President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy met six Ukrainian citizens - members of the crew of the Stevia vessel who were captured by pirates in the Gulf of Guinea in December 2020.
To fulfill the task of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine ensured the release of sailors from pirate captivity. The shipowner's negotiation process with the kidnappers was established. Ukrainians were released at the end of January 2021. They were taken to Port Harcourt, where they underwent the necessary medical examination, and later - to Lagos and Istanbul (Turkey). Today they arrived in Kyiv.
"We have received information about the seizure. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs started working. The kidnappers wanted a lot. But the diplomats did a great job - both the Foreign Ministry and our intelligence officers. A rather complex combination was made. People were returned. The operation was carried out brilliantly, because all people are healthy and alive. We know cases when this can take many years. I think this is a great victory for Ukraine. We returned everyone," the Head of State said, welcoming the sailors to their homeland.
The President stressed that the return of Ukrainian citizens home is a priority for the Ukrainian state. And this operation to return the Ukrainians took place at a high level.
"I am grateful to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the head of the intelligence committee, the Head of the President's Office, and all the diplomats who worked both in Ukraine and abroad. A lot has been done by our embassy in Nigeria, we have also cooperated with Albanian diplomats," he said.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy also inquired about the conditions in which pirates detained Ukrainians.
Sailors said they were kept in the jungle, in the mangrove forests, where there were lots of mosquitoes.
"It was scary. There are twenty people around you with machine guns around the clock," one of the sailors told, adding that most of the kidnappers were under the influence of drugs.
"Everyone is back, everyone is alive. We congratulate you. People are a priority," the Head of State said in response.
The President also offered to send Ukrainians to Feofaniya Hospital for a few days for a medical examination and recovery.
"I am glad that our sailors are finally home embracing their relatives. After several months of hard work by diplomats and all parties involved, we managed to free them from pirate captivity. No matter what trouble Ukrainian citizens abroad get into, they can count on the protection of the Ukrainian state. It has always been so and it will always be so. Ukraine does not leave its people in trouble," Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba emphasized.