International

Ukraine's prime minister says, if passed, $60B U.S. aid package will be critical

Denys Shmyhal, Ukraine's Prime Minister, at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Denys Shmyhal, Ukraine's Prime Minister, at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Mhari Shaw for NPR

As Congress considers whether to send more aid to Ukraine, that country's prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, is visiting the U.S., and making the case for why further funding matters.

Shmyhal has been traveling around the nation meeting with members of Congress and officials in the Biden administration.

He says that the $60 billion aid package is critical to Ukraine's war effort.

In an in-person interview with NPR's Andrew Limbong on All Things Considered, Shmyhal talked about how that aid would make a difference on the front lines, and the state of the war in general.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Interview Highlights

Andrew Limbong: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said recently that without aid, Ukraine doesn't have a chance of winning. And I'm curious if you can tell me how so?

Prime Minister Shmyhal: We need more ammunition. I visited the front line four weeks ago and asked the guys how are they. They have one artillery shell per day, per 20 kilometers of the frontline. Russians have dozens or even hundreds of artillery shells per day on the same line of the front.

Russians are absolutely learning the lessons and they improve their weaponry. They make huge progress during this war. So we need weapons and we will [do] our job, not just deter them, but push them out of our territory. I should mentioned that we [liberated] 50% of occupied territories during these two years of full scale war. We liberated the Black Sea. So now the Russian fleet is hiding somewhere on the east of the Black Sea. So these examples demonstrate that if we have support of United States --when we have support of our partners--we may push Russians out of our land.

Limbong: On the note of equipment, the Pentagon's office of the Inspector General issued a report earlier this year, and it said that there are nearly 40,000 weapons that were provided to Ukraine but have not been accounted for. If you do get more support and more weapons, will there be any improvement on how those weapons are accounted for and tracked so we know where they are.

Shmyhal: According to my information, all that the United States supplied to Ukraine is absolutely clearly accounted [for] and we cooperate with inspectors general from Defense [department], from Department of State, from USAID.

I personally have met them two times and we have regular communication with inspectors general and they never communicate about any problems with accountability and transparency of using United States equipment or weaponry. So it's crucially important for us to be accountable and to be transparent for using of equipment of our partners. So because the United States is the biggest partner, the biggest supplier of military support, we pay special attention to questions of accountability.

Limbong: So you've never heard from any of our people from us that like they've been like, "hey, we don't know where these guys [the weapons] are?"

Shmyhal: No, no. Sometimes they told us about this.

But we shouldn't forget that we are that; we all are on the influence of Russian propaganda, Russian disinformation, Russian cyberattacks. They play a role in the sense of disinformation [in] all of our societies, Ukrainian and Western societies and United States society. And especially, [they] implement these messages that 'Ukrainians are using weaponry not in proper ways,' 'they are selling this weaponry' and so on. So because of this, we cooperate with our partners very closely and we are very accountable for this, to destroy this propaganda and this lie from the Russian side.

Limbong: Ukraine has actually taken a lot of drastic steps to combat corruption within the country. I was wondering if you could lay out some of those steps and explain what has been done and what you think needs to be done further.

Shmyhal: We pay huge attention to implementation of reforms and during these two years of war, we've made huge progress. And I should say that we implement all needed legislation and create all needed anti-corruption infrastructure. So we created an anti-corruption National Bureau and National Agency for Prevention of Corruption, National Anti-Corruption Court and Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor. So all the needed infrastructure is created. It works perfectly. As a demonstrated result, unfortunately for me — they demonstrated some cases when high level, top level officials are caught on corruption.

But it means that this infrastructure will bring results. So [we're making] our next steps, we improving this infrastructure, we improving our legislation. We implement all the directives of the European Union because now we [are making] absolutely big steps towards EU and now we are opening a negotiation process. And it means that this is the last step before EU membership.

So I hope that it will take not more than two years to go through the negotiation process and we will be the fastest country in sense of [obtaining] EU membership. We will be ready, we will do our homework and I believe that in two years we will give the ball on the side of European partners to take a political decision about membership of Ukraine in the EU.

From other side, we have very good information from a group of countries against corruption, so named GRECO, which named progress of Ukraine in the sphere of fighting corruption as a "remarkable." Plus, Transparency International said the same, that we made huge steps toward fighting corruption. And the last one, we implemented digitalization because computers do not take bribes, it's impossible to corrupt a computer. And more than 130 state and public services now are absolutely digitalized without any human factor. So this is a crucial factor [in preventing] corruption. And I think that we will continue very actively to implement all of these steps to make corruption impossible in our country.

Limbong: Fighting corruption can be a double edged sword, I think. Like when you say when you catch someone committing corruption and you say, here's this person, on the world stage, people say "they're catching a lot of people of corruption, they must have a lot of corruption!"

Whereas on your side, you're like, "We're getting all of this corruption out of here." How do you combat the perception of corruption while fighting corruption itself?

Shmyhal: Thank you so much for this question, actually. This is something that we try to explain to our society through our partners. When we catch corruption, it doesn't mean that we have so much corruption. It means that our system, that our anti-corruption system, works.

So the human factor is presented all around the world, unfortunately. But the main issue is to demonstrate that on the high political level, there is no corruption, that there is no systematic corruption.

So all of these issues are not presented in Ukraine, so this is crucial and actually we demonstrate that we are absolutely clear and open for this reforms and we will implement it step by step.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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