14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 25 February 2022 — While European diplomats and those from other countries close ranks in solidarity with the Ukrainian Embassy on the island, the Cuban authorities keep their distance and reiterate their support for Russia in the official media.
In a day full of tensions, with the Russian troops already in Kiev, Oleksandr Kalinchuk, Ukraine’s chargé d’affaires in Cuba, has responded exclusively to questions from 14ymedio about the situation in his country and Havana’s position.
[Note from TranslatingCuba: The interview was conducted in English and is presented here in the original.]
14ymedio: Since the beginning of the Russian invasion have you received any call from Minrex [Ministry of Foreign Affairs]?
Oleksandr Kalinchuk: Unfortunately, despite repeated requests to talk or meet with representatives of the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, no letters, no calls, no meetings have yet taken place.
14ymedio: How did Minrex treat you until recently? Have you noticed any change?
Kalinchuk: Since 2014, Ukrainian-Cuban relations have deteriorated. This, of course, happened under pressure from Moscow. The Ukrainian diplomatic mission in Havana was in a kind of isolation — without access to the media, to meetings with officials. Cuba stopped hearing our voice.
14ymedio: How many Cubans are there currently in Ukraine?
Kalinchuk: I would like to note that even in Soviet times and until 2014, we had a significant flow of travelers — both students and professionals (especially engineers), and ultimately tourists. Since 2014, no Cuban student has gone to study in Ukraine. A relatively small number of Cubans live in Ukraine, but these Cubans are bold and determined — they are not afraid and have repeatedly protested near the Cuban embassy in Ukraine.
14ymedio: What can Ukrainians living in Cuba or Cubans with ties to your country do in order to receive information about their families in Ukraine?
Kalinchuk: We accept such appeals by email email@example.com or by phone +5354295131. I ask everyone who will apply to prepare clear information about the last place of residence in Ukraine of relatives and friends, their contacts. And, unfortunately, I must warn that the answers will not be quick. But we will not leave anyone, we will not forget about anyone.
14ymedio: Have you received any expression of solidarity and support from behalf of the Cuban civil society or from the Cuban people?
Kalinchuk: Answering this question, I am overwhelmed by a wave of emotions. You know, our embassy has now started receiving not only letters and calls of support from Cubans, but ordinary Cuban citizens are also asking us to come and defend Ukraine with weapons in hand. Believe me, for those who now live in Cuba — even to say so is a big risk.
14ymedio: How do you see the way Cuban state media has covered the entrance of Russian troops into Ukraine?
Kalinchuk: You see, because the positions of the Cuban government and the media here on the island are always the same. These weak and unsuccessful attempts to justify the barbaric invasion of Russian troops into the territory of a sovereign peaceful state look comical. I am convinced that the Cuban people, courageous and able to analyze the facts, perceive these reports as unsuccessful propaganda.
14ymedio: Do you expect any change in the relations between Havana and Kyiv in the short term?
Kalinchuk: Let me answer not what I expect, but what I hope for. I hope that the Cuban government will finally understand that Russia is an aggressor, an occupier.
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