‘Ukraine can do its own no-fly zone’: Ukrainian businessman on the war against Russia

‘Pilots from Russia don’t want to fly over Ukraine… They are losing one or two helicopters or aircraft a day from Stingers and Javelins and anti-aircraft power’

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Andrew Pavliv and I met years ago in Silicon Valley at a tech conference and are close friends. He is one of Ukraine’s most successful entrepreneurs and owns N-iX, a software development company with 1,700 engineers and architects who work on long-term projects for Fortune 500 companies and corporations in Canada and across Western Europe.

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I spoke with Andrew about the war. He lives in his country home outside Lviv and his family are safely in another country. He said his company’s clients have been supportive and financially helpful, and many of his colleagues are volunteering in projects to help the plight of Ukrainians and provide assistance militarily. Most of his employees were in Lviv and have remained but most in the embattled eastern regions have been relocated with their families.

“We have some employees in Kharkiv who have refused to leave and are able to be fully productive,” he said. “We have housed many who have left the war zones, and some have slept in our office in Lviv until they can find permanent accommodation. All of them are safe and we are operating at 95 per cent capacity which was better than during Covid. A lot are volunteering in different kinds of projects such as helping people register for damages from the war or spreading the messages on the Internet to Russians, Belorussians.”

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Ukraine has an army of IT professionals who do outsourcing work all over the world. An estimated 200,000 software engineers and architects work there and annually some 30,000 graduate, making Ukraine one of the top three IT nations in the world after the US and India. Ukrainian IT specialists have been involved in jamming Russia’s telecommunications inside Ukraine, adversely affecting the performance of troops and weaponry.

“Some are doing hacking,” said Andrew. “Russians who go to Google to look up popular restaurants in Moscow might find pictures of destruction instead of photos of the restaurant,” he said. “There is a special communication military division that people are helping. We also provide hardware for it as a company. We also donate and a lot of our clients have asked where they can donate funds to the Ukrainian army.”

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About two dozen of his employees have left to work full time for the military and N-iX has bought vehicles, helmets and other Starlink equipment. “I’m living in the country but two families are living in my apartment and in another apartment I own until they find other accommodation.”

He believes the war’s duration is “hard to say.”

“This war didn’t really escalate, it was planned from the beginning by Putin. In the east, people showed they are Ukrainians, even in Kharkiv. And our army is working very well. The Russians have lost a lot of people. When it started the Ukrainian army was 250,000 and now it’s twice that size, half a million because of mobilization. And there are territorial forces in each city, not in the east which was attacked first. But in Kyiv, there are 50,000 in its territorial forces, with weapons and who are waiting to attack Russians.

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“Russia is trying hard to take Mariupol and the Ukrainian army cannot get there because it’s surrounded by troops from Crimea and Luhansk on the east. This area is in great danger, but for the rest there is little movement.”

He believes in the “next two to three weeks the two sides should come to some kind of agreement otherwise Russia will have internal problems. The losses in Ukraine are 15,000 already and twice as many have been injured. Ukraine is killing 1,000 soldiers a day – ratio is 1 to 5 – that’s how the war is going right now.

“As information comes out to Russians, lots won’t want to go into this war. A lot in Crimea don’t want to and Belarussian soldiers don’t want to which is why (Belarus President) Lukashenko has not given the order to do so. So we’re not in a weak position, from that perspective. I don’t know what Putin can do, any moves make his situation less beneficial and if he uses mass destruction that will make his situation worse in the world.”

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Andrew said reports are that Russia planned to mobilize to get more soldiers, but decided against it because men won’t go. He added that it’s important that corporations have gotten out of the Russian market, including software companies, which is getting the message across to ordinary Russians that this war is unacceptable.

“But I don’t think Ukrainians will surrender. My fear is that if this war will be longer it will be difficult, because of more civilian victims, to get the Ukrainian army to stop. Its spirit is good and the army is now full of older guys, 30 to 50, who are focused on protecting our country. The Ukrainian army will not surrender.”

He does not believe that Putin will use weapons of mass destruction. “He will lose all the support, even from China which is not giving them support now but will help them to overcome sanctions. It’s interesting that the coverage is China has changed recently and is now showing the killing of civilians by Russia. Any use of weapons of mass destruction will be the end of Russia,” he said.

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Andrew Pavliv, CEO and founder of N-iX.
Andrew Pavliv, CEO and founder of N-iX. Photo by N-iX / File

He believes that Putin had no idea that Ukraine would so fiercely resist the invaders and so now a face-saving is necessary to end the war. “He needs to have something from Ukraine. He won’t give Crimea back or Donbas. He’s trying hard to get Mariupol and if he does it will be hard to get back because it’s strategic – the land bridge to Crimea from Donbas or Donetsk and it’s a port.

“A compromise would be to leave the borders of 2014, but demilitarization of Ukraine is something that no one can do after this war.

“I think Biden has united the allies, and we would lose this war very fast if the world does not stay united for Ukraine. This support from all the global leaders, and Europe, is very helpful…for the spirit of the Ukrainian army and concerning the refugee crisis. Europe is very helpful as well. Very open. Every leader in the world understands where the truth is and what Russia is doing.

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“It’s a very big thing Biden has done. Military support is very important, too.”

Ukraine has already created a virtual no-fly zone, he said given Western military support. “Pilots from Russia don’t want to fly over Ukraine. They are flying over Mariupol but not over Kyiv. They are losing one or two helicopters or aircraft a day from Stingers and Javelins and anti-aircraft power. These are protecting Ukraine. The figures are that 800 missiles fired on territory have mostly been shot down. In Lviv, 30 were fired but only eight ended up where they were aimed.

“Good anti-aircraft equipment is better than a no-fly zone. I understand the concern by other countries that they will intercept Russian forces and start a bigger war. But Ukraine is using these weapons and using the S-300 (surface-to-air missile system) which really helps. Ukraine can do its own no-fly zone.”

Andrew estimates that the war will be over in the next six months. “We hope sooner, within six weeks.”

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