May 5, 2022 - World

Ukraine's ambassador sets high bar for "victory"

Onlookers view smoke from an airstrike as they stand before Ukraine's flag.

Onlookers watch smoke rising from an airstrike in Lviv, Ukraine, a month into the war. Photo: Aleksey Filippov/AFP via Getty Images.

Ukraine's U.S. ambassador, Oksana Markarova, is setting a high bar for victory in her country's war: pushing all Russian troops from Ukrainian territory — including the Crimean Peninsula and Donbas regions claimed as their territory since 2014.

Why it matters: As the war drags into its 10th week, it’s a sign Ukraine is increasingly looking ahead and gaining confidence — which seemed absurd at the start of the war.

  • But declaring it will accept only total victory complicates any peace talks, amid fears of potential Russian use of weapons of mass destruction.

What she’s saying: “The victory for us is when we will have no Russian troops within our territory, when we restore integrity and sovereignty, and when the war crimes have been taken into account," Markarova told a group of reporters Thursday.

  • A spokesperson from the Embassy of Ukraine confirmed to Axios that Markarova's definition includes restoring sovereignty to Crimea and Donbas, the former of which Russia has annexed and the latter of which pro-Russian separatists have controlled for eight years.
  • "To get to this victory might be more difficult than talking about it," Markarova acknowledged.
  • "We are peaceful, sovereign country. All we want to is live peacefully within our internationally recognized borders."

What we're watching: Congress is still working on President Biden's request for a $33 billion aid package for Ukraine.

That includes $20 billion in fresh military aid.

  • “Time is of the essence here,” Markarova said of the request. “It’s essential for us to get it as soon as possible."

What's next: Ukrainian and US officials say the next couple days leading up to May 9 are a crucial and dangerous period in Russia's war on Ukraine, as Axios reported last month.

  • May 9 is a major holiday in the Russian Federation, when the country marks its World War II victory over the Nazis.
  • There has been speculation Russian President Vladimir Putin will use it to declare some sort of nominal victory — or formally declare war on Ukraine, allowing him to call up more forces.
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