Fort Russ - 14th January, 2016
*Address by President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko at the annual meeting with foreign ambassadors accredited in Ukraine on the occasion of Christmas and New 2016 Year*
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to see all of you here today.
This kind of meetings I consider to be of a good tradition, when one may assess the results of the previous year and envisage plans for the future.
For Ukraine, the past year has been anything but easy.
A great deal of time was invested in two important tracks – implementation of reforms and countering Russian aggression.
Allow me to start with the latter.
2015 was a year of challenges and aspirations – bigger than anything we faced in previous years.
Russian citizens, under Russian flags, with Russian weapons kept killing Ukrainians on Ukrainian soil.
The ugly story of Russia’s aggression on Ukraine was written in Volnovakha, Kramatorsk, Mariupol, and many other frontline towns – despite the ceasefire.
Written in blood.
It was the story of cruelty and betrayal.
While Russia’s one hand signed the peace documents in Minsk, the other one flooded in blood Ukrainian town of Debaltseve.
2015 also became the year when the world saw: Ukraine’s will is not to be broken.
We have overcome the military shock and curbed the aggression.
We revived our Armed Forces.
We boosted defense industry.
We have escaped from default, ensured the macro-financial stabilization and now we gradually switch to economic growth in Ukraine.
We understand that stronger we are, more robust will be our defensive response.
Thus, we succeeded to make significant progress in reforming the country.
These reforms are ranging from the establishment of completely new anti-corruption bodies to the resolute fight for the rule of law to prevail in Ukraine.
They are also ranging from deregulation and improvement of the business climate to enhancing judicial system and constitutional changes.
They are further ranging from passing of crucial legislation for energy independence of Ukraine to the introduction of a revolutionary electronic system of public procurement and the brand-new police on the streets across Ukraine.
Literally, 2015 was the year of Ukraine’s rebirth.
We were able to cope with our weaknesses and to multiply our strengths.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
There are two reasons of our success.
First – the readiness of Ukrainians to defend and to sacrifice for their country.
Second – the support from many people worldwide.
This solidarity meant more than thousands words.
It was more powerful than blackmail via gas and trade.
It was more convincing than blatant propaganda.
I would like to express my gratitude to all leaders that have extended their friendly hand to Ukraine.
Archimedes said once: give me a place to stand – and I will move the Earth.
Ukraine is “the place to stand”- if we care about the region, about Europe and about the Earth.
It’s the place to stand, if we take freedom and democracy seriously.
It’s the place to stand if we want to restore international peace and justice worldwide.
We should make sure that our pursuit of peace and justice does not surrender to force or intimidation, and is not compromised for ‘economic pragmatism’.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
2016 will be decisive for Ukraine and (probably) for the world.
Russia’s military aggression against my country, the conflict in Syria, the ongoing migration crisis in Europe, growing terrorism threats and impending economic crisis are to be tackled.
Our key goal in 2016 is clear – to bring peace back to Ukraine and justice back to the international order.
Ukraine will continue bona fide implementation of the Minsk agreements.
We will do it despite the fact that the other side keeps violating its obligations.
We believe that there is no alternative to a political solution.
Yet, it is necessary to apply efficient international instruments to sustain the diplomatic track.
Let’s be honest – without the global pressure Russia wouldn’t be stopped.
Pressure must be maintained till Moscow ultimately buries the hatchet and starts respecting the sovereignty of its neighbors.
Yet, sanctions alone will take far too long to reach their objective.
That is why it is crucial to couple them with wide and efficient international presence in Donbas to help implement the Minsk peace plan as soon as possible.
This must be done if we seek to prevent yet another Russia-made protracted conflict and bring peace back to Donbas.
Our formula of peaceful settlement is simple: withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine’s territory, holding local elections in Donbas in accordance with Ukrainian legislation and OSCE standards, and reinstatement of Ukraine’s full control over the border with Russia.
In the same vein, it is vital not to put the Crimean issue on the back burner and to launch an international mechanism for de-occupation of the peninsula.
It will be a first step towards reviving the Helsinki spirit of cooperation in the OSCE area.
Since 2016, Ukraine enjoys a new international status – a non-permanent member in the UN Security Council.
This is an honorable but difficult mission for the country, which is facing the aggression from the permanent member of the UN Security Council.
I would like to thank once again all governments that voted in favor of Ukraine and thus allowed us to assume this duty at this crucial point.
We will definitely need your further support during our membership to halt ongoing violence and ensure that the aggression does not repeat in the future.
2016 will also be decisive for Ukraine-EU bond.
On January 1, DCFTA between Ukraine and the EU entered into force.
The final word to make the Association Agreement fully operational belongs to the Netherlands.
It will not only hold a consultative referendum on April 6, but also chair the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2016.
But the vote in the Netherlands will not be about the Agreement with Ukraine.
This vote will be about the European Union and its future.
It will be about the promotion of the EU values beyond the Union’s borders.
Thus, we hope for solidarity with Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.
I also expect that all EU Member States will support visa free regime with Ukraine in 2016.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It goes without saying that Ukraine sees its future in the United Europe.
Yet, it doesn’t mean that we see nothing but Europe.
Our lenses are wider.
For us, of close and understandable are bilateral ties with our true friends like the U.S., Germany, who holds the OSCE Chairmanship, France, who also shares the Normandy table, Lithuania and Sweden, and, of course, our strategic partner - the Republic of Poland.
It is in Warsaw that the next NATO Summit will be held – the event, in which Ukraine is eager to take part as we see a great potential to our partnership with the Alliance.
We look forward to deepening our cooperation with Slovakia, who will preside the EU in the second half of the year, as well as with Bulgaria, who chairs the Committee of Ministers in the Council of Europe till May, and Estonia afterwards.
The Russian aggression made even closer our cooperation and a sense of support and solidarity with our partners from Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and, indeed, Turkey.
Whichever international or bilateral platform it is about, our cause will be the same – struggling for freedom, mutually beneficial cooperation, stability and peace for each and everyone sharing the same principles.
In this sense, we strongly rely on Japan as G7 chair. Please make Ukraine’s case to be always in your meetings’ focus over the present year.
The latest decision by Kremlin to limit Ukraine’s freedom of trade and transit, I believe, will have an opposite effect on those who suggested the move.
In cooperation with our partners and friends from the Central and South Asia, and of course with China, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, we will do our best to play down those risks for our trade.
Please also be sure that be it Middle East or Africa, Latin or North America and Australia, those regions and continents are not unreachable for Ukraine, and our mutually beneficial cooperation.
I ask you to convey the message to your authorities and business circles.
We stand on the same belief when we develop our cooperation.
We profess the liberal economy and trade for the sake of our peoples.
So is the motto of our progress for our common good.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would also ask you to convey my message to your respective capitals as concerns the following two important events in Ukraine this year.
In April, we will commemorate the 30th anniversary of Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster.
This tragedy still echoes with enormous pain in hearts of many in Ukraine and beyond as the worst accident ever.
In September, we will also commemorate the 75th anniversary of “Babyn Yar”.
That tragedy took thousands and thousands of innocent lives, deliberately.
I openly invite everyone sharing the pain of those tragedies to attend respective commemoration ceremonies in Ukraine.
I believe that such moments should unite all devoted to peace and human lives and make us stronger in our fight for better future for our children.
Let’s be honest.
A year ago, many doubted Ukraine’s chances for survival.
However, the reality proves the opposite: Ukraine stands.
A lot is yet to be done to make Ukraine a better nation.
We will not change this way. We won’t be allowed to.
Too many good men and women sacrificed their lives for this to happen.
Too much passion, desire and blood is put in the project called “European Ukraine”.
Too much depends on it for Europe - and worldwide.
Thank you for your attention.
Let solidarity and wisdom be with us.
Glory to Ukraine!"