‘I Want Ukraine to Exist.’ A Ukrainian Member of Parliament on Why the West Needs to Do More
Inna Sovsun (opposition member of Ukraine’s Parliament) is part of the Liberal, Pro-European Holos party. Faced with an existential threat, Ukraine’s government and its people are working together to repel the Russian invasion. There is still more to be done. She spoke to TIME’s Aryn Baker by video phone from a friend’s house in Kyiv. She no longer feels secure in her own apartment, which is on the second floor of an apartment building.
The situation has been quiet in Kyiv. But in other cities, it’s just terrible. I’m looking at those pictures from KharkhivThis has been transformed into Aleppo. It is my hometown. It was my hometown. Every now and then, there are air raid alerts in Kyiv. It’s scary. Accepting the possibility that Russians could invade tanks at any moment is difficult. It is exhausting to feel unsafe.
Being a parliament member would signal defeat, and it is a bad sign. My son lives 500 km away in west Ukraine, with my ex-husband’s dad. My dad is somewhere in Kyiv in territorial defense, and we only have contact with him once in a few days—my mom is going crazy because of that. And my boyfriend is with the army, I don’t even know which region. There is no good reason for me being so far away from my loved ones right now, but that’s what it is.
Roads lead to many places. [in and out of]The Russian Bastards are not allowed to enter Kyiv. If they don’t encircle the city, then we’re fine. Kyiv is strong. They will not be able to do so. This is going to make things more difficult. Millions upon millions of people still live here. They will continue to protect the city. They’re determined. It’s not like I’m fighting on the streets. No. But I do not believe it will. However, it all depends upon so many variables. What if [the Russians]We can’t continue to bomb our cities from the sky, and there are very few things we can do. This is what we have witnessed. [the Russians]Have done it to Kyiv. IrpinIt was just being bombarded. It doesn’t exist anymore. This is why we have a no fly zone. This is essential for our survival.
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NATO refused to create a no fly zone. We requested this because it would lead to a larger conflict. Well, it’s already happening. That’s what the West should understand. [Russian President Vladimir]Putin has become completely mad. This man is mad and must be executed. He should have someone working on it.
So long as he remains president [of Russia]He’s not a mere threat to Ukraine. He already said that he doesn’t like that Poland is in NATO. So let’s imagine he takes Kyiv, he takes Ukraine, and his army is on the Polish border. How will NATO respond? However, you will need to be involved. This will be the Third World War. Why not get involved now, before millions can be saved.
NATO pretends that this is just a local conflict that is not going to spread—that just letting a dictator take over an eastern European state will be enough. This lesson is one that we all learned from the Second World War. Everybody was saying, “Well, Czechoslovakia, who cares about that? Let’s let Putin, sorry Hitler, take it and everything will be fine.” It won’t because Putin is the Hitler of our times. He’s completely insane. He’s completely delusional. He’s completely out of control. NATO is in complete denial, which is very frightening. It means the most powerful military bloc worldwide denies reality.
NATO has to intervene. Helping Ukraine is the best and most effective way to accomplish this. And if NATO doesn’t want to get into a fight directly—let’s imagine there is value to that argument—well then just give us the fighter jets. We already have the pilots. That’s all, that’s all we’re asking for. Give us the fighter jets, continue to supply us with weapons and we shall fight this battle for the whole world on our own, if that’s the price we have to pay.
Right now, the parliament isn’t really functioning as a legislative institution. So what are we to do? The government still functions. It doesn’t matter anymore which party we belong to; we are working together to the best of our abilities. Some MPs work with humanitarian aid and coordinate food supplies. SomeYou can join the Army. Many of these MPs joined territorial defense units. Many of them are in their constituents. I do not represent a constituency, so like the other MPs who speak good English and who are able to communicate, I’m talking to the world, all international media that are willing to listen to us. And that is crucially important because I’m absolutely sure that without support from the West we wouldn’t be able to survive. Only the pro-Russian party is not participating. Ironically, most of the pro-Russian party’s MPs left Ukraine to seek the West and not Mother Russia. The others, however, are united. The government works. The government will not leave. We’re not being evacuated.
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What will happen next is dependent on how much support we get. I don’t see the Ukrainian people or the Ukrainian government surrendering. It is impossible. I see these guys fighting. I can see their resistance and resilience. Now the real question is: How long will this war last? This will depend on how much support the West provides. We can defeat them and get the fighter jets if we have enough. If we don’t then we shall just see this enormous devastation of the country and lives will be destroyed.
[This morning]In response to the siege of Mariupol in Southeast Ukraine, which was under siege since last week, the Russians created a humanitarian corridor. [the shelling started up again just after Sovsun spoke with TIME]. Without electricity, people were sat in basements and shelters with their kids. It was around zero degrees. The Russians created a humanitarian corridor to allow women and their children to flee. And those women, they probably realize they’re not coming back. They don’t have a home anymore. And now I’m thinking, I was building my life in Kyiv. My goal was to purchase my apartment. If I have to leave, if my home is destroyed, it means I’m 37 and I have to start everything again from scratch. I don’t know where, and the worst of it, I don’t know why. So, I’m thinking about those women and children leaving Mariupol right now. Of course, they’re happy to be leaving for somewhere safe where bombs are not falling on their heads every day. But it’s painful to realize that this is what they’re going through.
My vision of the Ukraine’s future First, Ukraine should exist. All of us should be alive. All of us should be free to decide where they want to live. All of us should rebuild Ukraine. I want to rebuild Ukraine as a democratic liberal state where everyone’s rights are respected, where everyone can fulfill their dreams. That was my dream before, that’s why I came to the parliament. This is my same dream. When we win, and that can take years or that can take months, that’s really up for the West to decide right now—I really just want my son to be able to stay here. It’s so hard to imagine him without me.