The Ukraine celebrated its 22nd Independence Day last August 24. Ukrainian Ambassador to Indonesia Volodymyr Pakhil says Indonesia and the Ukraine have close historical relations. The Ukraine is the country that pushed for Indonesia’s sovereignty in 1946. In return, Indonesia was one of the first countries to recognize the Ukraine’s independence in 1991.
Although the two nations have had a great relationship for a long time, "The lack of a direct flight from Kiev to Jakarta makes it quite difficult for me to go home to the Ukraine," said the Ambassador who is fluent in Russian, English, Spanish and Polish. Tempo’s Natalia Santi met with the 53-year-old man last Wednesday to hear his stories. Excerpts from the interview are as follows:
How does the Ukraine celebrate its Independence Day?
Aside from celebrating its Independence Day on August 24, the Ukranians also celebrate Flag Day on August 23. The Ukranian flag is very unique. Most countries choose flags symbolizing ideas or values, such as red to portray the blood of a revolution or blue as a symbol of freedom. But the Ukranian flag symbolizes a landscape, a vast wheat crop plantation beneath the blue sky loved by the Ukrainians. Rows of yellow and sky blue flags will be seen along Ukrainian streets all week.
In the capital city, Kiev, a special parade is held each year. Ukrainians from various regions in the nation gather wearing traditional clothing named vyshyvanka. Vyshyvanka is made from cotton with bright colored embroidery around the collar and arms. Many youngsters and teens nowadays wear this with jeans while officials wear it as a shirt under their suits.
How is the history of Indonesia’s bilateral relationship with the Ukraine?
The Ukraine delegation was the initiator of acknowledging Indonesia’s independence at the United Nations (UN) in 1946. At that time, Ukraine’s representative raised the topic and pushed for Indonesia’s sovereigntyto be acknowledged by the UN. The Ukraine was still a part of the Soviet Union at that time, but we had our own representative at the UN.
In turn, Indonesia was the first country to acknowledge the Ukraine’s independence. The Ukraine officially declared its independence in December 1991. At the end of that month, Indonesia acknowledged the Ukraine as a sovereign nation. A diplomatic relationship was developed in 1992. The Indonesian Ambassador to the Ukraine was opened in 1994, followed by the Ukraine Embassy officially being opened in Jakarta two years later in 1996.
What are the similarities between Indonesia and the Ukraine?
Ukranians are like Indonesians, kind, open, lighthearted, and have a high sense of humor when faced with life’s problems and challenges. They both like soccer as well. The unique thing is the technique used by Indonesians to create batik is the same technique used by the Ukrainians to paint Easter eggs, using wax and coloring. That technique is called psyanka in the Ukraine.
Like Indonesia, the Ukraine underwent various processes of reformation. President Viktor Yanukovych and the Ukrainian government launched a series of systematic reforms aimed at changing the Ukraine into a prosperous and democratic, developed nation in the world. We also fight to eradicate corruption, just like Indonesia.
How has the relationship between the two nations been these past few years?
My appointment as ambassador to Indonesia was also an indication of heightened relations between the two nations. This was the first time in 12 years Kyiv appointed an ambassador for Jakarta.
For Indonesia, the Ukraine is the door towards the central part of the Eastern European market. In turn, for the Ukraine, Indonesia is the gateway towards the Southeast Asian market. In 2011, the investment value between the two nations exceeded US$ 1 billion for the first time. This underlined the importance of intensifying thecurrent relationship. Among all ASEAN countries, Indonesia is the Ukraine’s largest exporter. Indonesia sees great market potential in the Ukraine, second after Russia.
The Indonesian Trade Minister said that bilateral trade value reached $1.32 billion in 2012. Ukrainian export products, especially in heavy metals like black metal, reached 90 percent of total exports. The rest was fertilizer, flour and wheat. Lately, Indonesia has been interested in imported high technology products such asaircrafts and military equipment. Meanwhile, from Indonesia, the Ukraine imports palm oil, iron ore and metal oxide, electronic machines, mineral fuel, chemical substances, shoes, and textiles.
What issues dominate the current bilateral relationship?
From the Ukraine’s perspective, its interest in Indonesia continues to grow, either for information or connections. The trade exhibition held this year helped increase bilateral connections. Indonesian delegations comprised of high-ranking officials from the Trade Ministry, Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry, Forestry Ministry, Fisheries Ministry, and Foreign Affairs Ministry. In politics, this year the Indonesian parliament and the Ukraine, initialed by Ukrainian politician Verkhovna Rada, established a friendship.
As for culture and sports, this year, legendary Ukrainian soccer player Andriy Shevchenko visited Indonesia and played a charity match. The Indonesian badminton team played in the Ukraine during an international tournament. Some Indonesian culture delegations appeared in the Ukraine. At the beginning of this year, an Indonesian jazz music prodigy won a competition in the Ukraine.
What are challenges do the two nations face?
The lack of a direct flight from Kiev-Jakarta makes it quite difficult for me to go home to the Ukraine. This needs to be taken into consideration, especially with more and more Ukrainians choosing to visit Indonesia, especially Bali, as a tourist spot. We are also trying to facilitate a visa to strengthen relations between our people. (*)