Ukrainian Ambassador Oksana Markarova will be seated with First Lady Jill Biden during President Joe Biden‘s first State of the Union address on Tuesday March 1. The ambassador will join the first lady along with the president’s sister Valerie Biden Owens and the Second Gentlman Douglas Emhoff. Oksana’s invitation to sit alongside Jill in the viewing box comes amid Ukraine’s battle with Russia, following an invasion ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Find out everything you need to know about the 45-year-old ambassador here!
1. Oksana was appointed to be the Ambassador the United States in February 2021.
Oksana has had a career in public service for seven years. Her appointment was announced in January 2021, and she officially became the ambassador on February 25, 2021. When she was first appointed, she named some of the goals that she shared with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for her ambassadorship in an interview with UKRInform. “The priorities are, in particular, to expand cooperation with the Biden administration and political dialogue based on their broad bipartisan support; actively participate in all security issues related to the restoration of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and the return of the occupied territories of Donbas and Crimea; and strengthen the security of our country and region,” she said, also including that they were looking to bolster an economic relationship with the U.S. She also said that she was looking forward to working with Biden during her time as ambassador.
2. She’s called for more weapons for Ukrainians to help defend themselves.
In light of the attacks from Russia, Oksana swore that Ukrainians would continue to fight to protect their country in a statement to Bloomberg. “Ukrainians will resist. We are defending our home. We do not have any other option. We will not get tired. We will not stop. We will not surrender. We will continue defending our home,” she said.
After vowing to defend her homeland, she revealed that she’s working with the United States‘ government to try to get more firepower for her fellow Ukrainians back home, while she also called out Russia for the horrific invasion. “We work actively with the administration, the president, and also with Congress on getting more weapons. So we need more weapons. We are not asking anyone to fight for us. We are defending our country ourselves,” she said. “We believe Russia, which is now acting like Nazi Germany during the World War II, essentially killing innocent civilians. Today they shot into not only residential areas, but also the orphanages, and schools, and kindergartens. It’s horrible. They have to pay the price. They have to be isolated. They have to understand that it’s not okay in the 21st Century to start war and kill people in the neighboring sovereign country.”
3. She tried hard to prevent a Russian invasion in the days prior to the attack.
As tensions rose between Russia and Ukraine, Oksana was working tirelessly to try to prevent a Russian attack on her home country. She detailed her efforts in an interview with CBS’ Face The Nation on February 20. “We are using, while preparing to defend our country, we’re using every possibility to still choose the diplomatic path and force Russia to choose the diplomatic path,” she said. “We are calling not only on aggressor, which is Russia, but also on all of our friends and allies to get together and use every opportunity to still deter Russia from invading.”
During the interview, she also thanked U.S. leaders for their efforts to try to prevent a battle with Russia. “We’re very grateful for all the support, military support, political support, strong messages, even more importantly for leadership in getting the transatlantic unity behind it, and everyone getting together to support us,” she said.
4. She was the Ukrainian Minister of Finance For 2 Years.
Being ambassador is far from Oksana’s first job with the government. She began her work as a public servant in 2015, when she was appointed as a Deputy Minister of Finance under Natalie Jaresko. She was made the acting Minister of Finance in June 2018 and was named the Minister of Finance five months later. She held the position until March of 2020, when she was replaced by Ihor Umansky, per Reuters.
5. She worked in the private sector until 2015.
Before being appointed a deputy Minister of Finance, Oksana had a very successful career, working in finance for the private sector. She was the president of the ITT-Group investment fund, which is one of Ukraine’s leading financial firms, from 2003 until 2014, according to her LinkedIn page. Between her tenure as the Minister of Finance and an ambassador, she was also a startup entrepreneur, listing herself as a founder of the data management company Archidata and a co-founder of the Capital Market Development Foundation.