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The war is with West and NATO allies — not Ukraine, Ukrainian Parliament member says

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Two million people have now fled Ukraine since Russia invaded two weeks ago. Others have retreated west within the country, like Andrii Osadchuk. He's a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, and he estimates that about half the country's Parliament members have left Kyiv. He's made the trip from the capital to western Ukraine several times himself.

ANDRII OSADCHUK: My first trip was to take out my three daughters, my wife and grandmother. And it was extremely difficult and painful journey, which took us 27 hours in a minivan. Usually, the road from Kyiv to Lviv takes six, seven hours, but this time it took 27 hours. So everyone is taking secondary roads. Plus, all the country is blocking with a lot of checkpoints.

CHANG: Osadchuk says, on top of the marathon journey, resources are scarce in the center of the country.

OSADCHUK: Even in the circle of, let's say, 150 kilometers around Kyiv, you will not find gas to fuel the car. So it's almost impossible. All the stores are closed. So you cannot buy food. You cannot buy water. So that's why all this journey is extremely challenging.

CHANG: You posted on social media that, quote, "we don't ask the West to die for us, but we ask to share the responsibility and pay a fair price for this protection." You have been asking the West to close the skies above Ukraine. But let me ask you. Russia has air defense systems in Ukraine. And if the U.S. or its allies want to establish a no-fly zone, they would have to attack Russia's anti-aircraft systems, which would bring them in direct confrontation with Russia. How would that not escalate and widen this conflict?

OSADCHUK: It is very ethical question. The worst-case scenario is if NATO, United States will gather all the military along the borders of NATO and will observe how Ukrainian cities and villages will burn with people inside and do nothing. I think from civilization point of view, it will be the drama for the West. It will be the drama for all humanity. Yes, I understand that NATO doesn't want to participate in actual warfare. But closing sky can be done by different methods.

CHANG: How do you thread the needle here, Mr. Osadchuk? How does the U.S. and its allies thread the needle in terms of helping Ukraine establish a no-fly zone without widening or escalating this conflict and raising the nuclear threat?

OSADCHUK: First of all, I think you kid yourselves if you think that the war may just end in Ukraine. Second, yes, if NATO is afraid to use NATO jet fighters on the territory of Ukraine, just give us old Soviet jet fighters so we will use them. There is no difference - you are giving to us javelins. And with these javelins, we are burning Russian tanks on the ground. Give us jet fighters, and we will burn Russian jet fighters in the air. I don't see any difference from the legal, if you want, point of view or political point of view. But again, the fundamental thing - people in U.S. has a lot of discussion about fear and risk management, what Russia may or may not do. But the war which Putin start - it's not the war against Ukraine. It's the war against the United States. It's the war against the West.

CHANG: Do you think that there is anything beyond what we have discussed today, anything that can be done to change Putin's mind at this point when it comes to Ukraine?

OSADCHUK: I'm sure that paranoid Putin psychology understands only the brutal force. He's the guy who is using brutal force against everyone. And brutal force is the only thing which may influence on him. Again, comparing to the previous decades, now economic sanctions can be - as the same efficient as military actions. So that's why when I am saying that I am not asking West to die for us. I am asking West to pay fair share. Yes, oil prices may go up. Yes, regular American citizen may pay more. But believe me, it's nothing compared to the price which already paid and which we pay daily in Ukraine with the life of our kids, of our women and our men.

CHANG: Andrii Osadchuk is a member of the Ukrainian Parliament. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us, and I do hope you and your family continue to stay safe.

OSADCHUK: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.
Gus Contreras
Christopher Intagliata is an editor at All Things Considered, where he writes news and edits interviews with politicians, musicians, restaurant owners, scientists and many of the other voices heard on the air.
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