RUSSIA is bullish about its investment prospects in Zimbabwe despite the current economic restrictions triggered by the ongoing special military operation in Ukraine by Russia. The Zimbabwe Independent chief reporter Taurai Mangudhla (TM) this week interviewed Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Zimbabwe and Malawi Nikolai Krasilnikov NK, around the ongoing war in Ukraine and Zim-Russia relations: below are excerpts of the interview:
TM: Currently, everyone is talking about the special operation in Ukraine and Zimbabweans are no exception. In very simple terms and briefly, may you please explain why the Russian federation took this stance?
NK: The Special Military Operation by the Russian Federation was undertaken to prevent escalation of aggression unleashed by the regime in Kiev against the Russian-speaking people of the Ukrainian region of Donbass. They have been suppressed for eight years in barbaric ways through blockade, large-scale punitive operations, terrorist attacks and constant artillery raids. Their only guilt was that they demanded basic human rights: to live according to their forefathers’ laws and traditions and to speak their native language. Russia recognised the republics of Donbass — the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) – and signed treaties of friendship and mutual aid with them. According to these treaties, DPR and LPR appealed to Russia for military assistance.
Those who came to power in Kiev after the coup d’etat in 2014, supported by Western countries, started openly promoting neo-Nazism and facilitated establishment of Nazi organisations that our grandfathers fought and defeated back in 1941-1945 during the Great Patriotic War. Russia had been trying for years to raise attention of Western countries, including the United States, which failed to vote for the UN General Assembly resolution condemning the glorification of Nazism and all forms of racism, xenophobia, discrimination and intolerance, under the pretext of avoiding infringement on freedom of speech.
The Kiev regime announced its intention to have nuclear weapons and that was a real threat for my country. Besides, there was a network of dozens of laboratories in Ukraine, which conducted military biological programmes, including experiments with deadly diseases, financed and supervised by the US.
Numerous warnings that such developments posed a direct threat to the security of Russia were rejected by Ukraine and its NATO patrons.
All our diplomatic efforts were in vain and my country was left with no peaceful alternative. If our troops had acted only within the Donbass it would not have led to peace and would not have ultimately removed the threat. The frontline would have been extended around Donbass and its borders, and shelling and provocations would have continued.
At the beginning of the special military operation the Kiev authorities were offered opportunities to avoid hostilities, to withdraw their troops from Donbass as an alternative to bloodshed and they decided not to do that.
Now we have direct talks between Russia and the Ukranian regime and the delegations met three times in Belarus while several video conferences were held. They are discussing not only cease-fire and humanitarian corridors but also specific arrangements to make it obligatory for Ukraine to have a neutral status, not to be a stronghold for launching aggression or any kind of military pressure against Russia and also not to be a breeding ground for neo-Nazism and Nazi ideology.
TM: What is the likely impact of the special operation to the Russian Economy and how does this affect Zimbabwe?
NK: The Western countries are using economic, financial, trade and other sanctions against Russia as weapons. They have frozen some of our gold and currency reserves. They are trying to stop foreign trade and export of goods, inflicting damage on global trade. There are attempts to create a shortage of imported essentials in Russia and to compel successful businesses with foreign capital to shut down.
The Russian government has taken measures to stabilise financial markets, support state industries and the private sector to ensure uninterrupted functioning of enterprises without disruptions in logistics and production chains while maintaining employment.
Russia has many friends and allies, Zimbabwe is in the forefront, numerous partners in the international arena who did not lose their independence and ability to put their interests first. So, it is impossible to isolate my country or to exclude us from the global community. Russia will emerge stronger.
The sanctions will inevitably reverberate in the West and throughout the world. They have already backfired in Europe and in the United States where prices of gasoline, energy and food have shot up, while jobs in the industries associated with the Russian market have been cut.
Imposing illegal restrictions on Russia was the logical continuation of irresponsible and short-sighted policy of the US and EU countries’ governments and central banks. They themselves have driven up global inflation in recent years, causing rising global poverty and greater inequality across the world. The global economy and global trade as a whole have suffered a major blow, as did trust in the US dollar as the main reserve currency.
At the same time everything that Russia is scheduled to supply is supplying consumers worldwide. On March 10, at a meeting by President Putin with the government, the Russian Minister of Agriculture Dmitry Patrushev confirmed that the food security of the country had been guaranteed and that Russia would continue to service its export obligations for foreign agricultural markets, including export of wheat and fertilisers. I assure you that the same approach is applied regarding oil export.
TM: Great Dyke appears to be running behind on its platinum project, what do you understand is the problem?
NK: Two flagships of our investment cooperation, Great Dyke Investment for developing platinum group of metals and Alrosa-Zimbabwe for exploring diamonds, are well on track with very good prospects.
TM: Going forward, what trade opportunities are there between Zimbabwe and Russia?
NK: I am sure that other projects will follow due to the great interest in Russia to do business in the safe, conducive environment of Zimbabwe under the new dispensation. ICT, agriculture, energy, transport, pharmaceutics are the spheres in the focus of attention.
TM: May you kindly give trade statistics between Zimbabwe and Russian since 1980, highlighting major trade items and values?
NK: The trade turnover between Russia and Zimbabwe has never corresponded to the high level of political coordination between Moscow and Harare and to the great potential of our partnership. A low level of trade with Zimbabwe is in line with a slow pace of Russian business in Africa in general. This is the trend that started receiving an adequate impetus recently. The 2019 Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi had a major impact in this regard. So government officials both in Moscow and in Harare still have a lot of homework to do to make business people feel more attracted to vast opportunities in bilateral trade.
In this regard we count on the Fourth Chapter of the Russia-Zimbabwe Intergovernmental Commission on Economic, Trade, Scientific and Technical Cooperation that we started preparing for this year.
President of the Republic of Zimbabwe Emmerson Mnangagwa made a deep and clear analysis of the current situation unfolding in and around Ukraine in an article published in the latest Sunday Mail. The President has come to a conclusion that there was a new world order emerging that required a new mindset and new approaches. I have every reason to assure you that Russia and Zimbabwe are on the same page in this regard.
For many years Moscow and Harare have been coordinating efforts in the international arena to establish and strengthen a new system of international relations based on respect of the UN Charter, international law, principles of sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs of states.
So it will be a new order where the Western countries will be denied an opportunity to dictate and impose their will on independent and sovereign states
TM: What has been the impact of the war so far on the humanitarian side and what do you foresee in the future?
NK: The humanitarian situation is always affected when there is a military operation going on. The Russian armed forces do not target civilians. They are determined to avoid casualties and to assist people to leave specific areas designed for military operation. The Russian Ministry of Defence established a hotline that enables the civilian population including foreigners to solve humanitarian issues.
My Embassy has provided access to that hotline for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of the Republic of Zimbabwe.
The problem is that the Ukrainian nationalists try to defend themselves by putting civilians in front like a human shield. They prevent people from using humanitarian corridors that go to Russia.
On March 14, 2022 Ukrainian nationalists hit a residential area in the City of Donetsk, capital of the Donetsk People’s Republic, with a tactical missile staffed with cluster munition prohibited under international law. Twenty people were killed, more than thirty people were wounded. This is the terrorist act.
Russia wants to stop the bloodshed as soon as possible. To do that some certain arrangements are to be made in order to prevent such events in the future. The Ukranian regime is aware of our demands, highlighted at the ongoing direct talks.