Ukraine makes itself known to the Global South

As part of the Unfold Ukraine to Global South project, which is implemented by the UCMC in cooperation and coordination with the Open Society Foundation, with financial assistance from the International Renaissance Foundation, the press tour for journalists from India, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines took place in Ukraine. The goal was to help guests discover a country that can withstand aggression from Russia, to change the focus of coverage of the Russian-Ukrainian war events in the countries of the conventional Global South, and to provide them with information for an objective and holistic understanding of the context and features of Russian-Ukrainian relations.

The press tour began in the West of Ukraine. During a meeting with head of the Lviv regional administration Maksym Kozytskyi, journalists learned how the Lviv region feels after two years of full-scale invasion, discussed the challenges of accommodating internally displaced persons in the region, as well as  learned about the education challenges and the possibility of returning foreign students, namely from Asia, to Lviv universities. 

The next item on the press tour agenda was journalists’ visit to the Superhumans medical center. The director of the Superhumans medical center, Olha Rudneva, showed them the departments of prosthetics and rehabilitation, as well as the Center for occupational therapy and assistive technologies. At the Center, the participants talked with the center’s patients, who had lost their limbs.   

Besides, on the first day of the press tour, journalists had a meeting with Yuriy Tustanovskyi, co-founder of Rekava – a business that has moved from the Sumy region to Lviv. This Ukrainian micro-business produces disposable biodegradable cups, lids, candles and plant pots from recycled coffee grounds. The company moved to Lviv in the spring of 2022. 

In addition, a meeting with internally displaced persons was held in a modular town in Sykhiv District. The journalists learned about the peculiarities of building modular houses for IDPs, visited their rooms, a common kitchen and a room for recreation. Residents of the modular settlement were very open to journalists’ questions, willingly communicated and answered all the questions.

In Kyiv, the press tour participants communicated with the UCMC head, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine Valery Chalyi. He shared his thoughts about the Russian-Ukrainian war, the efforts of Ukraine and the world to jointly fight the enemy for the sake of freedom and justice, and emphasized the importance of cooperation with the countries of Southeast Asia and India to counter the enemy.

Yevhen Fedorenko, Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection of Ukraine, noted that since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, the Russian Federation has caused damage to Ukraine’s environment in the amount of more than 56.7 billion euros. In addition, more than 4 thousand facts of damage to the environment have already been documented. The journalists asked questions about the methods and mechanisms of compensating damages for the crimes russia inflicted on Ukraine, about the attack on the Kakhovka HPP and its consequences for the water environment, flora and fauna of Ukraine.On the second day of the press tour, the journalists from Asian countries met with Liubov Nepop, Director of the political department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Yurii Nykytiuk, Deputy Director of the fourth territorial department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, and Oleksandr Lysak, second secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as discussed the Formula of Peace and Security Guarantees for Ukraine proposed by V. Zelenskyi. The representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs specified the context and importance of international support for the countries of the Global South in Ukraine’s fight against Russian aggression, details of Ukraine’s cooperation with the countries of Southeast Asia, the need to expand Ukraine’s diplomatic representation in these countries, and the vision of the diplomatic mission in the second year of the war.

During their stay in Kyiv, the guests took part in a press event “Narratives of Russian propaganda in the information space of India and ASEAN countries.” They had the opportunity to learn more about the structure of Russian propaganda and the narratives it uses around the world, trying to justify the war against Ukraine.

In the evening, the journalists  had the opportunity to speak with Alim Aliyev, the Deputy General Director of the Ukrainian Institute, who informed the journalists about the history of the Crimean Tatars on the peninsula, the deportation of the population in 1944 and 2014, cases of human rights violations in Crimea after its annexation, the current promotion of the Crimean Tatar language and culture, and the vision of Ukrainian Institute’s mission during the full-scale invasion.

On the third day of the press tour, the journalists from Asian countries visited the cities and villages of the Kyiv region that had suffered during the Russian offensive on Kyiv in February-March 2022 – Moshchun, Borodianka, Bucha and Irpin.

Accompanied by the head of the village of Moshchun, they visited the memorial to the fallen soldiers who defended this area. They met with the director of the Palace of Culture in Borodianka near the multi-story residential buildings destroyed by aerial bombs. They saw Banksy’s graffiti painted on  the wall of one of these buildings and the monument to Taras Shevchenko on the central square shot by russians. In Bucha, together with the head of the international relations and cooperation department of the city council, they visited the memorial in honor of the fallen civilians and the Church of  Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called. They met with the mayor of Irpin near the Irpinski Lypky residential complex. Their trip through the Kyiv region finished near the Romanivsky bridge. At each of the locations, people talked about reconstruction and recalled the events of the beginning of the offensive, which unfolded in these cities and villages.

On the second anniversary of the full-scale invasion, journalists met with Ukrainian MPs Oleksandr Merezhko (Servant of the People), Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze (European Solidarity) and Inna Sovsun (Holos). The meeting was held in a Q&A format, where journalists had the opportunity to ask questions they were interested in and get answers. They discussed India’s ambivalent position in the Russian-Ukrainian war, drew parallels between the countries’ trade with Russia and Israel, measures to protect the Crimean Tatars – the Muslim indigenous people of Ukraine, and the specifics of the Ukrainian Parliament’s work during martial law. 

At the next meeting, Volodymyr Kuzyo, Deputy Minister of Economy of Ukraine, informed journalists about the main economic losses caused by the war and noted that Ukraine would like to attract as many investments as possible, despite the ongoing war. The defense industry, energy, construction, agriculture and digital technologies are among the priority areas. Mr. Kuzyo emphasized that the Ukrainian economy was resilient in 2023, and economic indicators are expected to grow in 2024.

On the first day of their visit to Chernihiv region, the journalists met with the head of Nizhyn and the Nizhyn community. The meeting took place in a modern center renovated with  UNDP support. The journalists got acquainted with the town and its infrastructure, were told about the history, economy and education of Nizhyn, as well as about its cooperation with large international companies and the opportunities for further development. The journalists also watched a video presentation of the destruction and defense of Nizhyn at the beginning of the full-scale invasion, and were impressed by the resilience of the small town that had been surrounded by the enemy for 38 days. The journalists also visited the Cathedral, which now serves as a humanitarian headquarters for the needs of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the memorial to fallen heroes in the Russian-Ukrainian war and the monument to Andriy Matsievskyi, whose story echoed in the hearts of Ukrainians.

Journalists from Asian countries visited the Chernihiv regional youth center, the premises of which were damaged by a Russian missile in the first days of the Russian invasion. “The center continues its work in three temporary locations,” the director of the center noted. Available youth programs cover such areas as employment, non-formal education, entrepreneurship and effective leisure. The team prepared a project on preservation and reconstruction of the center’s damaged premises – a historic building of the late 1930s that used to house a cinema. “The international funding that was found covers the project needs only partially; additional funds are needed to fully implement the project,” the director said. 

The press tour participants also met with the head of the Chernihiv Regional Military Administration and the head of the Chernihiv City Military Administration in the premises of the Regional Development Agency of the Chernihiv Region. The regional leader provided data on the destruction and reconstruction of bridges, roads, schools, kindergartens and medical institutions in the region, spoke about the state of entrepreneurship and the economic situation in the region. He also confirmed his intention not only to continue reconstruction, but also to stimulate the development of the region, despite the ongoing war. The journalists asked the head of the Chernihiv City Military Administration about the defense of the city managed by him at the beginning of the invasion. 

They visited the school basement in the village of Yahidne (Chernihiv region), in which the Russian military held at least 368 people during March 2022, using them as human shields. A resident of the village took the journalists through the basement rooms where the villagers were kept in inhumane conditions. He and his family were also among the prisoners, so he shared his memories about those events.