this is bbc news, the headlines: one of president putin's closest advisers, the foreign minister, sergei lavrov, has told the bbc that russia has not invaded ukraine. he's repeated the kremlin line that there is no war but, instead, a "special military operation". this comes as russia's invasion of ukraine is almost four months old. a congressional panel investigating last year's storming of capitol hill has heard how former president donald trump tried to pressurise his deputy, mike pence, to overturn the result of the 2020 election. witnesses say mr trump knew his plan was illegal but insisted mr pence go along with it anyway. the hollywood actor kevin spacey has appeared in court, charged with four counts of sexual assault and one of causing a person to engage in sexual activity without consent. he strenuously denies
the allegations. he's been granted bail and is due to appear in court again next month. now on bbc news, hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk, i'm stephen sackur. for once, the headlines coming out of ukraine have been dominated by diplomacy rather than the latest from the war front. the leaders of the eu's three biggest countries staged a visit to kyiv on the eve of a key brussels decision — will ukraine be given official eu candidate status? for the zelensky government, it would be a symbolic prize to match the practical military and economic assistance still urgently required. well, my guest is one
of ukraine's deputy prime ministers, olha stefanishyna. is ukraine getting the backing it needs? deputy pm olha stefanishyna, in kyiv — welcome to hardtalk. hello, stephen. thank you very much forjoining us. now, over the last few hours, you have been heavily involved in hosting the leaders of france, germany, and italy in kyiv. the meeting, as we speak, is still ongoing. does the fact of this visit
give you hope that you're finally going to get the levels of assistance from europe that you say you need? well, we have been very clear from the very beginning that regardless the outcomes of the negotiations — which in fact are still ongoing for the third hour already between the leaders — regardless of these outcomes, this visit is already historical and it will be historical not only because of their physical presence here, but also because the historical issues on the agenda. first and foremost, these are the three major leaders of european union, opinion leaders in european union, who are to give a clear answer whether there will be a support on ukrainian membership respective to european union. regardless the answer we will receive today, this will be a historical breakthrough. either we will make europe stronger, or we will become stronger ourselves. the same, it's only like less
than 2a hours after the fourth ramstein format meeting, and i think that these are the three leaders who will co—ordinate the assistance of the military format to ukraine within the european union through european resources. so the outcomes are still to be announced, but regardless the outcomes now, this will be a historical meeting for ukraine. yeah, we'll get to the eu candidate status in just a moment. but let's begin with the very real practical material assistance you have been demanding from european member states for a long time, military assistance. germany, represented today in kyiv by olaf scholz, has promised a lot and delivered very little. is there any reason to believe that's going to change? well, the formula you've just announced is generally constitutes the biggest problem in the supplies and deliveries
of weapons, because we have a huge gap between promises and political arrangements and the actual deliveries, which is not helpful, as you can imagine, in the military theatre around ukraine and planning the defence operations and de—occupation operations in ourland. so, germany has become the vivid example of that. but this is the issue throughout many capitals. and following the 110—plus days of war, basically we've already started the new formats of co—operation like the ramstein format, because none of the existing one has been efficient enough to make sure that our defence capability is at least in a parity with the russian federation, because now it's 1—to—20. you say 1—to—20, the artillery and heavy weaponry ratio. your commanders and intelligence guys in the field are saying right now
in places like severodonetsk and luhansk province, oblast — you are losing, you are losing because you're being outgunned. so, ijust wonder when the germans, for example, around this trip have announced that they will be giving you their multiple launch rocket systems, whether you believe it's too late? well, yes, it's about timing. and i think that the very fact that macron, scholz, and draghi has physically been to the city of irpin, which is nearly all destroyed by russian artillery and bombs, they've seen it with their own eyes. and they know now the price of not delivering the amount of the weapons and the timing of this delivery. so, it is seen by the level of destruction of the infrastructure, but first and foremost, you see it by the people—less streets of the cities, whereas people will never be able to come back
because they lost their lives and families and relatives orfled beyond the border. and i think that this is the very last argument which could be used in this negotiations. otherwise, we should then consider the fact that some of the allies are not on our side in terms of ending this war. have you and zelensky said that explicitly to the french, germans, and italians today — that if you do not do more right now, we will have to regard you as not being with us in this struggle? well, it's very clear to some extent for us as the politicians in war and the members of the government and the president, first and foremost, it is very clear, because there is only one way to end this war and to prevent others, is the unconditional victory of ukraine and regaining the territories. if we are speaking loud and clear, what we need for that and it's not
provided to ukraine, it means that those who do not view it do not want it. and i'm sure that... so, just — all right, well, you're being very clear with me, so be even clearer, when you had your own meetings, because you were involved in some of the meetings just a few hours ago with these three, with macron, scholz, and draghi, did you say to them, "it is unacceptable that europe still is giving every month hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars direct to putin's war machine through the purchase of russian gas"? because the europeans are talking about an oil embargo being phased in. they're not talking about a gas embargo. and if you look at the figures, in the recent analysis of what russia is getting for its fossil fuel exports, it amounts to billions and billions of dollars given directly from europe. does that have to stop?
well, we're as blunt, as precise, and as straightforward as we were just talking to you on this interview. because for us, each and every measure which is not taken in the time it requires, has first and foremost undermined our territorial integrity back in the 30—year — over these 30 years of independence. but now, every measure which is not taken contributes to financing the war, not isolating russia in the scope which could end the war and weakening ukraine, but making it incapable in a military way to the extent it is needed. and the unfortunate thing is that those nato allies, having a strong expertise and knowledge in the military theatre, have the clear understanding of the needs on our side and the amount of these needs and the timing of its delivery. so, to be honest, i'm slightly struggling to understand why you say to me, "oh, it's so great, it's so historic that these three are here,"
when frankly, symbolism isn't what you need. it's deeds, it's actions. and even as of right now, you talking to me, you don't know that you're going to get the actions that you want. we are getting the actions of the world what we want. and this war has started that nearly all the unprecedented cases we could have only imagined and actions has been taken. but through the dynamics of the war. and we have to be clear that russia has never had such war started on any territory around the world for these 30 years. and it's very clear that the actions which are taken, they're effective, but they are far too slow and we are happy that we have the ramstein format. but still, the leaders, the european leaders, have to finally understand that whatever decisions are taken, these are the personal and political commitment which should be there and where it is there, the practice show that it works. unfortunately, if there would be any conventional mechanism or organisations or bureaucracy which could have been applied to prevent this war, we've been doing it, but now it hasn't played a role. so now it's leaders
who shall take the personal responsibility to stop the aggression, to stop the war by providing sanctions, and by providing the military assistance to ukraine, and by making ukraine stronger, actually, and not sending to russia the positive signals. just to be clear, you have not yet received the commitments, the promises that you want to hear, right? yeah, we've received a lot of promises and we even calculate them on the alphabetical order. but the hugest gap is between promises and actions. and ukraine, as you know, has been facing a lot of promises starting in 1994 on the withdrawal of nuclear weapons, and 2008 on promises tojoin nato, after which three wars has started, two of them on our territory. so, promises we calculate, but we also have another table in this agenda, which are the implementation. right, well, we've talked
weapons supplies and we've talked sanctions. now, let's talk specific about the eu membership issue. you are desperate to get this symbolic prize of candidate status officially authorised by all of the member states of the eu. i put it to you that you're unlikely to get it. you might get it from the eu commission at the end of this week, but what you're not likely to get is the full support of all 27 eu leaders. indeed, the guy who is with you in kyiv today, emmanuel macron, has suggested that there ought to, or maybe ought to be a compromise where you don't get candidate status, but you get promises that if you do well in the future, you might get a future candidate status. for now, you'll be an associate partner of the eu. would that kind of compromise be acceptable? well, it doesn't look exactly
the way you're putting it. in fact, just like minutes after macron arrived to ukraine, to kyiv and i saw him, his minister for european affairs made a formal statement confirming that france and president macron support granting ukraine candidate status, as well as the italian prime minister draghi, irish prime minister and of course, eastern european countries. and this is not something about like the reforms ukraine has been doing, it's the answer which should be given to ukrainian people who are dying now on the forefront of war, but also who have put in their lives and the revolution of dignity. and if for some reason this decision is not taken, while i'm really positive about the necessity to take this decision, this would cause, of course, enormous frustration
among ukrainian people. this would be immediately treated as a negative signal, but moreover, it would cause a huge frustration about the europe and would undermine the whole european project as it is, so... right, but madam deputy pm, you're also the, the key politician in ukraine responsible for euro—integration. you've been lobbying for this for months right across europe. you know that certain governments like the netherlands, like portugal, are saying even today that it would be a mistake to offer you candidate status because it would divide the european union, it would invite more escalation from putin and from moscow, and that there are other things that are more important right now — for you — than this symbolic moment of candidate status. what do you say to them? well, the majority, the vast majority of eu member states support this decision and they understand the symbolism of this decision and the necessity to put a tribute to all the reforms
we've been implementing over these years and to confirm, basically, that we are already part of the european union in many economical and people—to—people senses. but what we say is that by the end of the day, it's important that taking and not taking this decision would equally divide european union. while the group of sceptics does not operate any significant arguments, any significant arguments with regard to that. aren't you being a little naive, though? because you said recently — it's a very powerful quote — you said, "we have already paid for our eu membership "with our blood," but, with respect, that's not the way the eu works. the eu is wedded to process. you're at the back of a queue of other nations which are desperate tojoin the european union and they don't believe in queue—jumping. they also don't believe
in offering accession to countries which have a war on their territory and they also don't believe in offering accession to countries which don't meet basic standards of governance, including tackling corruption. you can't get around those eu rules and conditions and, at the moment, you don't meet any of them. yes, of course, it would be naive to think that we operate only with argument related to the lives people has paid for the european choice and basically putting the application for membership, let's say, argument even the fact that we have the war. on opposite, basically, it's recognising the basic fact that over this time the — since 2014, including now more than 100 days of war, ukraine has shown to be a reliable and trustworthy partner. in fact, we have been a reliable partner over oil,
gas and electricity crisis over the last 15 years, and even now, in time of war, we continue the gas transit to european countries. we are protecting these tube by the lives of our soldiers and armed forces and basically, we have already been enjoying zero duties in terms of our trade and we are one of 20 largest trading partners of eu. so we are already very much part of the market and we have 70% of alignment of the legal basis. so, when we use any emotional argument, they are backed up with the concrete understanding that we are not skipping the process, we're going in line with the process, and we are backing it up with the reforms we've already done to gain the status. i do not wish to belittle the unimaginable pain and suffering that your people have endured over the last 100 and some days in this war
at all, but there are, are there not, some reasons to worry about whether the war is having an effect on ukraine? which is, to a certain extent, questioning your ability right now to meet basic european standards — i'm thinking of basic democratic standards. i mean, would any other european nation that aspired to membership of the eu be banning, for example, the biggest opposition party, as mr zelensky has done in recent days? because he clearly thinks it's pro—russian, it is damaging to ukrainian unity, but nonetheless, if you are to be a real democracy, surely, you have to let the main opposition party operate. i wouldn't go into saying the biggest opposition party because it's not the biggest even in terms of calculations and this process has no effect to the war so far. it has been started by a pretty long time ago, and in fact, those mps of the parliament belonging
to this party in a huge amount support this decision now, when the war is started. but we will see, on 17june — european commission will publish its opinion and some of the messages from this opinion has already been outspoken that ukraine is the democratic country with the strong support of human rights and different standards, and basically now, you are talking to me, the member of european government, the government which has remained fully operational from central to the local level throughout all of the war. just one thing about your adherence to human rights — it's about adherence to minority rights and those of ethnic russian people and pro—russian and russian—speaking ukrainians. moscow, of course, claims that they are routinely and systematically persecuted — and there's no evidence to say that that is true, but there is evidence to suggest that
you have passed laws in your media, in your politics, in your education system, which do appear to progressively be more anti—russian. and when i see a quote from the national security and defence council official oleksiy danilov saying, "we will not have anything russian left in our country," it makes some people who believe in human and minority rights, worry. well, but we're speaking on a broader context and we've been monitored heavily by various international organisations, and these reports confirm what i say but, basically speaking, i myself, a russian —— russian—speaking vice prime minister of a a0 million country, i can confirm that i have never been subjected to discrimination. on opposite, i'm representing the part of ukraine and the russian—speaking population which has been under
attack bombs and shellings and in some of the villages where my grandparents has been living, they do not exist any more. so, anything that has been claimed by russian federation is not worth discussing because the major attacks since the first day of war were targeted to the major russian—speaking regions of ukraine, neighbouring with russian federation, speaking russian and supporting russian federation. these attacks were targeted to these people. these people in mariupol, they were more than 20,000 of russian—speaking people who are desperate, murdered or died from hunger, from the bombs of the russians. you are responsible for relations with the eu and with nato. have you now formally given up on any aspiration to be a member of nato? because your president seems to have done. no, we haven't been giving up on any aspirations, and i keep on doing the,
let's say, the technical part of thejob related, to my mind, to the scope it allows. but, at the same time, we consider that ukraine, over the years since 2008 and with some pauses but explicitly the last two years, has been absolutely explicit and clear in our messaging and in our aspirations to join nato. we have submitted the formal application even back in 2008. we have been reiterating on that at the level of president and other levels and we've been integrated into various nato formats, so if there is the will of the allies to take any decisions to step up with ukrainian membership, everything is done on our side to make sure that it is possible to start with the plan. you've talked to me about the urgency of getting more support from europe. be honest with me — how long can ukraine continue, in this war, to sustain the terrible losses?
we believe your military personnel losses go into more than10,000 dead, many, many more wounded, but your economic losses as well — world bank says that your economy is shrinking 45% this year. your infrastructure is, in swathes of the country, damaged and ruined. how long can you continue to take this sort of damage? well, we have a clear understanding in a number of issues. basically, we do not have choice but to stand as long as it is possible physically to defend our land and to end this war, because we understand that any arrangement like minsk iii or any otherformat would lead to the war of an endless war, or the war which will be ending and starting again. but isn't that dangerously close to declaring you're prepared to sort of commit
an act of self—harm? because if you go for this maximalist approach that you need to liberate all of the donbas, you need to liberate crimea, it's very hard to imagine that happening. so, it means endless war and your country and your people are going to suffer unimaginably. i can confirm you, steve, that i'm speaking on behalf of my people. you cannot even imagine how much people has been suffering here. my friends has been murdered, tortured. my family has been hiding in a bombshell for two weeks, just as thousands and thousands of families. womens has been raped, some of them are pregnant. people were — more than 1,400 people has been simply shelled on the streets. so amount of suffering, which is unbearable, you cannot even imagine that which is happening
on our soil these days. so, nothing — nothing could be done to make sure that the beginning of the negotiations to start with understanding that we have no other way to overcome and to restore our territorial integrity and to make sure that russia is accountable, first and foremost, for the crimes. so, nothing in these negotiations should lead to legitimisation of this war, and this should be clear for everybody. olha stefanishyna, i thank you so much forjoining me on hardtalk from kyiv. thank you. hello. friday is set to bring the peak
of the heat that has been building over the last couple of days, especially across england and wales. on thursday, scotland and northern ireland stayed that bit cooler but cardiff got to 26. to the west of london, a high of 29.5 degrees. but that's nothing compared with the temperatures we've seen in south—west europe. this a0 in southern france on thursday is a record—breaker — the earliest point in the year that france has recorded a temperature of a0 degrees — and some of that extra heat will waft northwards on friday into the south—east corner, highs of 33, always cooler further north and west. these are the starting temperatures for friday — quite warm and muggy out there first thing. we've got outbreaks of rain that will be pushing down across parts of scotland into northern ireland and this is a bit of a dividing line because, behind this, we are into cooler, fresher conditions. quite windy as well. but ahead of our band of cloud and rain, lots of hot sunshine. some mist and murk perhaps for some western coasts but east wales, the west country, into the midlands, a good part of eastern england,
the south east seeing temperatures into the high 20s or low 30s, likely to peak somewhere around 33 degrees. with very high uv levels in these southern parts, the sun is very, very strong at this time of year. now, through friday night, this band of cloud continues to sink southwards. a weak weather front at this stage, not much rain on it but to the north of it, we're into the cool air, to the south of it, still very warm and muggy — 18 likely to be the starting temperature in the centre of london on saturday morning. so, you can see that warm air clinging on in the south but further north and west, something cooler and fresher to the north of this weather front. now, along the line of the weather front on saturday, we will see some outbreaks of rain starting to develop. some of this rain could be heavy, possibly thundery. also, some showers into the north—west of scotland. generally, quite a lot of sunshine across the northern half of the uk. temperatures for most of us at this stage in the high teens but still 27 in london, maybe 29 across parts of southern and south—eastern england. but by sunday, the cooler
this is bbc news, i'm victoria fritz with the latest headlines for viewers in the uk and around the world. �*never closer to the european union than we are now�*, president zelensky�*s pledge that ukraine was ready to put in the work to become a full eu member. the us capitol investigation hears that rioters demanded former vice—president mike pence be dragged out of the building. keeping cool in school, the heatwave continues to provide record temperatures across europe. and france prepares to decide if president macron should control parliament, as he begins his second term as leader.