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Former leader of Euromaidan protests says Ukraine will resist Russia again

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Well, today we've been reaching out to people we met when we were in Ukraine reporting recently - among them, Hanna Hopko.

HANNA HOPKO: Hello?

KELLY: Hello, Hanna. This is Mary Louise Kelly in Washington. Hi.

HOPKO: Hi. Hi.

KELLY: Hi.

HOPKO: Hi, Mary Louise. Hi.

KELLY: Hi.

Hopko was one of the original leaders of the Euromaidan protests that toppled Ukraine's government back in 2014. Then she served her country as a member of Parliament. When I met her, though, at a pizzeria in Kyiv a few weeks ago, what was top of mind was her 11-year-old daughter, who had been begging for a guinea pig. The question for Hopko was, if they had to evacuate, was she going to want a guinea pig in tow? We reached her again today to pick up the story.

Where are you? Are you in Kyiv today?

HOPKO: I'm around Kyiv.

KELLY: Yeah, around Kyiv. Have you left your home, your apartment?

HOPKO: Yes...

KELLY: OK. Are you...

HOPKO: ...Because as a former member of Parliament, actually, everybody knows where I live. So it was dangerous. I'm assuming that I'm on this list of Russians which are identified political leaders, activists. So it's not safe for me to stay at my flat.

KELLY: You're talking about this list that U.S. officials say Russia has put together of Ukrainians who would be targeted, who would be possibly detained or Russia would try to...

HOPKO: Yes.

KELLY: ...To kill them.

HOPKO: Or even worse.

KELLY: Is your family safe?

HOPKO: Also, my husband is with me. The guinea pig is with us.

KELLY: And your daughter?

HOPKO: Daughter is in western Ukraine. Every - almost every hour she's calling me and asking, Mom, how is in Nafanyah (ph)? How is Nafanyah?

KELLY: The guinea pig.

HOPKO: Or is Nafanyah - yeah. The guinea pig.

KELLY: Oh, my goodness. This is - when I met you a few weeks ago in Kyiv, you were worried about this, that you were going to have to evacuate with a guinea pig. And here you are.

HOPKO: Actually, I'm really sorry that I didn't ever acquaint the guinea pig with my daughter so maybe today, she could be more relaxed having her friend with her.

KELLY: Yeah. So what is your plan now?

HOPKO: My plan - as always, to continue our fight, to keep resisting and to help our army to generate more international support. So I think until we win, we will continue to keep asking, demanding from our strategic partners because when Ukraine gave up their third-largest nuclear power in the world, we expected to see security guarantees.

KELLY: Yeah. I hear determination in your voice that Ukraine will fight back.

HOPKO: Well, of course we will fight back because this is our historical mission to stop this evil empire. We survived during Stalin's time, when millions of Ukrainians were killed and genocide was organized against us, and we survived. So, of course, now with this full-scale war against us, there is no option for us because the victory of Ukraine is crucially important for the U.S., for the European Union, for everybody.

KELLY: Are you scared?

HOPKO: No. I'm not scared because during my downtime, when - my colleagues, friends were kidnapped, tortured and even killed, so we already went through these painful times. It's not time to be scared. Putin has to be scared because he is a little gangster with the heart full of fear. He's afraid of transatlantic unity. He is afraid of our optimistic spirit, that we will win and he will never return us back to Russia's sphere of influence.

But what I'm really afraid of - Ukrainians who already killed and who will be killed. It's not like in Russia, when they don't care about people. We care about people. We care about guinea pigs, about everybody.

KELLY: We've been speaking with Hanna Hopko, speaking with us from a location outside Kyiv. And I'm glad to speak with you. I'm glad you're safe. We'll be keeping you and your daughter, your family and the guinea pig in our thoughts.

HOPKO: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MATT ULERY'S "INNOCENT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.