April 5, 2016

Ukraine’s Continuing Battle for Freedom

Oleksiy Volovych

March 30 — April 2, 2016, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko visited the United States for the third time. Let us remember what happened during the last two visits. The P. Poroshenko's first visit to the USA took place September 17-18, 2014. In Washington, he spoke with President B. Obama, Vice President J. Biden and Secretary of State J. Kerry, and made a speech in the Congress. The second time, P. Poroshenko visited the USA in September 2015, and within the framework of the 70th jubilee session of the UN General Assembly he thrice met with Barack Obama, spoke with the leaders of Great Britain, Germany and France. Then Poroshenko participated in 30 events, and held more than 10 bilateral meetings. At the invitation of President of the United States, he attended the Peacekeeping Summit, as well as Bill Clinton's event “Global Initiative”.

During the third working visit to the USA, P. Poroshenko took part in the fourth Nuclear Security Summit, the Forum “Ukraine's Battle for Freedom Continues” and had several meetings with the leaders of the United States and other countries.

 

Note:

The idea of ​​the Nuclear Security Summit belongs to the US President B. Obama, who in 2009 in his speech in Prague took the initiative to gather a global forum to address issues related to nuclear weapons and nuclear materials. Since then, three summits have been held. The first — in 2010 in Washington, DC, the second — in 2012 in Seoul, and the third — in 2014 in the Hague. As a result of the previous three “nuclear summits”, member states laid on themselves the responsibility for nuclear safety, which is reflected in the action plans and communiqués. Major commitments were five: to significantly reduce the turnover of enriched uranium; to improve security at nuclear facilities in each country; to expand membership in international organizations such as the IAEA; to prevent illicit trafficking in radioactive materials; to summarize best practices and to develop technologies in the sphere of nuclear safety. According to the results of the fourth Nuclear Summit, communiqué was signed, which will determine the future direction of international efforts in the field of nuclear safety.

 

Our President's third visit to the United States took place against the background of the ongoing government-parliamentary crisis, which has greatly weakened the position of the Head of State at the talks in Washington. It was very important for the President to have solved the problem with a new coalition and a new government before traveling to the United States, but, unfortunately, this had not happened. The protracted political crisis and the prospect of new early parliamentary elections in Ukraine irritate Western partners, and they do not hide it. The economic situation in Ukraine directly depends on the settlement of the political crisis. We mean the US government's 1 billion US dollars of credit guarantees, the new program of military-technical cooperation, as well as the 3 billion US dollars of the IMF loan. However, if the political crisis is not resolved — there will be no US guarantees or the IMF loan.

The visit to the United States began in the morning of March 31 when President P. Poroshenko visited and laid flowers at Washington's memorial to the victims of Holodomor of 1932-1933 in Ukraine and spoke to the Ukrainian community. The President thanked all those who for decades tirelessly keeps telling the truth about the terrible crime of the Kremlin's power, and those who were directly involved in the implementation of the unique Ukrainian-American project — the Memorial to the victims of the Holodomor. “We will never forgive the Kremlin its destruction of millions of Ukrainian patriots. We will restore justice and those who committed this crime, will forever get their deserved punishment in the memory not only of Ukrainians, but also of the whole world,” stressed the President. He also pointed out that, the Kremlin's crime of the Holodomor as well as all the current crimes in the occupied Crimea and Donbas will inevitably entail punishment.

 

Forum “Ukraine's Battle for Freedom Continues”.

In his speech on 31 March 2016, at the Forum “Ukraine's Battle for Freedom Continues” at the Capitol, President P. Poroshenko thanked the US Administration and the Ukrainian community in the United States for “their standing by Ukraine's side over the last two years — the hardest two years in my country's history”. P. Poroshenko told the audience about the casualties and material losses suffered by the Ukrainian people in the battle for freedom against Russia's aggression in the Donbas. Daily Ukrainian patriots die defending those values ​​, which are important also for America and Europe. In particular, the President pointed out that only since January 1, 2016, Russian trains and trucks full of supplies have illegally crossed the uncontrolled part of the Ukrainian-Russian border over 80 times. Russia has sent 750 tanks, 1,500 artillery systems, ammunition trains for such a small area. Russia's proxies in the Donbas still heavily impede the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to access all areas under their control and verify the ceasefire and withdrawal of weapons.

According to the President, “this situation is not conducive to holding local elections in the districts of the Donbas controlled by militants, although these elections are of key importance for further progress in resolving the conflict”. Speaking about the possibility of holding the elections, the President stressed that they must be free and fair, and Ukraine cannot afford to legitimize the occupation of the Donbas through the electoral farce that has nothing to do with democratic standards. According to the President, the elections cannot take place in an environment where the streets of towns and villages of the Donbas are crowded with thousands of Russian soldiers, and Ukraine and the OSCE do not control most of the Ukrainian-Russian border.

The President also informed the participants of the Forum about the current situation in the occupied Crimea, where the Russian authorities on a massive scale violate human rights and actively militarize the Peninsula, seeking to deploy nuclear weapons there. President P. Poroshenko reminded the Forum that Ukraine has made a unique contribution to nuclear safety of the world, having abandoned (in 1994) the third-largest arsenal of nuclear weapons, in exchange for declarative security guarantees within the framework of the Budapest Memorandum, which Russia simply defied and committed a direct armed aggression against Ukraine. P. Poroshenko called on Western guarantors within the framework of the Memorandum “to make all possible efforts for the resumption of international justice and order with the aim to help us in our struggle for survival and an independent, democratic and European future”.

Then the President said that the Ukrainians had been able to stop the offensive of the Russians in our territory using the tangible support of our partners. However, pointed out P. Poroshenko, “I could never explain to myself and my countrymen one thing — the reluctance of the international community to provide arms to the legitimate government of Ukraine and the regular Ukrainian Army, which holds the blow directed against the international order”. The President called on the international community to reconsider this position, stressing that “every effort applied to protect Ukraine is an investment into the West's long-term security and stability of its democratic values”.

In his speech, P. Poroshenko stressed that in times of global crisis the USA's leading role is “a privilege and at the same time a heavy burden”. The Head of the State called on America “to be strong and believe in itself — just like people of goodwill worldwide keep believing in America. Don’t let pragmatism make you forget about values, with freedom being at the top of them. Don’t let America become small-minded”. The President stressed that Ukraine highly appreciates the cooperation with the United States. “American leadership has been very important for progressive reforms in Ukraine. The US support has been critical for successful resistance to the Russian aggression, but it is high time to boost Ukraine-US bilateral dialogue in form and content. It is also time to upgrade our strategic alliance, especially in defence and security sphere within the framework of a comprehensive bilateral security agreement,” pointed out the Head of the Ukrainian State.

 

Note:

In his speech at the Forum “Ukraine's Battle for Freedom Continues,” the President of Ukraine briefly informed the participants about the achievements of the Government of Ukraine over the past two years: We have managed to stabilize the economic and financial situation. The GDP has grown by 1 %. In two years, the gold reserves have increased from zero to 13 billion US dollars. In the situation of war, the budget deficit has been reduced from 12 % to 3 %. Within two years, the energy deficit of “Naftogaz of Ukraine” has decreased from 130 billion US dollars to zero. The banking system has been cleared. The tax system has been significantly simplified. Ukraine has become energy-wise independent from Russian.

 

The talks with J. Biden, J. Kerry and B. Obama

April 1 P. Poroshenko met in the format of a working lunch with the US Vice President Joseph Biden, with the participation of the US Secretary of State John Kerry. They discussed the situation in the Donbas in the context of Russia's aggression, in particular, the possibility of introducing an international security mission in the Donbas. They also agreed on the need to extend the sanctions against Russia until Moscow's full implementation of the Minsk Agreements and discussed ways to enhance the participation of the United States in the Minsk process. J. Biden assured P. Poroshenko of the immutability of the US Administration's position on non-recognition of the Russian occupation of the Crimea. Besides, J. Biden informed that the United States had decided to allocate additional 335 million US dollars to reform Ukraine's security sector, in particular the Ukrainian Armed Forces, National Guard and the State Border Service.

Secretary of State John Kerry informed about the specifics of his latest talks with the leadership of the Russian Federation in Moscow. The US Secretary of State John Kerry will soon visit Ukraine in order to promote “further development of strategic partnership between Ukraine and the United States”.

A brief talk of Presidents P. Poroshenko and B. Obama took place during a dinner for world leaders after the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington. The Presidents discussed the situation in the Donbas and in the Crimea and coordinated efforts aimed at activating Moscow's actions towards its full implementation of the Minsk Agreements. The Presidents agreed on the need for further development of strategic partnership between Ukraine and the USA. B. Obama confirmed his readiness to provide Ukraine with the third tranche of the loan guarantees in the amount of 1 billion US dollars to complete the formation of the new government in Ukraine. P. Poroshenko called on B. Obama “to crown his presidential term with peace in the Donbas” and expressed his belief that the American President could play a decisive role in resolving the Ukrainian-Russian conflict. B. Obama promised to consider the possibility of the USA's joining the Minsk negotiation process.

 

Meetings with Ministers and Heads of the US Defense Industry Companies

April 1, during a meeting with US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, whose ancestors came from the village of Velyki Prytsky of Kyiv region, the President briefed her on the progress of reforms in Ukraine and the new opportunities in attracting US investment credit resources into the Ukrainian economy. The US Secretary of Commerce announced the support of stepping up the activity of the Export-Import Bank of the United States and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) in Ukraine. P. Pritzker supported P. Poroshenko's initiative on creation of the National Investment Council and involvement of the US leading consulting companies in its work.

 

President of Ukraine and US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew discussed the progress of reforms in Ukraine and the situation in the occupied districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. P. Poroshenko pointed out the USA's extremely important for our country role in IMF funding programs to secure Ukraine's financial and economic stability. The Head of the Ukrainian State informed the US Secretary on reforms in Ukraine, in particular in the fiscal sphere. Jack Lew pointed out some progress, which, in his opinion, the Ukrainian government has managed to achieve in reforming the Ukrainian social and economic spheres, and stressed the importance of increasing efforts by the Ukrainian authorities in this sphere.

 

March 31 President of Ukraine met with representatives of leading American military industry companies that provide goods and services for military use to Ukraine, and urged them to actively develop cooperation in military-technical sphere (MTS). The President expressed gratitude to the American businessmen for their significant contribution into strengthening Ukraine's defensive capacity and pointed out the need to strengthen bilateral cooperation in order to deter Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine in the Donbas. P. Poroshenko pointed out opportunities for cooperation between defence enterprises of Ukraine and those of the United States within the framework of cooperation in matters of production of armament and military equipment.

 

Meetings with the UN Secretary-General and Leaders of States

 

During his meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the Ukrainian President pointed out that the current Nuclear Security Summit comes amid unprecedented violations, destroying the system of international security and jeopardizing the nuclear non-proliferation. P. Poroshenko stressed that the Russian aggression against Ukraine, the threat of the deployment of nuclear weapons in the Ukrainian Crimea directly contradicts not only the Budapest Memorandum, but also violates the basic principles of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. “Ukraine abandoned the third largest nuclear arsenal, but did not get protection against Russia's aggression,” said the President.

Ban Ki-moon and P. Poroshenko discussed a more active use of the tools and institutions of the UN system to stop the Russian aggression, in particular, deployment of an international peacekeeping mission in the Donbas. The Head of the Ukrainian State supported the new UN Humanitarian Response Plan in Ukraine in 2016, providing assistance to Ukrainian citizens who suffered most from Russia's aggression.

The sides paid special attention to the protection of human rights in the temporarily occupied Ukrainian territory, as well as of all Ukrainians illegally held in the Russian Federation, including Nadiya Savchenko. The President of Ukraine pointed out the need to intensify the efforts of the international community in order to ensure immediate and unconditional release of all Ukrainian political prisoners and searching for missing persons.

The UN Secretary General praised Ukraine's active position as a non-permanent UN Security Council member. Ukrainian President invited the leadership of the UN Secretariat to take part in activities in connection with the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.

Within the framework of his working visit to the United States President of Ukraine met with Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte, and they discussed the upcoming actions of the parties in the context of a consultative referendum on the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU, which will be held in the Netherlands, April 6, 2016. P. Poroshenko stressed that the process of Ukraine's European integration is irreversible, as the Ukrainians share common values ​​with the EU countries. No barriers can be put in the way of the spread of the values ​​on which the EU is based.

President of Ukraine and Prime Minister of the Netherlands coordinated further joint steps in the investigation of the tragedy of Flight MH-17, which was shot down by Russian fighters in July 2014. The sides also discussed issues of bilateral cooperation, particularly in economic and investment spheres. The Head of the Ukrainian State expressed hope that the European Union would decide on the visa-free regime for Ukrainian citizens already during the Netherlands' presidency in the EU Council.

As it has become known, on the eve of the summit in Washington, Mark Rutte in an interview with NU.nl said that “Ukraine as an EU member will not be able to maintain good neighborly relations with Russia”. Therefore, the Netherlands Prime Minister believes that Ukraine should not join the European Union. According to Rutte, Russia “also originated in Kyiv and other regions of Ukraine”. At the same time, he pointed out that Moscow goes too far when it says that Ukraine should maintain good relations with Russia alone, and expressed confidence that the majority of Dutch people would support the Agreement on association between Ukraine and the EU in a referendum. So, we can assume that P. Poroshenko's dialogue with Mark Rutte was not easy. Clearly, our President had to somehow correct the Netherlands Premiere's ideas about the common and different pages in the history of Ukraine and Russia.

Within the framework of the working visit of the President of Ukraine to the USA, an Intergovernmental Agreement on Cooperation between Ukraine and Australia in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy was signed. In the presence of our President, the document was signed by Minister of Energy and Coal Industry of Ukraine V. Demchyshyn and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. After signing the Agreement, P. Poroshenko held talks with Julie Bishop, and thanked the Australian government for its firm and consistent position in support of Ukraine's territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence. The Ukrainian President invited the Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull to visit Ukraine at a time convenient for him.

 

On the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, The President of Ukraine held a brief meeting with the President of the People's Republic of China Xi Jinping. The two heads of the states discussed issues of cooperation between Ukraine and China, in particular, the conduct of the Ukrainian-Chinese Commission on trade and economic cooperation. P. Poroshenko invited Xi Jinping to visit Ukraine at a convenient time for him.

 

 

The President of Ukraine had a meeting with President of Poland Andrzej Duda, during which the sides pointed out the importance of holding the meeting of the Ukraine-NATO Commission at the highest level during the Warsaw summit of the Alliance in July this year. The Heads of the States of the two countries discussed the situation in the Donbas and Ukraine's initiative concerning the de-occupation mechanism for the Crimea. It was pointed out that it is necessary to strengthen international pressure on Russia in order to force the Kremlin to fulfill the Minsk Agreements in full. The sides also reached a consensus that it is appropriate to maintain the sanctions regime against the Russian Federation to the full resumption of Ukraine's sovereignty over the Donbas and Crimea.

 

The Press Conference

April 2 at a press conference in Washington after a meeting with Polish President A. Duda, P. Poroshenko stressed that Ukraine had taken an important step in the name of global security having abandoned the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world. Budapest Memorandum, however, did not provide fulfillment of security guarantees, and the post-war system of global security, which is based on UN Security Council decisions, does not work in a situation where one of its permanent members — Russia — is an aggressor country. P. Poroshenko informed that the previous week in Kharkiv, Ukraine successfully launched the first nuclear facility of global significance “Neutron source”, allowing to strengthen the safety of Ukrainian nuclear power plants, which produce about 56 % of electricity in Ukraine.

 

The Article in The New York Times

During the Ukrainian President's visit to the USA, newspaper The New York Times published an editorial entitled “Ukraine's Unyielding Corruption”, which told about the scale of corruption in the Prosecutor's Office, and P. Poroshenko, as we believe, was wrongly and without evidence accused that he had not opposed this shameful phenomenon, and therefore, according to the authors, “the International Monetary Fund and donor countries, including the US, cannot continue to shovel money into a corrupt swamp”. It should be noted that the article was written in the incorrect and instructive style, and states what the President should do, and what he should not do.

Subsequently, different media reported that President P. Poroshenko in his speech at the press conference commented on the statement of the authors of the article about his alleged connivance of corruption in Ukraine, calling it “part of a hybrid war”. Later, on April 3, on his Facebook page P. Poroshenko said that his words about the content of the editorial in the newspaper The New York Times “were misinterpreted.”

Whatever it was, but, in our opinion, such an article was written by whoever, but not by friends of Ukraine. The aim of this article, disguised by phrases about the lack of anti-corruption struggle in Ukraine is clearly visible: to do everything possible in order to reduce to a minimum the results of P. Poroshenko's third visit to Washington. But this provocation has failed, and the visit of the President of Ukraine as a whole was quite effective, as far as it was possible under the current domestic political crisis and unfavorable situation in the international arena.

* * *

The President of Ukraine had to perform in Washington a very difficult mission, aimed at ensuring further full support for Ukraine by the US Administration under the Russian aggression against our country. We believe that despite all the problems and unfavorable political situation in our country, the President managed to achieve this. Ukraine's battle for freedom continues. And this time, the President won the battle almost alone, without the support of the paralyzed parliament and government, but at the expense of his credibility in the international arena, as well as thanks to his diplomatic skills of the highest order.

The President of Ukraine took part in the “nuclear summit” and yet again reminded the United States and Great Britain on the importance of the Budapest Memorandum, the mentioning of which is very annoying to the authorities of the highest level in Washington, DC, and in London, as it reminds them that they do not fulfill it. The President of Ukraine advised Americans not to allow pragmatism make them forget about values, with freedom being at the top of them. P. Poroshenko also advised Americans “not to let America become small-minded”. Such words can be said only by a strong leader, full of dignity and pride for his people, whose interests he is ready to defend by all possible means. In other words, while in Washington, P. Poroshenko showed that we are ready to cooperate with big states on an equal basis, but are not going to bow down before them, and are not going to be silent, watching the West sometimes resorting to a policy that not only does not answer Ukraine's national interests, but is also in conflict with their declarations on the right of peoples to sovereignty, independence and freedom.

And the last. No one has ever heard President P. Poroshenko speaking abusively about Prime Minister A. Yatsenyuk, as “orange Leaders” Yushchenko and Tymoshenko used to do, spraying each other with mud even abroad. Moreover, on March 10 in an interview with Turkish TV channel TRT World, answering the question about his attitude to Prime Minister A. Yatsenyuk, P. Poroshenko said, “I have a fantastic personal relationship with the Prime Minister. I believe that he is a reformer, and he does the job perfectly well.” In his speech at the Forum “Ukraine's Battle for Freedom Continues” P. Poroshenko, in fact, praised the work of the current composition of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, having voiced many real achievements in the economy, which were carried out precisely thanks to A. Yatsenyuk's government. Although the shortcomings of the government are also known to us. And the latest parliamentary-governmental crisis is seen by P. Poroshenko not as a challenge and defeat, but as a chance to renovate, as an opportunity to get out of it more resistant to internal and external shocks.