By Yi Wonju
SEOUL, Feb. 22 (Yonhap) -- The top Ukrainian envoy here stressed that it's "utter nonsense" to raise the idea of an armistice to end Russia's war in his country with a division similar to that of Korea.
One year into Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the war is likely to face a watershed moment in the spring and summer of 2023 with Ukraine's victory possible within the year, Ambassador Dmytro Ponomarenko said during a special interview with Yonhap News Agency on Tuesday.
"As far as we are concerned, Russia can delude itself anyway it wants. I think the suggestion of turning Ukraine into some kind of South and North Korea is utter nonsense," he said. "(Russian President Vladimir) Putin will not stop until he is stopped. This is not the time to accept unfavorable cease-fire proposals or peace deals."
He voiced optimism that Russia's "brutal and unprovoked invasion" of Ukraine will come to an end within this year following a "crucial period" in the yearlong conflict in the coming weeks or months.
"The sooner and the more security assistance Ukraine gets now, the sooner the war will end with a comprehensive, just and lasting peace," he said during the interview at the embassy in Seoul held on the occasion of the anniversary of the outbreak of the war.
Despite views that Ukraine would succumb to Russia's invasion soon, "the Ukrainian leadership and Ukrainian people showed to the world that Ukraine will resist, Ukraine will stay, and Ukraine will fight," he said.
Ponomarenko appreciated South Korea's support for his nation so far, especially humanitarian aid, ranging from medicine to power generators, and expressed hope for the provision of "lethal weapons" as well. He pointed out that Ukraine is "in dire need of modern weapons and military equipment."
"We are still waiting for the decision of the (Korean) government to be changed, and it's not a difficult procedure," he said. "Korea could, and has the ability as the sixth-biggest world economy and the leader of the technological world, to provide us with stronger support, including military support."
Seoul's military assistance will be used for purely defense purposes to protect the Ukrainian people from Russian missile and drone attacks, the envoy emphasized.
Asked about whether Ukraine regrets its decision to give up nuclear weapons in the 1990s, he pointed out that it has left his country vulnerable to Russian aggression, though the measure was taken for the sake of world peace.
"Today, it is obvious that the decision to get rid of nuclear weapons weakened our defense capabilities and probably to a large extent provoked Russia to aggression against Ukraine," he said.
"Nevertheless, there is no sense to speculate about the past. What is done cannot be undone," he added, highlighting Ukraine's commitment to nuclear disarmament and peaceful use of nuclear energy as a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Under the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, the United States, Russia and Britain pledged to offer security assurances to Ukraine in exchange for its handover of all Soviet-era nuclear arms.
The ambassador dismissed Moscow's nuclear threats as an "intimidation campaign" to sow fear and force concessions from Ukraine.
He also emphasized that the Russian invasion should not be left unpunished by the international community, as it could send the wrong message to countries like North Korea, underlining the need to prevent such aggression from becoming "the new normal."
On bilateral relations with South Korea, he urged the establishment of a hotline or "permanent communication" between South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, to foster cooperation in such areas as renewable energy and reconstruction programs.
He said that Ukraine and South Korea are in consultations on the visit of Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal to Seoul, during which the two sides plan to sign an agreement for the Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) on financial support for development projects in Ukraine.