As the world is set to mark the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, leaders all over the world have been reiterating their support for the Ukrainian people.
On Monday, President Joe Biden visited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv and toured the city. The meeting took place a day before Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a speech concluding Russia’s role in the New START nuclear arms treaty.
Oksana Markarova, the Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States, spoke with ABC News Live Monday night to share her thoughts about Biden’s visit and the one-year anniversary of the war.
ABC NEWS LIVE: We just had a report about the Wagner Group, a private Russian military company serving as mercenaries in the war. We talked to a defector who said that fighters are thrown into the front lines like “meat” and who witnessed executions for some who refuse to fight. He also said that he believes the volunteer group is committing war crimes. Are they?
OKSANA MARKAROVA: Well, it’s all Russians on Ukrainian territory committing war crimes, whether it’s Wagner Group or the armed formations of the Russian Federation. They have nothing to do to be on their territory with the sovereign country. They will definitely commit the crime of starting and doing the aggression. And we’ve seen all these atrocities…you name it. So I’m positive that if he is part of the Wagner Group that…is committing atrocities, but they are not the only ones.
ABC NEWS LIVE: That secret trip by President Biden to stand side by side with President Zelenskyy in Kyiv comes just days before the one year mark in this war. You tweeted this image of the US and Ukrainian flags in the shape of a heart. How significant is what happened today?
MARKAROVA: Oh, it meant a lot for Ukrainian people to see President Biden in Kyiv meeting with our president, walking through the streets, [and] paying tribute to the heavenly hundredth. Today is a very special day for us when we recall all the people who were killed during Maidan, when in 2014 Ukraine fought for our independence from Russian-operated Ukrainian regime, essentially, which led to this war and which started in 2015 when Russia attacked this for the first time. So it’s a great sign of support. It’s a very brave move of the American president, and we really appreciate the values.
ABC NEWS LIVE: The White House alerted Russia to Biden’s visit ahead of time, but you could still hear air sirens as the two leaders walked through the capital. Talk a little bit about the threat of attack that Ukrainians live under each and every day.
MARKAROVA: Every day. You know, the missiles fall in any place, whether it’s a hospital or a residential area. The energy infrastructure is destroyed. And I will remind you that still a large portion of Ukrainian territory is under illegal occupation where people are being killed, tortured. Ukrainian children have been abducted into Russia. It is a full-fledged war [that] you [haven’t seen since the World War II. So it is very risky and we cannot trust Russians. I mean, even when they promised something, I remember for Christmas, Mr. Putin was talking about some kind of quiet time for Christmas. And right after he said that there was a lot of shelling everywhere in Ukraine.
ABC NEWS LIVE: President Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin, “Dead wrong to think that Russia could outlast Ukraine and other Western allies.” Putin delivers his state of the nation address tomorrow. What do you think that his message might be? And do you think that he’ll respond likely directly to Biden’s visit?
MARKAROVA: Well, frankly, we do not care. And I think it’s about time to stop thinking what he will say and focus on what we together not only will say, but do. So today’s visit was a great visit to discuss weapons, to discuss security assistance, to discuss financial assistance in the sky, to discuss more strong sanctions, [and] everything that we have to do together in order to win together and in order to get to just peace together.
ABC NEWS LIVE: You were a guest, of course, of [first lady] Dr. Jill Biden at last year’s State of the Union address, as well as this year’s. Some noted that the attention the war received, both in the president’s remarks and from lawmakers in the chamber, was less pronounced this year. Are you concerned about dwindling support?
MARKAROVA: Absolutely not. I think, you know, the first address was on the sixth day of this aggression when President Biden needed to explain to [the] American people what is it about and why it is important for all of us. This year it is different. American people do support this fight because American people understand how important it is for everyone who believes in the same values of freedom, democracy[and[thesacrednessofourhomesSoIthinkPresidentBidenhasbeenveryclearinhismessageinthisyear’sStateoftheUnionthattheUnitedStatesiswithusItnolongerrequiresexplanationsWearetogetherAmericanpeoplesupportusWejusthavetostaythecourseanddoalittlebitmoretofinishthisjobandwinwhilethisfightisstillinUkraine[and[thesacrednessofourhomesSoIthinkPresidentBidenhasbeenveryclearinhismessageinthisyear’sStateoftheUnionthatUnitedStatesiswithusItnolongerrequiresexplanationsWearetogetherAmericanpeoplesupportusWejusthavetostaythecourseanddoalittlebitmoretofinishthisjobandwinwhilethisfightisstillinUkraine