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Oleksii Danilov: Putin is like cornered rat. His life has become a nightmare

Monday, 19 December 2022, 04:30

Despite new threats from the Russian Federation and repeated missile attacks on Ukraine, Oleksii Danilov, Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council (NSDC), always looks calm.

During a meeting with Ukrainska Pravda, he exudes confidence and shows almost no emotion.

Last year in the period before New Year, Ukrainska Pravda also recorded an interview with Danilov.

At that time, a full-scale war with Russia seemed quite unreal, something in which no one really believed. Therefore, the conversation centred not on preparations for the defence of the country, but mainly on internal politics and the government's struggle with the oligarchs.


This time, we decided to record an interview with the secretary of the NSDC to find out whether Russia is preparing terrorist attacks for the New Year holidays and what Ukrainians can expect in the near future.

Oleksii Danilov told us about missile threats and how Ukrainians are learning to defend themselves against Shahed drones and blackouts, explained why Putin is afraid of [Chechen leader and military commander on Russia’s side -ed.] Ramzan Kadyrov, emphasised that Ukraine is preparing for various scenarios when it comes to Russian attacks, and warned [Ukrainian Commander-in-chief] Valerii Zaluzhnyi against political temptations.

"We have learned how to fight Shaheds, but it is problematic that Russia is negotiating with Iran regarding missiles"

UP: Usually, in the second half of December, Ukrainians prepare for the celebration of the New Year and Christmas. We don't feel like celebrating this year. Are the Russians preparing to terrorise Ukraine during the holidays?

OD: I am not a molfar [person with purported magical abilities in Hutsul - an ethnic group spanning parts of western Ukraine - culture], who can say that there will be blue or white or red.

In war, there are no days off, there are no holidays; we cannot ignore anything. We must be ready for everything.

This is a difficult period for our country.


UP: Earlier, you have stated that the Russians have enough missiles for several more massive attacks on the territory of Ukraine. What is the situation now?

OD: The Russians do not have a great many missiles. But it is a problem that they are negotiating with Iran for shipments.

This is a challenge for us. Our president, those who deal with international contracts, and the minister of foreign affairs are doing everything possible to prevent this from happening. But we cannot guarantee that it will not happen.

Since 1979, Iran has been living in its own paradigm, so to speak, in its own world.

But if the Russian Federation is now asking for missiles from that country, then this means that the Russians do not have domestic production capabilities.

They produce some missiles of their own, but the number they had at the beginning of the full-scale war cannot be compared with what they are producing.

Oleksii Danilov: "The Russian Federation must be isolated from civilised society because of their nuclear weapons. They are very dangerous and have proven that they are sick"

UP: How many attacks do they have enough missiles for?

OD: If we count the massive attacks that have already been carried out, then they have at most two or three left, or they may be able to scrape together four.

But after that, they will completely run out of missiles, which would be considered unacceptable, since they may have to face completely different challenges, and so they have to leave at least some in reserve.

Just so you understand, they have already reached and passed, quite a long time ago, the limit that they were supposed to keep to, according to the standards.

They still have S-300 [Soviet long range surface-to-air missile systems] missiles, which they are using now, unfortunately, over our cities. They have more or less enough of these missiles.

UP: They still have Shaheds. And they have a lot of them, if I'm not mistaken.

OD: They have Shaheds, but I want to note that we have learned how to fight them.

Unless there is force majeure. Recently, there was a case when we shot down 100% of the drones they launched.

UP: When 13 out of 13 were shot down?

OD: Yes.

But in any case, the problem remains, because even if one person dies as a result of attacks by these Shaheds, it is a tragedy for us.

UP: The Russians continue to target the energy system. Have we learned how to prevent a blackout? Is a complete blackout of Ukraine still possible?

OD: I won't tell you what we have learned, because I don't want to jinx it.

I can say for sure that everyone is doing their best in every sphere to ensure the livelihood of our country.

The enemy can do whatever they want, given that they have risked the destruction of their own country.

And this is not our decision, they are the ones who decided to destroy the Russian Federation. And they themselves are fully engaged in this issue.

We had only one request for them: to get away from us, go back to their territory. But those days are over.

Now they have to make satisfaction, pay contributions and reparations and so on. After that, we can talk with them about something for the future.

At the same time, I would like to emphasise that the Russian Federation must be deprived of nuclear weapons.

We do not give people with mental illness, for example, sharp objects or matches. Such people are isolated from society.

The Russian Federation must be isolated from civilised society because of their nuclear weapons. They are very dangerous and have proven that they are sick.


Putin is afraid of Kadyrov

UP: What is happening in the Russian government? After their troops left Kherson, Russian journalists wrote that the Russian elite have finally realised the losses being sustained in the war. Does the NSBC have any data on whether dissatisfaction with Putin is growing among the Russian political and business elite?

OD: I don't understand what the words "elite" and "Russia" could have in common. These are not elites, but people who, thanks to their proximity to Putin and this terrorist consortium, had the opportunity to fill their pockets. 

If they were the elite, then on 24 February they should have said that this is not possible.

There is a part of the elite that has left the country. I can still refer to these people as elites, because they have taken a position. And people who, you know, say one thing today, another tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow – the third day – this is not the elite. 

As for dissatisfaction with the processes that are taking place in their "swamps", I can say that this has been happening since April, after we threw them out of the Kyiv, Sumy, and Chernihiv oblasts and part of the Kharkiv Oblast in late March. 

Then there was a powerful operation by the entire defence sector in Kharkiv Oblast – this was a whole chain. 

Now they understand that they have zero chance of winning this war. And not because someone is helping us, but because this is a war of worldviews. It resembles the war that took place in the last century, when every country united against fascism, without exception.

Putin's Russia today is a continuation of modern fascism. 

And if Hitler once wanted to destroy the Jews and saw that as his task, Putin similarly does not hide that he wants to destroy our nation. 

Of course, we will not let him do this, we will do everything in our power so that they fail.

Oleksii Danilov: "I don't understand what the words "elite" and "Russia" could have in common"

UP: Can we say who exactly in the Russian government is dissatisfied with Putin right now?

OD: They have a lot of processes going on, and as always, these are undercover. There is no open public discussion, public democracy, which exists in many countries of the world, including ours; everything happens undercover there. 

It’s possible that one day we will wake up, and then everything has already changed. As an example, let me remind you what happened on 1 May 1991 on Red Square. 

There were traditional celebrations held at that time: a parade, flags, leaders standing there at the mausoleum, and so on. 

But four months later, the USSR, a country that was believed would never fall apart, ceased to exist.

And it was necessary to declare a "state of emergency", as it was referred to in Russian at the time. Gorbachev had gone to Crimea (Ukraine), and the whole thing [the attempted coup - ed.] started and ended immediately. 

So we can expect certain events to happen there. They will take place there.

UP: Who are the main lobbyists for war in Russia now? Kiriyenko and Patrushev?

OD: In fact, the most terrible thing for us is that the Russian population’s support for the war is the main contributing factor in its continuation. We have some sociological research, and most of the population supports all this. 

After 22 years of bullying and rape of the Russian people by Putin, they have been so brainwashed that they now support the actions of the authorities.

And they say that we are supposedly their "brothers, sisters" and so on. It's a strange thing when they treat us like this. 

If the Russians don't have an external enemy, they break up very quickly. In the Soviet Union, there was an external enemy, namely, countries with a capitalist way of life.

I am of a certain age, and I remember that on Sundays there used to be a programme called "International Panorama". It lasted up to 20 minutes, and the host was almost constantly saying that "see, rotting capitalism, they will now come to an end, they have nothing there, they have unemployment, they are naked, barefoot, they are suffering", and so on. 

It was such a nightmare of horrors. At the same time, everyone wanted to go on a business trip to a capitalist country to bring back some shoes, trousers, a jacket, and so on. 

I think that throughout his childhood and his whole life, Putin was imbued with these things and still lives in such a paradigm. 


UP: Kadyrov and Prigozhin: why are they allowed to criticise the military command? Does the Kremlin allow them to do this, or are they independent?

OD: In the Russian Federation, there is a separate Russian army, and there is a separate Kadyrov Army. If Putin had not given Kadyrov full freedom of action and allowed him and all his accomplices to do whatever they wanted with impunity in any city of the Russian Federation, then Ichkeria [Chechnya] would have rebelled long ago and would already be free. 

They have an agreement whereby Putin gives them everything: money, preferences, opportunities, orders, everything. In return, Ichkeria remains part of Russia. 

As soon as Putin is gone, Ichkeria will become a free country. Either with Kadyrov or without Kadyrov, believe me, this will happen without fail and very, very quickly. Because this is a separate country that has nothing to do with the Russian Federation at all.

The situation is different there. Everyone knows, including Kadyrov, that it was Putin who gave the command to kill Kadyrov's father. And according to the laws that these people have, there must be a response. Why Kadyrov does not do this is a different conversation.

Putin is afraid of Kadyrov, because this is a person who can create a lot of trouble for him. 

"If the Russians do not have an external enemy, they break up very quickly"

UP: What's the story with Yevgeny Prigozhin [founder and head of the Wagner Group private military company - ed.]?

OD: This is a person who was allowed to have huge financial opportunities through access to budget funds that he could rob, including from the Russian army, to spend on food and many other items. 

And now he has his private army, called the Wagner Group, which does a rather unpleasant job. Because these are hired killers, terrorists.

And, of course, Prigozhin does not have a future, because he heads a terrorist organisation. The whole of present day Russia is a terrorist organisation.

UP: Does the National Security and Defence Council have intelligence on what sort of life Putin is living now, where he is, is he sane at all?

OD: His life is a nightmare, because he wakes up in the morning - I don't know in which bunker - and he doesn't understand what he has to do next.

It is important that every day we do our part to make his life more and more and more horrible. And this is what is happening.

UP: Is Putin like a cornered animal?

OD: He is like a cornered rat. Moreover, he cornered himself to begin with, and then he was cornered by our president, the Ukrainian Armed Forces and our entire nation.

We did not start this war; Putin started this war against his own people.

Because he will destroy the Russian Federation by doing what he is doing. It will cease to exist within its current boundaries thanks to the actions of Putin and his entourage.

"I am positive about Budanov’s forecast. I do not want Kyrylo to be wrong about this"

UP: Let's get back to the topic of the war and the threats. In recent days, representatives of our authorities have made a number of statements about the likelihood of a large-scale Russian offensive occurring in January-February. What is this about?

OD: We may see a strengthening of the positions that exist today. We understand that this could happen.

Moreover, we do not rule out the possibility that they may declare general mobilisation in order to destroy as many of their citizens as possible.

What for? So that they do not face any trouble at home. Because the people they send here return home in a completely different physical condition.

We [Ukrainians] understand what we are fighting for: we are fighting for our country, for our children, for our independence. And what are they fighting for? What are they being killed here for? Why are our boys and girls pounding them here daily? Their society is structured in such a way that they put up with anything.

Oleksii Danilov: "We need not only to win the war, but also to win after the war, because we are facing many challenges"

UP: Will the Russians attempt to advance deeper into Ukraine again?

OD: They can wish for anything. And we must be ready for any developments, including [invading from the territory of] Belarus and other territories.

And we are preparing, preparing and preparing again.

UP: When the Russians started the full-scale war, their goal was to capture Kyiv. We remember the "three days" and how it all ended. As of today, they have abandoned the idea of taking Kyiv, or does that threat still exist?

OD: I want all of us to understand the following: they have not given up the idea of destroying our nation. If they don't hold Kyiv, they don't have anything, we have to understand that.

But will we give up Kyiv? Will we give them such an opportunity? No.

What were they expecting on 24 February? They were expecting that there would be panic, that people would flee, that there would be no one left to defend Kyiv.

But a vast number of people stayed behind. And it is important that the president stayed behind.

And I can say this now, there were many people in different countries who wanted the president to leave Kyiv, because things would have been much easier for them at that point.

I had this, you know, not very pleasant task, where every time I received official reports that the president's life was in danger, I had to notify him.

Picture this: when you come to someone yet again and say: "Mr President, there is a threat to your life." And he replies: "Miacheslavovych [Danilov’s patronymic], how much can I take, I'm fed up with them"...

UP: By the way, when was the last time you, in your role as the secretary of the National Security and Defence Council, received intelligence about a threat to the president's life?

OD: The last message was on 7 March. Why? Because 7 March what when they were planning to end this "operation".

UP: Kyrylo Budanov [Chief of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine - ed.] stated that the war should end by early summer next year. Do you believe in this forecast?

OD: I do not want Kyrylo to be wrong about this. I am positive about this forecast.

I wish it would happen sooner. But since I am a realist, I understand that we are unlikely to have that celebration earlier than spring or summer. But the celebration will definitely come to our street.

UP: Luhansk, Donetsk, Simferopol - will Ukraine’s Armed Forces enter these cities next year?

OD: They must be returned to us, this will be our land, it will be governed by us. 

"We will have to build, build and build. We should understand that when I say ‘build’ I do not only mean construction. We will have to develop the country. This is a very difficult process."

UP: I am definitely not a military expert, but it seems to me that Donetsk, Luhansk and Crimea are quite difficult objectives. Can you show your hand, realistically, as to how we can get all our land back next year?

OD: Let me give you a rather simple answer: nothing is impossible in life. The main thing is not to be afraid.

We must use reason, calculate and act. If you use reason, calculate and act, then victory will definitely be yours.

And the main thing is that the truth must be on one’s side. And the truth is on our side.

UP: After Kherson, is Melitopol our next goal?

OD: Our next goal is our country. These matters are determined by the Staff of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, headed by our president. Our Armed Forces determine this, our capabilities determine this, our strategy and tactics determine how we will do this.

And if someone thinks that he knows what the next goal will be, then I am very surprised, because this person is not attending these meetings.


UP: The New York Times writes about Melitopol...

OD: Look, I do not know what they have written there. This [Melitopol – ed.] is a military matter, it is impossible to make announcements here. Wait and see everything for yourself.

UP: And you will not give a direct answer as to whether the war will really end next year, right?

OD: - How can I? Listen, I really wish it had not started at all.

We need to achieve victory not only in the war, but also after it, as we face many challenges.

This is a separate issue that we are currently dealing with on the National Security and Defence Council.

Because those turbulent processes that may begin after the war can also be very dangerous for us.

Danilov: "The greatest demand of society after the war is justice. And we understand that we have to ensure this justice"

UP: Could you explain what you mean?

OD: The greatest demand of society after the war is justice. And we understand that we have to ensure this justice. If anyone thinks that he or she can continue to think in this way, to govern in this way, to do certain things without being held accountable to society, then there will be a big problem.

We must not let the country live with injustice. Moreover, I am more than sure that Volodymyr Oleksandrovych [Zelenskyy] is aware of this and is doing everything possible to ensure that we know our course of action in this or that situation in advance, because it will be a challenge for us.

We will have to build, build and build. It should be understood that by the word "build" I do not only mean construction. We will have to develop the country. This is a very difficult process.

Valerii Zaluzhnyi will face a great test and many temptations

UP: Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in one of his recent interviews, said that after victory he would like to go to the beach and drink beer. And what does Oleksii Danilov want after victory?

OD: - Considering the fact that I have nine grandchildren, I would love to have them all at my house for a day or two or three so that they could talk, and tell me [something] and speak to me. I really miss live communication with my grandchildren. And this is my dream – to spend two or three days with them.

They can say so many useful things that we cannot even imagine. You know, there is a saying: "When a child speaks, God speaks". You can learn many useful things through them. Some of us tell the children: "This is not a good time, don’t disturb me". Just listen to your children!

UP: Finally, I would like to ask you to give your opinion on three people who have become very popular over the past 10 months. The first one is Commander-in-Chief Zaluzhnyi. How would you characterise him?

OD: (Pondering). Today, Valerii Fedorovych wears a kind of halo, and this is a great responsibility.

We need to be very, very careful, cautious, and I will explain why. Because given the status that he [Zaluzhnyi] has now, the number of people who will want to benefit from this kind of status will grow exponentially.

It is very important for Valerii Fedorovych, for his future, that he keeps this in mind and understands this.

"I want us all to understand: they [Russians] have not abandoned the idea of destroying our nation. If they do not hold Kyiv, they literally don’t have anything, and we have to understand that"

UP: How can his status be exploited? Do you mean by dragging him into politics?

OD: We are this kind of country: everything comes down to some political process at a certain time.

Some people may start to appear nearby who will speak, advise, write, and so on. There may be a lot of them. Valerii Fedorovych will face a great test and many temptations.

UP: What is your opinion of Budanov?

OD: (Smiles) Kyrylo Oleksiiovych? He is a fighter!

UP: Does he have as many temptations now?

OD: I don't think so, no.

UP: And the last person is Oleksii Arestovych [blogger and adviser to the president - ed.].

OD: What are you... (laughs) I don't know him. I have seen this man once in my life in the corridor of the President's Office.

UP: How do you feel about his forecasts?

OD: Once upon a time, I counted that I received between 80 and 120 messages a day just on the phone.

Can you imagine the volume of documents that I receive on other things? I don't have the time. Maybe I am a lucky person that I do not pay attention to all this.

UP: And the last thing: how not to lose heart?

OD: This [question – ed.] is definitely not for me. And why should we lose heart? "Our father's Bandera, Ukraine is our mother, we for our Ukraine will go out into battle!"[Lyrics from a Ukrainian patriotic song].

This is our destiny, we have no other. To lose heart is a sin.

You have to live your own life. Considering that it is already complicated, you do not need to make it more complicated internally. You do not need to devour yourself internally.

We must only go forward. Yes, it may appear to be difficult, but Ukraine will prevail!

Roman Kravets, Ukrainska Pravda

Translation: Anton Strii, Yuliia Kravchenko, Oxana Hart, Artem Yakymyshyn

Editing: Monica Sandor