Ukrainian ambassador to South Africa Liubov Abravitova reflects on the war, one year later

24 February 2023 - 16:03
By Amanda Khoza
Ukrainian ambassador to South Africa Liubov Abravitova.
Image: Alon Skuy. Ukrainian ambassador to South Africa Liubov Abravitova.

It’s been a year since Russia launched its deadly attack on Ukraine. Aerial attacks, missile strikes and rocket salvos continue to hit various parts of the country.

Speaking to TimesLIVE on the first anniversary of the war, Ukrainian ambassador to South Africa Liubov Abravitova said while the attacks on her country continue, she believes Russia has lost the war “strategically”.

“Russian president Vladimir Putin’s regime miscalculated in everything. First, they united the Ukranians, they united the EU and Nato, united the organisation of the UN because [we] see unprecedented support towards all the resolutions.

“We also see that Putin miscalculated in terms of the evaluation of his army skills. It’s very easy to see because the Ukrainians soldiers and officers are fighting for their land and protecting civilians because Russia is continuing to hit our infrastructure and civilian objects, while the Russian soldiers don’t really know the reason for this war,” she said.

In April last year South Africa came under fire after it chose to abstain from a crucial vote against Russia by the UN General Assembly, which sought to suspend the country from the UN Human Rights Council.

Most countries voted for Russia’s suspension.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government has always said the war should be ended through “peaceful negotiations and dialogue”.

After South Africa’s decision, Ramaphosa met various heads of states, including Putin, Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky, the US’s Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping to explain South Africa's position.

The war has had a ripple effect on the global economy’s supply chain, affecting products such as wheat and fertiliser, among others, resulting in an increase in the cost of living. 

Since the war started, said Abravitova, more than 135,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in Ukraine.

“I cannot tell you the numbers on the Ukrainian side. The counteroffensive operation in September has revealed huge atrocities and massive graves in the fields and so we don’t know how many people have died in occupied territories.

“Every day the missile attacks and bombings are happening in all the cities in Ukraine and they are obviously bringing losses, not only among the military personnel but to the civilian population as well.”

She said Ukraine continues to receive political, humanitarian and military support from various world leaders to fight back.

The past 12 months had proven that Russia’s actions were unjustified, she said.

“Initially the proclaimed reasons to invade an independent country was demilitarisation and others, but this showed to the world that the actions were artificial. These reasons were used to justify the bigger goal Putin had, which was to eliminate Ukraine as a nation and not to allow the country to exist out of the orbit of Russia.”

In her message to Russians, Abravitova said: “We don’t have to speak to the Russians anymore because they do not understand any other language than the language of force. We can continue to talk only when they withdraw their troops, otherwise we will need to continue to protect ourselves with all possible means.”

She hopes the war will eventually end through a “peaceful solution or diplomatic negotiations. But those negotiations will be possible only when Russia withdraws its troops, stops bombing peaceful cities of Ukraine and then we will be able to explore those solutions.”

“Russia has not showed any goodwill to withdraw its troops in the territory of the Ukraine,” she added.

According to Ukrainian embassy statistics, Russia's total combat losses from February 24 2022 to February 22 2023 were approximately:

  • personnel – about 145,060;
  • tanks ‒ 3,334;
  • artillery systems – 2,345;
  • anti-aircraft warfare systems ‒ 243;
  • aircraft – 299;
  • helicopters – 287;
  • UAV operational-tactical level – 2,026;
  • cruise missiles – 873;
  • warships/boats – 18;
  • vehicles and fuel tanks – 5,212; and
  • special equipment – 226.


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