Meet British-Pakistani Billionaire who bought warplanes for Ukraine to fight Russia

| Updated: 04 February, 2023 1:46 pm IST

A Pakistani-origin British richie-rich married to a Ukrainian is in the spotlight for his extravagant wartime gifts to Ukraine against Russians.

During the peak of its conflict with Russia, the US and its allies were reluctant to supply fighter jets to Ukraine. A British Pakistani billionaire Mohammad Zahoor stepped in to provide Ukraine fighter jets to help in their war against Russians last year.

This information was revealed to the world by Zahoor’s wife Kamaliya (real name Natalya Shmarenkova) on a Ukrainian television talk show in May last year.

Who are the Zahoors?

On 15th August last year, when Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa celebrated the country’s 76th Independence Day at the Pakistan Embassy in London, it was Kamaliya who crooned to Pakistani songs and wowed the audience. It was the presence of this power couple that became the talk of the town.

The couple has a fascinating backstory.

Sixty-six-year-old Mohammad Zahoor arrived in Moscow in 1974 on an engineering scholarship. He attended college in Pakistan’s Karachi and was later selected by the Soviet education ministry. Unfortunately, of the 42 students who got through, 14 were flown to Donetsk — now one of the rebel Ukrainian regions recognised as independent by Russian President Vladimir Putin, ahead of the war in Ukraine.

He studied engineering and steel-making at Donetsk and wrote a thesis on the rolling plant at the Donetsk Steel Mill in 1980 – which he bought after 16 years.

He married the much younger beauty queen and singer Kamaliya and has two daughters with her. The family is based in London. Their extravagant lifestyle makes it to tabloid stories often. Kamaliya is known to bathe in champagne, as revealed from her appearance on the popular UK reality show ‘Meet the Russian’ which portrays the spending habits of uber rich Russians.

Since, the beginning of the Ukraine war, though, the couple has been making news for their involvement in mobilising funds and aid and helping to resettle refugees from the country in the UK and various parts of Europe. He is currently engaged in constructing a £1m housing project for Ukrainian refugees in Germany, as per reports.

Zahoor has taken positions on geopolitical conflicts openly. He compares the occupation of Crimea by Russia to that of the Kashmir situation. In an interview, however, he said that Kashmir is a disputed territory and Pakistan can never take it back from India. Similarly, Crimea is now a part of Russia, and a part of Russia it will remain, he was quoted as saying by media houses.

Pakistan-UK-Ukraine military links

In 2021, Ukraine laid the red-carpet for General Bajwa during his visit to the country. He was presented a guard of honour by a “smartly turned out military contingent.” Thereafter, Bajwa began issuing strong statements against Russia and calling the war in Ukraine “an invasion” by Kremlin which “needed to be stopped immediately.”

According to Eruasian Times, since 2022, UK’s Royal Air Force has been flying frequent sorties of C-17 Globemaster heavy lift aircraft from Romania to the Nur Khan airbase in Chaklala, Rawalpindi.

Pakistan, discredited for being a terror sponsor worldwide, has left no stones unturned to regain its status as a reliable and faithful western ally using the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Oblivious of the crashing economy and the enormous cost its people are paying for its wanton military over-expenditure, last month Pakistan reportedly dispatched 159 containers of ammunition including projectiles and primers to Ukraine via a port in Poland. As per an Indian publication, vessel named BBC Vesuvius carried 155 mm projectiles, M4A2 propelling bag charges, M82 primers and PDM fuses. Earlier, Pakistan, the only Asian country to provide military supply to Ukraine played a key role in transfer of arms on behalf of the UK to Ukraine.

In August, 2022 videos shared by a Twitter handle named “Ukraine weapon tracker” showed Ukrainian artillerymen using 122mm HE artillery projectiles made by Pakistani Ordnance Factories (POF).

Pakistan is the only Asian country to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine against Russia. The countries that are supplying lethal weapons to Ukraine are the US, Canada, UK, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Morocco, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Turkey, Poland, Germany among others.

Even before the war started, Pakistan and Ukraine were in talks with each other to deepen their military ties. Between 1991 and 2020, Ukraine signed arms deals with Pakistan, totaling roughly $1.6 billion.

In April 2022, General Bajwa tried to give a moral and philosophical explanation for the country’s support of Ukraine. He said that Ukraine’s ‘resistance’ to Russia is an example of a “small country putting up a fight against a bigger power”, projecting Kashmir conflict on to the global stage. He invoked cold-war era loyalties, saying Pakistan has shared a chequered past with Russia.

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