• Ukraine’s Special Representative for the Middle East and Africa says the invasion has resulted in destruction of housing and infrastructure, millions of refugees and IDPs
• Says Ukraine is ready for negotiations, but they must take into account the national interests and conform to international law
February 24, 2023 marks one year since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as of January 3, 2023, 17,994 civilian casualties were recorded, including 6,919 deaths.
The UN agency warned that the actual figure could be significantly higher as reported victims are confirmed. “Tens of millions of people are in ‘potential danger of death’, it said.
In this interview, the Star’s Eliud Kibii engages Maksym Subkh, Ukraine’s Special Representative for the Middle East and Africa, on the ongoing conflict, Ukraine’s ties with Africa and Kenya as well as the all important food security issue.
Your official position as the Ukraine Special representative for the Middle East and Africa suggests your focus is on these two regions. What are the interests of Ukraine are you responsible for pursuing? What does this role entail?
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has determined the development of relations with African states as one of the priority areas of Ukraine's foreign policy. Therefore, I would like to focus exactly on this dimension of tasks I have to fulfil onwards.
Within the framework of a new policy towards the region, whose weight in international relations is increasingly growing, I was assigned to the position of the Special Representative for the Middle East and Africa.
This position envisages hands-on implementation of reloading of relations with African countries and elaboration of a coordinated line of actions of Ukrainian executive authorities aimed at boosting diverse interstate cooperation. This is about the adjustment of the constant political dialogue between official Kyiv and African governments and the significant expansion of Ukrainian diplomatic representation in the states of the region.
The work will be conducted to create a strong basis for the development of a qualitatively new format of trade and economic interaction based on a 'win-win' partnership, a trading platform for the broader involvement of African business.
In the humanitarian realm, Ukrainian institutions of higher education will continue teaching students and training staff for the economic needs of African countries.
It is also important for Ukraine to convey objective and truthful information about the ongoing Russian aggression.
Given our significant military experience in combating Russian imperialist armed offensive, we understand the ways of settlement of local conflicts in Africa instigated by Russia, including with the interference of the "Wagner Private Military Company".
Your country has been leading global headlines all year – unfortunately for very tragic reasons. What are the latest developments?
The full-scale unprovoked Russian invasion is an unprecedented event both for our country and for Europe since World War II.
Russian armed attacks resulted in large-scale destruction of housing and infrastructure, millions of refugees and internally displaced persons, and temporary occupation of part of Ukraine's sovereign territory.
However, Russian plans for a “blitz-war” have collapsed. Ukraine has stood on and has already been able to liberate 54 per cent of the territories, seized by the Russian Federation. Even Russian passage to the terroristic practice of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle attacks on objects of critical infrastructure has failed to halt the Ukrainian economy, which keeps functioning. That's why we are optimistic about continuing mutually beneficial cooperation with all our foreign partners.
Currently, we are very concerned about attempts of the Russian federation and its ally, the republic of Belarus, to bring about the next effort aimed at the occupation of Ukraine and overthrowing the legitimate authority in our country.
This is no different from the methods Russia practices and translates into life in some parts of Africa, where its mercenaries overthrow legitimately elected regimes with the aim of looting and ravaging the wealth of such countries and spreading its hegemony.
When may we hope to see this war ending? Is there a chance for negotiations?
Ukraine is always ready for negotiations, but they must take into account the national interests and conform to international law, in particular the principles of inviolability of sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The announcements about negotiations declared by the incumbent authorities of the Russian federation are ordinary manipulation and an attempt to win time for further aggression. Ukraine in its turn proposed a real mechanism – Ukraine's Peace Formula that was presented by President Zelensky on November 15, 2022, at the G-20 Summit.
It encompasses 10 steps to put an end to Russian aggression, restore peace, and strengthen respect for international law. These 10 elements include nuclear safety, food security, energy security, the release of all prisoners and deported persons, implementation of the UN Charter and restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, full withdrawal of Russian troops and cessation of hostilities, restoration of justice, countering ecocide, preventing escalation, and ensuring that aggression does not repeat.
We are actively searching for countries all around the globe, which would be willing to assist Ukraine in implementing this peace plan.
Maybe you could also discuss the bilateral relations between Ukraine and Kenya. Africa now knows Ukraine is an indispensable global exporter of grain. But is Ukrainian grain imports the only economic pillar of the Kenya-Ukraine relationship?
Kenya is one of the regional leaders of Africa, in particular taking into account its high level of democratic political culture, indicators of economic development, the role of a transit trade hub, and the driving force of integration in the East of the continent.
We view relations with Kenya not only through the lens of Ukrainian interests, but we try to become a reliable partner of your country, a contributor to food security, stable economic development, security, and defence. In particular, this war has proved that agriculture is vital for our survival.
Had a fruitful conversation with 🇰🇪 President @WilliamsRuto. Thanked for constructive cooperation in the UN, for support as a 🇺🇳 Security Council member. Discussed #GrainfromUkraine initiative, food security and creation of grain hubs in Africa. Agreed to enhance cooperation!— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) January 12, 2023
We believe that real food security is possible when governments strive for self-sustainability. That is why we are not only working to safeguard uninterrupted exports of foodstuff but are also ready to assist in increasing and developing agricultural production inside Kenya.
Ukraine is also one of the major players in the field of space exploration and aviation. We produce top-quality rocket and helicopter engines, transport and passenger aircraft of the Antonov family.
Digital transformation is another very promising sphere. Ukraine can share its unique experience in the field of e-governance and cyber security with Kenya.
President Zelenskyy in November launched the “Grain from Ukraine”. It has been interpreted as Ukraine seeking political support from the continent given the voting patterns at UN General Assembly. How do you respond to that?
The "Grain from Ukraine" humanitarian initiative has been launched to emphasize the importance of world food security and the global role of Ukraine and its partners in its ensuring.
Despite the Russian aggression, we plan to dispatch from different Ukrainian ports at least 60 vessels to countries, which suffer from food crises and need urgent help. Kenya, suffering from the worst drought over the past 40 years that has stricken half of the districts [counties] of the country, is among these countries.
Ukrainian initiative is completely transparent, as unlike Russia, our country doesn't bind help to the change of political positions of the countries. We do not play “hunger games” as Russians do. I want to emphasize that the key reason for the crisis is the destruction of food delivery chains, including those to African countries, by Russia.
Ukraine takes practical steps towards the countries and regions, which have suffered from the deficit of food most of all. Think of just one fact: We also provide grain to those African countries that cannot be considered advocates or protectors of Ukrainian interests. We do this for the sake of population, not to please one or the other political actor or force in Africa, using this humanitarian mission.
Our financial resources are already significantly limited considering the ongoing armed aggression of Russia against our country.
Going forward, what role do you see Ukraine playing in global food security?
Ukraine has necessary capacities and resources to strengthen its substantial contribution to global food security. However, the practical implementation of this important task depends on Russia's lifting of the blockade of Ukrainian seaports, from which the export of our foodstuff takes place.
Kenya and other African countries can contribute to the provision of the unimpeded operation of global grain corridors and the cessation of aggression against Ukraine. Food security is one of the components of the Ukrainian peace formula.
The "Grain from Ukraine" humanitarian initiative together with the currently functioning export grain agreement is a timely and powerful answer to the threat created by Russia.
Ukraine wants to save millions of people's lives in the world from hunger and thereby prevent social chaos in dozens of countries. I think African nations, which face the mentioned problems in reality, can be valuable partners in the implementation of the Ukrainian way towards a stable peace.