KIEV, UKRAINE: Members of Lebanon's parliament, diplomatic corps. and press traveled to Kiev following a collaborative invitation from the Ukrainian embassy and Lebanese expats residing in Ukraine to attend a ceremony honoring St Maroun.
The journey began with a viral video of various members of the Lebanese contingent playing musical instruments on board Bay202. Sara Haidar, a passenger on the airplane, said that the impromptu jam session was entertaining during the three-hour long flight.
The first day of the visit began with the Lebanese delegation attending a Ukrainian parliamentary session alongside the Ukrainian Ambassador to Lebanon Igor Ostash. The four members of parliament, Abbas Hashem, Alaa’eddine Terro, Michel Moussa, Kassem Abdel Aziz, and the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, Andriy Parubiy then discussed the parliamentary structure of the two countries.
MP Hashem said that although the Ukrainian parliamentary session was generally chaotic, there was a time limit for each speaker of three minutes which helped keep things in order.
The Ukrainian parliament wants to further study the Lebanese constitution and the new electoral law and the possibility of applying it to Ukrainian parliamentary elections.
The visit was then followed by a stop to the Holodomor victims memorial which is devoted to the victims of the great famine of 1932, with the delegation laying flowers in remembrance to those who died.
Later that evening, Lebanese officials met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, with talks touching on building a stronger Lebanese-Ukrainian relationship.
Hashem then expressed hope for more Lebanese investments in Ukraine while discussing the potential visit of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to Ukraine in April.
In the afternoon, journalists from Lebanon's press corps met with members of the Ukrainian parliament and head of the Ukrainian-Lebanese Parliamentary Friendship Group, Serhiy Sobolev.
Sobolev, who represents the opposition party in parliament, noted that while his party takes a different political stance on societal and economic issues there is a channel of communication and accord with the other parties as it pertains to the military budget and defense spending.
“It’s been 20 years and we have overcome various challenges; now there's another challenge and that is the Russian aggression, so we're working on protecting our country from external threats,” he said. “In our parliament, there are a few pro-Russian MPs that want Ukraine to become a protectorate of Russia, although Russia has invaded our lands, these MPs want to have good relations with them.”
The press corps also met with Crimean Tatar leader Ilmi Umerovis to discuss the ongoing struggle in Crimea. Umerov was the deputy head of the Crimean Tatars’ semi-official Mejlis legislature. He said that Crimean Tatars are having their basic rights to education infringed upon.
Umerovis said that although he was prosecuted and released, he hopes to go back to Crimea and work as an activist, expressing hope that Crimea would recover from the recent conflict.
The following day consisted of transferring St Maroun’s relics from Lebanon to the Cathedral of St. Alexander in Ukraine in a ceremonial liturgy. Lebanese Ambassador to Ukraine Ali Daher noted during official remarks the importance of the religious relationship between Christians and Muslims in Lebanon and beyond.
Ostash discussed the importance of building relations between the two nations. Mohammad Baba, a Lebanese Ukrainian residing in Ukraine, said that “in the past few years, Mar Maroun’s Remembrance Day has become a special Lebanese occasion in Ukraine, which the Lebanese people anticipate regardless of religion."
The trip capped off with a concert held at the National Philharmonic of Ukraine, as Ukrainian officials praised Lebanon and its ability to preserve political stability.
Moussa noted that Lebanese expatriates across the world have remained loyal to their homeland. “These kinds of visits are crucial to both Lebanese expats and for enhancing the Ukrainian-Lebanese relationship,” he said.
The evening then featured performances, including Lebanese composer Michel Fadel, who played an array of different songs by bringing together western music with Oum Kolthoum and Fairouz.
“It is clear that Lebanon has a special place in the hearts of Ukrainians,” said Lebanese journalist Rosanna Rammal.
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