Ukraine’s 60-year-old national security secretary is a leading adviser to the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. And these days, some of the news he’s passing on isn’t all that good.
We sat down with him for an exclusive update on where things stand. Danilov was blunt about Moscow’s brutal attacks on civilians in recent days and throughout the war.
“Definitely, we have a war only with Russia,” he said, “And Russia is ruled by Putin. So Putin is responsible.”
He addressed Ukraine’s more aggressive actions in the last several weeks, including drone attacks on Moscow and long-range missile strikes on targets in the south.
“This is about justice,” he said. “Our kids have to sit in bomb shelters. Why should we suffer and they don’t?”
Danilov blamed thousands of Russian landmines and countless airstrikes for the slow pace of Ukraine’s counter-offensive. Concerning its goal of driving Russia out, he said, “Once we get there, we will inform the whole world. Because it’s our country. We have to take it back.”
He said there would be no talking with Russia until there was a complete withdrawal and acknowledgment of war crimes.
“If not,” he added, “the war continues. How will you explain to soldiers who lost friends that they have to put weapons down and stop?”
How long can Putin last, and how does he maintain popularity at home? Danilov had another reflection on history’s dark past.
“Hitler had huge support at the beginning of his war, too,” he said. “And you know how he ended up. In a bunker.”
As for the growing call among some politicians in the states to cut back military aid to Ukraine, Danilov noted, “Politicians use this in their political program. Democracy has to be protected. So, aid has to continue because it’s democracy.”
Near the end of our visit, Danilov showed us a huge LED screen displaying day-by-day Russian attacks on Ukraine during the war. He offered, unprompted, an observation about the early days of fighting in February 2022.
“You know,” he told us, “we had a ‘Plan B.’”
He was almost relishing the idea the Ukrainian government might have had to go underground and stage a resistance fight if Russia had been successful.
But Ukraine fought back and is fighting back. And now, nearly 18 months into this war, Oleksiy Danilov is in the middle of a huge and sprawling battle for his and his country’s life.
“Before the war, no one believed in us,” he concluded. “Believe in us.”