- Many Ghanaians largely view Russia as unsafe and aggressive following its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022
- The Ukraine-Russia war has claimed thousands of lives since Russia's unprovoked attack on Ukraine
- YEN.com.gh spoke to postgraduate Ghanaians about what they think about the two countries' image/reputation before and during the war
When Russia launched a large-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Ukraine's troubled relations with Moscow since it won independence in 1991 further deteriorated.
Both countries had improved ties thanks to former Ukrainian President Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych, a pro-Russian ally who opted to revive economic relations with Moscow in 2013 after winning the country's 2010 presidential election.
Events leading to Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine
The tensions between the two neighbouring nations heightened in 2014 when Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula, part of Ukraine, following events such as Ukraine's parliament voting to remove Yanukovych over the decision to resume economic ties with Moscow, which triggered months of mass rallies in Kyiv, Reuters reports.
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Subsequently, Russia's annexation of Crimea in February and March 2014 and the following invasion of Ukraine in 2022 would not only harm relations between the two countries but also impact their reputation and image.
The BBC reports that Russia's President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin announced the ongoing war in Ukraine in a televised speech at 05:55 Moscow time (02:55 GMT), where he described the invasion as a "military operation" in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region.
In Africa, specifically Ghana, while Russia is predominantly seen as the aggressor, unsafe, and hostile, Urkaine has been described as the ''victim'' only defending its territorial integrity.
Ghanaians open up on Russia-Ukraine image/reputation
These remarks emerged when Ghanaian senior journalist, editor, and brand manager Nathaniel Crabbe spoke to over 10 Ghanaians with postgraduate education about their view of Russia and Ukraine's image/reputation before and amidst the war in Ukraine started by the former.
Kwadwo Kwarteng Badu, better known as K Badu, graduated from the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA), on Tuesday, December 12, 2023. During a Zoom interview with YEN.com.gh about Russia and Ukraine, he and the others discussed how they viewed Russia/Ukraine before the war. What they think of the two countries amidst the war, whether or not they viewed Russia as the aggressor, if they thought Russia/Ukraine were safe countries to visit now and during the 2023 Christmas holidays, and how the war has impacted Russia/Ukraine's global image.
Russia-Ukraine before the war between the two nations
K Badu tells Crabbe that Russia was one of the countries he admired before the war and had plans to visit the place.
''I wanted to visit because I had a lot of friends there. There were more opportunities and scholarships there for me to further my studies.
''In Ukraine, when it comes to the sciences and pharmacy, most of my friends who wanted to become medical doctors went there to study. So, I saw these countries as places to further my studies.''
The aggressor in the Ukraine-Russia war
However, he no longer desires to further his education in either country, particularly Russia, ''because everybody enjoys peace. People want to go to an environment where the place is more serene. It's sad.''
When asked if he viewed Russia as the aggressor in the ongoing war, he said YES.
''I see Russia as the aggressor. It became more aggressive when they introduced the arms. Ukraine received support from many people and countries. Though Ukraine also brought in arms, they still received sympathy because Russia started the war,'' he tells YEN.com.gh.
K Badu believes Russia's global image is badly impaired due to its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
''I'm not sure anybody will consider visiting Russia for vacation because of the ongoing war and the uncertainty in the country. It's been portrayed as an unsafe country.''
According to K Badu, he would decline an all-expense paid trip to celebrate holidays or Christmas in Russia.
''If I get the resources or get a free visa, I'll put my passport under my pillow and sleep. The kind of notion we've picked about Russia is that it's not safe, so no. Even if I'm told I'll be protected for 24/hours, I'd say no. If you're my family and you live in Russia, and you give me a free visa and resources, I'd say no and request that we go to another country. I will go to the country after the next five years.''
The Ukraine-Russia war has had negative repercussions on the two nations, but most Ghanaians believe Russia's image has been severely damaged. The loud bangs and blasts from missile attacks on the capital, Kyiv, as well as Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine and the country's infrastructure and border guards in the early days of the war, travelled beyond the country. It shook the world, including Africa.
Laud Nartey, a Ghanaian senior editor at TV3 Ghana under Media General, said Russia is now seen ''largely as an aggressive country.''
''Before the war, I considered Russia a country that always wanted to safeguard its territorial boundaries. I knew Russia to be one of the world's superpowers regarding economy, currency, and trade/commerce. They wanted to rub shoulders with the superpowers and depend on themselves, so I considered Russia a powerful country before the warfare.''
Nartey, on the other hand, described Ukraine as a developing trade nation unwilling to give up its territorial integrity.
''Russia is portrayed as the invader and aggressor attacking Ukraine in the war. It demonstrates that Russia invaded Ukraine without reason and began killing people and destroying property, damaging the country's economy. And, of course, there was the retaliatory response from Ukraine, which suggested they were also ready to fight back against any foreign element that would impact their economy, country, and people.''
Russia is unsafe
Like K Badu, Nartey firmly stated that he would not visit the countries because other nations had evacuated their nationals.
''So, in the interim, no. But when things improve, I'd consider,'' says Nartey.
The narrative about the effect of the Ukraine war on Russia's image did not change with the third, fourth and fifth speakers. The rest held very similar opinions about Russia being the aggressor in the war.
Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Johnson Adusei-Poku, however, mentioned that he would choose Russia over Ukraine any day for holidays/Christmas if he had plans to travel this year.
''Considering its military might, Russia can protect me more than Ukraine. It's a superpower regarding ammunition. The country is safe; the war is in Ukraine, and Russia can defend itself and its people, including tourists,'' says ASP Adusei-Poku.
But a Ghanaian-UK-based engineer who just graduated with his third master's and spoke under a hidden identity mentioned that he has yet to make plans to travel or visit Russia/Ukraine.
''Both countries are unsafe. I would not choose either for holidays anytime soon. What is going on is heartbreaking,'' he told YEN.com.gh.
Beyond the negative impact of the Ukraine-Russia war on their economies, both countries would have to work much harder than in previous years to repair and regain their image and reputation as peaceful and safe countries, especially Russia, which has been labelled as the aggressor in the war.
But how long would it take the two nations to repair their global image? Only time will tell.
African Barber survives Russian occupation of Bucha
Previously, YEN.com.gh reported that when Russia launched attacks on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, Gelson Satuta and his pregnant Ukrainian wife lived in Bucha, a small town 30km from Kyiv.
The chaotic sounds from the strikes triggered adrenaline of anxiety and fear for his life and his family. His wife was in the seventh month with their first child, and the enemy had hit close to home, sparking a legitimate need for safety.
But while many fled their homes and later the country as attacks on Ukraine intensified, Satuta's urge to defend and fight for Ukraine, a country he had come to love, became laudably pronounced.
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