Kyiv, Ukraine - Russia and Ukraine are geographically very close to each other. However, Kyiv said it considers people from far away Cameroon and Nigeria and other African countries closer to it than Russians.
In an exclusive interview with Legit.ng, Mr Andriy Yermak, Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, questioned the assertion that “Ukrainians and Russians are one people” when Moscow is committing genocide in Kyiv.
He said Moscow has carried out three man-made famines that took the lives of at least 4 million people in Ukraine.
“We're being subjected to genocide. A true genocide. And, all the while, they keep saying that Ukrainians and Russians are one people. But even Hutus and Tutsis would've had much more grounds for such claims,” he added, making reference to the Rwandan genocide.
The senior presidential aide said contrary to its propaganda, Russia is an occupier that is out to steal Ukraine’s commonwealth.
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“Russians behave like occupiers, no matter what picture the Russian propaganda shows. Their soldiers r*ape, kill and rob. The state behaves like a marauder.
“Thousands of tons of Ukrainian grain are exported to Russia. They take our metal and other valuables. Because of them, our citizens are faced with a humanitarian catastrophe,” he said.
Mr Yermak said he studied at the University with guys from Nigeria and Cameroon and it was always easy for them to find a common language.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine
For years, Moscow has been hostile to Ukraine. President Vladimir Putin was against Ukraine’s desire to join the Western defensive alliance NATO.
The Russian hostility reached its height in February 2022 when Putin announced a “special military operation in Ukraine”.
The Russian leader's initial aim, according to BBC, was to overrun Ukraine and depose its government in a desperate bid to stop the NATO membership request.
However, with an uncommon resilience, Ukraine is holding its ground, refusing to be cowed by Moscow, more than four months after the invasion.
“Our people are very brave. Courage is the trait we have in common with the people of Africa. We cannot be conquered with words or weapons. We always want freedom,” Mr Yermak told Legit.ng, drawing a parallel between Africa and Ukraine.
“For hundreds of years, Africa was fighting against European colonialism. And for hundreds of years, we have been fighting against Russian colonialism. We're still fighting. For our freedom and the right to be ourselves in our land.”
Postwar reconstruction: Forging new alliances with Africa
Even though Russia is still continuing the aggression, Mr Yermak is optimistic about Ukraine’s victory.
Meanwhile, refusing to be intimidated by Russia, Ukraine, following its request for membership, was on Thursday, June 23, given candidate status by the European Union, a significant step on the path to full membership, according to CNN.
Mr Yermak said the Ukrainian government led by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has also commenced moves to expand the country’s relations with Africa.
According to him, Russia's present war and aggression have shown the world that we must cooperate more closely for the benefit of our people.
Mr Yermak said the Ukrainian president addressed the leaders of the African Union a couple of days ago.
“He (President Zelenskyy) announced the expansion of relations between our country and African states and the appointment of Ukraine’s Special Representative for Africa. The work will greatly intensify at both our parliament and our government levels.
"The President of Ukraine offered the leaders of African countries to visit Ukraine and start preparing a large political and economic conference 'Ukraine – Africa'”, Mr Yermak said.
According to him, it’s in the best interests of all the nations of the African continent to support the efforts to subdue and punish the aggressor (Russia).
“Your voice in international organizations is essential, as well as joining in the sanctions against Russia. To hasten the victory of Ukraine and the end of the war. It's important to prevent the war from spreading to other countries and regions of the world.
And when the peace comes, it's in our mutual interest to expand our economic cooperation in order to mutually reinforce our enormous economic potential,” he submitted.
Mr Yermak also noted that Ukrainian peacekeepers – the military and the rescuers – are already well known in African countries.
“In particular, in Mali, Sierra Leone, Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia, Congo, South Sudan, and Angola. Ukrainians are known here as brave and humane warriors, always ready to give a helping hand and protect civilians. You can count on Ukraine in the future as well,” he said.
Russian invasion: What Africa Needs to Know
Mr Yermak said, “the aggression against Ukraine is the aggression against the whole world.”
After more than four months of devastating missiles attack, the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine there is no question about whether Africa could be dragged into the war, “Africa IS already in it”.
He said many African countries have been negatively impacted as Russia creates a food crisis by limiting its own exports and blocking Ukraine from exporting its grain and wheat.
“We need Africa's support. The sooner Ukraine defeats the Russian army and ends the war, the less will people around the world suffer from economic and political problems. After all, it is Russia that is blackmailing the world with energy, food, and other crises. The victory of Ukraine and the end of the war will help the world overcome economic problems and allow to cope with the food crisis,” he said.
Mr Yermak said Ukraine is grateful to all the African countries that voted in favour of Ukraine in the United Nations resolution which condemned Russia’s invasion.
Asked what the ordinary person in Africa do to help Ukraine, the senior presidential aide said:
“We are asking for one and one thing only – to be on the side of Ukraine, on the side of good, to support us, to tell about this war and the atrocities of Russia to all your acquaintances, friends, followers, and subscribers in social networks. Wherever you can.”