Ukraine, a nation in Eastern Europe, had the Orange Revolution of 2004 which inspired Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement. Ukraine opened its first embassy here in 2015. On a chilly weekend mid-morning, TONY MOCHAMA met His Excellency, Yevhenii Tsymbaliuk. The diplomat spoke on why they hire politicians from other countries and corruption
Karibu Kenya, Bwana Ambassador...
Asante sana. I have been here (in Kenya) since April 22 last year, but I got here a day after other new ambassadors had submitted their papers protocol presentation to President Uhuru Kenyatta.
I therefore had to wait for four months to present my papers. But I was happy because I got to present protocol before the day of Ukraine’s independence.
Why does Ukraine have an Embassy in Nairobi?
Ukraine opened its Embassy in Nairobi not by chance. We realise the important role which Kenya plays in East Africa. It is the regional hub. It has become an important country for Ukraine politically and economically. Our contacts here are also expanding.
Are you aware that the Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Ambassador Amina Mohamed graduated from the Kyiv State University? We therefore are proud of her success on the international stage.
How does Ukraine tackle corruption?
Corruption, anywhere in the world, erodes a country to nothing. In Ukraine, it was one reason for the Euromaidan (Euro Square) Revolution of 2014 (that removed the super-corrupt exiled former President Viktor Yanukovych). Even now, we struggle with it, but are much better off having put in place institutions to combat corruption. In Kenya, the agencies charged with the eradication of this vice should faithfully, with patriotic integrity, do and execute their duty.
The Nairobian has ‘The Defender,’ Ukraine has ‘The Day of the Defender’ that was first celebrated on October 14, 2015...
That is accurate. In the past, we (Ukraine) had a kind of ‘Fatherland’ day from the Soviet times, but in 2014, our president, Petro Poroshenko, decreed that Ukraine should not celebrate the holidays of the military-historical calendar of Russia, that we should honour the defenders of our own homeland.
What is your impression of Kenya and Kenyans so far, any favourite local food?
Kenya is a very beautiful country. People are friendly and open, they are really nice. The country is very green with amazing natural environment. I also enjoy the weather in Nairobi very much. The climate is good and fruits are in plenty. I also discovered interesting and tasty dishes like grilled maize and nyama choma.
What can Kenya learn from Ukraine in terms of fighting terror?
Probably it is not up to Ukraine to advice on how to deal with terror because we still have many things to learn ourselves before we can have a success story about countering Russia-backed terrorists in the east of Ukraine.
Many traditional means are well known. I just would like to bring your attention to such factors as information and truth.
Giving truthful information about terrorists, their actions, and goals can contribute to prevention of this menace. Another useful option would be signing of bilateral agreements in respective spheres, such as countering the financing of terrorism.
How is Ukraine coping economically and with internal reforms?
We have survived these last two years because of comprehensive top-down ‘inner revolution’ in government administration and civil service sector reforms.
We started with constitutional reforms, then election reforms, public procurement, anti-corruption campaigns, judicial reforms, State decentralisation, national security, health care, tax reforms, education sector reforms, financial market reforms and the prudent management of State property and the people’s resources.
For example, I flew in the economy class on my way here instead of business or first class. Our premier often does the same. It symbolically saves the State money, and sets a culture in government of ‘best practices.’ We also hire outside our borders.
For example, the current Governor of Odessa is Mikhail Saakashvilli (a former president of Georgia, which would be like new Tanzanian president John Magufuli hiring retired president Mwai Kibaki as Economics Minister).
Russia’s Red Army invaded and annexed the Crimea, an autonomous region of Ukraine in 2014, and then more ambitiously, backed the separatists in eastern Ukraine known as the Donbass Peoples’ Militia...
Since our independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, certain elements within the Russian State have always viewed Ukraine as a zone of special interest of the Russian Federation as opposed to a sovereign State.
It is the arrogance and ascendance of these elements (within the Kremlin) that has led to the annexation of the Crimea, and aspiration of separation by terrorists in the Donbass region of Ukraine.
Terrorists or nationalists?
Last year, as battle raged between the defenders of our homeland and these so-called militias, the air space over the eastern region of Ukraine was closed.
Malaysia Air Flight 73, with 15 crew and 283 passengers on board (including some of the world’s leading Aids researchers) was shot down with a BUK SAM (Surface-to-Air Missile), killing every person on board, as investigation conducted by the Dutch Safety Board confirms.
This is a tragic story, similar to Lockerbie.
Flight 73 was shot down in air space over the territory controlled by these ‘militia’ and by a self-propelled, medium-range SAM developed by the Soviet Union and still designed by the Russian Federation (to bring down aircraft). How did these terrorists get hold of such weapon? It is not Kalashnikov which you can say, ‘Ok, they picked it up in a wheat field or black market.’ You cannot buy a BUK from a supermarket.
What do you intend to achieve during your diplomatic tour?
I believe that Ukraine and Kenya have great potential of developing bilateral relations. Our Embassy will make efforts to promote intensification of political dialogue. I have ambitious plans for exchange of bilateral visits and contacts, there is a number of agreements under consideration of both sides in the legal sphere and in the field of economy and trade. I hope that signing of the mentioned agreements will help to increase our bilateral trade.