Alexander Query: Ukraine’s Friend & Foe of the Week
Editor’s Note: This feature separates Ukraine’s friends from its enemies. The Order of Yaroslav the Wise has been given since 1995 for distinguished service to the nation. It is named after the Kyivan Rus leader from 1019-1054, when the medieval empire reached its zenith. The Order of Lenin was the highest decoration bestowed by the Soviet Union, whose demise Russian President Vladimir Putin mourns. It is named after Vladimir Lenin, whose corpse still rots on the Kremlin’s Red Square, more than 100 years after the October Revolution he led.
Ukraine’s Friend of the Week: Andrzej Duda, President of Poland
The troubled relationship between Ukraine and Poland seems to be in the past now. At least when the countries talk about their economic relations.
Polish President Andrzej Duda, who arrived in Ukraine on Oct. 11 for a three-day visit, to show Poland’s support for Ukraine.
He began his visit by paying tribute to Polish prisoners buried near the Bykivnia village outside of Kyiv. There, more than 38,000 Ukrainians and foreigners had been killed by the Soviet secret police, NKVD, during World War II.
He also unveiled a monument to Ukrainian-born Polish activist Anna Walentynowicz outside of the Polish Embassy in Kyiv. Walentynowicz was a cofounder of Solidarity, the first non-communist trade union in the Eastern Bloc.
“This monument symbolizes solidarity between the Polish and Ukrainian people,” Duda said at the event.
But the visit was not only dedicated to the past. The current affairs were also on the table.
Duda met with President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Oct. 12, after which he reaffirmed support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.
He also said Poland was ready to establish an international association alongside Ukraine for the de-occupation of the Crimean peninsula, which was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014. The organization would develop a roadmap for Ukraine to restore the control of Crimea and include other countries that are willing to support Ukraine.
Duda called the annexation of Crimea and the ongoing war in the Donbas gross violations of international law and insisted that Ukraine must regain full control over its legal borders.
“It is necessary to put these questions very firmly,” Duda said. “This aggression must end. And the internationally recognized state borders of Ukraine must be returned.”
Last but not least, Duda and Zelensky traveled to Odesa to attend the Ukraine-Poland Economic Forum on Oct. 13.
There, Duda outlined prospects for a new transport corridor between Ukraine and Poland, help transport goods from Western Europe, Scandinavia, Turkey and East Asia to Ukraine through Poland.
“I want to assure you that we will support Ukraine’s well-founded ambitions to play the role of an important transport hub in Eastern Europe,” Duda said.
Polish leader also promised Zelensky to help further integrate Ukraine with the European Union by including Ukraine in the Three Seas Initiative summit in Estonia on Oct. 19.
The Three Seas Initiative, also known as the Baltic, Adriatic and Black Sea Initiative was launched in 2015 to develop infrastructure projects within 12 EU states in Central and Eastern Europe.
Such economic cooperation with the EU could help develop the Ukrainian economy, deepen its connections with the EU and ultimately further distance it from the Russian influence.
For putting the past behind and initiating steps to support Ukraine, Duda is Ukraine’s Friend of the Week.
Ukraine’s Foe of the Week: Sergei Menyailo, former “governor” of Russian-occupied Crimea
This week’s foe could have received the title more than once for many reasons.
Sergei Menyailo, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s envoy to the Siberian Federal District, has been added to the list of people targeted by the European Union’s most recent set of sanctions released on Oct. 15.
The EU imposed sanctions on six senior Russian officials and a chemical research center after the Novichok poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Aug. 20.
Back then, Navalny made the headline after he collapsed on the flight from the Siberian city of Tomsk, and the plane made an emergency landing in Omsk, where he was rushed to intensive care.
While in a coma, he was transported to a hospital in Berlin, where doctors found traces of nerve agent Novichok in his body. The Kremlin has denied the accusations, but this did not stop the EU officials from putting the chemical research center on the sanctions list, pushed by France and Germany.
“It is reasonable to conclude that the poisoning of Alexei Navalny was only possible with the consent of the (Russian) presidential executive office,” reads the statement, which also pointed at the involvement of Russia’s Federal Security Service.
As Putin’s envoy to the district where Navalny was poisoned, Menyailo was finally included in the EU’s long sanction list.
However, the official should have been on it much earlier — as early as in 2014.
Menyailo was a deputy commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in 2009–2011. When Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014, he was appointed so-called “governor” of Sevastopol, the peninsula’s largest city, and held the “office” for two years before being transferred to Siberia.
Menyailo, along with other Putin’s cronies on the list, is now barred from entering the EU. And all his European bank accounts will be frozen.
For participating in Crimea’s annexation and yet again doing Putin’s dirty job, Sergei Menyailo is Ukraine’s Foe of the Week.