As the Ukraine conflict passes 100 days, former Zelenskyy aide details life in a war zone

Correction: A graphic at the end of this piece suggested 40 million square miles of housing in Ukraine has been severely damaged since Russia invaded. It should read 40 million square meters. We regret the error.

Friday marked Ukraine’s 100th day of war against Russia. The devastation is clear from the images of destroyed cities and bodies in the streets. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says tens of thousands of civilians have perished, but the true toll of this war has been harder to calculate. Ali Rogin spoke with one Ukrainian living in Kyiv about the reality of the ongoing fighting.

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  • Geoff Bennett:

    Friday marked Ukraine's 100th Day of war against Russia. The devastation is clear from the images of destroyed cities and bodies in the streets. President Zelenskyy says at least 10s of 1000s of civilians have died. And the true toll of this war has been harder to calculate. Ali Rogin spoke with one Ukrainian living in Kyiv about the reality of the ongoing fighting.

  • Ali Rogin:

    Joining me now is Igor Novikoff, an entrepreneur and former Adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Mr. Novikoff, thank you so much for being here. You have been in Ukraine largely for the last 100 days along with your family. What has that been like for all of you?

    Igor Novikov, Former Adviser to President Zelenskyy: Well, thank you for having me, first of all. Well, it was incredibly surreal. I mean, I think sooner or later, I'm going to write a book about this experience, because nothing in this world can prepare you for the cruise missiles for that, you know, brutality and barbarity, like happening 15 kilometers away from your house, from that uncertainty, kind of not knowing whether the Russians are actually going to get to the parts of Kyiv you're staying with the kids, or not so, yeah, it was surreal. Both it was also a lesson.

  • Ali Rogin:

    And what would you say are the lessons that you have learned so far now that we're 100 days in?

  • Igor Novikov:

    Well, first of all, I'm going to expect the unexpected. I mean, a lot of — there was a lot of talk about this war, but you know, one thing is talking about it and being sure it's going to happen. Another is waking up that first morning to the sounds of a Christmas landing like 10 kilometers away from you. So that was the first lesson.

    The second one was going to you really need to kind of cherish every moment and kind of have meaning to what you do. Because, you know, life can take you turns unexpectedly again. So, thirdly, and probably most importantly, for me, I mean, I can do I thought of myself as a decent father, but you know, I was really bad at it. You know, given that second chance, actually kind of going through this experience, you know, I've evaluated everything.

  • Ali Rogin:

    A unique parenting experience to be sure, I want to turn to the pace of the war itself. I know you have said that you believe this summer is going to be decisive in terms of the direction of the war. So I want to ask you about this, why do you believe that this summer is going to be decisive?

  • Igor Novikov:

    Well, first of all, it's a completely different world. I use two terms to describe it now. And they might sound a bit dramatic, but it's true. I mean, it's become a slow and boring war. Slow, because I mean, there's the front is quite short at the moment. So, you know, most of the fighting is happening in Donbas, and the intensity has increased quite a lot, quite dramatically. Why the war is boring is because it's happening. It's 100 days already, and then people looking elsewhere. So, and as people started to lose interest in this war, it's an invitation for Russia to kind of to go further, if Putin has operational or tactical success in the battlefield, if he manages to drag this war out, it's up until October or November, you know, the winter is coming. So the European Union will once again be blackmailed with, you know, utility bills and gas supplies and everything. And he's going to try and create as much chaos as possible. I think we're going to see a major hybrid attempt at destabilizing global economy, you know, from Russia. They already — they've taken hostage to the world, food supply, pretty much, you know, with the blocking, you know, Ukraine's grain exports. But you think — I think with the situation with everything that's happening in the economy, you know, if Russia tax supply globally, you know, that's going to create a very painful situation for the ordinary people elsewhere outside of Ukraine. And once again, that would be the test of whether we're going to stay united. And we're going to see this war through to Ukrainian victory.

  • Ali Rogin:

    In the time that we have left, I want to talk about the fact that President Biden and Zelenskyy have both said that they believe the only way this war ends is by diplomatic means but how far away do you believe that that level of diplomatic talk remains?

  • Igor Novikov:

    Well, my personal assessment is that we're probably, you know, the furthest away from diplomatic solution that we've ever been during the course of this war. Why? Because, you know, this situation on the battlefield determines the outcome of the diplomatic dialogue. And at the moment, the determining factor on Battlefield is uncertainty. You know, there's no one that nobody can say for sure what's going to happen in this war within the next few weeks and months, so I don't personally see that avenue just yet. But I fully agree with the Presidents, yeah, every war in human history sooner or later ends and diplomacy. Unconditional surrender is also diplomacy.

  • Ali Rogin:

    Igor Novikov, former adviser to President Zelenskyy, and entrepreneur, thank you so much for your time.

  • Igor Novikov:

    Thank you for having me.

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