Address of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, June 21, 2014
Dear Fellow Citizens
The Armed Forces have completed the most wide-ranging military operation in the recent history of our country. The army has taken control and has established a defensive system along most of the border with Russia in the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts. The forces of the Antiterrorist Operation (ATO) have freed a large number of populated areas from terrorists and have tightly encircled the extremist groups.
The state is responsible for protecting its citizens from terrorists and armed gangs. Ukraine through incredible effort is restoring the fighting capacity of the army and has created the National Guard. We now have enough strength and political will to strike a decisive blow to the illegally armed groups.
But on the other hand, we are soberly assessing the probable number of casualties — both among the Ukrainian military and the civilians in the Donbas. Right now Donbas is actually held hostage by the militants. This is why I have proposed the peace plan. We are ready to use all means to restore our territorial integrity, but at present we are putting a priority on peaceful means.
As Supreme Commander, during my visit to the headquarters of the Antiterrorist Operation near Slovyansk yesterday, I gave the order to our Armed Forces, National Guard, Units of the Ministry of the Interior, and border guards to begin a unilateral ceasefire. The Ukrainian government was the first to take this step, because I recognize my responsibility for the fate of the country.
The ceasefire is limited to one week — until June 27. These are decisive days that offer a good chance for a peaceful settlement.
All the illegal armed groups must understand that the ceasefire we have initiated does not mean that Ukrainian soldiers are forbidden from shooting back. Any attacks by the militants will receive a commensurate response. And not a verbal one, of course.
Allow me, dear citizens, to inform you about certain details of my peace plan.
In the coming days, the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) will be asked to pass a law to drop criminal charges against members of the illegal armed groups who have not killed civilians and Ukrainian soldiers and who lay down their arms before the deadlines. This is what everyone must do who has taken up arms illegally.
The hostages must be freed immediately. All of them — from the international observers to the Ukrainian teachers, doctors, journalists, police officers.
A corridor will be created for the Russian mercenaries to return to their country. But under the following conditions: machine guns, tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, “Grad” rocket launchers must be left here.
On the Ukrainian-Russian border, a 10km buffer zone will be created. This will provide additional protection from further infiltration into Ukraine by mercenaries and weapons.
There is one important element to the plan — the freeing of administration buildings in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and the dismantling of the roadblocks and barricades that surround them. Order needs to return to the streets of all Ukrainian cities. This applies not only to the Donbas. This information needs to be heard by those who have overstayed their welcome in other regions of Ukraine.
It is necessary to restore the activities of the legitimate local authorities. With the help of the central government, they should immediately revive the social security system and the power and water supply systems destroyed by the extremists. This applies to Slovyansk and Kramatorsk — the cities that have suffered the most from the terrorist hordes. Already today I have instructed the government to immediately restore the work of the treasury, paralyzed by the militants. People, despite all obstacles, must receive salaries, pensions, and all social payments.
The immediate and rapid implementation of the peace plan will pave the way for a political dialogue. I call on all legitimately elected representatives of local self-government, NGOs, and all others to participate in the dialogue.
Diametrically opposing views will not keep anyone from taking part in the negotiations. I am ready to talk with those who have erred, who mistakenly have taken the separatist position. Naturally, this does not include persons who were involved in terrorist acts, murder or torture.
Moreover, I guarantee the safety of all participants in the negotiations — anyone who prefers the language of arguments to the one of weapons.
There is one important message. The question of the territorial integrity of Ukraine is not subject to negotiation. We hear and take into account the specific and dissenting views of the Donbas residents. But we cannot, and will not, remake all of Ukraine for that purpose. The country is fairly unanimous on questions of independence, territorial structure, language, and geopolitical orientation.
Where then is the way out of the situation? In the broad decentralization of the government.
For the first time in the history of Ukraine, a newly elected President, instead of granting himself plenty of authority and fighting to extend his powers, as has been the case, is doing exactly the opposite. I will transfer a share of my powers to local citizens, local authorities. The relevant amendments to the Constitution can be passed in a few weeks at the first reading and we can expect their final adoption as early as September.
Elections for local councils will be held on the basis of the new Constitution. The councils will name the executive committees and elect their heads. And they, not appointees from Kyiv, will manage the regions and decide on local budgets. These budgets will increase significantly. A portion of the taxes will be redistributed in favor of the communities, cities, districts, oblasts.
Decentralization implies the empowerment of regions on questions of historical memory, cultural traditions, language policy. Never again will these questions divide the country. Local communities of the Donbas will have every right to fully use the Russian language along with the state language. Communities themselves will determine under which monument they place flowers, what they celebrate, what songs they sing at the holiday table. And, also, in what churches they pray.
However, under conditions of decentralization, Donbas will not be able to cope with its problems by itself. Help will come not only from all of Ukraine, but also from the European Union. We will help rebuild the infrastructure destroyed by the militants. We will restore, at state cost, the housing destroyed during the fighting, and the factories. The residents of the Donbas will have a place to live and a place to work.
The program to create new jobs in the Donbas is being prepared with the assistance of the European Union. It concerns, incidentally, not only free or low-cost loans, but also a system of insurance against political risk for investors in the Donbas economy. Naturally, there will be no investment until there is peace.
The peace plan cannot be implemented without the broad support of the residents of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. The militants must not only feel the pressure from Kyiv, but also the outrage and rejection of the residents of the occupied localities. For example, the residents of Mariupol, the north Luhansk Oblast, and the west Donetsk Oblast have taken a clear stand — and they have peace.
Gangs of mercenaries have paralyzed normal life and have left the people without the means of survival. I think that even those who several months ago gave their bodies and souls as human shields have now seen the light.
It is clear that, with the nerves of the entire society rubbed raw, and under the roar of cannons, not all are ready to accept or even to hear the peace plan. Incidentally, it is strange that the most critical individuals turned out to be those who themselves have not smelled gunpowder and do not know the meaning of a real war.
To solve the problem by force is not the same as throwing hats in the air. It means consciously and compulsorily accepting new and considerable sacrifices in order to pay a significantly higher human price than the losses we, unfortunately, have already experienced today.
And most important — it must be understood that it is not the hundreds of literally captive people that are held hostage by the terrorists, but hundreds of thousands of residents who have ended up in territories controlled by them. In this situation, we, the Ukrainian military and politicians, think primarily about the fate of civilians. Otherwise, the terrorists would been erased from the face of Ukraine a long time ago.
I spent a portion of my childhood and youth in Transnistria. Many of my classmates have given their lives in that conflict. It is a self-proclaimed republic that remains unrecognized by anyone and is barely surviving for the third decade now. I will not allow for Donbas to be turned in something similar to Transnistria.
I love our Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts as much as my native Odesa and Vinnytsia and Kyiv. As much as any corner of my mother Ukraine.
Even with the critical situation we have today, there is still a choice and a chance to resolve matters either through peace or war. And we absolutely must take advantage of this chance. We are anticipating several scenarios. The peaceful scenario is the main one — it is our plan A.
But those who expect to use the period of peaceful negotiations only to gain time and regroup should know that we also have a detailed plan B. I will not discuss it now because I believe our peace plan will work.
Our peace plan is already supported by the entire world community: in particular, the U.S. President Barack Obama, the President of France François Hollande, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Prime Minister of Great Britain David Cameron, leaders of many other countries of the world, international organizations, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the President of Switzerland and OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Didier Burkhalter. (today we discussed with him the participation of the OSCE monitoring mission in monitoring the ceasefire), the General Secretary of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland, and other international organizations.
Finally, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin also has positively assessed Ukraine’s decision to institute a ceasefire and has supported concrete steps of my peace plan for resolving the situation in the Donbas.
The entire world understands there is no better option than peace.
May the Lord help us!
Glory to Ukraine!
Translated by Anna Mostovych