President Zelenskyy’s right-hand man and Head of the President’s Office of Ukraine, Andriy Yermak has revealed in a tell-it-all interview with Ghanaian leading digital news platform, YEN.com.gh, on June 28, 2022, that detailed the benefits Africa stands to gain by supporting Ukraine and its government in the ongoing war with Russia.
The interview, which sought to encourage bilateral relations with African countries, discussed the current impact of the war on Africa and explained how Africa’s support can greatly accelerate the restoration of food supplies to end the raging food crises on the continent.
Mr Yermak likened Ukraine’s agitation for liberation from Russia to Africa’s fight against European colonialism, and that while Africa might think she is liberated, Russia’s subsequent attack and intent to colonize will only trigger a chain reaction of chaos across Europe into Africa.
“We're still fighting for our freedom and the right to be ourselves in our land. … Ghana and Nigeria had been independent for over 30 years when Ukraine voted for the right to self-determination. Resources were pumped out of Ukraine for over 30 years longer – including metals, grain, gas, and oil (under the USSR our oil fields were almost depleted). Knowing this, one can only laugh when they say that Russia is at war with NATO in Ukraine.”
Mr Yermak has stated that Russia has purposefully imposed a blockade on Ukrainian ports in the Black and Azov seas to prevent the export of Ukrainian food. This is already causing a rise in global food prices especially since Ukraine has traditionally been one of the main suppliers of
wheat, sunflower oil, corn, and other products.
“Only Russia is to blame for the problems in the global market. … Russia’s been stealing grain in the occupied territories and trying to sell it by way of smuggling. At the same time, it’s been blocking Ukrainian ports, preventing grain export. All the food that Ukraine used to supply to Africa usually went through our ports. Any other route is much more difficult, longer, and more expensive. Finally, Russia’s been carrying out rocket attacks on our grain terminals. This is not just non-market competition. The destruction and restriction of access to food are crimes against humanity. Moreover, Russia’s not only blocking the export of our grain but also limiting its own export.”
“Moscow has carried out three man-made famines that took the lives of 4 to 7 million people here [in Ukraine]. Believe me, we know very well what it’s like – and that is something we wouldn’t wish on anyone. Moreover, it’s something we’d never do to anyone. We provide food security for 400 million people around the world. But Russia has mastered this tool quite well.”
When asked about the possibility of Africa being dragged into the Russian-Ukraine war, Mr Yermak said, “The aggression against Ukraine is an aggression against the whole world. It is not that I assume that Africa could be drawn into this war, I’m sure that Africa is already in it. …The combination of high inflation and production decline is the worst for Africans. Many people are losing their jobs while prices are skyrocketing. Consequently, there would be a drastic rise in crime rates, unrest, and even war will become almost inevitable.”
Mr Yermak says the Kremlin is known to target two dimensions that safeguard any nation – Security and Economy. He claims that if the international community does not punish Russia, the example of the Russian leadership might be considered as successful and worth following. The more harsh and unified the response of most countries of the world to Russia’s crimes, the more secure the people of Africa will be.
“It’s in the best interests of all the nations of the African continent to support the efforts to subdue and punish the aggressor. Your voice in international organisations is essential, as well as joining in the sanctions against Russia. To hasten Ukraine’s victory 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 peace comes, it's in our mutual interest to expand our economic cooperation in order to mutually reinforce our enormous economic potential.”
According to the UN analysts, Russia’s actions could lead to famine and instability in dozens of countries. This has been tagged a deliberate criminal blackmail on Russia’s part.
The rise in food and energy prices translates to higher prices for all goods.
Mr Yermak named three steps to cope with the food crisis: “The first one is to de-occupy Ukrainian territories. For this, we need weapons, and we’re getting them. The second one is to de-block the ports. We are working on this through both negotiations and military means, gradually destroying the Russian fleet. The third one is to massively expand international sanctions against Russia. Its blackmail must be met with coordinated economic pressure. As a result, only a total military defeat of Russia will deprive it of the opportunity to continue provoking global crises.”
When asked about the African countries and leaders who still maintain their cooperation with the Russian Federation, Mr Yemark stated that their actions were erroneous as Moscow leaves no room for neutrality and has even made diplomacy a weapon.
In furtherance of the country’s appeal for support from the African continent, Mr Yemark expressed care for the African community of students, stating that there are plans to re-accommodate students once the war is over.
“Russia’s destroyed their [African students] lives, it has shelled their universities and hostels. Our higher-educational institutions continue with their online classes…But it all depends on the collective will of the governments of countries worldwide to stop the aggressor. The faster it
happens, the sooner the classroom studies will resume.”
Mr Yemark has appealed to the average African to stand on the side of truth and be on the side of Ukraine.
He asked, “To tell everyone the truth. That Russians behave like occupiers, who they actually are, no matter what picture the Russian propaganda shows. Their soldiers rape, kill and rob. The state behaves like a marauder. Thousands of tons of Ukrainian grain are carried away illegally to Russia. They take our metal and other valuables. Because of them, our citizens are faced with a humanitarian catastrophe. People are illegally kept in filtration camps. Tens of thousands of people are deported from the occupied territories to Russia’s depressed regions. They are, in fact, being stolen. Including children.”
Bringing the interview to a close, Mr Yemark reiterated the country’s similarities with the African continent.
“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. The Ukrainian people are fighting for their freedom and are ready to continue doing so. This is the primary motivation - to expel the invaders from our land. I am sure that this is familiar and close to African people.”
Andriy Yermak is the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, the “right hand” of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He plays a key part of Ukraine's diplomatic efforts.
Mr Yermak has a master's degree in international private law. Before joining President Zelenskyy's presidential team, he had a successful career as a lawyer and film producer.
On 21 May 2019, newly elected President Zelenskyy appointed Yermak as Presidential Aide for Foreign Policy Issues. In this role, he negotiated major prison exchanges with Russia during the War in Donbas. Yermak became the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine on 11 February 2020. He additionally became a member of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (NSDC) the following day.
On February 24th, 2022, Russia launched an all-out military invasion of Ukraine by land, air, and sea, having accumulated over 170,000 troops on Ukrainian borders in the north (Belarus), east, and south (Black Sea). It’s the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War II.
The war against Ukraine started not now, but in 2014, when Russia invaded Ukraine and occupied the Crimean peninsula and part of the eastern regions of the country.
On February 24, the Russian fleet blocked Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea and the Azov Sea, which were the main routes for the agrarian sector of Ukraine. Ukraine is one of the main suppliers of wheat, sunflower oil, and corn.
Ukraine was also one of the main European producers of fertilizers. And now production is stopped because of the war. Some manufacturers do not have the raw materials and even the ability to work - due to the threat of Russian missile strikes and other consequences of hostilities.
Some companies are already in combat zones and were simply destroyed by Russian troops.
Ukraine is holding complex multilevel negotiations to unblock the seaports and trying to build new supply logistics. The Ukrainian government is establishing exports by rail and through the ports of neighboring countries, so that last year's harvest and this year's harvest could reach consumers.
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