Ukrainian MP poised to fight Russian forces uses podcast with Preston councillor to plead for Britain to back a no-fly zone

A Preston councillor says he was left in disbelief by the matter-of-fact manner in which a Ukrainian MP told him of how she had taken up arms to help defend her country against the Russian invasion.

Wednesday, 2nd March 2022, 5:15 pm
Updated Wednesday, 2nd March 2022, 11:05 pm

John Potter, who leads the Liberal Democrat group on Preston City Council, spoke to Kira Rudik, the leader of the Liberal Holos Party in Ukraine, for his regular Lib Dem Podcast.

Moments before recording the 20-minute interview from her home in the capital, Kyiv, the Ukrainian politician had been training with what she described as her “troops” in the local resistance force she recently convened.

Like thousands of her compatriots, Ms. Rudik has been provided with a weapon to enable her to join the civilian army created to repel Russian forces.

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Ukrainian MP Kira Rudik holding the weapon she says she will use to help defend her country against the Russian invasion

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Speaking to Cllr Potter on Monday, she expressed her gratitude for the donations of medical and monetary aid that had been sent from around the world, but said that if there was “one thing” she could ask of the global community, it would be to enforce a no-fly zone across her country.

That option has been dismissed by the NATO alliance because of the likelihood of it leading to direct conflict between Western forces and Russia – and the resultant risk of the conflict escalating into a third world war.

“Without the protection from [the] air, we will probably fail – nobody wants us to fail.

Preston City Council's Liberal Democrat group leader John Potter had a sobering podcast conversation with the leader of the Liberal Holos party in Ukraine, Kira Rudik

“At some point, NATO will still have to come along – and, as with the sanctions, my begging…is just not [to] let it be too late.” Ms. Rudik appealed.

Cllr Potter said that he had found it difficult to comprehend the situation in which the MP now found herself.

“Imagine having to pick up arms or learn how to use a rocket launcher. It’s a mindset that her life has completely changed – and the same for her family, friends, her whole country.

“They are a country at war, fighting for their lives – and the Russian soldiers they kill, they will live with that for the rest of their lives.

“Ukrainian and Russian people are close – and a lot of the Russian soldiers are incredibly young. But they are conscripts and so they don’t have a choice to be there – it’s all sorts of awful.

“[There is a phrase] that you’re either a good soldier or a dead soldier – and what hit me after speaking to Kira was that she will sacrifice herself for her country.

“She has gone from running an IT company, to becoming an MP only in 2019 to suddenly becoming leader of her party a year later and now having to become a soldier – how do you process that change?” asked Cllr Potter.

In the podcast, Ms. Rudik said she understood that it was a “complicated decision” to put a no-fly zone in place over Ukraine, but believed that it could be done even just at “a British level” – and added that there were “means to do it without saying [you have] done it”.

Asked what British people could do above anything else to help Ukraine, she said that it was to “petition, protest…[and] push your government to provide a no-fly zone”.

“If the rockets stop shelling our cities, it’s easier to fight and it’s less stress.”

Ms. Rudik also spoke of a feeling that her generation had “failed our children”.

“We really hoped that after the Soviet Union collapsed…we would raise a generation that didn’t know what war is.

“What happens to the country will be secondary to what happens to this new generation that is being screwed right now.

“Every single day they have to go down to the bomb shelter, they have to lay down on their bellies and [pretend to be a turtle]. This is [the game] that you have to develop to protect the mental health of your children.”

The MP said that she did not believe significant numbers of her fellow citizens would ultimately make their way to the UK and places like Lancashire.

She said that she had asked people fleeing far beyond Ukraine’s borders: “What are you going to do there, especially with small kids? It’s a totally new life that you are starting when you are not ready to do that.”

Ms. Rudik added: “I believe that there will be many people in the borders of Ukraine who’ll actually go through the initial shock [of the invasion] and then will figure it out.”

She also told Cllr Potter of her country’s desire for a simplified and swift process of securing EU membership and its hope ultimately to become part of NATO – as well as issuing a warning to the world that Russian promises over their military intentions were usually a precursor to the country doing the exact opposite.

Asked about her own feelings of suddenly finding herself on the frontline of a conflict with a superpower, her stoicism shone through – but so, too, her fury.

“Right now, I am extremely angry – I had so many personal plans and now it’s all over and [I have] to train, to speak to the world about what’s going on and then to go and hide in [a] bomb shelter. This is not a life that I imagined for myself and my family.

“I think [of the changes in my life], ‘Wow that will sound terrific on my biography in 50 years’,” she smiled, before adding:

“I believe in God and I think He is throwing things [onto] my plate for me to digest it. My friend [says] God is making diamonds out of us.”