Vladimir Putin’s ambassador to the UK says the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, which Russian forces razed to the ground, is now “beautiful” and “rebuilt”.
In a wide-ranging interview with Sky News’ Yalda Hakim, Andrei Kelin also said Moscow has “no interest in Poland, Latvia, Estonia or any other countries” after NATO warned of future Russian invasions in Europe.
When asked about accusations of human rights abuses in Mariupol, Mr Kelin said: “Go to Mariupol, now look at it, it’s a new rebuilt, totally rebuilt city… it is amazing how beautiful it is.
“Not every building has been restored right now, but a lot of effort has been done.”
He continued: “People are returning to Mariupol, it is becoming a beautiful city.”
Asked why the port city needed to be destroyed, Mr Kelin said: “(The Ukrainians) could have surrendered earlier than that, they could have surrendered Mariupol much earlier rather than trying to make a fighting place of it.”
The siege of Mariupol by President Putin’s forces began in February 2022 and ended in May that year when Russia declared victory, with the last Ukrainian fighters defending the Azovstal steel plant surrendering.
On NATO’s claim about Russian plans to invade other countries in Europe, he said: “There is no interest in Poland or any other Baltic countries and we fully understand that any escalation beyond Ukraine will bring a world conflict with the destruction of everything… we cannot support this.”
On the war in Ukraine, he added: “It was a grave mistake from Western leaders to believe that Ukraine with Western assistance with money and weapons can prevail.
“Compared with Ukraine, our political situation is stable, our economy is developing pretty quickly, our resources are enormous… and the line of contact has moved slowly but steadily to the west.”
Mr Kelin also described the withdrawal of Russian tanks from Kyiv in the opening months of the war as a “gesture of goodwill” rather than a defeat.
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