#UKRAINERUSSIAWAR. Dmytro Kuleba, anti-diplomatic minister


Among the portraits of the leading figures of the Ukrainian government led by Volodymyr Oleksandrovyč Zelens’kyj, one could not miss an article dedicated to Dmytro Kuleba, the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, member of the Security Council since 4 March 2020. He is also a member of the ‘Servant of the People’ party, named after the TV series of the same name in which the president was the protagonist.

Dmytro is a child of art, his father Ivan Kuleba is a diplomat who holds the position of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine in Armenia. He was born on 19 April 1981 in Sumy. In 2003, he graduated from the Institute of International Relations of the Shevchenko University of Kiev with a degree in international law and later obtained a doctorate in law.

From 2003 to 2010, he worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine at the Central Office and the Permanent Mission of Ukraine to International Organisations in Hungary (on OSCE issues). From 2010 to 2013, he worked for the Secretary of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine. From September to June 2013, he was the Deputy Prime Minister for Humanitarian Affairs of Ukraine. In 2013, he joined the UART Foundation for Cultural Diplomacy. In 2014, he became ambassador for the Special Envoy for Strategic Communications. In 2016 he was appointed Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the Council of Europe. From June 2019 to March 2020, he became Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine. On 4 March 2020, he was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.

He is married to Evgenia Kuleba, founder and head of the public organisation Garden City. Described as the 44th most influential woman in Ukraine according to Focus magazine, she was a candidate in 2020 for the Kiev City Council, number one on the list of the “Servant of the People” party, the Kulebas have two children, Yegor, 14, and Lyubov, 9.

In Ukrainian diplomatic circles Dmytro is known as the Dutchman, because according to them nobody on the Ukrainian side tried so hard to make sure that in 2016 Kiev lost a referendum in the Netherlands on the Ukraine-EU agreement. Also referring to his actions at the Council of Europe in a tongue-in-cheek article about the Ukrainian foreign minister it is alleged that he paid the $400,000 fee to the PACE to prevent Russia’s return to the Council. He is said to have explained his action with his desire to repay the amount missing from the PACE due to Russia’s absence from the organisation.

Also on financial matters, Ukraine’s then Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Dmytro Kuleba denied receiving a salary of 87,000 hryvnias for each month he worked in the cabinet. He said this in an interview with Deutsche Welle on 21 January. Earlier, the Ukrainian government released information on the salaries of cabinet members. According to this data, Kuleba received 86 thousand 774 hryvnias in December 2019, including a bonus of 58 thousand 655 hryvnias and a bonus of 28 thousand 119 hryvnias. “No, I did not receive this money in any month of my work in government. The published figure is the amount before taxes and fees. In one month I get an average of 50 thousand hryvnias. If I am not mistaken, this is the money I received in December,” said Kuleba.

He loves to give interviews a lot, but his detractors call them really undiplomatic. In a statement in 2019 for example he advised Russian liberals to set fire to the doors of the FSB (see photo).

He went through several political phases unscathed, always remaining in the high political arena. He has spent most of his life abroad as a diplomat. His Ukrainian turn to nationalism began in 2013 when he joined the UART Foundation for Cultural Diplomacy, known as the Ukraine International Cooperation Agency (UART). A non-profit charitable organisation founded in 2011 to promote Ukraine and Ukrainian culture abroad and to introduce Ukrainians to the achievements of world art. The President of the Foundation and one of its founders is Ukrainian businessman Sergiy Osipenko, known in art circles as Serge OSSIPENKO was born on 9 January 1965, of Ukrainian origin but lives between Paris, Kiev and Monaco is an entrepreneur and magnate of Ukrainian art in the world. CEO of EPOPS CONSEIL which operates in the holding sector and is still behind the Alliance for Investment Solutions, a non-profit organisation that aims to attract foreign direct investment, he is also known for his decisive role in the service of trade between France and Ukraine. Known in the news for organising bilateral meetings between French and Ukrainian economic actors. Defined by the French media as the man who multiplies partnerships with international companies (Auchan, Ceetrus, Morel&Prom, Thales, Immeris, Bain, etc.) he also plays the role of cultural mediator between Kiev and Paris; in 2013 at the beginning of the UART project he also enlists Kuleba.

On 10 October 2020, Kuleba participated in the first International Forum of Cultural Diplomacy (UART), co-organised by the Ukrainian Institute together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, the focus of the forum was cultural diplomacy in times of crisis, threats and uncertainties. Participants included leading experts from Ukraine and 7 other countries: Great Britain, Austria, the United States, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Belgium and Turkey. The Facebook broadcast gathered 72,000 followers. A total of 900 people signed up to receive further material on the outcome of the forum. On that occasion, the Foreign Minister stated: ‘The presence of Ukraine in the world is an abstract notion, because we have to promote Ukraine in every country that interests us and in which we want to have an impact. We are expecting new sensations and initiatives that will promote Ukraine in the world. Secondly, we will inject new brilliant projects that we can show to the world and with the power of culture influence the attitude towards Ukraine in different countries”.

Among his statements that have gone down in history as undiplomatic were those in Romania on 09 November 2020: “All possible changes to the education law have already been made and there will be no new ones – according to the documents, Romanian-speaking schools will continue the educational process in Romanian, but only until 2023, after which they will have to be Ukrainianised”.

And a few months earlier, in May, tensions were registered on the Bulgarian side. Indeed, Ukraine’s administrative territorial reform threatened the unity between Bulgaria and the Bulgarian enclave of Bolgrad. The city and its surroundings are in fact a de facto Bulgarian national district on the territory of Ukraine. This allows the local authorities to actively implement national-cultural projects, and to benefit from Sofia’s support in solving socio-economic problems. However, this enclave does not fit into Ukraine’s new administrative and territorial system, which has been downsized by government reform. On 29 May, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjártó defined the condition for ending the blockade of Ukraine-NATO Council meetings. Budapest awaits a solution to the linguistic and educational problems of the Hungarian national minority. This was discussed during a meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Budapest.

On 10 October Kuleba denied reports of plans to create a “Hungarian region” in Transcarpathia. According to Dmitryo Kuleba, as part of the administrative-territorial reform, there are plans to simply merge the two regions of Transcarpathia. Initially, the Hungarian districts (Beregovsky and Vinogradovsky) were to be included in areas with a predominantly Ukrainian population, but then after the visit the matter was cooled.

And still on the administrative theme, this time addressing the leaders of the separatist republics on 30 May 2020, Dmitryo Kuleba declared that when Ukraine regains control over the Donbass it will “liquidate the DPR and DPR administrations”. In an interview with journalists he stressed that “there is no place for this administration anywhere”. Kuleba also added that the authorities can apply Plan B, which is being discussed by the presidential administration: “Plan ‘B’ presupposes a vigorous scenario for the seizure of uncontrolled territories”.

Declaredly anti-Russian, on 2 June 2020 after an official visit to Germany on his Facebook page he wrote: ‘A milestone: the Ukrainian delegation is the first foreign delegation to be received in Germany after the start of the quarantine for the coronavirus’, deliberately ignoring the official visit of the Russians led by Dmitry Kozak a few days earlier.

In May of the same year, another Ukrainianisation campaign began, aimed at the Crimea. Kuleba, on May 5, declared that Ukraine was developing a concept for the return of Russian-occupied Crimea under the control of Ukrainian authorities. This was reported by RBC-Ukraine with reference to the minister’s interview with Novoye Vremya. According to the minister’s words, Kuleba himself was engaged in a dialogue with the Ukrainian presidential representative in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Anton Korenevich, on the issue of de-occupation. On seven June, he told the press: ‘In the 21st century, Ukraine will show an example of successful de-occupation of occupied territory following the example of Crimea annexed by Russia. In the 20th century, there was a wonderful de-occupation of the territory of Alsace, where I had the opportunity to live for three years, representing the interests of Ukraine in the Council of Europe, the experience of which I actively studied. I want to say one more thing, that even if there were no such cases, this does not mean that we should put our hands down and do nothing. If there were no such cases in the 11th century, then it will be. And it will be created by our hands. And this will be the dis-occupation of Crimea”.

Another theme of his pro-Ukrainian foreign policy is that of the non-implementation of North stream 2. In an interview with El Mundo correspondent Dmitryo Kuleba, when asked to explain why Ukraine is asking Europe to abandon Nord Stream 2, Kuleba did not hesitate to say that the project “focuses on the one main supplier, which is Russia, which goes against the European strategy”. To which the journalist objected: “After all, Ukraine only offers one option in return: the transit of the same Russian gas through its territory. What kind of diversification is there if everything happens exactly the opposite!” Kuleba replies, “I should not be objective: I am the Minister of Foreign Affairs, not of objectivity.”

Still on the subject of foreign policy, Minister Kuleba was very vocal during and after the demonstrations in Belarus. On 19 September he declared: ‘Lukashenko’s dependence on Russia is a threat to Ukraine. We see that President Lukashenko has made his choice, and this choice is the support of Russia. For us, this certainly represents a threat and we will respond appropriately to any developments in Belarus, but I want to say very clearly: Ukraine will always support the Belarusian people’. On 30 September he decided that Kiev would officially address Alexander Lukashenko by name, without stating the position, not recognising him as president. A statement reads: ‘At the moment the Ukrainian side cannot recognise the Belarusian leader as having come into office. Therefore, in all official documents and statements, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry will call Alexander Lukashenko by name, without indicating the position’.

Other statements are made during the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict. On 30 September 2020: ‘The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry is deeply concerned about the escalation of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. We carefully study the circumstances that led to the aggravation. We call on the parties to resume dialogue for the sake of a peaceful solution to the conflict. We stand in solidarity with the relatives and friends of the victims,” the diplomatic mission said in a statement. The minister added: “We are all closely observing the development of these events. I had a telephone conversation with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan (Jeyhun Bayramov – ed.). Our position is very clear. War is always pain, sacrifice, destruction and we are sincerely sorry that these events are occurring now in the Caucasus,” the head of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said. “One of the cornerstones of Ukrainian foreign policy is support for the territorial integrity of states. We have constantly supported Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, just as Azerbaijan has supported our territorial integrity within internationally recognised borders, and this principle remains absolutely unchanged for us,” Kuleba said.

When it comes to territorial integrity, things change when it comes to relations with Great Britain: on 8 October 2020 London and Kiev intensified military cooperation. In London, the two heads of state signed a document, in particular, stipulates that London will allocate funding in the amount of £1.25 billion for the development of the Ukrainian navy. “The memorandum provides for cooperation in the defence sector. It is important to attract funding from the British Export Credit Agency in the amount of £1.25 billion. This should significantly increase efficiency and reduce the time for implementation of joint defence projects, which is crucial in the context of the worsening situation that continues in the Black Sea region,” the Office of the President of Ukraine said in a statement.

On 7 October, the British Royal Navy destroyer, Dragon, entered the port of Odessa “as part of a friendly visit”. The Kiev authorities warmly welcomed the arrival of the ‘friendly state’ ship. The Foreign Ministry issued the following statement: ‘If they land there and stay, we won’t even mind. From the first day of the Russian aggression, Great Britain has been present and has provided practical support, and not only in military terms,’ said the head of the department Dmitry Kuleba, explaining that Ukraine would not object to the appearance of a British military base in the Nikolaev region.

As foreign minister, Kuleba has caused much controversy within Ukraine, but the country that has most read hostility and lack of openness to dialogue in Kuleba’s words has certainly been Russia.

On February 10, 2022, Sergey Lavrov, Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, after the umpteenth failure of the meetings for the Donbass, declared: “The Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba has surpassed Goebbels”. Earlier, Kuleba had said that there would be no direct dialogue with Donetsk and Luhansk, as it was not foreseen in the Minsk agreements.

“This, you see, is already completely the school of Goebbels or even surpasses the art of the chief propagandist of the Third Reich,” Lavrov remarked on this topic during negotiations with his British colleague Liz Truss.

Graziella Giangiulio