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Russia Invasion: Ukraine gets first military aid from Poland

By Debo Oladimeji (with agency reports)
26 February 2022   |   3:42 am
Russia’s assault on Ukraine, which began last Thursday, continued yesterday with Poland announcing that it has shipped a convoy with ammunition to the invaded country.

This handout video grab released by the Russian Defence Ministry on February 15, 2022, shows Russian tanks leaving for Russia after joint exercises of the armed forces of Russia and Belarus as part of an inspection of the Union State’s Response Force, at a firing range near Brest. – Russia said on February 15, 2022 it was pulling back some of its forces near the Ukrainian border to their bases, in what would be the first major step towards de-escalation in weeks of crisis with the West. The move came amid an intense diplomatic effort to avert a feared Russian invasion of its pro-Western neighbour and after Moscow amassed more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders. (Photo by Handout / Russian Defence Ministry / AFP)

Abuja Should Negotiate How Nigerians Can Be Protected With Kiev, Says Akinternwa

Russia’s assault on Ukraine, which began last Thursday, continued yesterday with Poland announcing that it has shipped a convoy with ammunition to the invaded country.

Meanwhile, against the backdrop of growing fears over the safety of Nigerians in Ukraine, a former Director General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Prof. Bola Akinterinwa, has stated that the Government of Ukraine has the responsibility to ensure the safety and security of the entire people living in the country, all foreigners inclusive.

Poland’s Minister of Defence, Mariusz Błaszczak, disclosed the shipment of ammunition to Ukraine through a tweet, making it the first publicly acknowledged shipment of military aid to the country since the Russian invasion began.

“A convoy of ammunition we are donating to Ukraine has already reached our neighbours. We stand by the Ukrainians, and show solidarity against Russian aggression,” he said.

The tweet neither described the sort of ammunition Poland sent the Ukrainians nor the amount. Poland and the Czech Republic had earlier announced that they would close airspace for Russian airlines following Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

Polish Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, said yesterday that he was drawing up legislation that would lead “to the closure of airspace for Russian airlines.” 

Czech Republic’s Minister of Transport, Martin Kupka, on his part, said the country would stop operations of all Russian carriers on its territory starting today.

“As of midnight today, we are stopping the operation of all Russian air carriers on Czech territory,” he said on Twitter.

Last Thursday, the United Kingdom had also announced it was banning civilian Russian aircraft from its airspace. U.S., EU, Australia and Japan had also announced sanctions against Russia.

Speaking with The Guardian in an interview, Akinterinwa asserted that no foreign country could unilaterally embark on any protective security measures without carrying along the Kiev government.

He noted: “Consequently, on how the government of Nigeria can protect Nigerians in Ukraine, the good approach is to negotiate an agreement with the Ukrainian government on the need for possible enhanced protection of all legally residing Nigerians in Ukraine.

“The protection should not be simply limited to times of crises and conflicts. During peace times, nothing should prevent Nigerians from being given the opportunity to work and eke out a good living there. Special health insurance scheme for Nigerians is also ideal. Special scholarship schemes can be organised for Nigerians in the IT domains. These programmes are major dynamics of peaceful existence, coexistence and capacity building that can meaningfully impact on the development of Ukraino-Nigerian bilateral ties.

“Indeed, protection of Nigerians abroad ought to be a deliberate policy that should be a major pillar of Nigeria’s foreign policy grand strategy. Nigeria does not have any concrete or visible foreign policy focus. Nigeria’s foreign policy is, at best, reactive. It is not programmatic. This should not be so.”

Akinterinwa gave a detailed explanation on how the war would affect Nigeria, saying: “The war in Ukraine has the potential to affect Nigeria negatively and positively.

Negatively speaking, it has clearly shown the remissness in attitudinal approach to the conduct and management of Nigeria’s foreign policy. First, the Embassy of Nigeria issued a press statement on January 26, 2022 on consular enquiries, general information on the tension in the country.

“The essence of the press release was to advise all Nigerians in Ukraine to take individual and collective safety and security very seriously, and especially to avoid travelling to the secessionist regions. Thus, the Embassy was not and still is not in the position to secure the Nigerian citizens in Ukraine. In fact, on February 24, 2022, the Embassy issued another advisory to Nigerians in which Nigerians were asked to remain calm but be very vigilant and to be responsible for their personal security and safety. Thus, the incapacity to perform or to protect is uncovered. Like the insecurity in Nigeria has been left to individuals to address, so it is for Nigerians in Ukraine.

“Additionally, 6000 out of the 7000 Nigerians living in Ukraine are students. There is no way their educational programmes will not be adversely affected. Many of them are in their final year. The tension cannot but lead to delay in completing their education. In fact, all students have been advised not to come to the colleges. This is neither good for the students nor for Nigerians back home.

“In this regard, many of the Nigerians cannot pay for their return home by air. Those who made efforts to seek safety in neighbouring Poland are having challenges. If the Nigerian government cannot help its citizens beyond issuance of travel advisory, why should Poland be blamed for not readily giving shelter? The Embassy of Nigeria that gave telephone numbers to be called has suddenly become inaccessible, probably because of its own safety and security. What happens when a protector is also seeking protection? This question partly explains how to appreciate the negative impact. But can we really blame the embassy, which we all know is poorly under-funded like all other Nigerian diplomatic missions? Should privately sponsored students be given funds that are not provided for?

“And perhaps more disturbingly, the tension in Ukraine has the potential to strengthen the secession struggle in the Southeast and agitation for self-determination in the Southwest of Nigeria. The message from Ukraine cannot but be that freedom, self-determination, in fact, nothing, is ever given on a platter of gold. Like Von Clausewitz once posited, if you want peace, prepare for war. If you want to secede or achieve self-determination, it can only be by forceful means when governments remain intransigent.

“At the level of the positive impact, Nigeria’s foreign policy of non-alignment has the potential to be enlivened. Russia and Ukraine have warm relations with Nigeria. In this case, Nigeria cannot afford the luxury of being the friend of one and the enemy of the other. Fair enough, Nigeria’s policy of non-alignment is not that Nigeria cannot align with any interested party.

“The policy allows for alignment but the decision for such alignment must be a resultant from sovereign decision of the Government of Nigeria. The likelihood of the decision to be taken cannot but be to be preaching the epistle of peaceful coexistence and to refrain from any activity that can complicate the misunderstanding.

“Without doubt, there will be international lobby for Nigeria’s support. Nigeria’s non-alignment policy should be stricto sensu defined by the pursuit of justice and fairness for both peoples without fear and favour.

“Economic impact is equally noteworthy. Russia is a leading exporter of oil. Russia is also a major supplier of gas to Western Europe. The gas supply passes through the territory of Ukraine. With the escalating tension in Ukraine, the likelihood of Ukrainian government wanting to sanction Russia to deny it foreign exchange earnings cannot be ruled out. However, such a decision cannot but also backfire. The beneficiaries of the Russian gas are the same EU countries from which Ukraine is seeking military aid. Blocking the export of gas is also punishing Western Europe at this time of cold weather.

“Whatever is the case, the conflict is likely to raise international oil prices, which cannot but be to the advantage of Nigeria. In the same vein, Nigeria has more gas reserves than oil reserves. The deterioration of the conflict may compel seeking alternative sources, like Nigeria, in which case efforts will be made to negotiate development of Nigeria’s gas reserves.

“And perhaps most importantly, if Russia succeeds with its invasion, Russianisation of West Africa should be expected, especially in light of the increasing withdrawal of French troops helping to fight the jihadist terrorists in the Sahel. Russian mercenaries who are already are in many countries in West Africa can only fill the vacuum created by France. If the United States succeeds, it will be the success of democracy, but that will not imply any progress for Nigerian democracy. Democracy in Nigeria is fraudulently practiced. Elsewhere it is not.”