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Interview With Former National Security Council Official Fiona Hill; Interview With Former Russian Duma Member Ilya Ponomarev; Interview with Deputy Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Igor Zhovkva. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired March 28, 2022 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR live from the Ukrainian capital. Here's what's coming up.
AMANPOUR: Reporting from Kyiv, is Putin's war on Ukraine entering a new phase after a month of setbacks?
Tonight, we will ask a top aide to President Zelenskyy, Igor Zhovkva.
And Ilya Ponomarev joins me. He once served in the Russian Parliament, but opposed Putin's invasions. Now he's here fighting against him for Ukraine.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): If Russia sees this, I want them to know that they aren't defending us. They are killing us.
AMANPOUR: Escape from hell. Ukrainian families forced to flee the besieged city of Mariupol share their stories of loss and survival.
FIONA HILL, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL OFFICIAL: Vladimir Putin, obviously, he is pretty paranoid that the United States is out to get him.
He's been convinced for years, in fact, that we have had in our crosshairs.
AMANPOUR: Former national security official and Russia expert Fiona Hill talks to Walter Isaacson about whether America's strategy to defeat Putin
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.
This nation is certainly battered and it's bloodied, but it is unbowed. It has battled back against Vladimir Putin's unprovoked war for more than a
month now. With its fierce resistance, it's dashed Moscow's hopes of a quick victory.
So is the Kremlin strategy changing? Here's the reason assessment from a top Russian general, Sergei Rudskoi.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SERGEI RUDSKOI, FIRST DEPUTY CHIEF OF RUSSIA'S GENERAL STAFF (through translator): In general, the main tasks of the first stage of the
operation have been completed. The combat potential of the armed forces of Ukraine has been significantly reduced, allowing us, I emphasize again, to
focus the main efforts on achieving the main goal, the liberation of Donbass.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Rudskoi claimed the Kremlin never, ever planned to storm places like Kyiv or Kharkiv.
But a Ukrainian defense official said today that Russian forces are in fact trying to cut off supply routes to the capital, as fighting continues in
So what is Putin's aim? It is clear his war is having a devastating impact on civilians. The mayor of Mariupol said today, "We are in the hands of the
occupiers," as he called for a complete evacuation of the port city following weeks of a brutal Russian siege.
It is unknown just how many civilians have been killed, but hundreds of thousands have been forced to leave everything behind. Some of them are now
in Zaporizhzhia. And they spoke to correspondent Ivan Watson.
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shattered by Russian artillery, the windshield of a car that a Ukrainian
family used to make their two-day escape from the besieged port city of Mariupol.
We meet Natalia shortly after her family reaches relative safety in the parking lot of a superstore on the edge of the Ukrainian city of
"The day before yesterday, an artillery shell hit our house," she says. "Half of the house is gone."
This is what was left.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): If Russia sees this, I want them to know that they aren't defending us. They are killing us, because they
seem to think they're defending us. And that's just not true.
WATSON: This parking lot, an unofficial gateway to Ukrainian-controlled territory for more than 70,000 Ukrainians who official say fled Mariupol.
The evacuees look shell-shocked. They arrive in vehicles draped with white rags and signs that say children. And some, like 4-year-old Alisa Isayiva
(ph), show up in yellow school buses.
"They were bombing us," she says, "bombing us with planes and tanks."
Alisa's aunt, Liliya, says she suffered from a concussion for days after a strike hit her home.
LILIYA NALISKO, FLED MARIUPOL (through translator): We walked among corpses. There were bodies under the evergreens. Soldiers without heads,
without arms, they're lying there. Nobody is gathering them.
There was such fear that I felt like I was underwater. I wanted to wake up. And now I'm here and this feels like some kind of a dream.
WATSON: Inside the superstore, volunteers and the city government are trying to help.
(on camera): Newly arrived evacuees are welcomed at this support center, where they're offered warm meals, access to medics and information about
how to travel deeper into safer parts of Ukrainian territory.
There's also a bulletin board here, where some people are offering free repair of shattered car windows. And there are also postings here looking
for information about missing loved ones.
(voice-over): For some who survived Russia's modern-day siege, this is the first hint of safety they have had in weeks.
Outside, Yulia Mishodova and her son Stanislav have just arrived. Stanislav is chatty and upbeat, but his mother appears unsteady. When Russian
warplanes bombed, she says, the family hid under the dining room table surrounded by pillows.
YULIA MISHODOVA, FLED MARIUPOL (through translator): When the plane flew past, we were sheltering in the center of town. Until now, my ear still
hurts from the shockwave.
WATSON: The unlikely safe haven provided in this parking lot is precarious. Ukrainian officials say Russian troops are positioned barely a
half-hour's drive away from here.
AMANPOUR: Ivan Watson reporting on what is such an extraordinarily suffering situation for people.
Now, as Putin's war lurches on, President Zelenskyy has told a group of independent Russian journalists that Ukraine is ready to accept a neutral
status as part of a peace deal with Moscow. Here is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Security guarantees and our neutrality, the non-nuclear status of our state, we are
ready to pursue this. This is the most important point. This was the first point of principle for the Russian Federation, as I recall.
And as far as I remember, they started the war because of this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Zelenskyy added that any agreement would have to be put to the Ukrainian people in a referendum.
Now, my first guest is fighting this war right alongside the Ukrainian people. That's despite being a former member of the Russian Parliament. But
Ilya Ponomarev was the only Russian politician to vote against the annexation of Crimea back in 2014. And so he's in Kyiv. And he's joining me
Welcome back to the program.
We talked you all those years back, when you voted against Putin's invasion back in 2014. Tell me what you're doing right now. How did you manage to
join the Ukrainian forces?
ILYA PONOMAREV, FORMER RUSSIAN DUMA MEMBER: Well, you remember, at that time, you asked me, why did they do what I have done?
And I said that it means war between Russia and Ukraine. And, as you see now, unfortunately, I was right. And, at that time, I said that, if this
war would start, I would fight for peace. And that's what I'm doing.
AMANPOUR: That is extraordinary. So, you believed all those years ago that Crimea and those parts of the Donbass region were not the end for Putin,
that he would go further?
I didn't believe that he would start the war this February. I very frankly many times repeatedly said that he would first take over Belarus, and only
them would go into Ukraine. But he has made the suicidal step that's a very irrational step for himself, probably because he was very ill-informed
about the real mood of Ukrainian people.
And now we see what we see, thousands and thousands of deaths and deaths among Ukrainian civilian and Russia soldiers.
AMANPOUR: Can you tell me, Ilya, what you see when you are anywhere near the battlefront in terms of the casualties? Because, obviously, all sides
are giving different -- different numbers.
And it's interesting to know what's happening to the Russians if you're able to see that. Can you? Do you have any good information, at least from
your area where you're fighting, on what the kind of casualties on the opposite side are?
PONOMAREV: Well, my observation is that each Ukrainian soldier takes at least four lives of Russian soldiers. That's more or less the ratio.
But, unfortunately, the same number of civilians die at the same time. So, as many Russians are dying as many Ukrainian civilians. That is horrible.
And that's very much because of the situation in the Ukrainian skies, because there is no fly zone, and that what kills people every day.
AMANPOUR: And, Ilya, we are obviously in Kyiv. And there's all sorts of different descriptions about what this battlefield, this urban battlefield
Is it stalled? Are we in a state of a stalemate around the capital? Do you believe that the Russians still want to encircle the capital? Or what can
you see, again, from your analysis?
PONOMAREV: I think that they will try to encircle the capital. Right now, they have been pushed back in the western and northwestern direction.
They're pretty much stopped on the eastern and northeastern direction. I think that, despite being pushed back in the west, they would most likely
try to advance to the south and to encircle Kyiv on the right bank of Dnieper River.
But I think that very unlikely that they would succeed. They're trying to provoke a humanitarian catastrophe in Kyiv to the same magnitude like they
were doing in Mariupol. But, in Mariupol, they physically exterminated the city, because the city is smaller and very much linked to the sea.
Kyiv is a very large city. So it's very hard to bomb and to shell it altogether, but it's possible to cut off the food supplies, to poison the
water, to cut off electricity and natural gas, the heating of the city. And I'm pretty much afraid that that is the actual objective of Russian troops
at this very moment.
AMANPOUR: So what do you make of the Russian general from the Ministry of Defense in Moscow, Sergei Rudskoi, who basically over the weekend laid out
what looked like a change of plans.
Do you see it as a change of plans? Or do you take him at face value, that we have done what we what we intended to do, we have weakened and more
demilitarized the enemy, i.e., the Ukrainians, and now we're really going to just concentrate on what we really want, which is all of the Donbass
PONOMAREV: Well, obviously, they're losing the war. That's for sure.
And there is no way how the work can be won by Russia. So it's only a question of where they can settle. And their only hope is to try to save
face by saying that they didn't want to capture Kyiv, for example, which is not true. That was their initial plan, we know this for sure, that they
didn't plan to capture Odessa or Kharkiv, which is not true, but they wanted to just to extend the territory of so-called people republics in the
east of Ukraine, in Donbass.
And here very much is dependent, the -- we are very much dependent on the position of international community. If Ukraine would be synchronously
pushed into the cease-fire both by Kremlin and by Washington, they may try to create a new set of so-called Minsk Agreements and to capture the
territory and to keep this territory for an indefinite period of time.
But the spirit in the Ukrainians right now is that we need to prevail, we need to win this war, and that we have all the capabilities to win this
war. It's now a matter of price. And this price is very much dependent on you guys, whether you would help us to eliminate the jet fighters, the
bombers, and the missiles in the skies, or we will do it ourselves.
AMANPOUR: Ilya, what about -- I mean, it is odd that a Russian -- not just a Russian, a Russian parliamentary member would come over here in the -- I
mean, I know you have been living here for a while.
But how did it -- how did it -- how did you get the Ukrainian military to accept you in their ranks? And are there any other Russians that you know
of anywhere around where you are fighting as well for this side, Ukraine?
PONOMAREV: Not where I am. But, in general, there are numerous Russians in Ukraine fighting.
There were numerous Russians who were coming to join Ukrainian military in volunteer groups back in 2014. I believe there are several thousand of
them. There is one regiment which I know next to Kyiv which is fighting on the Ukrainian side against the invaders.
But the question is very simple. We think that the key to freedom in Russia right now is in Ukraine. If we are victorious here, if we will defeat Putin
here, we will win Russia. That's very much like German anti-fascists were doing back in World War II.
You know that the counselor Willy Brandt, for example, the leader of German Social Democrats, he was fighting within the allied armies in Norway
against German fascists. And that's not because he was anti-German. And I am not anti-Russian. I am pro-Russian. But I am anti-Putin. And we will
kill the bastard.
AMANPOUR: Well, you have written recently that you don't think he will be -- quote, unquote -- "on this planet" in another year.
But it is fascinating what you say, because you're fighting for your own country, to liberate your own country via Ukraine. That's obviously the one
thing that Putin really fears. one of the reasons many Russians and other analysts says that he just doesn't want Ukraine to be free and democratic
and independent is because then ordinary Russians will start asking why it's not OK for them also to be free and democratic.
Do you get that sense? And is that where we are in your country, in Russia?
PONOMAREV: I think so.
Ukraine is very much the (INAUDIBLE) stand-in for Mr. Putin. And his propaganda, all the way down, he was portraying Ukraine as a failed state,
because he was saying, ah, you see, Ukrainians have made their revolution, and they are failing. And you shouldn't do the revolution here in Russia,
because you will fail as Ukrainians did.
But we are not failing. We are developing here. The country is very actively moving forward. Without that war, we will be moving forward way
more rapidly than it was before. Ukraine has all the rights to change their leadership. We had the previous president. Now we have a new president,
because we wanted the change. We wanted new set of reforms. We wanted new direction of the development. And we have done this.
If you would travel across the country, you would see how well the infrastructure in Ukraine As developed during the two years of President
Zelenskyy, for example. And now these Russian soldiers which are coming with their tanks into the streets of Ukrainian villages, they're saying,
wow, guys, you have asphalt here. We don't have that much in Russia. You live well.
I mean, we have heard so many stories about some of these Russians, and a lot of them conscripts, basically turning around and leaving or trying to
get help from local Ukrainians because their supplies and things have run out.
President Zelenskyy took quite an extraordinary step of giving an interview over the weekend to four independent Russian journalists. And he spoke in
Russian. Clearly, he was trying to appeal or get his message across to the whole country. But he also said several things, that he would accept a
neutral non-nuclear status. He said that's clearly what Putin wanted in the beginning. It should be the basis of a peace deal.
Of course, he added that it would go to a referendum. We were talking a little bit earlier about the aims. Do you think that's enough for Putin? Is
it -- are there -- I mean, if you were sort of not doing so well on the battlefield, and your general has said, you're going to switch tactics a
little bit, and the rival president has said, well, we're ready to become neutral and non-NATO for the moment, as a politician, which you were, do
you see this as any basis for a peace deal?
PONOMAREV: You know, all these stories about NATO, all these kind of things is a piece of crap, because, if you look at the map, you would see
that there are plenty of points within NATO which are in the closest proximity to Saint Petersburg and Moscow.
And it absolutely doesn't matter whether in NATO's naval base would be in Crimea, as he was saying this in 2014, or even in Kharkiv, which he was
claiming recently. The reason doesn't matter. It changes nothing in terms of the military situation, military threat for Kremlin.
Political situation, that what matters. Politically, Putin needs to restore USSR, but not Soviet -- and neither Soviet nor socialist. He wants to
create a union of sovereign Slavic republics and restore the Russian empire and control all of this territory.
And that would include Belarus and Ukraine and maybe Transnistria. I don't know what is in his head. But it's not -- it's not a military situation at
all. And I think that what he wanted with Ukraine when he started this war is, he wanted to dismember Ukraine.
He wanted to put his marionette government in Kyiv, assassinate Zelenskyy, put the marionette government in Kyiv, and then let, say, Poland and
Hungary to take over as their protectorate the eight western regions of Ukraine, so to say, to share the guilt. And I think that was his original
plan, but, obviously, it failed.
AMANPOUR: And, finally, President Zelenskyy obviously wanted to get these this message and this long interview to the Russians.
The Russians -- the censorship, military censorship has banned it. They won't allow it to be published. It has been published outside, but not
inside. You have also talked about fighting a war on the ground and an information war. Do you think Zelenskyy's message is getting through to
Russia? Do you -- are you trying to get messages through to ordinary Russian people?
Where do you think they are thinking or what do you think they're thinking a month into this war?
PONOMAREV: Well, we, with my friends, besides doing some military fighting here, we created a dedicated (INAUDIBLE) channel called Utra February in
Russian, which is February's Morning, February because the war has started in February, and February because February Revolution of 1917 happened in
February, which ended the imperialist World War I for Russia.
And we are using it to talk to ordinary Russians. And a lot of Russians are actually watching it. And we are trying to communicate. It's not enough. By
far, it's not enough, unfortunately. But that's as much as we can do.
Russian Federation, Kremlin now blocks all the independent media outlets inside the country. And we are right now the only Russian-speaking media
which works from Ukraine, from the battlefield, and which can communicate the truth to Russians.
AMANPOUR: Ilya Ponomarev, thank you so much indeed for joining us.
Now, President Biden's off-the-cuff comments in Warsaw over the weekend. We're not a call for Russian regime change, says the White House.
Fiona Hill is a former national security officials specializing in European and Russian affairs, and she was an impeachment witness against Donald
Trump in 2019.
She spoke with Walter Isaacson about the impact of Biden's remarks and how Putin is likely to react.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Christiane.
And, Dr. Fiona Hill, welcome to the show.
HILL: Thanks, Walter. Thank you.
ISAACSON: Biden, in his powerful speech this weekend, ended what seemed like a bit of an ad-libbed line, but one that seemed to have a kernel of
truth to it, which is, good lord, this guy cannot remain in power.
Do you think that was a mistake for him to say it? Or was that a morally clarifying statement that will guide us?
HILL: Well, I mean, to be honest, obviously, what he said there was what's on an awful lot of people's minds. And it's a question that people keep
From the perspective of trying to deal with this conflict right now and trying to get Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin to pull back and halt the
hostilities, I think it was actually a pretty risky thing to say, because Vladimir Putin obviously is pretty paranoid that the United States is out
to get him. He's been convinced for years, in fact, that we have had him in our crosshairs, that we have been in the business of regime change.
And if he indeed believes, contrary to what the White House has said since then, that that was meant in a broader sense in terms of the ongoing war
and the dominance within the region, but if he indeed believes that this means that President Biden and others want to have him ousted, then he's
going to double down, because it's the last thing that he wants to happen to him.
ISAACSON: You say he might double down, that this phrase of Biden's might cause him to go even further.
Tell me what that could mean.
HILL: Well, doubling down could also mean just digging in even further, if we see what I mean, because, right now, we have seen the battlefield
shifting. This hasn't been going in the way that he initially intended.
I mean, there was every evidence that the Russian thought that they would be able to take over Ukraine in a matter of days, certainly not weeks, and
now stretching off into months.
He may be then just digging down for a much longer conflict, a long grind, to actually inflict as much devastation as he possibly can to Ukraine to
teach them a lesson and us a lesson as well.
So, in 2015, President Putin had Russia, the Russian military intervene in Syria. The express point of that was to make sure that Bashar al-Assad
stayed in power. And now, seven years on, Bashar al-Assad is indeed still in power, in fact, has started to go out and about in the neighborhood,
meeting with other leaders.
And so the point from all of this is that Putin is pretty determined as well to make sure that he is still in power. So we can say that he should
go, but he will do everything that he possibly can to make sure that he can in place.
ISAACSON: You have spoken about the possibility that he would use battlefield or tactical nuclear weapons. Do you think this is still a
possibility? And did this past weekend speech make it slightly more of a possibility?
HILL: I don't know whether the speech made it slightly more of a possibility because, look, to be frank, irrespective of the speech, Putin
has been convinced that he has to do whatever it takes to win.
And he has been definitely contemplating the use of battlefield nuclear weapons, perhaps even some with a longer range. We have seen the Russian
government announced they have used the Kinzhal, which is one of their missile systems that can also be nuclear-power potentially. The same with
the Iskander missiles that we know that they have positioned in Belarus.
We have known for some time that Putin and the military planners certainly think about the possibility of using nuclear weapons in the event where
they think that the war is not going in their favor, any kind of war, that they have practiced for these contingencies, they have planned for these
We have called it escalate to de-escalate. In other words, they do something that most of the rest of us would not contemplate to get
everybody else to back down. And the mere fact that they have put the forces on alert, that they have had former President Dmitry Medvedev go out
and talk about these kinds of possibilities, that's intended to intimidate us and intended to make it very clear that they mean business.
And so Putin is testing whether we are going to back off, in other words, to give him what he wants him and to push for a negotiation on terms that
he's starting to lay out.
ISAACSON: Tell me what would happen if he used battlefield nuclear weapons. How would the West -- you have been a member of the National
Security Council staff? How would the West have to respond?
HILL: Well, this is going to make things extraordinary difficult, isn't it?
Look, I think what we would have to do is have a major international response as well. I mean, I think, already, we need to be doing some pretty
serious diplomacy behind the scenes with other nuclear powers, because it's not just Western powers that are nuclear these days, either, is it? I mean,
we have China with a very large strategic arsenal, and also building up its own stores of strategic -- of tactical, as well as medium-range nuclear
We have been trying to engage the Chinese on the nuclear front. We're supposed to have the Non-Proliferation Treaty review this year coming up in
the summer, which has already been postponed over and over again. If Putin and the Kremlin took this step, they would cross the threshold of use that
hasn't been crossed, obviously, since the detonation of nuclear weapons during World War II.
We have all said that was impermissible. That's been the basis of the strategic balance during the Cold War. It's been the strategic balance
basis between other nuclear powers like India and Pakistan. This would literally open the proverbial Pandora's box.
So what we're going to have to do is get ahead of it, and keep pushing on diplomacy to make sure that it is made crystal clear to the Kremlin that
this is unacceptable on a global international level, not just in the relationship and the standoff between Russia and the West that he's trying
ISAACSON: What is the military doctrine of the U.S. if there is a use of tactical nuclear weapons in an engagement in Europe that we're involved
HILL: Well, we have been going backwards and forwards on our, basically, strategic nuclear posture.
And I'm not sure how much we have contemplated this. I mean, I would actually defer to the Pentagon and to others to ask them for clarification
for this, because I think it's very risky also to speculate. We have to make this crystal clear in official communications and back-channel
communications, not just trying to telegraph it during interviews on television, because the Kremlin scrutinize this very closely.
They jump on to every word that every commentator and other makes. They're trying to interpret themselves. But I think this is one where we have to be
extraordinarily clear on a government-to-government, military-to-military and in an international framework, rather than making speculative
ISAACSON: In the other major news this weekend, President Zelenskyy gave a very interesting interview to four Russian journalists, which, by the way,
was censored, so that the Russians couldn't hear it.
But he expressed a willingness for diplomacy that would have as part of its endgame a neutral Ukraine. Let's start there. Does that make sense? Can he
declare neutrality? And might that give an off-ramp to the Russians?
HILL: Well, it depends on how that's done. And I'm sure that he's doing this, so he's trying to himself scope out the possibilities.
I mean, he's going to have to be able to sell it at home as well. And it can't be a neutrality that leaves Ukraine defenseless. If we look back to
the 1990s, when Ukraine was neutral, and Ukraine was not a member of any military alliance, it was given guarantees by the United States, the United
Kingdom and Russia of its territorial integrity and sovereignty and independence in the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, when Ukraine gave up the
Soviet nuclear arsenal that it had inherited.
All the way along, Ukraine has, in fact, been neutral until relatively recently when it made joining NATO a feature of its constitution, which can
certainly be changed. The question is, what are the guarantees of Ukraine's safety and security? And that will have to be something that's hashed out.
Neutrality shouldn't mean basically neutering, a complete neutralization of not being able to have the possibility to defend their territory.
ISAACSON: What we've seen is President Zelenskyy talking about neutrality. We've seen the Russians send signals that they're more interested now in
focusing on the Eastern Ukraine and not trying to take Kyiv or the whole country. Can you see as a diplomat what the outlines of a possible solution
are and what would you propose if you were sitting there saying, OK, I've been made the negotiator, let's try something along these lines?
HILL: Well, I think it gets to the point you've just said about trying things along different lines. I think you have to be very adaptable and
flexible, make sure that it's very clear what the floor is below which you're not prepared to go. I think President Zelenskyy himself, by opening
up the discussion about neutrality, being very kind of careful about how he's scoping it has already set forward on one of the tracks in which the
Russians have expressed a pretty clear demand, which is that Ukraine should not be in NATO.
The Russians have also made it very clear that what President Putin is seeking is the recognition of the annexation of Crimea as an official part
of the Russian Federation. I mean, that's something that that might also be able to be played with in some way, and what I mean by played it in a
diplomatic play, figuring out different formulations there that might be able to address both the concerns of the Ukrainians about the territorial
integrity and the demand that the Russians have put on the table. And, of course, it will all depend on how the Russians think that they're doing on
the ground on the battlefield.
There could be exactly a risk that they're deflecting attention away from other places and intend, in fact, to either continue with the level of
attacks that they already are engaging in or even step it up if we think that they're actually diverting their attention elsewhere.
ISAACSON: Given President Biden's statement that he cannot remain in power, and clearly, it's up to the Russians to figure out how to do its own
regime and leadership, are there ways in Russia that you see that there could be a transition in power? Could there be a people's revolt? Could the
military decide to change? Could his own ministers -- we've seen a couple of them resign -- decide there has to be a change in power, or is that not
HILL: Well, again, look, it's very dangerous in many respects to speculate, again, because the Kremlin and others will be watching these and
other kinds of commentaries. I'm wondering if they can gauge in this what our intent is.
But let's say Vladimir Putin himself is supposed to have an election, a presidential election in 2024. That's two years from now. Of course, our
assumption was after there was an amendment to the constitution in 2020 that Putin would probably seek at least another six-year term that would
take him out, obviously, to close to the end of this decade and potentially another six-year term after that, which would then have left him in power
for 36 years.
So, basically, there is some junctures, 2024 and again in another six years if Putin does in fact remain in power where there is a presidential
election that gives an opportunity for a change, a change that could be managed in some way. There could be a successor that's designated. The
group around Putin, you know, could work together to smooth something over.
But 2024 has got to be looming pretty high in Putin's mind and in the minds of everybody else around him. Unless, of course, now, the war is still
grinding on and they decide to then declare martial law, and then I think all bets are off and some of the other scenarios that one might come
contemplate could possibly come into play if the situation in Russia gets dire. But let's just say, this is very uncertain, this is highly fluid, and
it's also a very dangerous moment for the West as well as for Russia.
ISAACSON: You've written co-authored a book called "Mr. Putin: An Operative in the Kremlin," I think is how you describe him, and you say in
some way he's not ideological, that he's very much just a maneuverer and one who believes in the state, a real statist. Tell me how that plays into
what he's doing.
HILL: Well, look, I think over time it's not that he's become more ideological, but he's become much more fixed in his views. Since we
finished the book, of course, quite a lot has happened since then. And what we've seen is Putin become much more obsessed with history. That was one of
the factors in the book. We had a whole chapter called the history man about how Putin interprets Russian history and starts to increasingly place
himself in it.
I think now, Putin is thinking all about his place in history. His legacy. He sees himself in the pantheon of the Russian czars and of the great
Soviet leaders, clearly on par with Stalin who was in power for 30 years, and, of course, had some twists and turns in his time in office there. And
Putin has become very much fixed on himself in the state as being fused together. And that's part of the problem that we're facing right now.
ISAACSON: Your description of him as history man and obsessed with history, of course, brings up the (INAUDIBLE) to those who cannot remember
the past are doomed to repeat it. As a history professor, I sometimes worry there's a corollary that leaders who remember the past too well are
condemned to repeat it. Do you think that that may be a problem, is that he's so obsessed with Russian history?
HILL: I think it is. It is. I think that one of the things that we really see here is that he has found it very hard to disassociate himself and the
present from the past. Everything that he has said about Ukraine is basically a mishmash of historical time periods put together in one
narrative that he himself has formulated, that any professional historian and Russian historian and regional historian could easily poke holes in.
And he started to see himself, as I said, you know, earlier, as -- in many respects as kind of an embodiment of the Russian state, and the people
around him have actually said on numerous occasions that there is no Russia without Vladimir Putin. So, this makes the stakes extraordinarily high for
all of us.
How you deal with somebody who is operating in a framework where they think themselves and the state are fused together and they can't really step back
ISAACSON: Let me put this in the larger context of history. You've written a great book. I read it this weekend, I'll recommend it, which is "There is
Nothing for You Here," and I think that refers to the economic opportunities in Russia but also around the world, that we've gone through
a period in which economic opportunities and growth have been problematic, especially for people who used to get up in the morning, play by the rules,
and think they could succeed. How do you think this moment in history is being determined by big, large forces in your book?
HILL: Well, unfortunately, we were already before we got into this war in Ukraine or rather Vladimir Putin put us into this war in Ukraine, starting
to enter another phase that I described in the book. I mean, I -- the starting point in the book is really the 1980s and the deindustrialization
that many countries, particularly the United Kingdom and the United States started to experience from that juncture on, and the impact of that
ultimately had on socioeconomic situation, and then feeding into populous politics.
As you mentioned, I did talk about what happened in Russia in the 1990s when this -- the country moved extraordinarily rapidly from state-based
economy to a private market-based economy. Now, over time, Putin has put the state back in that economy again, and we are seeing now with the
sanctions and the cutting off of Russia from the economy a huge blow to the Russia that Putin has built up since 2000 in his period and the presidency.
Russia is going to go into a very steep recession. Many of the gains that the Russian economy and the Russian population, as a result, made over the
last 22 years since the dislocations and the wrenching rapid deindustrialization of the 1990s are going to be lost. I fear that we're
going to be in another major period of dislocation and shift. This is not going to be a very easy period for any of us in Europe and in the United
States to manage. There's lots of opportunity there as well. But we're going to have to pay very close attention to the people who get left
And in Russia itself, I think this is really going to be a return to those severe dislocations and political upheavals over the period that they
thought they'd left well behind at the end of the 1980s and in the 1990s, and we're going to have to figure out how we reintegrate Russia, how war is
not with the Russian people, but the problem is how to get Vladimir Putin and the people around him in the Kremlin who decided to embark on this war
to change their course.
ISAACSON: Dr. Fiona Hill, it's always great to talk to you. Thank you so much.
HILL: Thank you so much, Walter. It's been a privilege. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And that, of course, is the question, how does this all end? New talks between Ukraine and Russia are set to kick off tomorrow in Istanbul.
Will they produce anything, and will President Zelenskyy's offer of neutrality make a difference? Igor Zhovkva is deputy head of Zelenskyy's
office and he's also his chief diplomatic adviser and he's joining me now from here, from Ukraine.
Not telling where you are, but thank you very much for being with us, Mr. Zhovkva, again.
First and foremost, I want to know whether what the president told the Russian journalist is fundamentally new or was he just expanding on it?
Because he's said in the past a few times that NATO is off the table, and he's talked a little bit about neutrality. Tell us what's in the
president's mind as these new talks get underway.
IGOR ZHOVKVA, DEPUTY HEAD OF THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE: Well, right you are, Christiane. Thank you for having me. The -- president is
fixed in the reality, where do we stand vis-a-vis NATO. It's not a big secret that Ukraine and Ukrainian people are willing to become members of
NATO, and were willing and will be willing. But for the time being, we talk with NATO leaders, we talk with NATO as an institution and we see
absolutely no eagerness, no readiness, no braveness, if you will, to accept NATO -- to accept Ukraine amongst NATO members.
So, we do understand the reality. We understand this is not the case for the time being. But Ukraine has to think about its own guarantees. So,
where it comes the status of neutrality or (INAUDIBLE), there are several differences between those status, but generally it's what it is about.
So, neutrality is possible to be discussed and to be negotiated even at the negotiation table. That's my president several times reiterated. But only
together with the security guarantees, hard security guarantees we're going to obtain from the leading states like the U.S., the United Kingdom,
Germany, France, Turkey. So, yes, absolutely possible.
And president elaborated yesterday on the -- during his interview that it's one of the strongest demands of President Putin was even before his started
of the war, he was somehow obsessed with, you know, potential membership of Ukraine into NATO. So, if he's obsessed now, whether he is still -- and
this is his -- you know, the only prerequisite, and, you know, the main reason for him, OK, we will be talking, but only in combination with hard
We do not want this situation with Russian against Ukraine or any other states in Europe happen again. That's why, yes, it would be talked about
during negotiations but only in combination with hard security guarantees.
AMANPOUR: So, let's just quickly turn to what you said Putin had said and those were his demands, et cetera. So, you're now saying or the president
and you all are saying neutrality. There's a new round of talks starting in Istanbul. At the same time on Friday, the Russian general, Rutskoy (ph),
talked about a shifting of tactics away from the main cities and over to Donbas.
Do you think this is all part of something that's coming together? How do you assess what Sergei Kutskoy (ph) said about their new aims?
ZHOVKVA: You know, I think that everything which any Russian generals or any Russian propaganda people are telling now about changing the tactics,
fulfilling the stage one of the operations, as they call it special operation, is mere explanation for the Russian public, first of all, over
the fact that Russian failed -- the Russian armed forces failed completely on the ground. They failed completely to accomplish a blitzkrieg over
Ukraine or over major cities of Ukraine, Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odessa or some other cities.
So, now, they have to explain somehow to the public that, yes, this is what we originally were planning t. So, we are absolutely fine. So, I mean, no
use to explain this narrative. But in general, I mean, we see that they stopped the city offensives. What they now are doing is attacking a
civilian object through their air missiles, ballistic missiles, practically every night, at least for that city, only in every parts of the
territories. No longer safe place in Ukraine, no need in Western Ukraine or in Central Ukraine or southern or eastern.
So, they changed their tactics now. Is it good or bad? It's bad because they haven't ended the war. So, only complete cease fire will be, you know,
absolutely satisfactory for us.
AMANPOUR: So, we're looking at pictures right now of what happened in Lviv over the weekend where a missile struck a fuel depot, and there were lots
of explosions and lots of fire, it was very, very dramatic. Can you just tell me what's happening around Kyiv? Because we do get some conflicting
information about what's happening. Have certain towns been retaken? Is the Russian advance on Kyiv stalled? How do you assess, you know, the balance
of force around Kyiv, or are we in a stalemate?
ZHOVKVA: Well, the advance of Russian armed forces has been really stalled. You see that they haven't managed even to control half the
directions leading to Kyiv. So, they managed to control some of the directions, mainly from the north part of the Kyiv, but not completely all
directions. So, they haven't managed to encircle Kyiv or to besiege Kyiv altogether. And with current manpower, they will not be able to do this.
Yes, really right you are. Some smaller cities in the outskirts of Kyiv were taken back by Ukrainian armed forces. We have information that the
siege over (INAUDIBLE) is now under Ukraine control. But again, we will be very careful here not to, you know, spread the information to the media,
sorry for this, because, you know, the situation around Kyiv is really hard, and you can see and you can hear many Russian propaganda saying, I
mean, several days -- like they told in the beginning, three or five days, they will capture Kviv. Now, a month passed and nothing is even close to
So, let's not maybe spread the information but we'll wait for the result, and the result will come in a very sooner time as you may have mentioned.
AMANPOUR: In the meantime, talk to me about Mariupol. I mean, it's just devastated. And the mayor there today said, we are in the hands of the
occupiers today. Do you know what he actually meant? Is Mariupol still standing? Do you still control it? What did he mean by that?
ZHOVKVA: Well, some part of Mariupol is really under the control of Russian armed forces. And you well know that even they started to
forcefully deport people to Russia or to the Russian occupied parts of Ukraine, forcefully they are doing this. More than 15,000 citizens of
Mariupol are forcefully being, you know, being taken to the Russian parts. It's maybe from the left bank of Mariupol.
While the other parts are still fighting for by Ukrainian armed forces, if you are asking me about humanitarian situations, really disasters. You
know, it is the case for more than two weeks, you know, so many people have managed to evacuate, especially using the official corridors, which, you
know, practically started to function only the last several days. Before the people had to go buy food on their own and were picked up on the roads
by our rescue teams somewhere close to some other cities.
So, this is absolutely a disaster. And you know that every hour, practically, this city is bombarded. The civilian objects are bombarded.
These awful things with a drama theater, with the maternity hospital, they are starting to strike from the sea, et cetera.
So yes, we need the efforts of the international community with the evacuation and with, you know, just, you know, the city not to be wiped out
from the ground. Because, I mean, they practically using the tactics which were used in Aleppo, you know, it's like reminding the situation. But, yes,
you heard my president yesterday, the people are the most important target for them, unfortunately going on civilians, and we will fight for our
people. So, we are thankful to the initiative some European leaders helping to evacuate the city.
AMANPOUR: He also said your president -- you know, and you've just said that some -- not just civilians but also -- in particular, some 2,000
children have been forcibly removed from Mariupol and taken into Russia. I've asked Russian officials about this. They categorically deny it. What
proof do you have that they're being forcibly removed and taken into Russia?
ZHOVKVA: Well, I cannot comment exactly this number of 2,000 children, definitely some children were forcibly taken because, really, it's mainly,
you know, child, children with women, they are a target, I mean, for this forceful evacuation. But, you know, let's not calculate the numbers. I
mean, one child is -- you know, it's already the breaking of all the humanitarian conventions, et cetera. So, let's not talk about the numbers.
Let's talk about the policy they are doing.
AMANPOUR: Yes. That was the proof I was asking you, not necessarily the numbers but that they are actually taking them forcibly out to Russia.
ZHOVKVA: That's true.
AMANPOUR: How do you -- what's the proof? I mean, how do you know?
ZHOVKVA: Well, you know, it's mere logic. If they take women, they -- most women are coming with children. So, absolutely. Again, you can even ask --
I mean, I have my own citizens of Mariupol to tell me, yes, from the left bank, there is a forceful evacuation of Ukrainian population among women
AMANPOUR: And can I just get back to the talks? Because you talked about security guarantees, that whatever Ukraine would agree to in terms of
neutrality needed to be backed up by security guarantees. We just had Fiona Hill, the former national security European and Russian affairs specialist
talking to Walter Isaacson, and reminding everybody that actually for a lot of its history post the Soviet Union, Ukraine has been pretty much neutral
and indeed, it gave up the Soviet inherited nuclear arsenal in 1994 in return for security guarantees by the U.S., U.K., and Russia.
And you know, you could argue that that didn't come through. I mean, first of all, Russia has attacked you instead of defending you, and you don't
have intervention by the U.S. and the U.K. no matter the help you're getting from certain countries. How would that work out? As chief
diplomatic adviser, how can you imagine getting security guarantees for this neutrality that might actually stick?
ZHOVKVA: Well, definitely we do not want another piece of paper like a Budapest memorandum received in 1994 and it didn't contain the word
guarantee. It used the word assurances, which is far from, you know, guarantees. It was about some consultations to be started in case of any
aggression against Ukraine has taken place.
So, we see that neither consultations nor assurances never worked neither in 2014 when they started actually the aggression against Crimea and Donbas
nor in 2022 when they just started to wage an open war against Ukraine. So, we need a clear binding, legally binding guarantee. So, it should be a
treaty, a number of treaties where you could, you know, have absolutely clear, you know, state of events or state of actions of our guarantors. And
once again, among guarantors, we want to see the major states of the international arena, like U.S., U.K., Germany, France, Turkey, our
neighbors as well, by the way, or Russia as well definitely.
But you know, I'll give you just one example. My president is asking, keeps asking all this month of the war about no-fly zone of Ukraine. Why he
should ask this if -- he wouldn't should -- he would ask about this if that would be, you know, well prepared before or there would be a set of events,
set of order, order of command how to close the sky over Ukraine.
So, that is why this is one of the examples how to have this security guarantees implement. It's one of the examples. But it was -- should be
clearly written in the treaty and should be clearly, you know, supported and guaranteed by each guarantor state.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you? We've just got 30 seconds. Do you have actual hopes that this situation is sufficiently, wherever it might be, that these
talks in Turkey might produce something more substantial than they have yet?
ZHOVKVA: We are hoping for this round of negotiations. Otherwise, our delegation would not go. So, I mean, I don't like some information that,
you know, just before the negotiations I would want to say like, I mean, they failed to -- or destined to fail. No, no. We are hoping -- much hope -
- we hope that this time Russian delegation will take it really seriously, and we're hoping that this time they will achieve the result.
But in the end, I mean, you have to understand the real serious negotiation, the final negotiations could be only on the level of
presidents of Ukraine and Russia.
AMANPOUR: And at the moment, the Kremlin says there's not enough -- not enough has been achieved to have that meeting. So, so we will keep
Igot Zhovkva, thank you so much indeed for joining us, chief political and diplomatic adviser to President Zelenskyy.
And finally, tonight, a call for unity from the Lviv Symphony Orchestra. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, these musicians play together in a show of solidarity, and their charity performance was live streamed online. It was the very first
time they had gotten together since the war, and the concert hall is now filled with boxes of donations for hospitals.
Music is also being used to try to lift spirits in Odessa in the south, where these opera singers perform for the refugees at the train station.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: It's something. That's it for now. Thank you for watching, and good-bye from Kyiv.