Daily Trust: How deep is Ukraine’s relations with Africa? Dr. Valerii Aleksandruk: The years of membership of Ukraine in the United Nations were closely related with the African continent. Ukraine was one of the strongest fighters against colonialism, apartheid and race discrimination. Being a member of the UN special committee against apartheid for many years, Ukraine struggled against discrimination and inequality in Africa. The feeling of freedom is in the blood of the Ukrainian nation and it came to us from the times of Cossaks who were very brave warriors. I would like to talk about the first Cossak’s Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk of 1710, which is recognized as one of the best state created documents in European history.
By the way, the well-known airport, Orly in Paris, has direct ties with the name of Pylyp Orlyk. Ukraine’s eternal feeling of freedom was realized after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The monumental independence declaration of the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian Parliament) 26 years ago enabled Ukrainians to reclaim their land from the Soviet regime and secure their territorial integrity and sovereignty.
The new state has entered the international arena. A strategic course towards European integration has been chosen in the foreign policy of Ukraine and has remained strictly unchangeable despite the fact that Russia is trying to keep Ukraine in the sphere of its interests. By the way, do you know that the geographic center of the European continent is situated in Ukraine?
After independence, Ukraine started building effective diplomatic service, inter alia, in the African space. The Embassy of Ukraine in Nigeria opened in 2001. The sphere of responsibility of our embassy includes five states in West Africa including Benin, Cameroon, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Togo. The zone of consular accountability of the embassy in Abuja also includes The Gambia and Sao Tome and Principe.
In the bilateral sphere Ukraine is building strategic partnerships with key foreign partners on the principles of reciprocity and pragmatism, developing a network of longterm partnership with the states that become new centers of political and economic development. Ukraine has presented itself as a responsible international partner. It showed an example of nuclear disarmament, having voluntarily abandoned, after USSR’s falling, the third largest nuclear weapons arsenal in the world that contributes to the overall stability and security in the world. Being a victim of one of the biggest nuclear catastrophe in human history - Chernobyl Nuclear Power works in 1986, Ukraine remains confident of the principles of nonproliferation and elimination of nuclear weapons.
I am very pleased to be appointed as Ambassador to the very important country that plays key role, not only in West Africa but on the entire African continent and in the world Ukraine celebrated its 26th independence anniversary on August 24. The country’s Ambassador Extraordinaire and Plenipotentiary to Nigeria, Dr. Valerii Aleksandruk, told journalists in Abuja that Nigeria and Ukraine have more in common than what separates them. Excerpts:
Aleksandruk: I am very pleased to be appointed as ambassador to the very important country that plays key role, not only in West Africa but on the entire African continent and in the world. Ukraine pays special attention to developing deeper relations with Nigeria. As the Ukrainian Ambassador, I am doing my best to promote our relations to a level never seen before. It is a pleasure to note that Ukraine and Nigeria enjoy fruitful cooperation within the framework of international organizations. Ukraine considers Nigeria an important partner, especially in the area of trade and investments. Ukraine is interested in developing relations with West Africa, in particular, with ECOWAS. Currently, we are looking at the possibility of creating the Free Trade Area with ECOWAS. The readiness of our two countries to continue political dialogue and to get deeper cooperation in different fields was confirmed during the meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Pavlo Klimkin and Nigeria’s Geoffrey Onyama on March 1, 2016 in Geneva, also in May 2016 in the course of third session of the bilateral political consultations in Abuja, as well as during my last meeting with Onyeama on August 25.
Our relationship has developed quite well in recent years. In the economic field, Nigeria is already one of the most important commercial partners of Ukraine in SubSaharan Africa. And, according to Ukrainian statistics, the commercial trade turnover between Ukraine and Nigeria for six months of this year has a significant growth of over 119 per cent, worth about $ 61 million, and this figure must increase. We believe that there are lots of areas where we can deepen our relations and develop them further, such as in the areas of agriculture, mining, renewable energy and infrastructure, where Ukrainian companies have great expertise. The presence of several Ukrainian companies in Nigeria is a testimony to the level of confidence my government has in Nigeria. We are very pleased to see that more and more Ukrainian companies are looking for new opportunities in Nigeria. Ukraine is encouraging more of its companies to come into Nigeria and invest as well as establish partnerships with Nigerian companies. The great mutual interest to economic cooperation is proved also by the first Ukrainian-Nigerian business forum held successfully in Kyiev earlier in May.
Nigeria and Ukraine have enjoyed good military cooperation. As an ambassador, I have done a lot to promote good relationship between Nigeria and Ukraine for years and this is improving by the day. The relationship should not lead to closure but should improve for the better. Ukraine has supported Nigeria in fighting Boko Haram insurgency. We supplied a lot of military equipment, ammunition, helicopter stands and other military equipment to fight insurgency. Consequently, we are in the process of signing agreement on military cooperation. Presently, there are several Nigerian delegations in Ukraine to sign some agreements and contracts. We proposed training Nigerian soldiers because we have good facilities for training. I would like to use this opportunity to wish all Nigerians and their leader, President Muhammadu Buhari, to successfully overcome all challenges that Nigeria faces today as well as success in building a prosperous and peaceful country. I would like also to congratulate all Ukrainian citizens and all our supporters in Nigeria on the occasion of the 26th anniversary of the Independence Day of Ukraine.
Our relationship has developed quite well in recent years. In the economic field, Nigeria is already one of the most important commercial partners of Ukraine in Sub-Saharan Africa
I envisage a very bright future. There is a very big potential that we should explore. Ours is to find ways to explore this potential. First of all, we need to extend our legal ground to sign couple of agreements that are very essential in boosting our cooperation. As I said earlier, there are agreements on military cooperation, education promotion and exchange, economy and protection of investment. Also, we are working to promote a joint intergovernmental commission and to establish a commission on trade and cooperation. So, signing these agreements will provide strong impetus for developing our cooperation in future. We are asking the Nigerian side to speed up so we can sign the agreements. Some of the benefits of the agreement on education include special agreement on receiving Nigerian students in Ukraine.
Dr. Valerii Aleksandruk