KYIV, Ukraine — Mykhailo Podolyak barely flinched as air raid sirens blared across Kiev, signaling incoming Russian missiles.

Sitting in his office in the heavily fortified presidential administration building in the Ukrainian capital, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi’s chief of staff said sirens had become a normal part of life six months into the war with Russia.

“We’ve gotten used to this new way of life — we’ve gotten used to the wailing sirens and the bombings, because the Russian Federation is focusing primarily on the civilian population and civilian infrastructure,” he said in an interview with The Hill. A translator.

The interview took place on Wednesday, which also happened to be Ukraine’s Independence Day, the anniversary of its sovereignty after the fall of the Soviet Union 31 years ago.

Hours after the interview, a Russian missile attack in the eastern town of Chaplin killed 25 people and injured 50, when rockets hit a train station and residential areas. Air raid sirens sounded across much of the country on Wednesday, signaling incoming Russian missiles.

Podoliak, speaking before the attack on the train station, called the threat of Russian attacks a “usual situation”. Today is no different than any other day.”

But Wednesday was different, especially as President Biden announced an additional $3 billion in aid to Ukraine for the war effort, tipping the scales significantly at the six-month mark of fighting.

“This means we will now be in a position to effectively counterattack, launch a counterattack,” Podolyak said, referring to the influx of aid. “And we can defeat the enemy with new equipment and a new numerical value that is aligned with our capabilities and capabilities.”

The Ukrainian military is working overtime to strike deep into Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory with US- and Western-provided heavy artillery — targeting weapons depots, severing supply lines and destroying command and control posts.

The attacks serve several purposes: fighting Russia, boosting Ukrainian morale while sending a signal or resilience to the West, and inflicting pain on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

At least 16 US-provided High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) are on the ground to assist in the effort.

Ukrainian officials and the military say the weapons could quickly turn the tide of the war, if they can get more of them quickly. Maintaining battlefield power and protection against Russia allows them to push back on Putin’s efforts to open negotiations — which Podoliak describes as a death sentence for Ukraine.

“President Zelensky is definitely against it [negotiations]And Ukrainian society is firmly there, because we fully appreciate the risks,” he said.

Podolyak warned that Russia would use any lull in the fighting to regroup and mount an even stronger attack on Ukraine. In the absence of negotiations, Podolyak said Putin is likely to focus on military warfare to undermine international support until his forces gain the upper hand.

“Behind the scenes, they will start to manipulate the moods, the activities, this war fatigue and more deeply,” he said, adding that Russia is capable of creating crises such as sending large numbers of migrants to Europe’s borders. He warned that Moscow “may consider some terrorist attacks on infrastructure in Europe, so that they can reach some negotiating position or stand up for their own benefit and their own plans.”

“We understand this option well and are discussing it with our partners,” he said.

Dressed in track pants, sneakers and a traditional Ukrainian tunic, Podoliak leans over a large round table in his office during an interview. His assistant says he never sits at his desk, which is filled with papers, books and folders.

The high-ceilinged, whitewashed walls of his office are almost bare. Of the only two photos hanging, one shows two wounded soldiers who were part of the defense of the Azovstal Steelworks in Mariupol — standing on crutches in the plant’s darkened tunnels, each with a leg amputated — that marked the last stand. Before the city came under total Russian control in May.

“There are people that I admire the most and they really amaze me, amaze me with their courage because they are on the front lines. The front line is different,” Podolyak said, reflecting on his own role in the war.

“Ukraine is a unique country. It is a country that is able to mobilize itself, especially when hard times, serious crises come. So I can give as much time and effort as I need and as much time as I physically can to help such a country. can give, because it deserves my contribution.”

Podoliak has been on Zelensky’s side since the Russian offensive began on February 24.

When Zelensky stepped outside the presidential bunker the day after the Russian attack, he highlighted Podoliak’s presence to show the world proof that he was alive and in the capital.

Looking ahead to the next phase of the war, Podoliak said the $3 billion in U.S. aid is more than just providing material aid. It is a call for mobilization and is meant to “encourage other, more cautious, Western powers to join the hunt.”

“Everyone should appreciate what this war waged by the Russian Federation is for the people and how it should be conducted and what should be the proper outcome of this war,” he said.

Podolyak said the problem with “so-called traditional Europe” and Germany, France and Italy was due to the “immediacy of decision-making” and criticized them for being too slow to send much-needed aid to Ukraine compared to the United States’ speed. States.

“We have to say clearly that they are, of course, pro-Ukrainian,” he said of these countries, but added that “the decision-making power, which is now shown by the United States, the old Europe can follow them. Decisions are more beneficial.”

Podoliak also addressed how Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has positioned himself as a mediator between Russia and Ukraine, acknowledging that Erdogan is motivated by Turkey’s own domestic politics.

Turkish drones have proven highly effective in Ukrainian counterattacks against Russian forces, with Erdogan, as a mediator, successfully brokering an agreement to allow Russia to export grain from Ukrainian ports in Odesa – critical to Ukraine’s economy and essential to combating the global food crisis. .

Erdogan traveled to the Ukrainian city of Lviv last week, where he met with Zelensky. This happened after a meeting with Putin in Sochi. Erdogan has reportedly offered to hold peace talks between the two.

Aiming to strengthen the Ukrainian position, Podolyak emphasized that Ukrainian attacks on Russian-controlled territory are a psychological shock to the Russians, demoralizing their military capabilities.

“We clearly see that there is a kind of panic brewing in the Russian Federation, because [instead] They’ve run it continuously for six months during a blitzkrieg and, seemingly, endless special operations,” he said, referring to Putin’s denial and a Russian law banning “war” to describe the fighting in Ukraine.

International officials monitoring Ukraine’s military strategy say attacks on Russian-held territory could irritate Putin. Their aim is to raise the price of the war to keep it going.

Last week, Putin replaced the commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet following a series of significant attacks on Russian military installations on the occupied Crimean peninsula.

Ukrainian military officials have claimed responsibility for at least one attack on Russia’s Saki air base on August 9, which destroyed at least seven Russian warplanes. One person died and nine people were injured.

When Podoliak was asked what his assessment of the state of Putin’s fighting objectives was, he replied that while he was not a “mind reader when it comes to the Russian side,” he said he clearly overestimated his capabilities.

“Russia has traditionally been an irrational state, with very little analytical capacity. Russia, quite frankly, overestimated their own understanding of who they were in the world.

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