By Nabilah Saleh
“Nobody wants peace more than Ukraine” was the first sentence that popped up in this writer’s WhatsApp interview with former Ukraine Ambassador to Malaysia Olexander Nechytaylo, who is currently back in the country’s capital, Kyiv.
The immense emotion shared through the messenger app describes how Nechytaylo, now serving at Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, felt when asked about the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war that marks its first year on Friday.
“We didn’t start this war. It was imposed on us. It may end tomorrow if Russia decides to stop behaving like a bully and withdraw from Ukraine’s sovereign and internationally recognised territory.
“Until that happens, we will continue to fight for our land and our freedom,” he said when contacted by Bernama recently.
Nechytaylo is now overseeing the bilateral relations with 48 countries and territories of the Indo-Pacific, including Australia, India, China, Japan, and ASEAN countries.
Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb 24, 2022. Since then, Ukraine witnessed destruction and loss of lives. Though neither side has released figures lately, international reports say analysts estimate that the Russian side suffered about 200,000 casualties while the number for Ukraine is five times higher.
Experiencing the war since his return in June last year, Nechytaylo described himself as being “adaptive” to the unusual happenings in the country for the past year.
“What I have learned is that human beings are very adaptive; something that seems utterly shocking today, may well be a new normal tomorrow.
“So, I no longer panic (upon) hearing the nerve-racking sound of the air raid sirens (that is almost an everyday routine in Kyiv now). I got used to working, conducting business meetings and telephone calls in a bomb shelter, and doing house chores in-between electricity and heating supply interruptions.
“Another important lesson that I learned is that when people really strive and fight for what is right, surrounding circumstances are not that important. With Russia’s continuous bombings on our schools, hospitals and critical infrastructure, it only makes our resolve to resist stronger,” he added.
The 49-year-old diplomat, who believes sanctions are more effective than just mere peace talks, pointed out that it is even vital now for world community to further step up pressure at all levels in bringing an end to the conflict.
The tension, which indirectly affects every aspect of people’s life all over the world triggered by the rising commodity and fuel prices, would certainly continue getting worse without strong support from other countries including Malaysia, he said.
“Malaysia has always been a strong advocate of peace, international law and the United Nations (UN) Charter. Every country’s voice is important. We appreciate Malaysia’s recent decision to provide humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.
“We also believe it is not time to shy away from the responsibilities hiding behind the notion of neutrality, but to take a clear stand in support of international law and the UN Charter.
“Now the world is so interconnected and interdependent, so we don't have a choice but to work together to force the perpetrator to behave, to restore peace and the international order,” said Nechytaylo, who was also the former Ukrainian Ambassador to the Philippines and Timor Leste.
Therefore, to Malaysian friends and community that are always dear to his heart, Nechytaylo urged for the people to keep acquainting with the appeal and support demanded by his country.
“Over the past six years that I spent in Malaysia, I made a lot of friends.
“Many of them are still in touch with me, expressing their solidarity and support. I know that Malaysians are very kindhearted and compassionate people.
“So, when you notice a higher price tag at a petrol station or pay an increased utility bill, you’ve got to understand the root cause of the problem.
“That's why my message to Malaysians today (is): embrace the news about the war that is raging thousands of miles away. We must all be united to stop the aggression now,” said the avid fan of Malaysian rock group, Search.
The UN Security Council is scheduled to discuss a resolution put forward by Kyiv and European Union (EU) representatives on the anniversary of Russia’s invasion, the world body said on its website Wednesday (Feb 22).
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, meanwhile, said the one-year mark stands as a “grim milestone”, and the impact is being felt far beyond Ukraine.
He called for full support of the recent UN launch of a US$5.6 billion humanitarian appeal for the people of Ukraine. -Bernama