Ukraine expected “more practical support” from India as it fights Russia’s military, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Wednesday. Addressing a press conference that was held virtually, Mr. Kuleba argued that Ukraine has been a reliable partner of India but by purchasing crude oil from Russia, India is in effect buying Ukrainian blood. The strong remarks indicate a hardening of Ukrainian position as India continues to purchase Russia’s Ural crude to stabilise energy supply for its economy.
“When India purchases Russian crude oil [at a discount], they have to understand that the discount has to be paid by Ukrainian blood. Every barrel of Russian crude that India gets, has a good portion of Ukrainian blood in it. We are friendly and open to India. I supported in evacuation of Indian students. We expected more practical support from India to Ukraine,” Mr. Kuleba said in response to a question from The Hindu. He referred to India and Ukraine as two democracies that have essential similarities and that “two democracies have to stand by each other”.
Earlier, India’s External Affairs Minister (EAM) S. Jaishankar had said that oil and gas prices are “unreasonably high” and pointed out that the traditional energy suppliers of Asia are “diverting” to Europe to deal with a situation where every country will try to address the high energy prices that have become a global challenge in the backdrop of the war in Ukraine. “We are not doing it in a defensive way. We have been very open and honest about our interest. I have a country with a per capita income of $2,000. These are not people who can afford higher energy prices. It is my obligation...moral duty to actually get them the best deal that I can get from the world,” Dr. Jaishankar has said.
The EAM explained that India is not trying to be “clever” in sourcing energy from multiple countries including Russia, and presented India’s position as “direct”, adding, “My sense is that the world accepts that as a reality.”
The Ukrainian Minister acknowledged that India’s decision to continue with energy purchases from Russia has not “surprised” Kyiv but observed that the war in Ukraine is providing Russia with an opportunity to make money from energy trade.
“Throughout human history, in every conflict, in every war, there are those who suffer from the war and then there are those who make money,” he said, pointing at the continuing energy sale by Russia to India. Referring to colonial history, the Ukrainian Minister stated that Asian countries suffered for centuries because of war and exploitation, and reminded that the tradition of neutrality, which has been followed by many countries like Indonesia and India since February, cannot be justified as Ukrainian women and children are perishing in the war.
India has supplied several batches of humanitarian materials to Ukraine since the beginning of the war on February 24, which created a difficult challenge for Delhi as nearly 20,000 Indian students and professionals in Ukraine had to be evacuated as fighting raged. Both sides maintained continuous communication at the highest level, including at least three phone calls between President Volodymyr Zelensky and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Mr. Kuleba spoke with Dr. Jaishankar last week when the latter assured Ukraine of more humanitarian support. Mr. Kuleba reminded that Ukraine has been a reliable supplier of agriculture goods, especially sunflower oil, to India.
In response to another question from The Hindu, Mr. Kuleba cautioned that deepening ties between Russia and conflict-riddled Myanmar in India’s east will be a strategic challenge to New Delhi in the future. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Myanmar earlier this month, where he assured of continued relations between the two countries. “Russia is reaching out to Myanmar not because of bilateral reasons but because it wants to put its foot in the regional security and use Myanmar as a leverage,” the Ukrainian Foreign Minister said.
Mr. Kuleba also reached out to Pakistan in his remarks and said that the two sides have “big potential” in bilateral relations, adding, “We expect greater solidarity of Pakistan for Ukraine.” Ukraine’s past relation with Pakistan had cast a shadow on its ties with India but Kyiv’s relation with India had improved in recent years, which ultimately led to a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Zelenskyy in Glasgow in 2021.