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Arab culture has enriched me: Ukraine envoy

Arab culture has enriched me: Ukraine envoy

Maneesh Bakshi

REQUESTED to relive a memory from his long diplomatic career, seasoned Ukrainian diplomat and Ambassador of Ukraine to Qatar HE Yevhen Mykytenko picks up from a nearby shelf a photograph of him as a young man standing next to late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. It’s a memory he cherishes, from the year 1988, when he was the First Secretary of the Soviet Embassy, posted in Baghdad, Iraq.
“I used to have meetings with Arafat on a regular basis on account of my responsibility for strengthening relations with the Palestinian people, while being posted in the Soviet embassy in those days. By virtue of my education in the subject of philology and my study of Arabic language and literature, I had a special attachment to the Arab world and this region in particular,” says Mykytenko.
“Along with my wife, I have spent a good number of years in this part of the world and have always enjoyed my time working here in different capacities. In my initial days, I had worked as a Russian translator in Southern Yemen. I also worked as a news correspondent with Russian major news agency Novosti Press Agency (NPA) stationed in Beirut, Lebanon.” After the independence of Ukraine in 1991, he was called to establish the foreign affairs office in Ukraine and later, was sent to KSA, Jordan, Syria, the UAE, Egypt, Sudan and Bahrain to serve as resident and non-resident ambassador.
“I have always been intrigued and deeply fascinated by the mysteries of the land where one of the greatest civilisations thrived and left their footprints. The charm of the pyramids, the Nile and Mesopotamia have always pulled me from the time of my youth to know more about oriental culture.” “Moreover, growing up in the 60s when the world underwent an inescapable cultural upheaval that even pierced the iron curtain of the Soviet era and seeped down into the lives of everyone, it fired in me a certain curiosity – a curiosity to know more about the world out there that has charmed me since childhood. Be it the music of Beatles, or the popular literature of Kipling and others, these have inevitably influenced my life tremendously,” says Mykytenko.
As a journalist, Mykytenko wrote in Russian and Arabic for various newspapers and later joined the Soviet Embassy as a press attaché and served in Beirut and Baghdad until 1991. That year, the Soviet regime collapsed and 15 new states, including Ukraine, were formed. He was called to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, and the city of his childhood.
By virtue of his knowledge of Arabic and experience of working in the Arab world, he was assigned the responsibility of setting up the foreign affairs office of the newly formed nation and establish relations with Arab countries. “It was not easy but I enjoyed it.
I would sit on the typewriter drafting letters to Arab nations to establish political relations with them,” he recalls.
When asked why he chose to move to Beirut in the early days of his career, knowing fully well that the country was reeling under civil war, Mykytenko replies philosophically, “Our destiny is in our hand and we are the authors of our fate. I follow this motto all the time and try to overcome the fear of uncertainty. I never let this fear influence my decisions in the course of my life.” He adds, “Adventure has always been a part of my life and the accumulation of experiences during my stay in this region has enriched me as a person. I am grateful to the government of Qatar for the wonderful support extended in all areas of our relations, be it political, business and trade, or even cultural, we have received wonderful support and wish that more people-topeople contacts are formed between the two countries.
“Our diplomatic relations with Qatar are strong and open. We are thankful to Qatar for supporting the UN resolution of territorial integrity of Ukraine in the wake of the Crimean crisis that arose in 2014.
The trade between the two countries is expanding from year to year. The tourist inflow is expanding as well.
“Unfortunately, we have still not been successful in getting a direct Qatar Airways flight to Kiev. But we are hopeful of getting it sometime soon, as we are in talks with Qatar Airways on this. Currently, there are some chartered flights plying between Doha and Kiev, which takes about four and a half hours to travel between the two capitals.” Talking about the tourist attractions of Ukraine, the envoy says, “Ukraine is delight for those who love history, and its footprints date back to the time as far back as the 8th Century. The foundation of the city of Kiev was laid some 1,200 years ago. There are many ancient sites that a visitor can visit in Ukraine.
“Besides, people from all over the world often come to Ukraine for getting treated.
Cultural as well as sports tourism is also very popular among people from all over the world.
“Agriculture is the mainstay of Ukraine.
The fertile black soil, the vast fields of wheat, barley, rye, oats, sunflower and other grain and oil crops have earned Ukraine the nickname ‘bread basket of Europe’. Ukraine offers a great opportunity for Qatari businessmen to form joint ventures in this field and by this token Ukraine can be a partner in food security of Qatar.
“Ukraine offers farmlands to investors to cultivate food grains of their choice and ripe returns for their investments. Many Qatari companies have already formed joint ventures with Ukrainian counterparts in this business. As a result, there are many Ukrainian products these days seen in supermarkets of Doha. But certainly the opportunities are endless in this sector,” the envoy explains.
Strengthening people-to-people contact between Qatar and Ukraine is one of the things that are on the priority list of the Ukrainian Ambassador. In this respect, a busy calendar has already been chalked out by the embassy in collaboration with Katara.
A painting exhibition is going to kick off on October 25 at Katara, inviting 15 contemporary Ukrainian artists to showcase their work. The exhibition will continue for a week and some of these artists will be creating their work in Doha based on their experiences and interpretation of their impressions about the life around them in Doha.
A precursor to this event will be held at Grand Hyatt on the day before this big exhibition. It will give people a chance to socialise with the artists and indulge in a networking session.
In the field of business and trade, Kiev is slated to host the Kiev International Economic Forum that will be a platform for discussions of the issues aimed at shaping the strategy of promoting business in Ukraine.
There will be special events for the participants of the Middle Eastern countries. It will be held from October 5 and is expected to be attended by many members of the Qatar Chamber as well as well as officials from the Qatar Investment Authority and other banks.
There are many areas where Qatar can seek opportunities of cooperation with Ukraine.
Some of the fields mentioned by the envoy are information and communication technologies, agricultural products, tourism, healthcare, education, space technology and so on. “There are many opportunities for investments since the Ukrainian government is planning to privatise many public companies and that brings in big opportunities for the Qatar government to invest in our country.
“In all, Ukraine has so much to offer to this part of the world. As a relatively young country that has got its independence in 1991 from the Soviet Union, we are going to celebrate our country’s independence on August 24. We have successfully overcome many challenges ever since the nation came into existence and are steadily progressing on the path of development and cooperation,” concludes Mykytenko.

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