Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy hails UAE on first visit

The president praised the Emirates’ support for his country as it battles Covid-19

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - February 13, 2021: HE Abdulla Bin Touq Al Marri, UAE Minister of Economy (L), receives HE Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine (R), at the Presidential Airport.

( Mohamed Al Hammadi / Ministry of Presidential Affairs )
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Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy hailed the UAE for its “incredible efforts to fight coronavirus, not only at home but also abroad”.

He also thanked the UAE for sending an aid plane last April with medical supplies to help Ukraine in the fight against the virus.

“The UAE provided assistance to many countries around the world and Ukraine will not forget the Emirati airplane, which so timely and with friendly warmth delivered humanitarian aid to confront Covid-19 and the UAE helped many Ukrainians to get back home,” he said.

His comments came after he arrived on a visit to the UAE.

Mr Zelenskiy, 43, and his delegation were met at Abu Dhabi’s presidential flight terminal by Abdulla bin Touq, Minister of Economy.

Ukraine will not forget the Emirati airplane, which so timely and with friendly warmth delivered humanitarian aid to confront Covid-19

He is the youngest president in Ukraine’s history and had a previous career as a filmmaker and actor in which he played the role of president of Ukraine in a TV series.

Wam reported it was his first official visit to a Middle Eastern country.

Ties between the UAE and Ukraine are becoming stronger, especially in trade, tourism and technology.

More than 200 Ukrainian companies operate in the Emirates. Bilateral trade stood at $1.07 billion (Dh3.92bn) in 2019, and no fewer than 30 deals have been signed between the countries.

About 15,000 Ukrainians live in the UAE, and 250,000 people from the country visited the Emirates in 2019, benefitting from a streamlined visa regime.

“It is important that our citizens have the opportunity to pray and ask for God’s help in their native language in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the UAE,” Mr Zelenskiy said, noting the UAE hosts the church.

A Ukraine-made Antonov AN-225 touches down in Dubai in 2018. Dubai Airports

He also also hailed the normalisation of ties between the UAE and Israel, praised the UAE’s successful Hope Mission to Mars and suggested Ukraine could be a important partner in addressing food security.

“Ukraine can and will be the guarantor of the food security of the Emirates ... we are among the world leaders in the export of wheat, corn and barley,” he said.

Ukrainian food exports to the UAE were valued at $252.2 million in 2019, and consisted chiefly of sunflower oil, rapeseed, eggs, poultry and wheat flour. Even the Ukraine pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai will represent the concept of food security.

“The architectural design of the pavilion embodies the idea of a wheat ear. Wheat is an important symbol for Ukrainians and the yellow colour on our flag symbolises the wheat field and readiness to contribute to world food security,” he said.

Co-operation could also extend to the defence sector. Ukraine will take part in the Idex defence trade fair, which will open in Abu Dhabi on February 21.

Ukraine is Europe’s second-largest country and is known for it fertile agricultural plains and heavy industry.

It is home to global companies such as Antonov, renowned for large cargo planes such as the An-225 Mriya.

Mr Zelensky was inaugurated in 2019. At the time, he said ending the insurgency in the east of the country would be his priority.