President of Ukraine

Speech made to the Assembly

Tuesday, 23 April 1996

Mr Leonid Danilovich KUCHMA expressed his sincere thanks for the opportunity to speak to the Assembly. He was grateful to those who had supported Ukraine’s accession to the Council of Europe, which was an expression of confidence in the Ukrainian people and their leaders in the process of reform.

Ukraine bore responsibility for transforming a totalitarian society into a democratic one. He was aware that Ukraine was one of the last countries to throw off communism and in the five years of progress towards democracy there had been a political struggle between democratic elements and remnants of totalitarian forces.

Ukraine had not yet adopted a new constitution, but he assured the Assembly that he would do all he could in this regard. When the Constitutional Council had drafted a final version of the constitution it would be discussed in parliament. All Ukrainians would then have the chance to decide in a referendum whether to adopt it. If they decided to do so, it would represent the culmination of efforts to create a constitutional Ukraine, which had begun in 1710.

The process of economic reform was now yielding results. The commitment to market principles was producing economic stability and GDP was declining more slowly than in the past. The rate of privatisation had increased, wages had risen in 1995 and higher industrial and agricultural output was expected. The government followed rigid credit and monetary policies. Although there was still far to go, real progress was being achieved.

He was pleased with the assistance that European and world organisations, such as the Council of Europe, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Monetary Fund, had offered his country.

The legislative framework was being brought up to European standards. It was essential to fulfil Ukraine’s obligations to the Council of Europe. Certain parts of the population did not agree with policies necessary to fulfil international agreements, for example the abolition of the death penalty. However, the Ukrainian Government recognised that these had to be met. Ukraine was grateful for the Council of Europe’s assistance in the facilitation of democratic and economic reform. It was determined to maintain close involvement with the Council’s work.

There was concern in Ukraine about the increasing numbers of those returning to the country who had been deported during the years of communism. This was causing both political and economic problems.

Ukraine sought closer relations with both Europe and the wider world. An important development had been the signing of the Partnership and Co-operation Agreement in 1994. It sought a free trade agreement with the European Union, which it also hoped to join in due course. Good relations had developed with the North Atlantic Assembly, Western European Union and Nato. Ukraine was in favour of a gradual and open-ended expansion of Nato membership, which ought to take a closer interest in the security of neutral countries.

Ukraine was keen to resolve the pressures for Crimean separatism, which were highly damaging. The autonomy of the region was guaranteed in the constitution.

He was convinced that no one in Europe was interested in seeing Ukrainian separatism set an example to other countries. Ukraine was in favour of civic peace. The situation in Europe did not give grounds for self-satisfaction and there were problems to be solved. The future of European security should be based on the indivisibility of security and should be comprehensive. International organisations such as the United Nations, Nato and WEU were capable of solving many existing international security problems. The Council of Europe had also done much to help in the field of security. Ukraine was developing bilateral relations with its neighbours. Ukraine had no territorial claims on any other country and would resist territorial claims. Its relations with its northern neighbour were based on the principle of non-interference.

Ukraine was co-operating with several international ventures, such as the Black Sea initiative. The economic and ecological dimensions of security were also important. In particular, Chernobyl was an international problem and it was unthinkable that it be resolved without international co-operation. The attention paid to Chernobyl at the G7 summit was welcome. Ukraine wanted to co-operate in these international efforts. The main prerequisite for democracy in Ukraine was an independent Ukraine based on a civil society, a market economy, and the rule of law. Within the next few years they would have taken further strides towards democracy. Ukraine was making an effort to build a united and prosperous Europe.


Thank you very much, Mr Kuchma, for your most interesting statement.

Members of the Assembly have expressed a wish to put questions to you. I would remind them that then- questions must be limited to thirty seconds. I would also ask them not to make speeches.

A substantial number of colleagues have expressed a wish to ask Mr Kuchma questions. To ensure that as many as possible are able to put their questions, I hope that members will not wish to put supplementary questions.

A number of colleagues have expressed a wish to ask questions on similar subjects. I believe that it will be for your convenience, Mr Kuchma, and for that of the Assembly, if I call them to put their questions as a group, to which you may then reply. The first group consists of questions on Ukraine’s relations with Russia, and I give the floor first to Mr Kelam.

Mr KELAM (Estonia)

What is your comment, Mr President, on your neighbouring country Belarus’s recent decision to reunite with the Russian Federation – particularly in the light of the recent decision by the Russian Duma to annul the dissolution of the Soviet Union? What are the possible consequences of such developments for Ukraine and Ukrainian national security policy?

Mr Kuchma, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that this was a right that Belarus had and it had asserted its right. Ukraine had, in December 1991, chosen another path. The Ukrainian people pronounced themselves in favour of independence in a referendum.

Mr MUEHLEMANN (Switzerland) (translation)

Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I have a similar question with which I should like to go a little further into this subject. In your opinion, will this development that involves several CIS states entering into closer relations with Russia continue, and are you also considering any deepening of your own relations with Russia?

Mr Kuchma, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that Ukraine had always been in favour of co-operation with Russia. Relations with Russia were part of their history. He was against the creation of supranational bodies.

Mr SOLÉ TURA (Spain)

Do you think that the present situation in Chechnya could have some influence on the status quo in the region and on your own politics?

Mr Kuchma, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that it was Ukraine’s policy to support the territorial integrity of Russia. He did not, however, support the way in which a solution was currently being pursued. Ukraine supported Mr Yeltsin’s attempts to find a solution by peaceful means.

Mrs MIHAYLOVA (Bulgaria)

It is obvious that the newly formed coalition between Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan is of great concern not only to the Balkan states but to Bulgaria, whose name has been mentioned by President Yeltsin as a possible future member of that coalition with the Baltic states. Do you commend that proposal?

Mr Kuchma, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that there was no way back to the former Soviet Union. The creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States had not worked practically, and any further such creations would meet the same fate.

Mr HEGYI (Hungary)

As the respected head of the independent Ukraine state, what do you think about the Russian Duma’s declaration that the abolition of the Soviet Union was invalid?

Mr Kuchma, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that legally the decision had no consequences for Ukraine. The decision was merely an attempt to secure electoral popularity.

Mr MOTIU (Romania)

Would you agree to become part of the Russian confederation again and give up your independence and sovereignty and accept the secondary role that you had in the former Soviet Union?

Mr Kuchma, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

repeated that he was against supranational unification. Relations with adjoining countries should be equitable and based upon good neighbourly partnerships.

Mr SCHLOTEN (Germany) (translation)

Madam President, my question has been answered by the replies to the questions asked by the previous speakers, especially those of Mr Kelam and Mr Muehlemann. Thank you very much.


The next group of questions to which one reply will be given consists of questions tabled by Mr Németh and Mr Bolinaga on the death penalty. I call Mr Németh.

Mr NÉMETH (Hungary)

On behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, I would like to know whether, in future, Ukraine will respect the moratorium on executions. There are rumours that Sergej Draqunov, Vitaly Gumenynk, Danilo Krasnow, Anatoly Skiby, Zanr Zilfuqanov, and Sergej Tekucsev have been executed. I stress that the credibility of Ukraine is at stake unless you can prove that those rumours are false.

Mr Kuchma, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that Ukraine was aware of the need to comply with all its obligations.

Mr BOLINAGA (Spain) (interpretation)

said that he was concerned about the case of a 24-year-old man who had been sentenced to death. He made a plea to Mr Kuchma to revoke the decision, given Ukraine’s new role within the Council of Europe which had voted enthusiastically for its admission into the Organisation.

Mr Kuchma, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that he would pay close attention to the case.


We now come to a new series of questions on energy policy. I call Mr Banks.

Mr BANKS (United Kingdom)

You mentioned Chernobyl in your excellent speech. The nuclear complex at Chernobyl was due to be closed at, I think, the end of 1993, but it is still functioning and we read that it looks likely to continue functioning into the next century. Following the promises given to you, the agreement between the G7 countries and Ukraine over resources for alternative energy and the closure of Chernobyl, could you give us a progress report? Has Ukraine received any resources from the G7 countries to meet those objectives?

Mr Kuchma, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

reminded the Assembly that the danger was not from the operating units but from the 200 tonnes of nuclear fuel contained within the concrete casing of the fourth unit which was the one that had caused the disaster, ten years previously. Feasibility studies for a new casing had been undertaken and another operating unit would close down this year, leaving only one still generating electricity. He believed that comprehensive measures were in place and pointed out that the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) had said that the remaining operating units were no more dangerous than others of the same type.

Mr GJELLEROD (Denmark)

I wish to ask a question about energy, but from a longer-term perspective. How do you see the relationship between the development of a pan-European energy infrastructure and the economic development of your country?

Mr Kuchma, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that co-operation with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in the energy sector was a priority for national security reasons. Ukraine was currently using two to three times more energy per caput than other European countries.

Mr MICHELOYIANNIS (Greece) (interpretation)

asked what progress had been made towards the final decommissioning of Chernobyl since the 1995 agreement between Ukraine and the G7.

Mr Kuchma, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that such an agreement had been signed at Winnipeg but that no detailed financial procedures had been established.

Mr BEHRENDT (Germany) (translation)

Thank you very much, Madam President. I should like to ask about the actual timetable for closure of the installations. Do you feel that it will be possible, given the support of the G7 states, to shut down the reactors in Chernobyl that are still operating by the year 2000? What possibilities do you see of basing Ukraine’s energy supplies on non-nuclear sources, for example gas turbine or environmentally friendly coal- fired power stations?

Mr Kuchma, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

Mr KUCHMA (Interpretation) said that two more nuclear reactors would be commissioned shortly and that the coal power stations in Ukraine would be refurbished.

Mr BIRRAUX (France) (translation)

An incident that occurred recently at the Chernobyl nuclear power station was kept secret for several weeks. This has raised doubts about the break with the principles of the communist regime, for which the only thing that counted was production, since it punished those who were to blame for stoppages in production.

What do you intend to do in future to ensure that the sole concern of Ukrainian nuclear power managers and workers is safety, a measure that does not necessitate G7 funding?

Mr Kuchma, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that Ukraine hid nothing and acted according to international standards. The IAEA was able to supply information and had not complained to Ukraine. Discussion of this matter was based on speculation in the Ukrainian press.

Mr MIGNON (France) (translation)

Mr President, what is happening at Chernobyl naturally concerns Ukraine but also humanity as a whole. Recently, another serious accident occurred while one of the reactors was being refuelled. We only learned of the accident several months later.

Bearing in mind the efforts made by the international community, you will easily understand that we should like to be informed immediately whenever an accident of this type, which is considered very important, occurs. Do you intend to inform us in future, though hoping of course that such accidents will not happen again?

Mr Kuchma, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that sadly these incidents were not rare, and were common to a number of countries with such reactors, not only Ukraine. He promised to take note of comments made by the Assembly with regard to the provision of information and take action where necessary.

Mr SOLONARI (Moldova) (interpretation)

asked whether Mr Kuchma intended to take action to resolve the question of property rights on the Moldovan/ Ukrainian border. He also enquired what progress had been made to develop a free trade agreement between the two countries.

Mr Kuchma, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that he hoped to sign a free trade treaty based on agreements made between the two countries over previous years. This was the first time he had been made aware of possible problems concerning property on either side of the border. He would look into the matter.

Mr SEVERIN (Romania)

What are the main obstacles, if any, to the conclusion of the basic treaty between Ukraine and Romania? In your opinion, what are the means of overcoming those potential obstacles?

Mr Kuchma, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that there were good relations between the two countries. He noted the number of agreements and the active dialogue between them. The countries concerned should recognise decisions taken by the international organisations and conferences – notably that held in Helsinki.

Mr EVERSDIJK (Netherlands) (translation)

Mr Kuchma, I have seen that you are as much a businessman as a politician, and it is in the former capacity that I would like you to answer my question. You aim to attract foreign investors, notably those from the west, just as the Netherlands is in fact doing in the fields of transport, agriculture and telecommunications. What safeguards do you intend to provide for investments, so that Ukraine and its foreign investors can make a profit?

Mr Kuchma, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

replied that the main requirement was the further development of the legal framework.

Mr VALLEIX (France) (translation)

Mr President, could you enlighten the Assembly regarding the distribution of the fleet of the former Soviet Union? Has agreement been reached on the use of the naval bases? What is the present position regarding the implementation of this agreement both for Ukraine and for the Crimea?

Mr Kuchma, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that this was an important matter for the Crimea, Ukraine and Russia. Some progress had been made, for example the stationing of the Russian navy in Ukraine had been resolved. However, the status of the base in the Black Sea still caused problems. Ukraine hoped to reach a solution soon.

Mr LAAKSO (Finland)

During your successful visit to Finland recently, I am sure that you were informed that we have a Swedish-speaking minority of 4,6% of the population and two official languages. What plans does your country have concerning the rights of national minorities, especially in respect of languages? Do you have any plans to have more than one language and if not, why not?

Mr Kuchma, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

confirmed that all opportunities for such rights were accorded to minorities in Ukraine. If problems existed concerning the Finnish minority in Ukraine, the Ukrainian Government would try to resolve them. Every minority had the right to express itself in its own language.

Mr PAUNESCU (Romania)

What is your opinion of the effect of the secret Molotov-Ribbentrop pact? For example, northern Bukovina was removed from Romania and given to the former Soviet Union, and now the southern part of Moldova has become a part of Ukraine. Should not these matters be discussed? Are you aware of the problems faced by Romanians in Ukraine?

Mr Kuchma, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was not a question that should be addressed to Kyiv. They had no right to question the order that took shape after the second world war.


Mr President, in your excellent speech, you said that Ukraine was not against the expansion of Nato, but you added that you thought the process should be gradual. When do you think the time will be right to extend Nato? Can you comment on those politicians who suggest that the extension of Nato towards eastern Europe will be dangerous for the region and that we should rather seek another security plan for the region?

Mr Kuchma, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that this was a very complicated matter indeed. Nato only included democratic countries who had no territorial claims on their neighbours. Europe should not be divided into two camps. The views of all Europe, especially Russia, should be taken into account.

Mr YÜRÜR (Turkey)

Thank you, my question has already been answered by the president in his speech.

Mr FIGEL (Slovakia)

I am grateful for the opportunity to have this debate and to exchange views on Ukraine. My question was also answered by the president. I want to inform the president that we will continue our discussions and debates in the Committee on Relations with European Non-Member Countries in early May in Kyiv and Sebastopol, and we are looking forward to that.

Mr KORAKAS (Greece) (translation)

Mr President, thank you for having come to Strasbourg to address the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and for agreeing to answer questions by the representatives of the parliaments of European countries.

You said that a new constitution is being drafted. In this draft, according to our information, you maintain and even increase the powers of the president to the detriment of parliament. Do you really believe that, under these conditions and in this spirit, we can look forward to the development of democracy? What lessons can we draw from actual experience so far?

Mr Kuchma, President of Ukraine (interpretation)

said that he did not know where Mr Korakas obtained the information that the president wanted to enlarge his powers. The constitution had been approved by the Ukrainian Parliament and it corresponded to all international standards.

Mr OLEINIK (Russia) (interpretation)

said that his question had already been answered.


Thank you very much. That brings to an end the questions to Mr Kuchma. I thank him warmly on behalf of the Assembly for his statement and his remarks. We have had a chance to ask all of the questions that we wanted to ask.