A familiar Russian playbook — Opinion — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine:
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Dear Secretary General!
Dear members of the Assembly!
Thank you for the invitation to speak before the Assembly.
I am grateful for the opportunity to convey to this respected forum the voice of the Ukrainian people from different parts of Ukraine – eastern and western, northern and southern, free and occupied.
Only a month has passed since the completion of the presidential campaign in the course of which I have travelled all over Ukraine.
I saw it as a peace-loving, hospitable to everyone and European state – not only by location, but also by vocation.
Ukraine has always been a hospitable home for all who came in peace.
Unfortunately, today this home is in danger.
There is a force that came to Ukraine not in peace.
Words like “annexation”, “separatism”, “mercenaries” emerged in our everyday vocabulary again.
What can we do to stop violence and prevent its transformation into a full-scale war?
Unfortunately, today, this issue concerns not only Ukraine. It concerns the whole Europe.
Dear members of the Assembly!
It all started last November when the previous government deprived Ukrainians of their dream refusing the European integration, not asking Ukrainians and not giving anything except corruption and disregard for human dignity. Ukraine got up and the Revolution of Dignity began. The people gained victory. This victory was gained with blood and numerous victims.
Russia, which twenty years ago in exchange for nuclear weapons promised to take care of the sovereignty of Ukraine, contrary to the Great Agreement between Ukraine and Russia, contrary to the Budapest Memorandum which promised peace in exchange for the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world, became the aggressor and destroyed the stability of this region.
And alongside it destroyed the system of “checks and balances” in the modern world.
In this place, I would like to express gratitude on behalf of all Ukrainians to the Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly in particular for the immediate response to military aggression. Ukraine certainly needs it.
The decisions of the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly create a legal basis for further restoration of justice and protection of rights of all people who live on the occupied territories.
We must stop the funding and armament of terrorist groups in Donetsk and Luhansk regions by Russia. In fact, it is the second phase of aggression.
We saw this in Georgia in 2008.
Unfortunately, in 2014, it is taking place at the cost of the sovereignty of Ukraine.
And the question “who is next?” is still open. That’s why Europe should demonstrate unity and solidarity today.
For the problem of Europe today is the absence of a real mechanism to maintain peace, protect territorial integrity and democracy.
For the post-war model has been destroyed and it is our responsibility to create a new model today.
Without a sense of reality it is easy to create public ground for aggression.
Unfortunately, Russian society is full of aggression today. It is the basis of both policy and public attitude to Ukraine of the Russian Federation.
But Ukraine counters it with confidence and moral power.
It is apparent, that normalization of our relations is impossible without the return of the Crimea.
But we are the men of peace. That’s why the government of Ukraine and I, as President, came forward with an initiative of peace plan. For there should be dialogue and willingness to reach an agreement to save people’s lives.
Dear members of the Assembly!
Conflicts cause the biggest losses for ordinary citizens. We can definitely see this in the occupied Crimea. We see the violation of political, language and cultural rights of citizens.
As always, national minorities suffer the most. Crimean Tatars and ethnical Ukrainians are objects for discrimination today.
Every day we receive new complaints on the violation of freedom of speech and media, rights to education, religion, citizenship, residence, labor, land ownership, access to healthcare and education.
In problematic regions in the East of Ukraine the situation is even worse. Illegal armed groups are trying to establish the dictatorship of violence. Kidnapping, illegal detainment, murders, tortures, disappearances and persecutions became part of life of the affected areas.
With the assistance of the international organizations – the Council of Europe, the United Nations, the OSCE, we are documenting all these violations.
They must receive an adequate response from the international community. A thorough analysis is essential here, particularly in the context of future court appeals by which Ukraine will protect itself.
Presidential elections became an important step towards restoration of peace and order.
We hosted a record number of international observers.
Having received the support of voters, I presented the primary agenda of my presidency – unity, restoration of peace and security.
Peace and security is what Ukrainians in the Donbas are striving for. They dream to return to normal life without people dying and hostages being tortured.
Today, there are 174 hostages, almost 150 killed and more than 300 wounded. In less than a week of ceasefire, 18 Ukrainian servicemen were killed, 27 were wounded. Two days ago, a 10 month-old baby was killed by the grenade explosion.
But we strive for peace and this simple non-political desire contains the essence of my peace plan.
It comes down to the termination of violence, amnesty for those who didn’t commit serious crimes, stabilization of the situation and after that – the implementation of aspirations of residents of the affected regions.
We must return the internal processes to a civilized framework. If we do this, we will restore not only peace, but also trust.
Then, we will first of all take care of the economy and infrastructure because every day we receive new information on the tasks to be fulfilled and the objects destroyed.
Nobody wants people to be killed. The plan provides for the framework of political settlement on the basis of de-escalation, stabilization and dialogue. Its implementation is being discussed in the framework of Trilateral contact group with participation of representatives of Ukraine, Russia, the OSCE and the EU.
The necessary precondition is ceasefire. Before my plan was made public, it was discussed with representatives of all local legitimate governmental bodies of the Donbas and business elite representing the biggest industrial production of Donetsk region. They all supported it unanimously.
The unilateral cease-fire became effective as of 10 p.m. on 20 June and will last until 10 p.m. tomorrow.
Our task has been to switch from military defence of the border to control by peaceful means. Once that is sustainable, we will look to the OSCE to step up its efforts in establishing strict, unbiased monitoring on the ground and at every check point to stop the in-flow of insurgents, tanks and armoured vehicles.
We are ready to call officially on the Russian representatives to get involved in monitoring the Ukraine border to ensure that the obligations that we have undertaken are strictly observed.
The peace plan was supported by all major countries of the world and Ukraine is extremely grateful to them for that.
At the same time, it is clear that the peace plan will work only if Russia plays along.
Sadly, so far Moscow’s support has been insufficient.
It is good news that the Russian Federation Council is not going to declare war on Ukraine.
But, while Russia has not declared war, war is being waged at this very minute because it has not pulled back its mercenaries, so well equipped and highly motivated militants are coming in.
During our phone conversation with Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande, President Putin pledged his support for the peace plan. We now hope that real progress will be made.
From this podium I urge Russia once again to contribute to resolving the situation.
Please support the peace plan with deeds and not just words. With deeds, we can stop the deaths of military and civilian people who uphold and defend the territorial integrity and unity of the country, so we await those actions.
Strengthen the border control. Stop the illegal infiltration of military vehicles into Ukraine. Stop recruiting mercenaries and, finally, pull back military forces from the border.
The people of Ukraine do not want war or anarchy.
We will not permit the ideas of separatism, which have been planted in Ukraine unofficially from outside.
Ukraine is solid and unified. It is vital to stop the lies and hatred being spread by Russian media, which do not contribute to the restoration of peace.
The regions and local communities strive for more authority at the local level and more autonomy in decision making. They also want the right to speak and sing songs in the languages they choose and to lay wreaths of flowers on monuments as they see fit.
All of that will be provided to them by the decentralisation of power programme in my proposed constitutional amendment. The Parliament today registered those draft amendments to the Constitution.
Never before in Ukraine has a president who won the election and therefore had the authority to nominate the heads of local districts and regions called to devolve power to the regions.
I believe that that idea will be supported by the Ukrainian Parliament now.
The early local elections are to be held in Ukraine in connection with the amendments to the Constitution so that the elected leaders of the territorial councils will receive new powers and responsibilities. The elected representatives will establish local councils, which in turn will form executive committees.
A separate problem is the restoration of the economy in the Donetsk region. I am pleased that, with our partners from the European Union and the United States of America, we have drawn up a job creation programme that will attract investment and a draft programme on economic reconstruction for the region that will settle the distribution of funds between the centre and the regions.
Decentralisation reform will be implemented fully in line with the principles of the European charter of local self-government through my amendments to the Constitution.
I support the Council of Europe investigation panel’s view that we should have a discussion with the Secretary General to investigate the use of force at Maidan on 18, 19 and 20 February as well as the tragic events in Odessa on 2 May. We are ready to co-operate so that the world can see that those guilty of those tragedies will be prosecuted.
Dear members of the Assembly!
Ukraine is going through a time of challenge, but also a time of hope.
Our choice is to build a strong democracy that will have a respected place in the family of European nations. Our way is towards the European Union. That is why tomorrow, 27 June, I, as President of Ukraine, will sign the association agreement with the European Union.
The European Union is a success story for us – a state model and time-tested sequence of reforms. When I was asked about the reforms I would make as President, it was very easy for me to answer. Everything is included in the association agreement and we will start implementing it immediately after signing it.
The last aspect is especially important as Ukraine embarks on the path of economic integration and political association with the European Union.
We will surely seize this historic chance. The reforms are long overdue.
Ukraine needs a new social contract. It must give Ukraine a viable system of governance that will protect the citizens from external threats and create the necessary basis for social, economic and cultural development.
At the same time, I want to make it clear that we do not need change at any cost. Some elements are not subject to discussion – the parliamentary-presidential model, the unitary system, European integration, and the existing language system, with one official language plus multiple regional languages, with a comprehensive guarantee of the development and use of every minority language.
Everything else can be subject to wide public debate, and I can assure you that such debates are already under way.
I am confident about the parliamentary elections. The lack of a relevant level of representation is felt especially in the East of Ukraine.
I am confident that the new Parliament will be elected on a new proportional basis with open lists. Voters need to know each candidate personally.
The Government will be formed primarily by the Prime Minister and approved by Parliament. The President should maintain the function of control.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has reiterated many times the need for reform of the judicial and legal systems. The last couple of months have shown how critical such reforms are.
We need more public control over the appointment and work of the judges. We need practical guarantees of the independence of the judiciary from other branches of power.
We have to change the role and functions of the Prosecutor General’s office to transform it from an instrument of persecution to the means of upholding the law and the protection of human rights.
The new basis of the judicial system needs to be duly reflected in the amendments to the Constitution. The fight against corruption, the nomination of judges and the overall modernisation of public service will complete the picture of a new judiciary in Ukraine.
Ladies and gentlemen!
The last couple of months have had a formative effect on our common future. The events in Ukraine are shaping the new Europe, and whether it will be united or split, stable or fragile.
The future and spirit of Europe depend on how the situation in Ukraine is settled – based on international law or on the law of power.
It is a choice that each and every one of us must make on our own.
The turmoil in Ukraine started because the people of our country did not want to say no to democracy and the European approach. It continued because someone decided to punish Ukraine for that choice. It will stop when common sense and European values prevail over aggression.
Help us in that struggle, and tomorrow’s Europe will be united, stable and morally strong.
Thank you very much for the solidarity with Ukraine that you have demonstrated, because we badly need it. Glory to Ukraine!