In an exclusive interview with Doha News, Ukraine’s Ambassador to the state of Qatar Mr Andrii Kuzmenko speaks about the “illegal war in Ukraine” and the anguish of families who don’t know if their relatives are alive or dead.
As Russia steps up its bombardment of Ukraine and more human lives are lost, Kyiv’s Ambassador to Doha, Andrii Kuzmenko says the land, sea and air invasion of his country is “shameful and an act of unprovoked aggression.” He said the devastating attack on Ukraine, that began on February 24th, despite repeated assurances from Russia that it wouldn’t go to war, didn’t divide Ukrainians but only strengthened their resolve to fight.
“We have the undeclared, shameful war of Russia against my country. It was an act of brutal, unprovoked aggression. They were thinking that Ukrainians will give up immediately, that we are weak, that they would be met with flowers,” Ambassador Kuzmenko told Doha News.
“This made them the victim of their own propaganda. We can fight and we are fighting. The pretext for this military action, for this war, was the decision of the Russian President, Mr Putin, to disarm Ukraine, to get control over my country” he added.
Crimes against humanity
As the number of dead increases each day, Putin stands accused of launching an illegal invasion which threatens both peace and stability across Europe. Despite Russia’s refusal to use the term “war” to describe its attack on Ukraine, there has been fierce condemnation from leaders around the world, many of whom have decried the Kremlin’s actions as unjustifiable. On Tuesday evening, US President Joe Biden warned Putin that he would pay a ‘continuing high price’ for invading Ukraine.
Ambassador Kuzmenko said Ukraine has asked the UN to consider its case for crimes against humanity. “They are committing military crimes which will definitely bring them to the International Tribunal. Ukraine has already submitted its request for this case to be considered by the United Nations as crimes against humanity.”
Bilateral relations with Qatar
Qatar enjoys good relations with both Russia and Ukraine. When asked if Doha should mediate between the two sides, Ambassador Kuzmenko told Doha News that he would welcome any support the gulf state could offer, especially following its diplomatic success in Afghanistan. “As far as Qatar is concerned. We are really happy to have our friends and partners to assist us. Qatar demonstrated quite the successful mediation while talking about Afghanistan. It was a great diplomatic achievement. And experience is also great. We would be grateful for any assistance they are able to offer.”
In August 2020, Qatar signed a $140m port development project in Ukraine. The Ambassador said it was a significant investment.
“We made Ukraine much more known in this country. We made Ukraine distinct from Russia. I consider the bilateral relations with Qatar as another example of true friendship between countries. When there was a food embargo in 2017, we immediately wanted to help and brought food to the country. We are suppliers and to an extent guarantors of food security in Qatar. Our turnover greatly consists of food products.”
Racism at Ukrainian borders
Russia’s onslaught has forced at least half a million people to flee across Ukraine’s borders. There has been reports of racism by Ukrainian security forces at train stations and on the border. Despite these incidents being well documented and several videos emerging online showing none-white refugees being prevented from boarding trains or crossing the borders, Ambassador Kuzmenko claims that authorities have been treating people equally.
“All the people who are legally living in Ukraine have the same right as Ukrainian citizens. The rules are the same for them. We physically witnessed scenes of young men who were trying to push and storm the fence. I don’t think this is the correct attitude. Especially with women and children. But we are treating all the people with equal attitude. We don’t have any preference to any nation.”
When further pressed by Doha News on the evidence that people who were non-white were not allowed to leave, Ambassador Kuzmenko repeated that there had been no discrimination. “The actions of the bodyguards were quite simple. It is necessary to avoid disorder in a public place. And as far as I know, those people left Ukraine. There was no discrimination over colour of skin, nor religion or language.” he added.
The role of social media
As the Russian military invades more land, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has been making gains online. His Twitter account receives hundreds of thousands more followers a day. He now currently has more than 4.4 million followers and Zelensky has been using social media in the battle to win hearts and minds.
“Social media was efficiently used by the Russian regime for launching psychological warfare, launching disinformation, launching this hybrid war. Information is an inseparable part of hybrid actions. Hundreds of thousands of so-called internet bots were doing their job against Ukraine. Including the propaganda against Ukraine. Including false history of Ukraine and helping politicians in disinformation.”
The ambassador added that it wasn’t all bad. “The positive side is to bring real information. Real time information to the people. To tell the truth. Electronic media depends on users and advertisers. I do hope your respectful and popular resource will grow in numbers since you are sincerely and timely, openly discussing the most topical issues of our political agenda and our every day life, which is also important.”
With each day that the war continues, many around the world will continue praying that it is the last, and that tomorrow’s sunrise is not accompanied by the sound of bombs and shelling. Doha News has put in a request to interview the Russian Ambassador to Qatar and is waiting for approval.