Defiant Ukraine flies the flag at Abu Dhabi defence fair

Country set to mark one year since Russia invaded

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Ukraine made its presence felt on the opening day of Abu Dhabi’s defence fair on Monday as the world prepares to mark the first anniversary of Russian's invasion of the country this week.

Several of its companies were flying the flag at the biennial International Defence Exhibition and Conference (Idex).

From drones to missile systems to tactical clothing, company representatives said they had come to show the world Ukraine would triumph in the war against Russia, while also shining a spotlight on weapons they can offer others towards their defence.

“We want to show that we are here and we are in the market,” said Ihor Maslov, head of business development at Ukr Spec Systems, a Ukrainian drone manufacturer established in 2014.

“We will continue our fight, not only inside of Ukraine but also outside Ukraine,” said Mr Maslov, as he showed off two drones being used in the conflict for surveillance, artillery spotting and support.

“We would like to share our technology and experience to show everyone we have our own weapons we use in Ukraine. After we win the war, this product will be popular.”

Ukraine's State Kyiv Design Bureau (Luch), which makes the Neptune missile that reportedly sank the Russian ship Moskva last year, was also present, showcasing its rocket systems and anti-tank weapons. But the company said it was focused on Ukraine’s domestic market for now.

Show of support

“We are here to show we are still working despite the Russian invasion and attempts to destroy our country,” said Oleg Skliar, project manager at Luch.

“We have had lots of visitors from Saudi Arabia and UAE. Everyone was surprised to see Ukraine but they were glad. People support Ukraine. We hope that after we win we will come back to the market.”

Ukr Spec Systems and Luch are part of the National Association of Ukrainian Defence Industries (Naudi). Founded in 2020, it brings together many of the nation’s defence, armament and ammunition companies. it is thought 10 companies under its umbrella will participate at Idex this year.

Another Ukrainian company — not affiliated with Naudi — had also set up stall. Olteks, a manufacturer of military clothing, said it was keen to expand into new markets in the Gulf.

Larisa Ter-Minasyan, the company’s export manager, said Ukrainian firms were proud to be part of the Abu Dhabi event after such a challenging year in their homeland.

Russia also had a pavilion at Idex, a long walk from the Ukrainian companies, over a motorway by the water. It was also displaying some of the weapons being used by Russia in the war.

Ukraine’s determined presence at the exhibition comes as the anniversary of Russia's invasion approaches. Russian forces crossed into Ukraine on February 24 hoping for a swift victory. A year later, the war grinds on.

When asked if anyone from the Ukrainian side had encountered Russian delegates, the response from Mr Skliar was swift.

“They were lucky not to pass by.”

Idex continues at Adnec until February 24.

Updated: February 21, 2023, 2:25 PM