The following is a transcript of an interview with Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova that aired Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023, on “Face the Nation.”
MARGARET BRENNAN: We are joined by the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States. Oksana Markarova. Welcome back to the program. Always good to have you here. I understand you are just back from visiting your family in Ukraine. Over the holidays, we saw Russia bombed hospitals on Christmas, on New Years, they were also bombing your country. What is life like during the holiday season?
AMBASSADOR OKSANA MARKAROVA: Well, it was- it was very good to be home. And, you know, when this invasion started on February 24, until my first trip home in April, and it was right after that my hometown was liberated a couple of days, literally, before that. I always woke up thinking, is that a bad dream? Like I always try to, you know, fight with the reality. But, you know, going back always on the one hand gives you a good perspective of how horrible it is. And on the other hand inspires because you see everyone not giving up. And everyone is, even throughout the holiday seasons, when the bombs are still flying everywhere. The destruction is enormous. People are very focused on winning, people are very focused on helping each other. And there was still a festive spirit everywhere people were singing, you know, people were trying to give gifts to each other. But of course, the main focus is helping our brave defenders and doing everything possible to win.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We were just talking with Senator King about this massive package President Biden just signed off on which also had a sort of increase in the type of weapons and defense items for Ukraine. Why do you need this so immediately? What are you preparing for?
AMB. MARKAROVA: Well, first of all, let me take this moment to thank the previous Congress for voting on the legislation and allowing us to have the possibility to have this packages this year. For every cent that we need from the financial assistance, but most importantly, security assistance.
MARGARET BRENNAN: That was the $45 billion.
AMB. MARKAROVA: Yes, yes. And the fact that you know, where we have this support from American people, is very valued in Ukraine. So everyone, you know, President, Congress, big thank you. Why do we need more, because we see that, A, we need to increase the liberation speed of our- of our land, we need to free more people as soon as possible, because we see what happens when they’re under occupation. We also do not intend to stop, we do not intend to take operational pauses, which Russia probably needs, because they have problem with their motivation. They have problem with even the rockets. I mean, they have so many of them. But they- we would like to fast to get to peace, which means we have to liberate our territories faster. So whatever we can get from air defense to all the armored vehicles to every cent that you saw in the package, we need even more because we are facing a much larger enemy.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So this package of $45 billion from the last Congress should take you through next year, according to some officials, U.S. officials. When President Solinsky was here in Washington, on that surprise visit, he did meet with Kevin McCarthy, who is now Speaker of the House. Did you get assurances that U.S. support will continue with Republicans in control?
AMB. MARKAROVA: We are fighting for the same values and for the same principles. We are fighting against the evil, which is a threat not only to Ukraine, it’s existential threat for us. But it’s a threat to everyone who believes in democracy. And I can say that our meetings during the President’s visit here, both with President administration, but also with all leaders in Senate and House of Representatives on a very strong bipartisan basis have been very constructive and very productive. I believe American people support us and will support us until we together can win this.
MARGARET BRENNAN: When the President was, when President Zelenskyy was here, he said financial assistance is “not charity, it’s an investment.” And he said Ukraine will be responsible with it. But given the concerns about corruption over the years past, how do you respond when you were asked that question of how do you guarantee every dollar being given to Ukraine is going to defense and not to, you know, embezzlement or something else?
AMB. MARKAROVA: I can only quote Senator King, who was just here. First on, there are three types of assistances, right? Budget assistance, security and humanitarian. On security, we’re not getting the money, we’re getting the goods and we’re very grateful for them. And the accountability for every piece that we’re getting is there. We’re not only sharing information, we’re implementing NATO systems in place, and we’re ready and already providing information and we know where every cent is located. On the budget assistance, we have reported on all assistance that has been provided to us. There is an audit underway. But we have also sent- I mean it’s very clear where we’re spending the money on and our Ministry of Finance has reported even before the audit is complete, and I have shared that report with every member of the previous Congress, and we intend to do so, in the future. The Inspector Generals are involved already from pentagon, but from other, from Department of State from Treasury, so we are not only open and ready, it’s in our interest as well, in order to prove why we need more and that we’re using it very effectively and efficiently. We are- we would like to be as open as possible. Every U.S. dollar that is given to us. We’re putting it to good use, and we’re using it as an investment into our joint fight for democracy.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about something we’ve talked about in the past, and that is what’s happening to Ukraine’s children. More than 13,000 were deported to Russia. Are you having any luck in getting your children back?
AMB. MARKAROVA: Well, first, unfortunately, we know the number is much larger than that. The 13,000 is the official number of the children we accounted for; we found. But we know that we already have so many, you know, tens if not hundreds of thousands of people who we don’t know their fate yet. And until we liberate our territories, we will not know, out of the 13,000 the Vice Prime Minister already informed that 212 have been returned.* 212 is of course a small number even though unlike Russians, every child and every life is very precious to us. So we’re so happy that this 212 are home, but we will not get tired and we will not stop until all of them are back home. That’s why we need more weapons to liberate our territories and people.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Ambassador, we’ll continue to follow the story and talk to you. Thank you. We have to go and we’ll be right back.
*Editor’s note: A spokesperson for Markarova later told CBS News that the correct number of missing children who have been returned to Ukraine is 125, not 212.
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