President Vladimir Putin is a “war criminal” who is committing “genocide” in Ukraine and the European Union must not resume “business as usual” with Russia as long as he remains in power, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told Euronews in an exclusive interview.
“This Russia is totalitarian, it’s nationalistic, it’s imperial, and this Russia wants to re-establish the Russian empire and a post-Soviet Union type of state,” Morawiecki said.
“We cannot see a situation where there’s a retreat to business as usual. Women and children are dying. Russia [commits] genocide in Ukraine and war crimes. Not with this regime,” he added.
“Putin is a war criminal and what he’s responsible for in Ukraine is simply beyond one’s imagination. I think we should create an international tribunal to trace the crimes and make justice again when the war is over.”
Morawiecki spoke with Euronews’ Efi Koutsokosta at the end of an international donors’ conference that he co-hosted with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson in Warsaw.
The conference raised €6 billion to support ongoing humanitarian efforts across Ukraine.
“We gathered more than expected,” Morawiecki said. “But this amount of money is not good enough, is not sufficient for the enormous needs in Ukraine, given the atrocious war that is going on and on.”
During the interview, the Polish PM spoke at length about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which he described as “brutal,” and the geopolitical implications for the entire continent.
Since the war broke out on 24 February, Poland has been at the forefront of the international condemnation against the Kremlin, calling for weapons deliveries and the harshest possible set of EU sanctions.
“I believe the war is going to be over sooner rather than later. But it all depends on the courage and determination of the Ukrainian nation. So we all should be grateful for the enormous bravery and courage and for what they’re doing to defend their sovereignty and freedom,” he said.
“We know they are defending, on the barricades, not only their freedom but also the security and peace of the whole Europe.”
Morawiecki dismissed Russia’s nuclear threats as a “sign of their weakness” and said the Kremlin will think “twice” before expanding the military aggression towards neighbouring countries like Moldova.
“But nobody knows because this is in the hand of the leaders of Kremlin,” he conceded.
‘Bigger countries wanted to procrastinate’
The prime minister spoke a day after the European Commission proposed a gradual EU-wide ban on Russian oil imports to deprive the Kremlin of one of its main sources of revenue.
The ban is seen as the EU’s most radical move to date and has raised concerns among some highly dependent countries, including Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, who now demand a more protracted timeline to introduce the measure.
“Frankly speaking, there are different countries in different positions in terms of dependency on oil and gas, and we understand this,” Morawiecki said when asked about the negotiations on the oil ban.
“There are discussions with the European Commission about what the interim periods could be. However, they are not going to block those sanctions, as far as I know.”
The war has exposed the EU’s entrenched dependency on Russian energy, built under the assumption that closer trade tries with Moscow would have brought the country closer to the West. The long-held belief crumbled overnight when Russian troops entered Ukraine and began bombing cities.
Last week, Russian energy company Gazprom informed Poland and Bulgaria that it would halt gas supplies to the two countries.
“I’ve always advocated for the harshest set of sanctions. So I know what I’m talking about,” the PM said.
“We should not look for any kind of scapegoat or pinpoint at this or that country because we know there were much bigger countries that were trying to stop, to decelerate, to postpone, to procrastinate,” Morawiecki added, in an apparently veiled reference to Germany, a country often accused of enabling Putin’s regime through a policy of appeasement.
Until the very week when the war broke out, Germany had vigorously defended the legitimacy of Nord Stream 2, an underwater conduit to bring more Russian gas directly into the country. The controversial project was launched in 2015, a year after Russia annexed Crimea.
“There were countries which were so dependent and wanted to be more dependent on Russian gas, and everybody knows who they are,” the Polish PM said.
“They were short-sighted because they couldn’t have imagined what was going to happen with this dependency. And Putin used this as a blackmail vis-à-vis the rest of the European Union.”