“I want Ukraine to exist.” Ukrainian MP explains why the West needs to do more

Inna Sovsun is a member of the opposition in the Ukrainian Parliament, in the liberal and pro-European party Holos. Faced with an existential threat, the Ukrainian government and its people work together to repel the Russian invasion. They still need more help. She spoke to TIME’s Aryn Baker via video phone from a friend’s house in Kyiv. His own house, on the top floor of a building, no longer feels safe.

It has been relatively quiet here in Kyiv. But in other cities it’s just terrible. I look at these pictures of Kharkov which has been transformed into Aleppo. It was my home town. I went to school there. In Kiev, we hear air raid warnings from time to time. It’s frightening. The idea that the Russians could enter at any time on tanks is difficult to accept. This feeling of not being safe is exhausting.
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As a deputy, leaving would be a bad signal, an acknowledgment of defeat. But my son is 500 kilometers away, in western Ukraine with his father, my ex-husband. My father is somewhere in Kiev in the field of territorial defense, and we have contact with him only once in a few days – my mother is going crazy because of this. And my boyfriend is in the army, I don’t even know in which region. There’s no good reason why I’m so far away from my loved ones right now, but that’s how it is.

There are roads that lead [in and out of] Kiev who are rid of Russian bastards. If they don’t surround the city, it’s fine. Kiev will remain strong. If they do, it will be much more complicated. Millions of people are still here. They are trying to defend the city and they won’t leave. They are determined. It’s not like I’m fighting in the street. Not yet. I hope it won’t come to that. But it really depends on so many factors. Yes [the Russians] keep bombing our cities from the air, there’s really not much we can do. We saw this [the Russians] have done to towns around Kiev. Irpin has just been bombed. He does not exist anymore. This is why we need a no-fly zone. It’s a matter of survival for us.

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We have asked NATO to establish a no-fly zone, but NATO says this will cause a wider conflict. Well, it already is. What the West must understand is that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin has gone absolutely mad. He is mad and he must be murdered. Someone should really work on this.

As long as he remains president [of Russia], it is not only a danger for Ukraine. He has already said that he does not like Poland being in NATO. So let’s imagine he takes Kiev, he takes Ukraine and his army is on the Polish border. So what will NATO do? Still need to get involved. It will be a Third World War, so why not start it now, when millions of lives can be saved?

NATO claims that this is just a local conflict that is not going to spread – that it is enough to let a dictator take control of an Eastern European state. I think we learned that lesson in World War II. Everyone said, “Well, Czechoslovakia, who cares? Let Putin, sorry Hitler, take it and you’ll be fine. It won’t be because Putin is the Hitler of our time. He is completely mad. He is completely delusional. He is completely out of control. And that’s why NATO’s denial is actually very frightening. Because it means the most powerful military bloc in the world is denying existing reality.

NATO will have to intervene one way or another. And the best way to do that now is to help Ukraine. And if NATO doesn’t want to get directly into a fight — let’s imagine that argument has some merit — well, just give us the fighter jets. We have the pilots. That’s all, that’s all we ask. Give us the fighter jets, keep giving us weapons and we’ll fight this battle alone for the whole world, if that’s the price to pay.

Parliament as a legislative body is not really functioning at the moment. I mean, what can we do? But the government continues to function. It doesn’t matter which party we belong to; we work together to the best of our abilities. Some deputies work with humanitarian aid, coordinate food supplies. Some joining the Army. Many deputies joined the territorial defense units. Many are with their constituents. I do not represent a constituency, so like the other MPs who speak good English and know how to communicate, I am addressing the world, all the international media who are willing to listen to us. And this is of crucial importance because I am absolutely sure that without the support of the West, we could not survive. The only party that is not involved is the pro-Russian group. Ironically, the majority of MPs from the pro-Russian group left Ukraine for the West, not for Mother Russia, which they claim to love so much. But the others are united. So the government is working. The government is not leaving. We are not evacuated.

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What happens next depends on the level of support we get. I don’t see the Ukrainian people or the Ukrainian government surrendering. It’s not an option. I see these guys fighting. I see resistance and resilience. So the question is how long will this war last. And it really depends on the support we will get from the West. If we at least get the fighter jets, then we can fight back and kick them out of our country. If we don’t we will just see this huge devastation of the country and lives will be destroyed.

[This morning]the Russians have opened a humanitarian corridor from Mariupol, a major port city in southeastern Ukraine that has been under siege for a week [the shelling started up again just after Sovsun spoke with TIME]. People were sitting in basements, in shelters, in bomb shelters with their children without any electricity. It was around zero degrees. Thus, the Russians authorized a humanitarian corridor for the departure of women and children. And these women, they probably realize they’re not coming back. They no longer have a home. And now I think, I was building my life in Kiev. I was saving to buy my apartment. If I have to leave, if my house is destroyed, it’s because I’m 37 and I have to start all over again. I don’t know where, and worse, I don’t know why. So I think of those women and children who are leaving Mariupol at this time. Of course, they’re happy to go to a safe place where the bombs don’t fall on their heads every day. But it’s painful to realize that’s what they’re going through.

The future I want for Ukraine? First of all, I want Ukraine to exist. I want us all to be alive. I want all of us to be able to choose where we want to live. I want us all to rebuild Ukraine. I want to rebuild Ukraine into a liberal democratic state where everyone’s rights are respected, where everyone can realize their dreams. It was my dream before, that’s why I came to parliament. And it’s the same dream right now. When we win, and it may take years or months, it’s really up to the West to decide now – I really want my son to be able to stay here. I miss him so much.


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