RFA’s Vietnamese service interviewed Natalya Zhinkyna, acting representative of the Ukraine Embassy in Hanoi on his country’s struggle under Russian invasion and his work in the capital of Vietnam, a traditional ally of Russia, a number of people from whom have come forward in support of Ukraine. In an extensive interview, she thanked the Vietnamese public for their participation in recent charity events that raised more than $100,000 for humanitarian aid. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
RFA: What is the reaction of the Vietnamese public that you have noticed since the war broke out?
Zhinkyna: Since February 24, when the war started, we have received words of sympathy and support from the Vietnamese public every day, people write messages and come to the embassy there with flowers and donations to help Ukraine, who had to leave their homes to protect their lives, ran our cities were bombed by the Russian army. We held charity events for the Vietnamese public at our Embassy in early March to raise funds to meet humanitarian needs in Ukraine. And more charity events are coming soon.
And the Vietnamese people pray with us for the innocent Ukrainians who lost their lives in the violent Russian attacks on peaceful towns in Ukraine.
This money is for humanitarian aid for Ukraine and what is also important here is that many Vietnamese opinion leaders have taken up their mission on the information front and are helping Ukraine to fight Russian propaganda here in Vietnam. Help refute counterfeits and misinformation and expand the reasons, costs and consequences of Russia’s brutal aggression for the rules-based global order, as well as for the Southeast Asian region , including Vietnam.
RFA: Can you tell us, can you give us examples of how the Vietnamese have individually and collectively shown their support for the Ukrainians who have moved the most?
Zhinkyna: When I see people coming to the embassy just to hug us. And I see the tears in their eyes and I hear the kind words of Vietnamese people who have not even had the opportunity to visit Ukraine or know Ukraine before. It’s very touching. It is very moving. And as I mentioned, people only have flowers at the door of the embassy. I know it comes from the Vietnamese. It’s very touching. And the donations we receive, no matter how much money people bring, but sometimes we receive large amounts from individuals like $1,000 or $2,000. I understand that it is a big donation for Vietnam, this person, and it is done from the bottom of my heart in order to support and help. And it is very valuable. And are these messages we receive? I personally receive thousands of messages and I’m really sorry about that. I can’t respond to all the people who write to me, but it really inspires me or for everyday work and it inspires my colleagues.
RFA: Did it surprise you, the level of support from the Vietnamese public?
Zhinkyna: This war itself, it was very unexpected. We understood that there was a big threat from Russia, but until the very beginning we didn’t expect that to happen and then we didn’t expect the support of the Vietnamese public. But I understand. I know they are Vietnamese who understand exactly how Ukrainians in Ukraine feel about this and how the rockets are flying over their heads because the Vietnamese still have their memories of the wars. Even me and my colleagues here, when we stay in peaceful Hanoi and are very worried about our loved ones in Ukraine, we still don’t understand this feeling of being scared, scared or your life ending abruptly, or what’s worse, your child’s life could end. And I know the Vietnamese understand that. So I can’t say that we didn’t expect it to receive support from the Vietnamese public. It came naturally and we are grateful for that.
FRG: You mentioned that there seems to have been a Vietnamese-language social media propaganda effort, basically spreading pro-Russian rhetoric. And you may know that there have been clashes between pros and cons since the beginning of the war. So, are you aware of this ongoing information war in Vietnamese social media and what do you think about it?
Zhinkyna: Of course, I am aware of this. Just yesterday I saw a reader take my picture and totally twist the words I say, so I can see how the Russian propaganda machine works here and how much money Russia is investing in these efforts, to spread misinformation and spread fake news in transferring their own stories here. This is to some extent a good point. Let them spend their money on propaganda, but not on new rockets and tanks. But of course that makes our job here difficult.
This is just an information war…and we are very grateful to all those members of the Vietnamese public who help us refute these fakes, help us spread the truth because every word of truth about this war and the conviction of the aggressor helps to prevent Russia from advancing further into Ukrainian soil.