves. No, they haven’t,” she said of the Russian military, which failed to take Kyiv in the early stages of the war and is now concentrating its firepower in the east.

“They have plenty of troops still who can come (to fight) — They are not counting the lives that they are losing. They are not counting the artillery that they are losing there. So I don’t think that we should underestimate them in the longer term to still keep this up,” Kallas said, despite the low morale and corruption troubling Moscow's forces.

Kallas praised the unity that Europe has shown in punishing Russia for the invasion that began Feb. 24, even though she said it was clear from the beginning that it would be “more and more difficult over time” to hang together.

“First, we did the sanctions that were relatively easy. Now we move to sanctions that are much more difficult. But so far, we have managed to get the unity, even if we have different opinions,” she said in the interview in Stenbock House, a government building where she has her office and holds Cabinet meetings..

“This is normal for democracy. We debate, we discuss, and then we get to the solution. So far, it has been a negative surprise to Putin that we are still united,” Kallas said.

The unity was displayed again Thursday when the European Union granted Ukraine candidate status, binding it more to the West. It set in motion a membership process that could take years or even decades.

Estonia, which shares a 294-kilometer (about 180-mile) border with Russia, has taken a hard-line stance over Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Kallas has criticized other European leaders for talking to Putin and has advocated for isolating Moscow completely, leaving the decision on how to end the war up to Ukraine.

As the war has dragged on, some in the West have suggested reaching a negotiated peace deal with Russia — even if it meant that Ukraine would give up territory. Kallas has warned against it.

In her comments to the AP, she pointed out that this is exactly what happened after Moscow annexed Crimea, backed the separatists in the industrial Donbas and seized territory in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

“For us, it is important to not make that mistake again like we did in Crimea, Donbas, Georgia,” she said. “We have done the same mistake already three times saying that, you know, negotiations, negotiated peace is the goal. ... The only thing that Putin hears from this is that ‘I can do this because no punishment will follow.’

"And every time, every next time will be with more human suffering than the last one was,” she added.

In Ukraine, those committing war crimes and “conducting or trying to conduct genocide” should be prosecuted.

Sanctions against Russia will take effect over time, she said, and one just needs to have “strategic patience.”

Kallas defended criticism that the sanctions appear to hurt ordinary Russians while failing to deter Putin so far.

“And I still think that, you know, the effects should be felt by the Russian population as well, because if you look, the support for Putin is very high,” she said.

Kallas added that Russian soldiers are bragging about war crimes they commit “to their wives and to their mothers. And if the wives and mothers say that ‘This is OK what you are doing there’ ... I mean, this is also the war that Russia and Russian people are holding up in Ukraine,” she said.

On the domestic front, the 45-year-old Kallas is fighting for her political future as Estonia’s two-party government led by her center-right Reform Party fell apart early June as she kicked out junior partner Center Party following disputes over welfare and spending issues amid rampant inflation in the Baltic nation.

Kallas, who has led the Reform Party since 2018 and became Estonia’s first female prime minister in January 2021, started coalition talks this month with two other parties, and they are expected to reach a coalition deal by early July.

If not, Kallas will face the grim prospect of governing a weak one-party minority government until the next general election scheduled for March 2023.


Jari Tanner in Helsinki contributed.


Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

0 Comments
You must be logged in to react.
Click any reaction to login.
0
0
0
0
0

Get Government & Politics updates in your inbox!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

The House Jan. 6 committee held a surprise hearing Tuesday delivering alarming new testimony about Donald Trump’s actions that day. Witness Cassidy Hutchinson is a lesser-known former White House aide who had proximity to power as an adviser to the then-president and his chief of staff Mark Meadows. She rebuffed Trump’s team warnings against testifying and provided firsthand knowledge of what she saw and heard in the run-up to the insurrection. She described an angry and defiant Trump who ignored repeated warnings against summoning the mob to the Capitol on Jan. 6 and then refused to intervene to stop the violence as rioters laid siege.

The latest testimony about the events surrounding the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has Donald Trump rebuffing his own security’s warnings about armed protesters in the crowd gathering for a rally near the White House. A former White House aide also tells the House committee investigating the attack that Trump desperately attempted to join his supporters as they marched to the Capitol. In her testimony Tuesday, Cassidy Hutchinson described an angry, defiant president who grabbed at the steering wheel of the presidential SUV when the Secret Service refused to allow him go to the Capitol. Trump has dismissed her as “a total phony.”

Two of Congress’ staunchest conservatives repelled more centrist challengers to lock up Republican nominations on Tuesday. That happened even as the party’s voters chose to turn out a six-term incumbent in Mississippi. Illinois Republican Rep. Mary Miller, who called the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade a “historic victory for white life” during a weekend rally with former President Donald Trump — her spokesperson said she misspoke — defeated fellow GOP incumbent Rodney Davis. Another Trump ally, Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, one of Congress’ most polarizing members, easily beat back a challenge from a more mainstream Republican. Mississippi Republican Rep. Steven Palazzo, a six-term incumbent, lost to Sheriff Mike Ezell.

President Joe Biden says the U.S. is enhancing its military presence in Europe for the long haul to bolster regional security after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Biden outlined the plan during a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at the alliance's annual leaders' summit in Madrid. Biden says “NATO is strong and united." He says steps taken at the summit will augment its “collective strength.” Biden says the U.S. will establish a permanent headquarters in Poland and send two additional F-35 fighter jet squadrons to the United Kingdom. The U.S. is also sending more air defense and other capabilities to Germany and Italy.

Many observers expected the Jan. 6 committee hearings would be nothing more than reruns, but they've proven much more. They've revealed a storyteller's eye, with focus and clarity, an understanding of how news is digested these days and strong character development. The Republican House leadership's decision to walk away from the examination into former President Donald Trump's effort to stay in office essentially allowed the committee to structure it the way it wanted. The committee has kept a tight grip on the message, and the myriad ways that it is delivered after the hearings are concluded each day.

Russia has shattered weeks of relative calm in Ukraine's capital with a missile attack as Western leaders meeting in Europe prepared to reaffirm their support for Ukraine and condemnation of Russia. President Volodymr Zelenskyy said a 37-year-old man was killed and his daughter and wife injured when missiles hit an apartment building. A railroad worker was also reported killed. Kyiv's mayor speculated the airstrikes were “a symbolic attack” before a NATO summit starting Tuesday. A former U.S. commander in Europe said they also were a signal to Group of Seven leaders meeting Sunday. The Ukrainian air force says planes launched the missiles from over the Caspian Sea, more than 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) away.

The leader of Bosnia’s Serbs says he hopes former U.S. President Donald Trump returns to power. Milorad Dodik said on Sunday that Serbs will “wait for appropriate global circumstances” to reach for their goal of seceding from Bosnia, which he called an “unsustainable state.” Dodik made the comments at a gathering marking the start of Bosnia's bloody breakup of Bosnia 30 years ago. More than 100,000 people died before a U.S.-brokered peace deal ended the country's 1992-95 war. Russia’s war in Ukraine has aroused fears that the turmoil could spill over to the volatile Balkans. Dodik met with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this month and says he's proud to have done so.

Farmers are protesting around the Netherlands as lawmakers vote on proposals to slash emissions of damaging pollutants. The plan will likely force farmers to cut their livestock herds or stop work altogether. The government says emissions of nitrogen oxide and ammonia, which livestock produce, must be drastically reduced close to nature areas that are part of a network of protected habitats for endangered plants and wildlife stretching across the 27-nation European Union. As tractors gathered Tuesday outside the parliament building, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said farmers have the right to protest but not to break the law.

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

News Alert

Breaking News