"Ukraine and the Current Challenges to Its Sovereignty" by H.E. Ambassador of Ukraine to Israel Hennadii Nadolenko, Tel Aviv University, March 19, 2015
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the beginning I`d like to congratulate Israeli citizens with successful parliamentary elections, which took place the day before yesterday.
I appreciate the attention that the State of Israel pays to the development of friendly and partnership relations between our countries and I am sure that we will closely cooperate with new Israeli government to the benefit of our peoples.
We see many opportunities for further fruitful cooperation between our countries and I am convinced that with new Israeli government we can do even more great things together.
I want also to thanks the organizers of this meeting that today I have an opportunity to share my thoughts on current situation in Ukraine and challenges to Ukraine's sovereignty.
To get better understanding of current situation we have to go a little bit back in history.
Ukraine has always been very diverse country. Throughout many centuries, the territory of modern Ukraine has been influenced by its neighbours: Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Rzeczpospolita, Austro-Hungarian Empire and Romania. This is from the West, and Russian Empire from the East and Ottoman Empire from the South.
Coming closer to our days. Right after the dissolvent of the Soviet Union. During 1990's – the beginning of 2000's independent Ukraine exercised a multi-vector foreign policy trying to balance between Europe and Russia. The beginning of 2000’s had been marked by setting the European aspirations of Ukraine.
In 2002 this foreign policy choice was supported by practically all Parliament members, including Viktor Yanukovych and his Party of Regions.
In 2004 we have had first peaceful Orange Revolution that brought to power Victor Yuschenko, a pro-Western and pro-European President, who unfortunately was politically too weak and couldn’t make any significant changes for the country and our people.
In 2010 Victor Yanukovych replaced President Yuschenko, in a fair presidential election with a slight majority of votes over Yuliya Timoshenko. I have to say that at that time Yanukovich was elected as a president and politician who was promoting pro-European choice for Ukraine and at the same time friendly relations with Russia.
Here I would like to emphasis that since its independence in 1991 European integration been considered as a uniting nationwide idea for Ukraine and every politician (may be besides the Communists Party) used it in their companies.
Governmental information campaign supporting European integration proved that practically whole nation supports accession to the European Union, and European integration laws received the majority vote in the Parliament.
Unfortunately, after couple of years in his presidency Yanukovich government could not bring any economic benefits to the country and its people. Instead, only in couple of years he managed to bring corruption to its highest level in modern history of Ukraine.
By the end of 2012 Yanukovich was facing very strong pro-Western opposition in the Parliament, which was pressing hardly on him to sign European Association agreement and to make real moves towards European integration.
Taking in to concern Russia’s strong economic position at that time, and its strong economic influence on Ukraine and in the World. And, at the same time, very weak economic position of Ukraine itself, undergoing internal political turbulence, price of Russian gas for Ukraine, inner corruption, world economic situation and many other problems, Yanukovich’s government had very hard time to make proper decision on signing EU Association Agreement.
About, in summer 2013 Russia launched very evident aggressive anti-Ukrainian and anti-European campaign. Following a number of secret direct contacts between Yanukovych and Putin in November 2013, Ukraine has experienced harsh wreckage of European integration hopes. This situation came to its boiling point when at the Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit Yanukovych referring to Putin’s pressure refused to sign the Ukraine – EU Association Agreement.
The Revolution of Dignity.
This decision triggered mass protests of Euromaidan in Kyiv. Anti-government demonstrations took place in Kiev with an estimated 100,000 on the streets. By December 2013, more than a million people rally in the capital and protesters occupied City administration buildings and the Independence Square.
In mid-January, Parliament passed restrictive anti-protest laws. Anti-Yanukovych protesters began storming regional government offices in other parts of Western Ukraine.
On February 20, 2014 bloodshed reached its worst point since the start of the crisis. At least 88 people were killed in 48 hours in Kiev and hundreds wounded in clashes between protesters and police, including many shot by snipers.
President Yanukovych fled to Russia and protesters took control of government buildings. At that situation, Ukrainian Parliament, as the only legitimate governmental body in the country, voted to remove the president from power, with presidential elections set for May 25.
Presidential elections in Ukraine on May 25, 2014 were free, democratic, held in full conformity with national legislation and international standards.
So, after long years of being devoid of true moral leadership, Ukraine has got a strong leader – Petro Poroshenko.
Exceptional turnout of people in the elections, including occupied Crimea, convincingly demonstrated a desire to live in united, inclusive and unitary Ukraine.
At the same time, and I would like to stress this point, almost 90% of voters cast their ballots for the candidates who supports the European integration of the country.
The new parliamentary elections in Ukraine, held on October 2014, once more confirmed full support by Ukrainian nation of the European course.
Today, nobody can undermine legitimacy of Ukrainian Government, which was appointed by newly elected Parliament and with taking into account the demands of Maidan protesters.
Thus, so called Revolution of Dignity has become a turning point in modern history of Ukraine.
I believe that throughout the history of my country our nation has never been so much consolidated than during the events on Maidan. It was one of those historical events that laid the basis of a new nation. It made effective changes in Ukrainian society and in mentality of our citizens, who became active participants in country’s social and political life.
At the same time, the public confrontation to the Yanukovych regime cost the lives of more than 100 people. No country has ever paid such a high price for the European choice and values.
As a diplomat, I can observe that the Revolution of Dignity changed our minds, our politics, and our perception of the country we are living in. Of course, it could not but change our foreign policy.
What happened next actually influenced all regional and global international security system.
With a view of numerous personal and economic links with Russia a war with this country was just unthinkable for Ukrainians a year ago.
But after Yanukovych’s escape to the Russian Federation, Russia`s move was very fast. That shows that Russia has been preparing for this for a long time.
After two weeks of occupation, Russia and pro-Russian groups in the Crimea manipulated brutally the right for self-determination and conducted a so-called referendum in Ukraine’s Crimea.
We all know what happened next: prepared in advance results of the referendum were announced, self-proclaimed fake Crimea's authorities declared independence from Ukraine and asked for joining the Russian Federation. It took the Russian President no time to sign a treaty on Accession of Crimea to Russia under an unthinkable pretext of reclaiming territory that used to be part of Russia.
Illegal occupation of Crimea was interpreted by Russian propaganda for "internal Russian consumption" as its "return-back home".
As you know the Russian President Putin at first had denied any participation of Russian soldiers in Crimean event, but however in traditional manner he finally recognized the involvement of Russian forces (in last April) and recently he stated about a special operation on seize of peninsula.
That was the message of the recent propaganda movie "Crimea. A way back home" made by Russian State television and shown on the TV screens on March 15, 2015.
The main aim of huge campaign of false propaganda of Russian authorities is legitimization of its illegal steps. For example, the false statement about violation of the Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine.
I want to specially emphasize that none of the existing authorized national, foreign or international organization does not allege a violation of human rights on the territory of Ukraine (in particular, in the Crimea), which would require the intervention of any international entity or the international community.
This act of aggression by the Russian armed forces as well as the authorization given by the Federation Council of Russia on March 1, 2014 for the use of the armed forces on the territory of Ukraine became the clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity.
On March 21, 2014, the same day when the political part of the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement was signed, Mr. Putin signed the bill on accession of the Crimea to the Russian Federation.
Russia’s annexation of Crimea was based on the recognition of a referendum which has no legitimacy in international law. The Russian Federation ignores the provisions of the UN Charter and other international agreements, including the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances to Ukraine.
The international community has recognized neither the validity of the referendum, nor the annexation of the Crimea by Russia from Ukraine.
The UN General Assembly Resolution on “Territorial Integrity of Ukraine” left Russia completely isolated in the World. European community supported by other nations took a firm stand of not recognizing Russia’s illegal and illegitimate “annexation” of the Crimea.
We must understand that Russia’s actions not only undermine the basic norms and principles of the international law but also pose a direct threat to the current global security system.
We call on all countries to impose full arms embargo on Russia, including sales/transfer of equipment, spare parts, other military production elements and technology.
Now I would like to stress the issue of violation of Human rights in the Crimea under Russian occupation.
Since Russian troops so to speak “liberated” the Crimea, human rights situation in the region has deteriorated dramatically. One of them is the problem of “internally displaced persons”. Thousands of them, had to leave the Crimean peninsula to Ukrainian mainland not willing to live in danger to their families.
About 20 thousand persons (including over 10 thousand Crimean Tatars) were forced to leave the Crimea for mainland Ukraine. This is the most serious blow to the Crimean Tatars after the Stalin’s deportation.
Arrests, prosecution and deportation of Crimean Tatar leaders, including People’s Deputy of Ukraine Mustafa Jemilev, Chairman of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis Refat Chubarov and his Deputy Ahtem Ciygoz, are politically motivated.
We urge all the countries to maintain the policy of non-recognition of the annexation of Crimea as well as related sanctions and to keep pressuring Russia to free illegally detained Ukrainian political prisoners, including Nadiya Savchenko.
At the time, when Russia was invading Crimea Ukraine's new revolutionary government was in no position to fight back, with only 6 000 troops reportedly ready for combat.
However, when pro-Russian separatists made a move on Ukraine's industrial East region, seized control of government buildings in towns and cities across the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and Russian forces appeared to be building up on Ukrainian borders, the authorities in Kiev ordered an "anti-terrorist operation" (ATO).
The goal of this operation is not only to preserve the sovereignty and territorial integrity, but also the elimination of threat of terror and to minimize risks for civilians.
Here I would like to show you some slides that actually gives an idea what Russian aggression did to Ukraine so far.
SLIDES FROM “THE KREMLIN BLACK BOOK”
Up to the early February 2015 as a result of Russian aggression 5 086 people were killed, including 298 dead in the MH-17 air-crash, most of them are civilians. 10 948 were wounded. 978 482 Ukrainians were registered as internally displaced persons as of February 2, 2015.
But I am afraid that the exact numbers could be much higher.
In this context, I would like to thank all our partners and the State of Israel, its medical teams and volunteers for providing treatment for the Ukrainian citizens who have been badly wounded during the Revolution of Dignity and war in the East of Ukraine.
Being supporters of peace, we are defending and are still ready to defend our land. But, at the same time Russia permanently provides separatists with tons of arms, new weapons and military equipment.
There were 20 so called “humanitarian convoys” after which we note strengthening of terrorists` attacks. At the moment, a large amount of Russian combat vehicles and military equipment was destroyed on Donbas. This vehicles, including tanks T-72, artillery, mashin guns, anti plane missile systems, grades and uragans, which are not produced in Ukraine and we do not have them in our army service. By our calculations, we also fight against at least 12 000 Russian soldiers in Donbas.
We call on the international community to respond resolutely to the crimes of terrorists, increase all forms of pressure on those who sponsor and support them.
Our position remains constant – the so-called “Donetsk People`s Republic” and “Luhansk People`s Republic” must be recognized as terrorist organizations.
Now let’s me explain you some recent developments of the situation.
On February 12 - after marathon talks in Minsk, an agreement was reached to end the fighting. The leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France announced ceasefire, which was supposed to start on February 15, 2015. The deal also included weapon withdrawals and prisoner exchanges, but the key issues remained to be settle.
The pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine also signed the agreement, which includes a buffer zone for heavy weapons, with a minimum of 50 km between rival forces' artillery and 140 km for rockets.
In clearly defined term and under clearly defined procedure in cooperation with the OSCE Security monitoring mission, Ukraine has already withdrawn all heavy weaponry. But, unfortunately we didn’t see it from another side.
Our clear position is that there is no alternative to Minsk agreements. They must function and all the parties must strictly comply with the undertaken commitments. In this regard, Ukraine clearly emphasizes: we are fulfilling the ceasefire regime. Ukraine is keen to continue working on political elements of the Minsk agreements.
But declared in Minsk statement is not yet fulfilled by the other side.
The regime of heavy weaponry withdrawal also doesn't meet the procedure. The issue of termination of the so-called “humanitarian convoys” is also unsolved. These convoys cross the uncontrolled part of the Ukrainian-Russian border and we insist that the given procedure should take place in full conformity with the Ukrainian legislation. Hostages haven't been liberated yet. Moreover, they are being exploited brutally in violation of all humanitarian norms. The broadcast of Ukrainian TV channels and radio in certain districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions has been disconnected.
The approval by Ukrainian Parliament on March 16, 2015 a Decree on determining specific regions, cities, towns and villages of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which introduces a special procedure for local authorities, is the evidence of Ukraine's commitment to the Minsk agreements.
However, this caused discontent of the separatist leaders, who threatened to restart military actions in Eastern Ukraine.
We insist that the Russian side and militants should be brought back to the fulfillment of the undertaken commitments.
We call on all the states to extend sanctions against Russia which expire in July 2015; any easing of sanctions are possible only when Ukraine reinstates full control over the Ukraine/RF state border.
What this war did to our economy?
Russia’s temporary occupation of Crimea, the military conflict with pro-Russian separatists in the East has exacerbated the existing macroeconomic challenges for Ukraine and pushed the country into its deepest recession since 2009.
The war waged by Russia destroyed about 20% of Ukraine’s economic potential, including its forecasted revenues. Ukraine spends around 6.5 mln. US dollars daily in order to protect itself from the Russian forces and conduct the Anti-Terrorist Operation. Budget revenues in 2014 have plummeted by 1.5 bln. US dollars.
The estimated value of financial losses due to illegal confiscation of property of more than 4,000 enterprises in the Crimea is about 74.9 bln. US dollars.
Industrial production suffered the most from the Russian aggression.
In 2014 the industrial output throughout Ukraine declined 10.7%, including a decline of 31.5% in the Donetsk region and 42% decrease in the Luhansk region.
Exports of goods in 2014 totaled $ 53.9 billion, down $ 8.4 billion. Exports of goods to CIS countries fell by $ 6.8 billion. At the same time, exports of goods to the EU rose by $ 433 million - to $ 17 billion.
Imports of goods in 2014 was $ 54.38 billion, which is $ 21.45 billion less than in 2013. Including imports from CIS countries fell by $ 10.5 billion - to $ 17.25 billion from the EU - a $ 5.7 billion - to $ 21.06 billion.
Exports to Russia decreased by 33.7 %, while imports fell by 45.15%.
As you can see, it has created very difficult economic situation for Ukraine, but I really would like to thanks our European partners that in April 2014 the EU unilaterally opened its market for Ukrainian goods. It introduced the so-called “autonomous trade preferences” under the Association Agreement.
The international partners of Ukraine are providing substantial economic help to our country.
On March 11, 2015 the IMF agreed a medium-term program of financial assistance for Ukraine, designed for four years, under the Extended Fund Facility and worth a total of $17.5 bln. The four-year program the IMF granted to Ukraine is a sign of confidence in the country and support from the civilized world.
This will allow Ukraine to receive a package of economic and financial assistance from the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and other banks.
The combined package of assistance is estimated at $ 40 bln.
At this moment we have already received about $ 5 bln. The IMF money will be directed on economic and financial stabilization in Ukraine.
What are the strategy and challenges for Ukraine?
When new Government took office in February 2014, we faced the most acute crisis in the contemporary Ukrainian history. The country was on the brink of the disaster; you can imagine that only in 6 months we went through one revolution, one war, and two election campaigns. It would be not easy to handle for any government. Specially, for the young one as we had in Ukraine.
Today, unfortunately we still cannot say that it is all over and we can go back to a life in a peace.
However, today Ukraine has a clear strategy for development. It is enshrined in the Association Agreement with the European Union. This Agreement contains a list of systemic reforms that the Government has to implement in order to reach the European standards.
It is a challenge to implement reforms when your country is at war. A war with an aggressor, which armed to its teeth, with the largest nuclear arsenal in the world, and with cold determination to pull Ukraine back into some sort of a new “prison of nations” like the Soviet Union.
But, we fight back, inspired and guided by the incredible determination of Ukrainian people who, above all, value its freedoms.
And, in many areas, we are successful. Simply because we cannot afford to fail.
What we did within only 1 year
It has been done within only 1 year. It means that Ukrainians demand full-scale internal reforms practically in all spheres and the new President and Government are ready and capable to carry out these demands to create a better future for the nation.
So finalizing, what are the main challenges to Ukraine`s sovereignty today I want to mention only few major issues:
- Bringing to the end Russian aggression and restoring of territorial integrity of Ukraine.
- Realization of President`s “Reform Strategy 2020”, which includes 60 reforms and programs.
- The implementation of the Association Agreement with the EU.
- Decentralization of power.
- Reform of national security and defense system.
- Reform of law-enforcement system.
- Restoration of economy.
- A new tax system.
- Fight against corruption.
Ukraine is making and will make every effort itself to overcome the existing challenges to its sovereignty and territorial integrity. But at conditions of war it is not enough. Even financial aid of the IMF and the EU is not sufficient.
We are seeking additional humanitarian, financial and technical support from our international partners. We would also welcome any additional aid for the Ukrainian healthcare institutions that are badly in need of modern medical equipment.
We also urge international community to expand financial, expert, technical, technology assistance to reforms in Ukraine and assist Ukraine in institutional building.
And, if the Minsk Agreements won’t work, we ask international community to extend sanctions against Russia, which will expire in July 2015, and to impose additional sanctions to assist Ukraine in resisting Russia’s war, which will help us bring peace to our country that people in Ukraine can return to a life in a peace and build their own way forward to the prosperous life in the family of the European Nations.
Thank you very much for your attention.