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Eastern European Time Zone UTC+02:00

 Capital City Kiev

 Currency Ukrainian hryvnia

National Day  August 24


His Excellency Vadym Prystaiko
Embassy of Ukraine
60 Holland Park
London W11 3SJ
T: 020 7727 6312
F: 020 7792 1708
E: emb_gb@mfa.gov.ua
E: office@ukremb.org.uk

Ukraine’s new Ambassador His Excellency Vadym Prystaiko kicked off his UK posting last autumn with a visit from his country’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. “As any Ambassador will tell you, the preparations that go on behind the scenes of a visit from chief of state can be a challenge to manage. As one of the first visits after the start of the pandemic, it included meetings with the Royal Family and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, where they signed the Ukrainian-British Agreement on Political Cooperation, Free Trade and Strategic Partnership.” He’s proud of everything they achieved: “We managed to fit this all in during a short period when restrictions were eased.”

An experienced taekwondo fighter, Ambassador Prystaiko arrived in September last year, with his wife Inna and one of their sons. Since his arrival, he says that “Our diplomats – like diplomats from other nations – are suffering from having to rely on electronic media to substitute most face-to-face meetings. In the electronic context, it can be difficult to decipher the messages that we need to convey back to our government.”

Growing up in the Soviet regime, Ambassador Prystaiko reminds us that diplomacy wasn’t an option. He was 21 years old when Ukraine achieved independence, and once the Foreign Ministry started to grow, he signed up to the Department of Trade and Economic Relations for Africa, Asia and the Pacific Region in 1994. Soon he found himself climbing the career ladder, becoming Consul in Sydney, a senior diplomat in Ottawa and Washington, Ambassador in Canada and Head of Ukraine’s NATO mission, before becoming his country’s Minister for Foreign Affairs in 2019 and then Vice Prime Minister for European Euro-Atlantic Integration.

In the latter roles, Ambassador Prystaiko focused on three priorities forward. “Firstly, I had to do my best to end the war with Russia. 14,000 had been killed and more than a million people displaced, as well as our lost territory, and it was limiting Ukraine’s progress and development.” Secondly, he had to reassure Ukraine’s immediate circle of neighbours – “some historic grudges and issues needed to be settled.” Thirdly, he says he tried to bring some pragmatism into diplomatic relations. “As a new-born nation, we had been naive in our expectations. Maturing as a nation, we need to be more pragmatic in our approach – we have to squeeze every dollar from each geo-political decision as the EU and NATO are our greatest priorities.”

Now in the UK, he considers that “expectations are high, especially when the UK is looking for a new way in their foreign policy. Finding our place in all this is a challenge. The UK was very helpful in the EU, but the UK remains in NATO, where we want their assistance even more.”  Ambassador Prystaiko says his key plan is to secure the UK’s help “both in terms of the military and economy, so we can become stronger and deal with our challenges by ourselves.” So bilateral trade and investments are a priority, as well as “finding solutions to the issues we share with Great Britain like climate change, cyber security, and sustainable growth.”

In his previous role at the height of the pandemic, he was dealing with repatriating Ukrainians around the globe, and then securing how citizens could get back to work safely. “People need their income and to get back to some kind of normality, but safely, under the current rules and regulations.” Another of his tasks in the UK is to coordinate with AstraZeneca – “not only to acquire a vaccine supply for Ukraine, but to understand how we can cooperate in production and research. We have our own unique logistical capacities in Ukraine.”

Ukraine’s greatest diplomatic challenge remains “solidifying assistance from nations willing to see the threat from the Russian Federation, while maintaining relations with those who are not willing to help. Some tend to view Ukraine as an isolated incident, which is not the case.  We are trying to explain that this carefully balanced issue is part of a larger problem.” He notes that: “Great Britain is one of the few nations who helped Ukraine defend itself. So, we are not just proud, but also thankful for it, and trying to develop that relationship further. For example, we will have new projects together, including naval bases to renew our stance in the Black Sea.”

Of his career, Ambassador Prystaiko says “I have had a few amazing experiences. I once coordinated an antipiracy operation on our own vessel in the Gulf of Aden while I was Minister Counsellor at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington DC (2009-12). We had assistance from an American naval ship, and I was personally coordinating the operation over the telephone with the captain of the ship, which was quite memorable! But I have yet to meet The Queen…”


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