Russia’s ambassador to Australia clashed with ABC presenter Sarah Ferguson in a tense interview on Monday night’s edition of 7.30, during which he refused to acknowledge his nation was breaking international rules.
Ambassador Alexey Pavlovsky was immediately taken aback during his first media appearance in several months, as Ferguson started with a confrontational question.
“Ambassador, you’re here in Australia enjoying the benefits of a free and open society. How do you live with yourself representing the repressive, dictatorial Putin regime?” she asked.
As she said the words “repressive” and “dictatorial”, Dr Pavlovsky broke out in a smile, as though amused. Ferguson picked up on it.
“You find that funny?” she shot at him.
“What I find funny is your way to start an interview,” Dr Pavlovsky responded.
The Russian ambassador’s reaction to Ferguson calling Putin’s regime “repressive” and “dictatorial”. Picture: ABC 7.30Ferguson observed that found the question “funny”. Picture: ABC 7.30
“It was a pretty straight question,” said Ferguson.
“Yes, too straight,” he said.
“First, let me tell you that I never had problems living in my country. I lived there for 13 years after my previous appointment before I came to Australia. I never had the impression that I lived in an authoritarian – how did you put it?”
“Repressive and dictatorial,” Ferguson offered helpfully, before going on to explain her meaning more fully.
“This is a regime that invaded its neighbour. It’s a regime where protests are suppressed, where your free media is muzzled, where dissenters are murdered or imprisoned, where the extent of your war casualties are hidden from the public.
“How would you describe this form of government, if not as a dictatorship?”
“I was preparing myself for substantial questions on Russia’s policy and Russia’s position on certain issues, Russia’s role in the world,” Dr Pavlovsky said.
Ferguson said those questions “would come” but it was important for viewers to understand “who you are and who you are representing”.
Dr Pavlovsky said he had expected “substantial questions” about policy. Ferguson assured him they would come. Picture: ABC 7.30
Moving on, she brought up Dr Pavlovsky’s previous claim that Australians had been “brainwashed” into supporting Ukraine in its struggle against Russia’s invasion.
“The Russian invasion of Ukraine was a criminal action, and the Russian military has terrorised the people of Ukraine. Do you understand that you don’t need to be ‘brainwashed’ to understand that?” Ferguson asked.
The Russian ambassador responded by bringing up the US-led invasion of Iraq 20 years ago, which he labelled “immoral aggression”. Ferguson attempted to bring him back to the matter at hand: Ukraine.
“When we are talking about the public being brainwashed, it involves not being able to see events in a context, and especially the context of national history,” said Dr Pavlovsky.
Ferguson pointed to a just-released United Nations report detailing various war crimes allegedly committed by the Russian army in Ukraine, including “torture, rape, execution”, the “indiscriminate” shelling of civilian infrastructure, and the forced deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia.
“How can you claim that this is a war to ‘liberate’ Ukraine?” she asked.
Dr Pavlovsky suggested the assessments of both the United Nations and the International Criminal Court were slanted against Russia because they did not mention “war crimes by the Ukrainian side”.
“I would like to see these reports. From what I have seen so far, I have gathered that the bodies you are referring to are more than biased. They have tunnel vision. They choose not to notice the ample evidence of war crimes committed by the Ukrainians,” he insisted.
Dr Pavlovsky repeatedly refused to agree that Russia was engaged with war with Ukraine, instead repeating the Kremlin’s favoured euphemism, “special military operation”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin during a visit to Mariupol on Sunday. Picture: Russian Presidential Press Office/AFP
The interview was recorded before the ICC issued war crime warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of deporting Ukrainian children.
Echoing Putin’s talking points, Dr Pavlovsky claimed the Ukraine conflict had become “a proxy war of NATO against Russia.”
“Sarah, you don’t have to record every time you disagree with me. You are probably, you invited me to hear my opinion,” he said in response to Ferguson’s interjections.
“Absolutely. All right. I wanted to ask your opinion about this. I will put it to you again. Russia caused the death of more than 8000 Ukrainian civilians since February of 2022. In his speech to the Russian Federation last month, President Putin said, “We are not at war with the people of Ukraine”. My question was, why are you killing them?” Ferguson asked.
“I would say that this tragedy of Ukraine started when the West sponsored a coup in Kyiv and brought to power an ultranationalistic, xenophobic government. That was the government that, in fact, burnt alive 50-plus people in Odessa,” Dr Pavlovsky argued.
“If you’re just going to repeat Russian propaganda tropes from the past, I’ll ask you to move on,” Ferguson told him.
“Sarah, you’re repeating the western propaganda, and it’s OK?” he replied.
Dr Pavlovsky on 7:30.
Dr Pavlovsky also argued Australia’s involvement — with the provision of 90 Bushmasters to Ukraine – was an issue.
“The Australian government knows our position. The position is that it is very straightforward, the more you give weapons to Ukraine, the longer this war is protracted, the more are the casualties and destructions of Ukraine,” he said.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 last year,
In a statement to 7.30, the Ukrainian ambassador to Australia, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, said his nation was grateful for Australians’ support.
“The war would end tomorrow if Russia simply withdrew to the borders it has illegally crossed to invade a peaceful and smaller neighbour, and practice ethnocide against its people,” he said.
“If it does not do so, the fastest way to end the war, achieve peace and return stability to the world and Australia, is to help Ukraine be victorious in the coming months.”