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Mariupol is now a 'beautiful' and 'rebuilt city' and Ukrainian forces should have surrendered earlier, Putin's ambassador to UK says

Mother of Putin critic searching for his body after morgue 'closed': Alexei Navalny
Published Time: 13.02.2024 - 21:40:30 Modified Time: 13.02.2024 - 21:40:30

In a wide-ranging interview with Sky News' Yalda Hakim, he also said Moscow has "no interest in Poland, Latvia, Estonia or any other countries"

In a wide-ranging interview with Sky News' Yalda Hakim, he also said Moscow has "no interest in Poland, Latvia, Estonia or any other countries".

Tuesday 13 February 2024 18:27, UK

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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 shortly after the invasion 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."

The remarks come nearly two years after Russian forces entered Ukraine despite Mr Putin saying he had no plans to invade the country.

Read more:Russia tries to hide crimes as it rebuilds UkraineThe surgeon smuggled into Mariupol to save Ukrainian soldiers

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On the war in Ukraine, Mr Kelin said: "It was a grave mistake by Western leaders to believe that Ukraine with Western assistance in money and weapons can prevail. Russia cannot be beaten at all."

He continued: "Compared with Ukraine, our political situation is stable, our economy is developing pretty quickly, our resources are enormous."

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, adding that the aim was to "stretch Ukraine's forces" so that Moscow could achieve its goals by "political means rather than military means".

Asked about a report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies that Russia has lost more than 3,000 battle tanks in its fighting against Ukraine, Mr Kelin insisted Moscow has "sufficient capacity" for its war effort.

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The ambassador was also asked about reports Russia is receiving ballistic missiles and artillery from North Koreaan arrangement that would be in violation of UN sanctions Moscow itself has supported.

Mr Kelin insisted there was "no proof" of such an arrangement with Kim Jong Un's regime.

The remark comes after Mr Putin gave Mr Kim a letter thanking him for his support for what the Russian leader calls the "special military operation" in Ukraine.

Mr Kelin told Sky News that Russia is merely "establishing a new cooperation" with North Korea.

The ambassador was also asked whether he would prefer Donald Trump to win the US presidential election over Joe Biden later this yearwith Mr Kelin refusing to support one candidate over the other.

However, he praised Mr Trump for talking about the "end of the war", claiming other leaders such as British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak merely talk about "continuation" of the conflict by agreeing to offer support to Ukraine.

Mr Trump has claimed he would be able to win the war in 24 hours if he enters the White House for a second time.

The former US president has also been criticised by NATO after he said he would let Russia "do whatever the hell they want" to members of the alliance that don't pay enough for defence.

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