Lech Walesa: “Putin is committing genocide: he wants to clean Ukraine of Ukrainians”

Of Elisabetta Rosaspina

Interview with the former Polish president, founder and leader of Solidarnosc, Nobel laureate in 1983: «We must make him understand that now is not the time to destroy, but to build. And that it makes no sense to compete with the forces of NATO “

It must be acknowledged that he already said this eight years ago: «Putin must be converted. He didn’t have to go out in the tanks and take Crimea. We need to stop it, and to succeed we need great solidarity between countries ». He used the very term “converted”, speaking at the press conference for the presentation of Andrzej Wajda’s film about his life: Lech Walesa, the man of hope. At 78, the former electrician of the shipyards of Gdansk, founder and leader of Solidarnosc, the first free trade union in Communist Poland in 1980, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize three years later, and President of the Republic between 1990 and 1995, is familiar with the codes of access to the Soviet mentality that leads troops from Moscow. From the front row of the Catholic opposition to the socialist regime of the time he had learned to interpret its moves and so, on 6 June 2014, in Rome, he suggested to the UN and NATO to form a group of 10 or 20 wise men who, in response to tank, bring the demands of the international community to the Russian president: “Only in this way will we be able to convert Vladimir Putin”. Which now, far from redeemed, is occupying the rest of Ukraine with its armored vehicles.

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President Walesa, what counter-move would you suggest now to stop him?

“At the beginning of the conflict I proposed an initiative to the United Nations: after discussion at the UN forum, and with its consent, it would have been possible to establish a humanitarian zone at the level of Lviv and introduce international units for the maintenance of peace , to protect civilians, both residents and those arriving from the areas where the fighting is taking place. It would have been the sign of far-sighted solidarity ».


“Instead, we preferred to shift attention to the humanitarian corridors to be opened in every major city in Ukraine”.

Is there a real possibility for diplomacy to reach a compromise?

«I think we should talk to Putin in another way. It is essential to make him understand that now is not the time to destroy, but to build. And that his will to compete with the forces of NATO makes no sense ».

Three European heads of government, the prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia have decided to go to Kiev. Are you also involved in the negotiations on the Polish side?

“No, I’m not involved, but I have given my availability.”

Are you afraid that Russia could also attack the Baltic States, Poland or Moldova?

«Putin is unpredictable and the worst can still happen if we let him continue to conquer territories and kill people. What he is doing is a new genocide. Putin wants to clean the Ukrainian land of Ukrainians ».

Eight years ago he asked NATO to strengthen the defenses to the east by sending missiles to Poland: do you still have the idea?

“I repeat, now we need talks, talks and diplomacy.”

Henry Kissinger in 2014 had opposed the accession of Kiev to NATO, proposing an international position similar to that of Finland. Does this still seem a valid idea?

“Kissinger reasoned very well at the time. But times have changed. So now I think Ukraine should join NATO ».

Is the “normalization” of Ukraine to which Putin aspires comparable to that attempted by the USSR in Poland?

«The normalization of Ukraine? This is just madness. It is not unlikely that some of her loyalists will turn their backs on what is happening. ‘

Pope Francis tried to mediate by going to the Russian ambassador to the Holy See.

“Yup. The Pope’s behavior was very nice, but Putin is very determined, so it is not enough ».

Was the attack on Yavoriv, ​​20 kilometers from the Polish border a warning to NATO?

“Putin has always provoked NATO, since the beginning of the war in Ukraine”.

President, what would you say to Volodymyr Zelensky?

«That he is a good person: he is fighting for Ukraine and for all of Europe. And I hope that this war will end very soon, and that he will win it ».

(Emilia Szydłowska collaborated for the translation)

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