FOREIGN Affairs Minister Stanley Kakubo says government is still working tirelessly to ensure every Zambian in Ukraine is evacuated.
And Kakubo says Zambia’s vote at the UN was not against any country, insisting that Zambia’s relations with Russia were not strained.
Speaking when he received the first batch of students from Ukraine, Tuesday, Kakubo said while government was excited that some people had finally arrived home safely, it was still concerned about those who were still trying to leave that country.
“I think there is no one more happy than the President. He made the call that the government evacuates our Zambian students out of Ukraine following the very complicated events that are happening there. To get to this point where we can get our young people back home, we know they are tired now, we will keep them at least overnight. We have put up a team that is going to do the screening for COVID-19 and it’s been led by Ministry of Health and we hope by six o’clock tomorrow, all the tests would have been done and then we can allow the students to go back to their families depending on the results,” he said.
“Overall, the government still remains concerned about the security in Ukraine. We still have a few students who are still in transit and I think our system has proven that it is working and we are tracking each one of them on how they are moving to get to the border and once they get into Poland, the government has already made arrangements on who will receive them, how they will get to the airport, they will be fed, warm meals for them and we will bring them home in a similar manner. So this is a very, very mixed feeling; excited and then we have been worried. Anxiety in the country has been very high and by the grace of God, we are here.”
He disclosed that government encountered challenges trying to evacuate students living in one of the cities which had been surrounded by Russian troops.
“In our previous statements, you notice that there was one particular area that the government was concerned about together with the parents and that was in the area called Sumi. That particular area has been very difficult for us to manage, it’s been surrounded by Russian troops and security concerns were higher than anywhere else where our students are. But now we have been able to get to a point where everybody is out of Sumi. They are in transit in different locations but we can’t go into too much detail otherwise we are going to compromise the whole system but suffice to mention that the government has arranged that they be received at the border and even in transit we are tracking them,” he said.
“We have made arrangements for them to come back not on a chartered plane like this one but on private arrangements. They will come on commercial flights and everything has been set and we are excited we have been able to deliver at least this far. For us as the government, we don’t want to lose anyone. One life to us is worth a million lives and we must make sure every Zambian that is out there is brought back into safety and reconciled with their families.”
He advised Zambians living abroad to ensure that they registered with a mission for easy tracking in case of tensions.
“Let me emphasize to all Zambians out there that it is important that you register with the closest mission that you are attached to. You register with the mission so that in case of trouble, the government can account for where you are, the government can reach you because the President is not only concerned about Zambians that are back home but including Zambians that are anywhere else on the globe,’ he said.
“Now that they will be arriving at different intervals into Poland, we will have to give you a subsequent briefing as to when once all logistics are put in place in terms of we track them down, they are in one hotel and then we bring them back home but sooner than later is always ideal because we are dealing with a whole situation here and circumstances can change very quickly.”
And Kakubo said Zambia’s vote at the UN was not against any nation.
“Our hopes are crystal clear and you could see even from the statement that we made at the UN is that it does not matter who perpetuates war, life will be lost and the position of the government is very clear and state that we want everywhere where there is tension, we need diplomacy, speaking, rather than going to war. War is never the best option because there will be cost elements to it and that is life,” said Kakubo.
“So the government is clear on this one and our position is that we always advocate for peace and negotiations even in difficult situations, even in this situation where there is war between Russia and Ukraine, the government is still insisting that all parties involved must speak. There is absolutely no strain between Zambia and Russia. The vote at the UN, I must emphasise is not against any nation, it is against war. Tomorrow I’m likely to issue a statement and I would ask you to exercise patience.”