Ukraine received two power generators gifted by the government of Taiwan on Wednesday and expects over a dozen more in the country in subsequent weeks, a high-profile statement of support from a country Kyiv does not even recognize as a sovereign state.
Taipei has enthusiastically embraced Ukraine’s campaign against a nearly nine-year-old Russian occupation that escalated into a full-scale invasion last February; Taiwanese military veterans have died fighting in the country. Despite Taiwan being under constant threat of invasion from Russia’s closest ally, China, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has dedicated much of his diplomatic efforts to courting Beijing, does not formally recognize Taiwan as a country, and has only made nebulous comments – dismissed in Beijing – opposing a Chinese invasion of the island country. Zelensky has also invited Chinese government companies to participate in the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine.
Taiwan is a sovereign state with a fully functional, democratic independent government. The Chinese Communist Party falsely claims the country to be a rogue province and considers its government a criminal “secessionist” organization. Chinese dictator Xi Jinping threatened he would have the “bones ground to powder” of anyone supporting Taiwan’s right to exist in 2019.
The Chinese government has largely ignored Zelensky’s multiple calls for one-on-one talks with Chinese dictator Xi Jinping, including most recently a letter sent to Xi through his wife, Olena Zelenska, during the World Economic Forum this month. The Communist Party has also, however, failed to vocally support the Russian invasion of Ukraine, insisting on a nominally impartial stance while maintaining a trade deficit with Russia.
A small number of Ukrainian politicians, most prominently opposition Holos Party leader Kira Rudik, have expressed support for Taiwan and begun pressuring the Zelensky government to offer Taiwan formal representation in Kyiv.
Rudik posted photos on Wednesday of the Taiwanese power generators arriving in the Ukrainian capital. Russia’s war effort has focused on targeting facilities that provide heat and power to civilians, leaving much of the country without electricity. The generators would, in theory, take pressure off of Ukraine’s power plants and potentially keep pivotal infrastructure such as police stations and hospitals functioning.
— Kira Rudik (@kiraincongress) January 22, 2023
The Taipei Times reported on Wednesday that the generators are of 750-kilowatt capability and two of 20 expected from the Asian country. Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) donated $1 million in December to specifically help Ukraine deal with power outages. A month later, the ministry announced another $2 million donation towards “emergency electricity generation” in three other regions: Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, and Kherson. Putin announced in September that he had “annexed” Kherson into Russia, but much of the city remains under Ukrainian control. Zelensky made a victory trip to Kherson in November.
The financial support follows political support at the United Nations and comments from senior Taiwanese officials concerned that a successful invasion of Ukraine would embolden China.
“We are taking the war in Ukraine into a very serious internal discussions,” Foreign Affairs Minister Joseph Wu told the left-wing American radio station NPR in May. “The Ukrainian people are very brave, and one of the tactics that has been successful so far is the asymmetric capability. And that is something that we are learning from and we want to discuss further with the United States.”
Like Ukraine, whose politicians regularly demand more weapons and infrastructure aid from the world, Wu said at the time that Taiwan needed “international support — speaking out to support us and to provide us with the necessary means for us to be able to defend ourselves.”
In a report on Taiwanese support for Ukraine in December, the BBC estimated that about ten Taiwanese veterans had traveled to Ukraine to fight the Russians on the front lines. BBC attended the funeral of one of them, Tseng Sheng-guang, honored by Ukrainians in Lviv after dying fighting for their country’s International Legion. Zelensky founded the legion in March as a way to facilitate recruiting foreign fighters and screening them for appropriate military training.
“The situation with Taiwan and over there is just like us. I was thinking of what I could do to support Ukraine,” one Taiwanese soldier in Ukraine, Jack Yao, explained to the BBC.
Kira Rudik, the Holos lawmaker, said this week that she is planning to visit Taiwan in the near future to express gratitude on the part of her country. Rudik became the first Ukrainian lawmaker to visit Taiwan in October and has been pressuring Zelensky’s government to recognize Taiwan in some capacity. On Tuesday, she lamented that Zelensky’s attempts at “placating China” were “unfeasible,” according to the Taipei Times.
Channel News Asia’s Focus Taiwan outlet reported that Rudik was planning a visit specifically to discuss Taiwanese government representation in some capacity in Kyiv.
“I do not think it will happen fast. But I think once we push, it will get underway,” she said, later adding, “Every single person in Ukraine knows that Taiwan people are our friends who are not only supporting us with words, but support us with actions and deeds.”
Rudik’s Holos party is technically part of the opposition coalition in Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, against the ruling Servant of the People party, but has been supportive of Zelensky’s effort in guiding the war and Rudik herself said she “respected” Zelensky’s decision to make overtures to China.
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