"To end the war we must win it, there are no other options" — this is the conclusion of Aleksandr Kofman, leader of the pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), established in East Ukraine eight years ago.
Kofman, who is Jewish, served as the DPR's foreign minister during the last round of fighting in East Ukraine in 2014, and today heads the quasi-state's public bureau.
He sat down with Ynet and sister publication Yedioth Ahronoth to an exclusive interview in which he blamed escalating tensions on Kyiv, and claims that war between Russia and Ukraine is inevitable.
"Last night, the Ukrainians bombarded us intensely", he said. "Besides Ukraine using weapons prohibited under the Minsk Protocol, terrorist groups have infiltrated us and we took them down, and some of our men were injured."
Despite the initial panic, Kofman claimed that anxiety levels among the pro-Russians in East Ukraine were ebbing.
"On Sunday, immediately following the announcement of the head of the republic calling to evacuate all civilians, there was panic. There were huge lines at gas stations... the line facing the border with Russia was 20 km long", he said. "There's plenty of gasoline, the ATMs are working and stores are accepting unlimited credit payments."
Kofman expresses distinct pro-Russian views and blames Kyiv for stirring up provocations and trying to regain hold of its rogue former territories Donetsk and Luhansk, which declared independence from Ukraine back in 2014.
"We won't allow our wives, children, and mothers to become a human shield. We're worried that the bombardment from the border will reach our central roads. In that case, civilian victims are unavoidable. Hence, we made the decision to evacuate women, children, and men over the age of 55."
Coffman insists that there's no escaping a war.
"My prediction is we will celebrate Victory Day on May 9th in Kyiv", he said, referring to a national holiday celebrating Nazi Germany's surrender to the Soviet Union in World War II.
He expresses hopes that Russia and Ukraine could mend fences after the war.
"I see Ukraine as a future ally to us [Russia], after all the irresponsible individuals that instigated this inhumane war will be tried", he said. "When Soviet forces marched into Odesa, they gave the civilians a day to turn themselves in as Nazi collaborators. I'm sure Ukraine will be in a similar situation. We are already receiving videos in which Ukrainian residents are seen cursing Ukrainian soldiers close to the border."
Kofman also expressed his opinion of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky: "He's not the one playing, he's being played. He's just a puppet for those who want the conflict with Russia to escalate".