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The AP Interview: Estonian PM says do not play down Russia


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TALLINN, Estonia — Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has instructed The Associated Press that the West should not underestimate Russia’s army capabilities in Ukraine, saying Moscow is in it for the lengthy haul as the struggle enters its fifth month.

Kallas stated in an interview Wednesday that Europe ought to make sure that these committing struggle crimes and tried genocide are prosecuted, noting that Russian President Vladimir Putin escaped punishment for annexing the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and supporting an insurgency in japanese Ukraine’s Donbas area that killed over 14,000 folks even earlier than this yr’s struggle started.

“I’ve heard talks that, you know, there is no threat anymore because they have exhausted themselves. No, they haven’t,” she stated of the Russian army, which didn’t take Kyiv within the early levels of the struggle and is now concentrating its firepower within 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 stated, regardless of the low morale and corruption troubling Moscow’s forces.

Kallas praised the unity that Europe has proven in punishing Russia for the invasion that started Feb. 24, though she stated it was clear from the start that it could be “more and more difficult over time” to hold collectively.

“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 stated within the interview in Stenbock House, a authorities constructing the place she has her workplace and holds Cabinet conferences..

“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 stated.

She stated she was hopeful that Ukraine shall be granted candidate standing for the European Union on the bloc’s upcoming summit in Brussels, regardless of the preliminary divisions over it. The EU’s govt arm, the European Commission, threw its weight behind Ukraine’s candidacy final week.

Some international locations “were very skeptical two months ago,” Kallas said, but now there are “different signals coming from different member states … that they are on board.”

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 stated. “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, these committing struggle crimes and “conducting or trying to conduct genocide” needs to be prosecuted.

Sanctions towards Russia will take impact over time, she stated, and one simply must have “strategic patience.”

Kallas defended criticism that the sanctions seem to harm odd Russians whereas failing to discourage Putin to date.

“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 stated.

Kallas added that Russian troopers are bragging about struggle 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 stated.


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

The AP Interview: Estonian PM says do not play down Russia.
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