>> Ukraine fights back as Russia doubles down, and new allegations of war crimes, this week on "Firing Line."
>> We, together, have to win.
And the Russian Federation should be defeated.
>> Seven months into Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the war has reached a tipping point.
Facing battlefield losses, Putin is conscripting hundreds of thousands of Russian citizens and making fresh nuclear threats... ...as new reports of war crimes emerge, including torture, mass killings, and children forcibly taken from their families to Russia.
Oksana Markarova is the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States.
>> When I see genocide and when I see crimes against humanity, I know what it is.
>> A key part of her mission -- how to drum up more military support and aid from the United States and allies.
>> A crime has been committed against Ukraine, and we demand just punishment.
>> What does Ukrainian ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova, say now?
>> "Firing Line with Margaret Hoover" is made possible in part by... And by... Corporate funding is provided by... >> Ambassador Markarova, welcome to "Firing Line."
>> Thank you for having me.
>> This weekend marked seven months of war for your country.
I'd like to ask you what the number-one message you have for the American people about Ukrainian resolve seven months into the war.
>> We always said we will not surrender, and we will defend our country.
I think that does not require proof anymore.
Everyone knows we will not surrender.
So our message now is that we, together, have to win.
And Russian Federation should be defeated, because if they are not punished for what they've done, for all of their criminal acts, then our planet is not a safe place to live for any of us.
>> This week, Putin held referendums in four occupied regions in eastern and southern Ukraine, paving the way to annex territory even larger than Portugal.
Now, Russian soldiers have been going door to door, armed with machine guns, collecting ballots at gunpoint.
President Biden and many Western leaders are dismissing these votes as sham elections.
What message do you have for Ukrainians living in occupied territories right now?
>> You know, I wouldn't even call it referendums because we saw what Russian war criminals are doing on the occupied territories.
We've seen, you know, enormous atrocities.
We've seen horrible mass graves with people who were tortured before they were killed.
We can only guess what we will see when we liberate Mariupol and other places.
But what we know for sure is that everyone under this occupation, regardless of whether it's 32 days, like my hometown was, or months like we see now in some other places, all people want to be back.
All people want to live in Ukraine.
All people are doing everything possible and sometimes impossible just to survive and wait for our soldiers to come and liberate them.
So this referendum or elections or whatever they want to call it, the sham events were only held in, you know, Putin's minds and in the minds of people who staged it.
But nobody will ever recognize it.
That's not how you conduct any democratic processes, not under the gunfire.
And frankly, I don't even know why they are even trying to do it, because everyone knows that it was Russia that attacked us.
A large nuclear country that attacked peaceful, small, non-nuclear country.
Actually, one of the very few countries that got rid of the nuclear arsenal, the third-largest nuclear arsenal, voluntarily.
>> I've noticed that every single time you or your president, President Zelensky, are interviewed, you are asked a version of the question, "Would Ukraine cede some territory to Russia in order to end the war?"
and, every time, you have both said no.
What is the effect of the same question over and over on you and your people?
>> It's a very profound question, which we have to analyze the question more than actually the answer.
I think, through the past 30 years, and if we look back 100 years, the West has seen our region through the eyes of Russian propaganda.
It was a surprise for some people that Ukraine has a deep, rich history and was independent way -- long before Russia even existed as a separate country.
So I think whether it's called Russian Federation or Soviet Union or Russian Empire before that, they have always been trying to occupy the countries around them.
So when people ask us this question, are we ready to cede any territories to return to peace, I think they're asking a question about the options which never existed, doesn't exist, and will not exist.
If somebody is attacked in a dark alley by a maniac, do bystanders ask, "Are you ready to give up your arm or leg in order to save your life?"
No, they call the police.
They try to do something.
They stop and put in prison that person.
>> One of the concerns now is that Putin will treat the annexed land as Russian territory, which he's vowed to defend using all means at his disposal.
And last week, Putin renewed his nuclear threat, saying, "It is not a bluff."
And then after those remarks, President Zelensky said that Putin's nuclear threats now could be a reality.
Is this nuclear blackmail?
>> He actually is a part of nuclear blackmail already because they control, illegally, one of the largest European nuclear stations in Ukraine for the past couple of months.
So we are trying again, doing everything possible and impossible to prevent Russians to do something, to shell the nuclear station and to cause a nuclear accident already that could be tragic, not only for Ukraine but for the region.
Again, it's the station that is six times larger than Chernobyl.
And we all remember what was the effect of a nuclear event in Chernobyl during the Soviet times.
So, of course, we cannot take it lightly when somebody with a nuclear weapons publicly threatens others.
All countries have to take note and act and strengthen the sanctions and together, you know, build a response based on strength.
>> That response based on strength, I mean, you're right.
It's not just a nuclear arsenal.
It's the world's largest nuclear arsenal that Russia has.
And the U.S. has warned that "catastrophic consequences" would result if Putin resorted to nuclear escalation.
But the U.S. has been very vague about what kind of consequences would result.
>> We have heard a very strong message from President Biden in his very short phrase, when he said, "Don't, don't, don't."
And I actually was very pleased during this recent General Assembly to see that it's not only our usual friends, not only the European Union, Great Britain, United States is the strategic friend, number one, but we have heard concerns from many countries which, you know, were not as straightforward before.
But the issue of sovereignty, territorial integrity, the issue of nuclear safety is a critical issue for all the countries.
We didn't hear from anyone words of support to Russia.
We didn't hear from any country that they are okay with a large country violating sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
>> So if there were a nuclear attack, what should the U.S. response be?
>> Um, look, I think we have to do, all of us, everything possible to prevent it.
And to prevent it means to support Ukraine more and to isolate Russia more.
And I think Russian Federation miscalculated the Ukrainian resolve and our readiness to defend our country.
They also miscalculated how united the West will be in supporting us.
>> Last week, the leader of Russia, Putin -- Vladimir Putin -- said he was mobilizing up to 300,000 reservists.
That's roughly double the number of Russian troops at the beginning of the invasion.
Does your country, Ukraine, have enough troops and resources to fight off 300,000 more Russian soldiers?
>> We will fight as long as it's necessary.
And, of course, you know, it's our chief commander, President Zelensky, is our commander.
Zaluzhnyi is our brave armed forces.
But it's all 40 million of Ukrainians who are fighting.
Believe it or not, we still have lines in the conscription posts of people who want to go and fight for the -- for our country.
So, of course, we are concerned about this mobilization.
>> What does that tell you about his strength, his position of strength, that he... >> Oh, he had problems with troops for a long time now.
First of all, they've lost more than 50,000 people in Ukraine already.
Second, we are defending our homes, our loved ones.
We are very motivated.
We do not see that motivation in the Russian troops.
What are they there doing?
Attacking an independent nation?
Torturing women and children?
This is not the motivation that drives armies to actually fight as our army fights.
And third, also, clearly, with the footages that we see from Russia, where again, all the Russians either trying to flee the country or trying to escape the -- this mobilization shows that it's one thing to support the war, watching through the television, but it's a totally different thing when you have to go and do it yourself.
So it's definitely not a sign of strength that he had to announce this mobilization and try to get more people.
Now, I don't want to be overconfident.
300,000 people is a lot of people.
And as motivated as we are, we will require additional support in weapons in order to deal with it.
>> Thousands of Russians have taken to the streets, protesting this mobilization.
Thousands of Russians protesting the mobilization have been detained by Putin's government.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has spoken to Russians on both sides of this issue, and they have a video which has gone viral in Russia with Russians talking about how they feel about the mobilization.
Take a look.
Do you have a message for Russian civilians who are risking their freedom by speaking out against the war?
>> Those who speak against the war, since the beginning of this war and since the beginning of the war eight years ago, I can only tell them that we appreciate it and we thank them.
But, unfortunately, the number of those Russians is so small, which was a big disappointment, I have to say.
It was so sad to see how many Russian people supported the war, how many Russian people knowing the truth, seeing the truth, and that didn't change their position.
So, again, as much as we are grateful for those who protest, I don't even know whether I still hope that the Russian society can wake up.
And they should do it not to help us.
They should do it for themselves.
>> And yet, many Russian men are now attempting to flee Russia.
They're attempting to leave the country to escape conscription.
European officials, in fact, are debating whether or not to offer safe haven to Russians who are leaving Russia.
What is Ukraine's position on how E.U.
nations should respond to this?
>> Our president has been very clear about it, that there should be a visa ban for every Russian, for all the Russians.
If they support the war, if they support the aggression, if they support attack against a European country and European values, they should not have the right to enjoy all the European freedoms and benefits while they are not ready to do it back home.
>> Even if they're escaping a war that they don't support?
>> But they are not escaping the war.
There is no war in Russia.
They are not being bombed.
There is no threat to their children.
There is no threat to their families.
>> Escaping a conscription in order to serve in a war.
>> They were -- they were okay with it for the past seven months.
They were okay when Ukrainian children were bombed and killed.
They were okay when our women and men were raped and tortured.
Now, I would be very careful for some of the countries who would accept a large number of Russians who are escaping with the Z signs on their T-shirts.
>> So, the Ukrainian position is not to support a French or a German program to take in Russians fleeing conscription.
>> I just don't see what good will it do for either these countries or Russia, for that matter.
>> The Ukrainian government has opened a hotline -- the "I Want to Live" hotline -- where Russian soldiers can call and surrender.
And President Zelensky has promised not to return those who surrender to Russia.
How many calls has the hotline received?
>> I don't have the information yet, but Ukraine has shown during the seven months that we are very responsible.
We are treating the prisoners with, you know, not only according to all the conventions, but they're fed, they're treated.
You know, we are different.
We are not executing people.
We are not torturing them.
We are not killing them.
And right now, whoever doesn't want to -- to participate in this criminal war should surrender.
>> A United Nations-backed commission concluded last week that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine.
And we've learned about torture, mass graves in Bucha, Izium.
But there are two specific kinds of atrocities that I'd like to talk to you about specifically.
The first is called filtration.
According to Human Rights Watch, Yale University Humanitarian Research Lab, and the U.N., Ukrainians in occupied territories have suffered numerous human-rights violations, including being sent to internment camps.
What can you tell this American audience about the practice of filtration?
>> This is the word that I thought we would only read in books about the World War II and about what Nazis did -- when people are stripped, searched, interrogated, tortured in order to find out whether they support Ukraine or not, people who are Ukrainians, people who are on the Ukrainian soil, people who were separated from their children.
And we have even cases when the children were sent to Ukraine with some other people and mother was detained.
This is a despicable war crime, and we are positive all responsible for this will be -- will be brought to justice.
>> I want to talk about that justice in a second, but I want to focus on the second atrocity, which is so horrifying.
The Assistant U.N. Secretary General for Human Rights says there are... Now, forcibly transferring children is one of the specific definitions of genocide, according to the Genocide Convention.
Can you tell us exactly what is happening?
How many children?
Where are they being sent?
What is being done to get them back to their families?
>> This is one of the most difficult questions which our first lady is raising everywhere.
Because it's a kidnapping of Ukrainian children, people who were in orphanages, people who were in foster care, but also people who were on the territories which were occupied, whose parents were either killed or they don't know where they are.
I mean, it's a war situation.
They specifically take children and deport them to Russia.
They even change the local legislation in order to make easier the adoption process.
And the most difficult part of it is that it's all on either occupied territories or in Russia, where we cannot get any information from.
Clearly, I mean, they're hiding it from us.
But we see the statements of the State Duma, representatives who actually call for it, who specifically say that Ukrainian children should be even, like, placed in some kind of institution so they can be "de-Ukrainianized."
I mean, it's -- it's a genocide.
It's -- It's, you know, for anyone who's normal, this is not normal.
This is something that should not only be a question of bringing people to justice, but, you know, who are these people who do this?
>> So, how will Russia be held accountable for this genocide?
>> Well, ultimately, we believe the crime of this magnitude deserves a separate tribunal because it's very important to prosecute Russian Federation for what they really did.
Not only the individual soldiers on the ground, not only the commanders, not only the oligarchs and the financiers who helped to do these crimes because they financed this war, but also, collectively, the country that actually planned, conducted -- and conducted the genocide.
>> President Zelensky recently called Russian forces terrorists.
He's urging the United States to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.
And President Biden has resisted this so far.
Why is getting that designation from the White House so important?
>> Well, first, it's very important to call Russia what they really are.
Russia is aggressor, and Russia is a terrorist state.
In fact, Russian Federation is probably the largest terrorist organization that operates now on our planet.
That's why President Zelensky and all of us are trying, on a daily basis, to work with our partners here to convince that this is time to do this designation.
This is time to completely cut them from all of their resources and completely isolate them so that they realize that they have to stop.
>> Is there a next round of sanctions that you would like to see?
There is still a lot we can do together.
First, the Russian financial system.
Yes, a number of large banks have been sanctioned, both by the United States and by European Union.
But every time one bank is sanctioned, some other banks pick up their activities in financing the war or financing the military.
So we believe all Russian banks, all 330, should be sanctioned.
You know, the restrictions on oil and gas, we realize how reliant European and other markets are on the Russian oil, and, therefore, you know, it's great to see that the U.S. is working with all the partners to come up with some creative ideas, like the price cap for oil.
But ultimately, I think it's important for all of us to understand that any reliance on Russia on anything is a weakness and, ultimately, a risk for any normal country.
So we have to not only isolate and sanction Russia but think how we will replace them in all the supply chains, how we can reorient and work together better in order to address these challenges.
>> Make the case to Americans why it is in their best interest to win in Ukraine.
And I want to place that against the backdrop of the 2022 elections, 'cause there is some speculation that Republicans might sweep the House and the Senate, and there is an isolationist trend in the Republican Party that is less interested in being involved in foreign wars.
So make the case for why it is in Americans' best interest for Ukraine to win.
>> Let me state three reasons why.
First, because it's the right thing to do.
Because we believe in the same values.
We have the same principles.
We believe in freedom and independence.
This is what this country is built on and this is what we are fighting for.
Second, President Putin and all of the people around him, numerous times, said what their goals are.
They are restoring the Soviet Union.
It's not only about us.
They are threatening Poland.
They are threatening Baltic states.
They are threatening other countries in Europe.
So, God forbid, if we fall, it will not stop the war.
The war will get further, and this will get to the NATO countries, and it will trigger Article 5.
And third, we can be the answer to so many challenges that we face now, globally, from food to energy, that if we win together -- I should say when we win together, we can do so many great things together.
>> You just referenced Putin's ambitions and how they won't stop with Ukraine.
Putin has compared his quest to win back the so-called Russian lands of Peter the Great.
In 1990, as the final collapse of the Soviet Union was imminent, Russian scholar Richard Pipes joined the original host of this program, William F. Buckley Jr. Take a look at this clip.
>> I don't think you could go back to the old ideology, but you could -- you could inflame Russian nationalism in its chauvinistic forms.
>> And in what ways would it likely express itself?
>> Well, that -- >> Will you become a nuclear terror again?
>> Well, we Russians are a great nation.
We are a supreme nation.
And we will not let go of this -- of the Ukraine.
We will not let go of the other republics.
And we ought to be a world power, and we ought not to give up Eastern Europe.
That was a mistake, and we possibly should -- we should recover Eastern Europe.
>> I mean, even that is conceivable.
>> It's conceivable, so nothing has changed.
So all you have to do is just change the labels, and you're back in business.
>> So what does the world need to understand about Putin's mind-set?
>> Just believe what he says and act upon it.
Everything he's said, from the famous notion that the breakup of the Soviet Union has been the biggest tragedy, it's all out there.
Russian Federation never pretended that they are democratic, peaceful nation that want to just focus on how to develop their own country for their own people.
They always have been pretty clear about their imperialistic ambitions.
So we have to believe it, take it into account, and act.
Isolate, sanction, and work together to show that we, together, as democracies, can also not only deliver to our people but defend ourselves.
>> Ambassador Markarova, thank you for your time, and thank you for joining me on "Firing Line."
>> Thank you.
>> "Firing Line with Margaret Hoover" is made possible in part by... And by... Corporate funding is provided by... >> You're watching PBS.