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Oleksii Danilov, the Secretary of National Defense and Security Council of Ukraine Kyiv, said that Ukraine would only negotiate peace with Moscow after all Russian troops were withdrawn from the country.Anton Skyba/The Globe and Mail

The West must increase its military support to Ukraine in order to match the assistance that Moscow’s allies, notably Iran, are providing to Russia, a top Ukrainian security official has warned.

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the country’s National Security and Defence Council, also said in an interview that Ukraine would only negotiate peace with Moscow after all Russian troops were withdrawn from the country.

While the hard line position is not new, Mr. Danilov reiterated it after U.S. media reports about contact between the Biden administration and the Kremlin, as well as a reported request from the White House that Ukraine show itself to be open to negotiations.

The longer the war in Ukraine continues, the likelier a Russian collapse grows

Mr. Danilov’s call for the West not to waver in its support for Ukraine, meanwhile, came as midterm elections were being held in the United States. Advance polling has suggested that the Republican Party – elements of which have questioned the level of U.S. assistance to Ukraine – was on course to reclaim a majority in the House of Representatives and perhaps the Senate as well.

Mr. Danilov told The Globe and Mail that Iran is supplying Russia with “massive” amounts of military aid – most notably the scores of Shahed drones that have been used to attack power stations and other civilian infrastructure for the past month – while military support from Ukraine’s allies “is perhaps not be corresponding to the scale of the challenges we might face in the future.”

Ukraine is suffering enormous military and civilian losses “defending the eastern frontier of NATO,” he said, while NATO members debate how much aid to provide to Kyiv.

“If someone in some capital is considering whether we should receive extra military support or not, I would like to underline that at this very moment Putin’s modern fascists are killing our citizens. Military, civilians and, most horrifically, they kill our children. Not everyone in the world is taking that seriously enough,” Mr. Danilov said inside the sandbagged Kyiv headquarters of the Defence Council.

He declined to name specific countries whose support he felt was wavering and did not list specific weapons the Ukrainian army lacked. “We are looking for all types of weapons,” he said.

Several Ukrainian officials pushed back hard Tuesday against the mounting pressure on Kyiv to enter into negotiations with Russia, which launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February. Tens of thousands of people have been killed, and millions of others driven from their homes, in more than eight months of fighting. Despite a recent series of battlefield defeats, Russia remains in control of about 15 per cent of Ukrainian territory, including Crimea, which it illegally seized and annexed in 2014.

Mr. Danilov said a complete Russian withdrawal is necessary before any peace talks can begin. “Please imagine that you have a four-room house. One of them has been taken over by crazy people who killed part of your family. And now you’re proposing, ‘OK, let’s start talks with them, so they can stay there, and we can find peaceful co-existence with them.’ Do you understand how absurd that sounds?”

In a Monday night video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his government was open to “genuine” negotiations with the Kremlin based on the “restoration of territorial integrity, respect for the UN Charter, compensation for all damages caused by the war, punishment of every war criminal and guarantees that this will not happen again.”

Russian deputy foreign minister Andrey Rudenko said Tuesday that Moscow was open to negotiations “without conditions” but was waiting for Kyiv to show “good will.”

The Kremlin has in recent weeks given mixed messages about a willingness to negotiate with barely veiled threats to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan had been holding talks with Yuri Ushakov, a foreign policy adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as Nikolai Patrushev, the head of Russia’s Security Council, in a bid to de-escalate nuclear tensions. The Washington Post reported that Mr. Sullivan had separately been urging Mr. Zelensky’s government to show that it is open to negotiations.

The White House has not acknowledged the talks but did not deny the reports. The Kremlin accused Western media of having published “numerous hoaxes.”

The threat to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine has been made obliquely by Mr. Putin, and overtly by members of his inner circle, including former president Dmitry Medvedev. While some analysts have dismissed the tactic as a bluff, Mr. Danilov said he believes Russia could use tactical nuclear weapons to influence the situation on the battlefield.

“The usage of tactical nuclear weapons – people who have problems in the head can do anything. The question is how the world will react to it. What will the reaction be if tactical nuclear weapons are used by the Russian Federation? What will the West do? This is a question for Western leaders.”

After a month of Russian air strikes on civilian infrastructure that have crippled the electricity supply to the extent that Kyiv neighbourhoods are getting power on a rotating basis – four hours on, four hours off – Mr. Danilov said the winter ahead will be a difficult one for this country.

“Taking into consideration that the Russians are destroying the energy system every day, we clearly understand it will be a massive challenge for us, and the winter will be very, very hard,” he said.

However, he predicted that Ukraine would nonetheless continue to advance on the battlefield and liberate its occupied territories.