Dr Valerii Aleksandruk recently submitted his Letter of Credence to President Muhammadu Buhari as the Ukrainian Ambassador to Nigeria in Abuja. In this interview, he speaks on the increasing cooperation between the two countries in education, trade, commerce and military. He also speaks on the conflict in the country’s eastern region of Ukraine.
What areas of cooperation exist between Nigeria and Ukrainian citizens?
One is very important as I said; it is cooperation in the field of education. We have now about 5,000 Nigerian students in the Ukraine, and many Nigerians have graduated from Ukrainian universities. Most of them have become prominent specialists in their branches of knowledge-first of all medicine, high technologies and oil and gas industry.
There are two drafts of agreements, one in the sphere of science and education. And another agreement is in the mutual recognition of diplomatic and economic cooperation. After signing these agreements, these fields have been expanded very much.
Is it true that Ukraine has made the visa procedures stricter because of the number of Nigerian students there?
No, it is not true. There is a routine procedure as I know. When you obtain an invitation from a university of course of study, you apply for consular section. That’s the procedure and so far I have not found such case.
What is the total volume of trade between Ukraine and Nigeria?
We have the Russian aggression with several parts of our industrial regions destroyed. But by last year, we have $320 million worth of trade and investments with Nigeria. Ukraine considers Nigeria an important partner especially, in trade and investments. As you know our relationship has developed quite well in recent years.
In the economic field, Nigeria is already the first commercial partners of Ukraine in sub-Saharan Africa. There are a lot 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. In the steel industry, the Ukrainian side is interested in the further participation of Vazhmashimpex Company in the Ajaokuta steel plant project. The presence of several Ukrainian companies in Nigeria is a testimony to the level of confidence my government has in Nigeria.
Ukraine is encouraging more of its companies to come into Nigeria and invest as well as establish partnerships with Nigerian companies. The next fertile field of cooperation is railway building. It would also be very useful to think about erecting underground transport in multipopulated and crowdy Lagos which suffers from traffic jams. There are also broad opportunities to provide big buses both microbuses for 30-50 passengers. This can be key to solving the transport problems in Nigeria.
We are planning to establish a joint commission with Nigeria and it will cover the whole range of political, economic and security areas. There are many areas in which we can move further and deepen our very close cooperation.
Would you establish an advisory section for visa applicants in your embassy in Nigeria?
As far as I understand, there are a lot of these agencies who cover visa applications and also advise the applicants. The procedure remains you submit papers, we send them to our headquarters and they are screened and processed. But we can look into it.
What are the areas of technical assistance to Nigeria in the fight against Boko Haram?
We have signed some contracts with the Nigerian military to supply military equipment and ammunitions to Nigeria and we will continue to support Nigeria in the fight against Boko Haram because we understand the importance to fight Boko Haram. We have had the same terrorist groups in the eastern part of our country. And when I met Mr President we talked about this issue and we will continue.
Ukraine is one of the largest exporters of military techniques all around the globe. And if we compare the prices and the quality we will see a great benefit to order huge number of military equipment. The Ukrainian city of Kharkiv is not only the capital of tank-building, but a place where the most powerful tractor plant in Europe is situated.
Since the occupation of the Crimean region by Russia, what efforts have Nigeria made to support Ukraine?
Last year at the UN General Assembly Resolution on the sovereign territorial integrity of Ukraine and Nigeria voted for this resolution and we appreciate it very much. And when I met the President (Thursday) I expressed our gratitude for the support.
It is a pleasure to note that Ukraine and Nigeria enjoy fruitful cooperation within the framework of international organisations. The evidence of this is the mutual support during the elections to the governing bodies of the UN. Ukraine has supported Nigeria for non-permanent membership in the UN Security Council for the term of 2010 to 2011; a 2014 to 2015. We hope for reciprocal support to Ukraine on the elections to non-permanent members of the UN Security Council for 2016 to 2017.
When are we expecting an end to the war in Crimea?
We would like to finish this very soon. But unfortunately, Russia doesn’t like to do this because it is next to the occupation of our Crimean peninsula. Russia has supported the terrorist group in our Crimea region. Not standing with the Minsk Peace Agreement of autumn of 2014 and January 2015, Russian troops have prolonged their stay in the east of Ukraine.
Of course, Russia has been part of peace agreements and ceasefire, but every day Russia violates these agreements and continues to support this terrorist group. We need to put more pressure on Russia to withdraw its troops because now there are more than 10, 000 Russian troops on our territory.
Now nearly 13 per cent of Ukrainian territory with eight per cent of population and 20 per cent of industrial potential of Ukraine is occupied by Russia and the terrorist groups. The 50 per cent of occupied areas, which is 10 per cent of all Ukrainian industrial potential, has been destroyed.
So we need the support on this because you know fighting terrorist, as you have the Boko Haram in Nigeria, takes a lot of resources from the budget. So we have been doing this to protect our country.