One year of war, searching for peace – Interview with the Ukrainian Ambassador in Tirana, Volodymyr Shkurov

It would be the end of January 2022, when Albanian Post would conduct the first interview with the Ukrainian ambassador to Albania, Volodymyr Shkurov, regarding the ongoing escalating conflict that the Russian Federation was carrying out over Kiev.

It was seen as almost impossible at the time that there would be a real transition to armed conflict near the border in the Donbass region, where bullets had been fired from time to time since Moscow’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Even less, to think that a real war, which would affect the old continent and the whole world, would take place.

Now a year later, a lot has changed and Ambassador Shkurov spoke again to the Albanian Post, sticking to the same principle that the solution must come from diplomacy.

But how possible is this and above all, in real conditions, what is a real victory for Kiev?

Full interview:

Albanian Post: How do you recall the first hours of the Russian aggression? What has changed now, one year after?

On the night of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, I could not believe that this was a reality, that such senseless barbarism was possible in the civilized world of the 21st century.

But terrible, tragic events: the bombing of cities and villages, hitting residential buildings, then Irpin, Bucha, Mariupol, the destruction of Ukrainians, terrible crimes against humanity, millions of our refugees, left no doubt that this is a cruel war against my people and my state.

Albanian Post: One year of war, what has changed for Ukraine’s diplomacy and how much have developed the relations with western countries, including Albania?

The diplomatic front of Ukraine, to put it this way, this year has become relevant for the diplomatic priorities of the countries of Western Europe, the USA, and the entire civilized world.

Albania has also demonstrated an uncompromising position in support of Ukraine, and with it, support for democracy and freedom at such international platforms as the UN Security Council, OSCE, Human Rights Council, BSEC, etc.

The visit of the Prime Minister of Albania, Mr. Edi Rama, to Kyiv in June last year was, first of all, an act of diplomatic support for Ukraine. 2023 is the year of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Ukraine and Albania.

Prime Minister Mr. Edi Rama, talking by phone with our President, Mr. Volodymyr Zelensky on January 13th, announced the opening of the Embassy of Albania in Ukraine this year, which certainly indicates the optimization and expansion of our diplomatic relations and unequivocal support of our country.

Albanian Post: Many Ukrainians found refuge here in Albania after the war. How were they welcomed here and how many have settled indefinitely in Albania?

In the first months of the war, Albania received our women and children who were fleeing the war. The most touching thing for me was that the Embassy was constantly called by Albanians from different cities, offering their apartments for Ukrainians; they carried medicine, food, and many necessary things to be sent to Ukraine; accepted more than 400 children and their mothers from March to September.

Ukrainians can stay in the Center for temporarily displaced people, having the most necessary provision. Currently, there are 441 Ukrainians in Albania (304 adults and 137 children) who applied for help at the Embassy.

Albanian Post: In an interview for us, some days before the war started, you stated that the only solution, was diplomatic. Is it now, in this point of time?

Every diplomat believes in the strength of his profession. And in the first days and weeks of the war, I hoped that the power of diplomacy would win.

However, when Russia spoke exclusively in the language of an ultimatum during the negotiations, we had no choice but to become a wall to protect the independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine with weapons in hand.

Throughout the year, Ukrainians heroically defended their country at the cost of their lives. I am proud to represent here in Albania my indomitable and courageous people.

Albanian Post: We have seen many parallels between Kosova and Ukraine in Russia`s rhetoric of war during this year, which are entirely unfair, because the situation is entirely different. Has this comparison brought Ukraine and Kosova closer during this year? A real chance to formally know Kosova as an independent country maybe?

No one feels as close to the current experiences of Ukrainians as those who survived war, genocide, and the destruction of peaceful life. Kosovo Albanians experienced all this not so long ago.

However, the parallels that the Russians cite in their rhetoric are speculative and testify only to efforts to find justification for Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

Currently, Ukraine is fighting for victory over a strong and cruel enemy.

I agree with you that the situation with Kosovo has its own specifics and that this issue should be considered separately, without applying formal parallels.

At the same time, I would like to say that there is a public opinion that is currently both politicized and emotionally overloaded. Therefore, in my opinion, the political component of the Kosovo issue will be returned to Ukraine at a later stage.

I want to emphasize that Ukraine is grateful to the authorities and the people of Kosovo for their solidarity and support, as well as for the humanitarian aid that Kosovo provided to our people.

Albanian Post: What is victory, according to you, for Ukraine now?

For me, Victory is the end of bloodshed, it is freedom, independence, children’s laughter, warmth, and light in every Ukrainian home from the Carpathian Mountains to the Crimean embankments.

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