President of Ukraine

Speech made to the Assembly

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Dear Secretary General of the Council of Europe, dear President of the Parliamentary Assembly, dear colleagues, members of the Assembly, ladies and gentlemen, above all allow me to sincerely congratulate Ms Stella Kyriakides on her election to the high position of President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. I am glad that this event has practically coincided with my visit to the Assembly. Such symbolic junctures do not happen that frequently, yet when they happen they are always accurate and timely. Today that is exactly the case. I personally wish you inspiration, energy, and success in achieving the noble mission set by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, as well as protecting the principles upon which this Assembly is founded. There is no place for compromise in these matters, especially with those who by all means intend to compromise the universal value and foundations upon which we build up our co-operation and our societies.

I would also like to express my words of gratitude for the invitation to address this distinguished Assembly. It is a true honour for me. As a former colleague in the Assembly who spent many years here, I remember that time and remember the importance of the Parliamentary Assembly, and perfectly understand the responsibility that lies upon your shoulders, especially under the current circumstances of extreme populism, numerous cyber-attacks, direct armed aggression, and very aggressive propaganda campaigns. As the President of Ukraine, I sincerely count on your support of my country in these dramatically difficult circumstances.

Now, we find ourselves, Ukrainians, occupied against our will. Three years ago, I stood here before this Assembly and already as a head of State shared with you our experience from the very first day of countering Russian aggression. I would sincerely wish to address you today with the words that the aggression against my country is over, that within the internationally recognised borders of Ukraine the military action and the blatant occupation of parts of our sovereign territory are over, and that in Ukraine peaceful life gradually returns to the liberated lands depleted by the military action of those who keep saying, “Nas tam nyet” – “We are not there”. They are the occupying power.

Unfortunately, even three years after my statement before the Assembly, we still have not reached this perspective. We are well aware of the reason why. Dear members of the Assembly, has something changed over these three years in Russian deeds and behaviour? Absolutely nothing. Today, as three years ago, we are forced to keep searching for the response to the Russian aggression – the aggression which turned into the brutal attack not only against Ukraine but against human rights in the very heart of Europe. The Russian Federation keeps, bluntly, violating commitments taken upon itself, in the same way that Moscow keeps ignoring our persistent demands, and the demands of the international community, to get back to respecting international law.

This Assembly has echoed these demands and fixed them in a number of its resolutions. But the Russian Federation keeps pretending that it has nothing to do with this. Moscow continues to turn a blind eye to its commitment under the Minsk agreement. Its military forces are still on the territory of Ukraine, both in Crimea and in Donbass. Military assets are still delivered to illegal entities created by the Russian Federation. Every day, we receive more worrying news about the blatant violation of human rights in the occupied territories. Release of the hostages and political prisoners is stalled. I cannot but mention Oleg Sentsov, Alexander Kolchenko, Roman Suschenko, and many, many others. For over two years we have fought to free 63-year-old Igor Kozlovsky, the very famous theologian who remained in occupied Donetsk to look after his ill son. The same goes for 28-year-old Stanislav Aseyev, a journalist who was not afraid to write the truth about life in occupied Donetsk. Such stories of Ukrainian hostages number well over 100 already. But even worse is the fact that the number of hostages in Donbass does not cease to rise. People are deliberately chased and captured only for the fact that they are a citizen of their own country – of the Ukrainian state. They are captured with a cynical reason in mind – to blackmail Ukraine, which will never abandon its citizens, neither in Crimea, nor in Donbass, nor in a Russian prison.

Systemic repression has turned the Crimean peninsula into an island of no freedom and a land of fear. In occupied Crimea, the Russian Federation applies the worst practice of the Soviet repressive machine. Anyone who dares to reject the so-called reunification with the Russian Federation becomes a victim of arbitrary detention, prosecution, torture, extra-judicial execution, and inhuman treatment. Recently a deputy head of the Mejlis, Akhtem Chiygoz, received the so-called verdict of the occupation authorities. He said that today in Crimea those are tried who defended the laws of their country, the international norms and the rules. Could anyone give more precise words describing the situation in Crimea than Akhtem Chiygoz in his final statement in so-called court? This concerns not only Crimea but Europe as a continent of the rule of law, not the rule of force. The case of another deputy head of the Mejlis, Ilmi Umerov, is also telling. At first, this hero of his people experienced Russian punitive psychiatry. This day, an occupation court has sentenced him to two years in the settlement colony. The piercing chill of Soviet mock trials creeps from this sentence.

The scale of the crime and violation committed by the occupation authorities in Crimea demonstrates that the Russian Federation, which is recognised as an occupying power by the United Nations General Assembly, clearly ignores its international legal commitments. In this context, allow me to express my gratitude for the particular attention that the Parliamentary Assembly and the Council of Europe itself pay to the issue of Crimea. Numerous appeals of the Council of Europe monitoring bodies on human rights to access Crimea are all telling, as was an unprecedented decision by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on the situation in the autonomous republic of Crimea made in the city of Sebastopol, Ukraine, and adopted this May.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me once again to ask my question. Has something changed over the three years since my last statement? Definitely, yes. The international coalition in support of Ukraine and the rule of international law has only strengthened, and I am grateful to the honourable members of this Assembly for their solidarity in protecting Ukraine from Russian aggression from the very beginning. The people of Ukraine will always remember the hand of support extended to us by our friends in the most difficult moment of our history.

Exactly a year ago, this Assembly adopted a resolution on the political consequences of the Russian aggression in Ukraine, which states, “only significant and measurable progress towards their implementation can form the basis for the restoration of a fully-fledged, mutually respectful dialogue with the Assembly.” The Assembly rightly reserved the right not to renew the credentials of the Russian delegation if the Russian Federation continues its occupation of the sovereign territory of Ukraine. In fact, none of the demands was implemented by the Russian Federation.

It is not just about the implementation of routine documents. Behind the provisions of those documents are human faces and human lives. Hence the resistance to returning to business as usual with the Russian Federation in the Assembly and every other international political platform. At this challenging moment, let us be frank with each other and with ourselves. The aim of Russian aggression is to destroy democracy, liberal freedom and human rights. In one place it does it with tanks, and in other places it does it with absolutely fake news; in one place it violates the key principles of international law, and in other places it manipulates consciousness. We have no right to fail against that challenge. We will prove our dignity, and in recent years members of the Council of Europe have experienced the delicacy of the Russian Federation’s information warfare. More than once, we have seen the language of hatred, violence and discrimination hidden beneath the slogans of free speech. The Russian Federation tries to use our own achievements against the democratic community.

In 1950, Winston Churchill, an ideological father of the Council of Europe, appealed to the Assembly against the background of the Soviet Union’s challenge to a democratic Europe. He admitted that Moscow had a wealth of opportunities to create trouble. Given the circumstances, he said something very important about the prospects of this Assembly, “Either we shall prove our worth and weight and value to Europe or we shall fail.” With those words of wisdom in mind, I strongly reject what some say about a fait accompli on Crimea. This tribune was not invented to call for appeasement or for the trade of territory for money, oil or gas. That has never happened. It was invented to safeguard our fundamental values and principles, and most importantly to defend them at times of need.

The time has come. Moscow has pushed Europe back to the same reality about which Sir Winston Churchill was so concerned almost 70 years ago. That is why the guarantee of our success resides in preserving and strengthening our unity, solidarity and resilience. It is only by respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine that we can achieve peace and stability in Europe. Ukraine strives for peace, as does everyone in this Chamber. As head of State, I want peace for Ukraine and for Europe.

Those are not mere words. Ukraine has proved on numerous occasions its readiness for a peaceful settlement of the situation artificially created by the Russian Federation. Ukraine, and me personally as President, has initiated a long-lasting ceasefire three times in 2017 – the Easter ceasefire, the harvest ceasefire and the back-to-school ceasefire. Russian occupation troops and their proxies violated those ceasefires almost straightaway.

Last week, the Ukrainian Parliament adopted a law establishing the condition for peaceful settlement of the situation in the Luhansk region of Donbass. We hope that the Russian Federation will finally begin to implement the security commitment and the Minsk agreement, and we also expect those steps will allow us to move forward on the deployment of the United Nations peacekeeping operation in Donbass, which is important to bringing peace back to my country.

I call on the honourable Assembly to continue paying attention to the respect for human rights in occupied Crimea and occupied Donbass. Only with our close attention to those regions will we ease towards prosecutions. I thus call on Assembly members, the Committee of Ministers, the Secretary General, the Commissioner for Human Rights and other relevant monitoring bodies to double their efforts in protecting human rights and freedom.

I return again to my question. Has something changed in the three years since my last statement? Definitely yes. Ukraine has made considerable progress on internal transformation. Despite the existential changes caused by Russian aggression, this year we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms entering into force in Ukraine. Ukraine continues to implement those commitments as a member State of the Council of Europe while adopting the Council of Europe’s standards on human rights, the rule of law and democracy in its legislation, institutions and practices.

Last week, we laid another firm brick in our human rights defence wall by ratifying protocols 15 and 16 of the Convention. I am grateful to the Council of Europe, including this Assembly, for actively supporting the reform process in Ukraine. The scope of reform currently being undertaken in Ukraine is quite broad. It ranges from the unprecedented financial and banking reform – we are cleaning our financial and banking system, making it strong and reliable – to the decentralisation reform that Madam President mentioned. That decentralisation was one of my first steps as President, and we are now seeing the first results. The development budget for local communities has increased between seven and 10 times during the war, and local budgets and the structure of the united budget is, step by step, reaching 50%.

Looking back at Ukraine’s accomplishments, I am particularly pleased that the Council of Europe’s 2015-2017 action plan for Ukraine has become a common story of success. I am proud that the Council of Europe is a co-sponsor of Ukrainian reform, and we have made progress through the joint work of Ukraine and the Council of Europe. We hope that the draft 2018-2021 action plan will be even more ambitious and successful, and we consider it a tool for further progress and reform.

For us, internal transformation is no less important than the Russian front. I cannot but mention the anti-corruption measures undertaken by my country. We have established unprecedented anti-corruption infrastructure and anti-corruption mechanisms, which are absolutely independent. We have created the important national anti-corruption bureau, a specialised anti-corruption prosecution office and an independent national agency for preventing corruption, which is investigating ministers, members of parliament, local governors and a long list of public servants. The system has already brought positive results, and we now hear more often about criminal cases.

However, the fight against corruption is not about criminal prosecution alone; more important is the establishment of an effective system to prevent this disease, which eroded Ukraine for years following independence. The launch of a system of electronic declaration of the income, expenses and financial obligations of public servants has become one of the most effective tools in the fight against corruption. That measure does not exist in other countries, but it provides efficiency and is perhaps one of the world’s most ambitious government initiatives regarding transparency and accountability before society and its voters.

We pay particular attention to the deregulation and minimisation of the influence of public servants, including with the use of new technologies. The introduction of the ProZorro electronic platform – a totally new and transparent public procurement system – is a brilliant success story. The communications strategy aimed at preventing and countering corruption has also been adopted, and it provides for a routine anti-corruption culture in society. One could reasonably ask whether the anti-corruption glass is half empty or half full. My answer is that it is exactly half full.

The next strategic priority is further to build up the judiciary, and the renewal of social trust in Ukraine. I am sincerely grateful to the Council of Europe for its constant support for that most important reform, which we jointly started back in 2014. The amendment of the constitution regarding the judiciary was adopted with the expert assistance and valuable support of the Venice Commission in 2016, and we implemented every single word of that commission’s recommendations. There are also new laws on the judicial system and the status of judges, the high court council of justice and the constitutional court, and new procedural codes were adopted just a few days ago. Over the next few days, they will come to the presidential office to be signed, and all that has happened in less than three years. As the Venice Commission pointed out recently, such reforms are clearly aimed at reconstructing the Ukrainian justice system in accordance with the standards of the Council of Europe, and at securing the rule of law in Ukraine. That tectonic shift has permitted us to fill the judicial system with new substance, and provided the opportunity for us to build a truly independent judicial branch of power, based on European standards.

A complete reshuffle of the judicial system is under way. It started with the unprecedented re-launch of the supreme court under my initiative. Today Ukraine’s highest judicial institution is being set up from scratch via open competition and with the active participation of civil society. Among the winners of the competition for the post of judges in Ukraine’s new supreme court are lawyers, legal scholars and human rights advocates who have never previously worked as judges, as well as the best judges from all over Ukraine. They have passed a strict and thorough selection, including professional and psychological tests, as well as checks by the national anti-corruption bureau and the national agency for preventing corruption. Of course they must still prove their capabilities in practice, but it should be the best composition of the supreme court in Ukraine’s modern history. The high council of justice decided to submit 111 candidates to be new judges at Ukraine’s supreme court, and I will fulfil the process in the appropriate manner.

According to new rules, the launch of the new supreme court and the entire judicial system will become the point of no return for judicial reform and the successful steps that we have taken within that framework. I know that the creation of the anti-corruption court requires special attention. The creation of such a court is envisaged by law, and I submitted to Parliament measures on the judiciary and the status of judges that were adopted last year. The Venice Commission welcomed that initiative, and mentioned the need for a clean, independent, and efficient anti-corruption judicial body. We are currently considering the optimal way to establish that vital institution, but obviously we must not lose the substance of the reform behind the name.

Efforts invested in the establishment of the anti-corruption court will be successful if four elements are taken into account: first, legislation that complies with the Ukrainian constitution; secondly, independent, politically neutral and unbiased members of the commission should select the judges; thirdly, we need candidates who meet the highest standards of professionalism and integrity; and finally, the newly created court should enjoy the full trust of society. Today, there are some questions about the quality of the draft laws pending in Verkhovna Rada, and particularly about measures on the establishment of an anti-corruption court that have been submitted by a number of members of parliament. Those provisions seek to restore significant influence over the formation of the anti-corruption court to political bodies such as Verkhovna Rada, the Minister of Justice, and the President, and that gives rise to concern. All judicial reform initiated by me sought to create a court system that is completely independent of politicians.

Recent expert opinion from the Venice Commission clearly points out that political influence over the formation of the anti-corruption court is unacceptable because it contradicts European standards and the concept of constitutional reform built on the principle of maximum depoliticisation of the judiciary. That is why all democratic political forces and civil society must unite and work together with international experts to prepare professional, new and consolidated draft laws that are passed by Parliament. The main task for Ukraine is not only to establish the anti-corruption court, but to ensure fair legal proceedings within the framework of a unified and renewed system of justice.

Today, the entire judicial system in Ukraine must be anti-corruption in nature. That is an absolute prerequisite for the restoration of social trust and the strengthening of social unity. We count on the further support of this Assembly for the strengthening of civil society in Ukraine, based on the implementation of democratic standards, support for cultural diversity and the building up of social institutions.

In that regard, I draw the Assembly’s attention to the unreasonable politicisation of the law on education. My stance on education is clear: the nation’s future and security demands quality education and therefore that area should be reformed. Apart from being a significant part of the educational reform, the adopted law has become a law of equal opportunities for each stakeholder in the educational system.

Let me be clear: opportunities must be equal for all pupils, regardless of their origin, residence or nationality. It is unacceptable that children who belong to national minorities in Ukraine do not have an adequate knowledge of the Ukrainian language, which is needed for further education and in universities or institutes, and which is necessary for a professional career, public service, and self-realisation in Ukraine. The law intends to fix that problem. The Ukrainian Parliament has envisaged an improvement in students learning Ukrainian as part of pre-school and primary education, with a view to creating conditions for studying at a higher level in an official language. At the same time, the law safeguards the right of students to learn their native languages at the required level.

I remind the Assembly that the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages was adopted in Strasbourg 25 years ago. It stipulates that all commitments related to national minorities should be implemented without prejudice to the teaching of the official language or languages of the State. I believe that the provision of this charter should be applied by all signatories. I reassure you that there would be a guaranteed language right in accordance with the national legislation and with international commitments and standards, including the right to study in a native language.

At the same time, we will provide adequate teaching of the official language, Ukrainian. The best proof of this commitment is our decision to submit the respective article for assessment. It was my instruction to the minister for education and the minister for foreign affairs to send it for the independent assessment of the Venice Commission. I believe its conclusion will lift the controversial interpretation of the law, which is aimed to ensure a decent place for all the national minorities in an integrated Ukrainian society. I am confident that we will implement this assessment of the Venice Commission in our new legislation about education.

There is hardly a more evident example than Ukraine of a nation that has to fight wars on two fronts at the same time – the front of countering external military aggression and the restoration of sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the front of implementing difficult and complex reform. They say it is impossible to provide and implement reform in the time of war. Ukraine is now an example that not only is this possible, but we can do it in an absolutely responsible way.

The turning point was the Revolution of Dignity in late 2013 and early 2014. It is symbolic that, on the margins of my visit to Strasbourg, I will inaugurate the star for the heavenly hundred at the Strasbourg alley of stars. It will be a star for those heroes of the Revolution of Dignity who sacrificed their lives for our right to build a new country on the European model, who took the European future of Ukraine as their reason for life, their motivation to struggle against a former regime, and their aspiration for change and transformation in our country. By inaugurating a star for the heavenly hundred, we will commemorate their contribution to the history of Ukraine and of Europe. It is our common duty regarding their memory and sacrifice to be in both France and Ukraine to strengthen common values in a peaceful, stable and prosperous Europe. I believe this will come true thanks to our unity and solidarity. I thank you for this unity and solidarity. I thank you for your attention, your support and your confidence in our country.

Glory to Ukraine and glory to Europe. Thank you.


Thank you Mr President for your most interesting address. Members of the Assembly have questions they would like to put to you. I remind them that all questions must be limited to 30 seconds and no more. Colleagues need to ask questions and not make speeches.

I will allow one question from each of the political groups first. I call on Mr Korodi from the EPP to pose their question.

Mr KORODI (Romania), spokesperson for the Group of the European People’s Party

Thank you Mr President. We had sufficient information on Crimea so this is our second question. We followed closely the latest development in your country generated by the recent law on education, which limited the right to education in the mother tongue of national minorities. As Council of Europe members say, you should abide by the commitments assumed upon your accession, including internal protection of the rights of national minorities, why did you promulgate this law despite the criticisms expressed by your neighbourhood countries and international European institutions and NGOs, having significant ethnic communities in your territory?

Mr Porochenko, President of Ukraine

Thank you very much indeed for that question. To start with the law on education, our education system vitally needs reform. This is an investment in our future. Ukrainian schools have a great achievement. We want to modernise them to the current world standard.

Article 7 of the law criticised by some of our European partners intends to improve the use of the Ukrainian language in all spheres of public life, as well as the guaranteed free development of the views of national minorities. But imagine if pupils finishing at British, German or French schools cannot speak English, German or French? How will they survive in those countries? Can you imagine that 75% of graduates that finish school in Deregovka fail the test on the Ukrainian language? They simply do not understand the language. How can they go and survive in the country – go to work, use public services and continue the institutions in Ukraine? This is definitely discrimination for these children.

We do not have a single word against national minority languages. We would be happy for them to learn them. We already create this opportunity. We only ask them, please learn Ukrainian. This protects the rights of these children and protects them from discrimination. That is why we are absolutely open. We sent the draft law for assessment by the Venice Commission. We are ready for dialogue and ready to implement the results of the assessment in a practical law about secondary education. We specifically did not develop and vote on the law on secondary education because we are awaiting the results of the assessment. This is our readiness for co-operation.

Let me give you my own examples. I was born in Bolhrad in the south of the Odessa region – the centre of the Bulgarian minority in Ukraine.

(The speaker continued in Bulgarian.)

I speak Bulgarian.

(The speaker continued in English.)

Then I moved to the city where the Romanian minority lives.

(The speaker continued in Romanian.)

I also speak Romanian.

(The speaker continued in English.)

I then worked in Kiev with our Polish colleagues.

(The speaker continued in Polish.)

I also speak Polish.

(The speaker continued in English.)

I also fluently speak English.

(The speaker continued in Russian.)

Of course, I can speak Russian extremely well.

(The speaker continued in Ukrainian.)

I obviously also speak Ukrainian.

(The speaker continued in English.)

This creates a unique opportunity. That is what I want to see among our national minority regions: to be bilingual or trilingual, the same as in any other country. Is anybody against that?

We have in Article 7 a guarantee for the children who learn European languages – not only English and French, but Hungarian, Polish, Bulgarian, Romanian and others. At the end of their fifth year of study, up to 60% of their education would be a national minority language and 40% would be Ukrainian. In the 12th year of study it would be a different proportion – 40% would be a national minority language and 60% would be the official language. It would not only be national minority languages, but some disciplines would be presented in a national minority language.

This is the law we are talking about. We should depoliticise the discussion and have clear and friendly co-operation. We are open to this co-operation. I asked a member of my Government – the Minister for Education – to come here to Strasbourg. They had a very long discussion. If necessary, Minister Hrynevych is happy to meet you, to listen to you and to implement steps to address every single thing that worries you. We are open. We are European. We meet the criteria of all the conventions. Together we can solve any problem, including this one.

Ms BARNETT (Germany), spokesperson for the Socialist Group

Thank you very much for your interesting presentation, President Poroshenko. What internal, domestic political difficulties do you think still affect your implementation of the Minsk agreement, particularly with regard to the Donbass? What is standing in the way of a political solution and what will you do to bring about one?

Mr Porochenko, President of Ukraine

Thank you for your question. This is extremely important in better understanding the current situation. In February 2015 and September 2014, we signed up to the Minsk agreement, which has two parts: a security package and a political package. From the political package, Ukraine voted for the amnesty law and for the special order for some regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. We voted in Parliament on the line that defines the occupied territory, and we should implement this law, and we voted for the constitution on first reading. We have implemented 95% of the political package.

As for the security package, from the Russians we are waiting first and foremost for the ceasefire. We have not had one single day without firing and we have paid the highest price for that. More than 2 700 Ukrainian soldiers and more than 7 000 civilians were killed in this war. We demand a ceasefire as point No. 1. Point No. 2 is the withdrawal of all the foreign troops, including Russian troops, from the occupied territory. That is their obligation under Minsk. Can you imagine any political process taking place when we have occupying troops in the Donbass? Can you imagine any election meeting OSCE criteria or any democratic standards under the occupation of the Russian army and Russian proxies? With 45,000 people with arms in their hands, can you imagine a free and fair election? Nobody would have the opportunity to run a campaign with the participation of Ukrainian political parties, Ukrainian media and the Ukrainian election commission. There would be no participation with anything. It would be the same as the fake referendum in Crimea and the fake election in 2014. That is why we demand the implementation of the security package, please. We demand uninterrupted access for the special monitoring mission of OSCE observers to all the occupied territories, including the border. We demand the release of all hostages. Everything is now in the hands of one person: Putin. That is why our solidarity and unity is vitally important.

As a demonstration of our decisiveness, last week I, as President of Ukraine, introduced two very important laws to Parliament. One was on reunification of the country and the other was on the continuation of the special order law, because when we voted on that in 2014, we thought everything would be finished in 2017 and that this territory would be reintegrated into Ukraine, but nothing has happened. The law will continue for another year. I thank all my Members of Parliament who voted in support of my proposal. It is a very bright demonstration that Ukraine is united and capable of implementing all its obligations. The only things we need are unity and world solidarity, and responsible behaviour from the Russian Federation.

When I was in New York we agreed a very important initiative involving the Blue Helmets – the United Nations peacekeepers – under the mandate of the United Nations Security Council. How could anybody be against that? It would secure the territory, because at the very next moment every Russian soldier who is on that territory would be brightly presented to the world community. We need to insist on that. We need peace in my country. We need to stop killing Ukrainians. We need to restore law and order. This is a vitally important question for me, and I again thank all the Assembly for the very strong support you have demonstrated during the last year. It has been vital for us, so thank you.

Ms GILLAN (United Kingdom), Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group

President, on behalf of the European Conservatives I congratulate you on an astute and forthright speech to our Assembly today. Without a solution to the illegal actions of the Russian Federation in Crimea, their actions will poison European relations for years to come. How would you view, under the highest international scrutiny of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the OSCE and the European Union, the possibility of another referendum in Crimea with three choices: to stay with Ukraine; to stay with the Russian Federation; or to be semi-independent under United Nations supervision? Could you accept such a referendum and could you abide by the will of the people?

Mr Porochenko, President of Ukraine

Thank you very much for those encouraging words. I am ready to accept anything that is adequate for the Ukrainian constitution. Under our constitution we can have local and national referendums. Territorial integrity and sovereignty is the competence of national referendums, but before we talk about anything, Crimea should be returned to Ukrainian sovereignty. We would then be ready for any negotiation and to launch any democratic process under the Ukrainian constitution. If Crimea is under the illegal annexation of the Russia Federation, which happened in spring 2014 and has been confirmed by all the international documents, it will be impossible because it is under occupation. Can you imagine a referendum in the Czech Sudetenland in 1938? This is the same: it is impossible to hold a referendum under the barrels of Russian tanks. It would not be a referendum and would have nothing to do with democracy. Crimea should be returned to the Ukraine.

By the way, we are not selling or buying Crimea. It is not a question of money, gas, oil or anything else. It is about law and order in Europe and security in Europe and the whole world. After illegal annexation of the Crimea, the Russian Federation completely destroyed the whole post-war security system established under the United Nations Security Council, where the Russian Federation is one of the P5 members. The Russian Federation, together with the United Kingdom, the United States, France, and China was a guarantor of our sovereignty, territory and integrity under the Budapest memorandum, when the Ukraine voluntarily gave up the third biggest nuclear arsenal in the world. Do you think that the Russian Federation would have attacked us if we had nuclear weapons? I doubt it. But this is not a question of us demanding the nuclear weapons back. On the contrary, we think that the system of non-proliferation is the way to global security. That is another reason why we need unity and solidarity with the whole civilised world. I thank you and I thank Britain for the strong support for our sovereignty.

Ms BRASSEUR (Luxembourg), spokesperson for the Alliance for Liberals and Democrats for Europe

Mr President, welcome back to the Council of Europe, where I had the honour and the pleasure to receive you three years ago.

In your remarkable speech, you referred to combating corruption, which is one of the greatest challenges, among others, that you have to fight. You also referred to the Venice Commission, which said that the provision has to be withdrawn and that you now have to introduce a new text to create an anti-corruption body. You said you are going to do that. Do you have the majority in the Verkhovna Rada to give effect to that request? Do you have the right people to implement that important law afterwards?

Mr Porochenko, President of Ukraine

First, I want to thank you personally, and the Assembly, for the very warm welcome given to me, my country and my people three years ago. I remember that and thank you for your hospitality and your strong and firm position.

I definitely think that we have a majority for the anti-corruption court as a symbol. Unfortunately, as you know, in parliament, the devil is in the detail. That is why it is extremely important that I want to have the votes of the whole parliament – all members; we are not talking about the coalition. Corruption is a cancer in any country. They should find a compromise, present it to me, and I will be immediately ready to initiate that draft law. We should work hard, but again, we have done a great job in the last three years to create such anti-corruption institutions that never before existed in our world, which is extremely important. I give the example of electronic declarations. All members of parliament, all ministers and all governors have to declare how many lamps, candelabra and pots they have in their homes. The price of being a public servant is being transparent. The National Anti-Corruption Bureau, which even today is investigating and arresting ministers, has full independence. Now, we should concentrate efforts to help parliament find a compromise with the Russian Federation.

I strongly believe in my parliament. It has done a great job on all the reform and I am absolutely confident that it will find an opportunity to vote on and to implement the anti-corruption court. I would remind you that the first mention of the term anti-corruption court in Ukrainian legislation was in my draft law, which has been voted through and has already come into force. That is why I am completely optimistic on that.

I want to thank the Venice Commission once again, because it plays a very important role in judicial reform. Every draft law is assessed by the Venice Commission and it is very important that we have that trust. We trust the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission, and they trust us. That is a unique form of co-operation.

Mr KOX (Netherlands), spokesperson for the Group of the Unified European Left

Mr President, in 2014, you said to this Assembly that the only way out of the crisis in Ukraine was via peaceful dialogue. When we visited you in Kiev a year later, in 2015, with the Presidential Committee, you repeated that idea: peaceful dialogue, no military solution possible. It is now October 2017 and still the peaceful dialogue with the citizens in the east of your country has to start. You put the blame on the Russian Federation, and they bear a huge responsibility, but where is your responsibility to finally do what you promised – to start a peaceful dialogue with the citizens of your country to find an end to this horrible crisis? I look forward to your answer.

Mr Porochenko, President of Ukraine

Look, since our meeting in 2014, Ukraine has delivered two-thirds of occupied Donbass. In every single town and village where we do not have Russian troops, believe me, we have a fantastic dialogue. We do not have one single tiny problem. We are investing a huge amount of money to restore the infrastructure, with the assistance of our partners. I visit Donbass every month, opening schools, bridges, roads and kindergartens. We have a fantastic dialogue there.

Can you imagine any dialogue in the occupied territory? The only pre-condition for that dialogue is the withdrawal of Russian troops. We do not have any tiny conflict. From the very beginning, the Russian Federation wanted to present the situation as a civil war, but I am proud that we now have a full list of evidence about the Russian presence, Russian hybrid war, Russian propaganda and Russian provocation. It is not just a few thousand people, it is several million people, who now live in a disastrous humanitarian condition, with a disastrous level of unemployment, with disastrous conditions for the elderly, with limited access for children to education and with a disastrous level of poverty. People hate the idea of continuing to live under those conditions. That is why our co-ordinated position is vitally important, with the implementation of the Minsk agreement and its security package. I am absolutely confident that when we have peacekeepers – the Blue Helmets – and the security pre-condition, we will immediately do the same as we have done in Sloviansk, Lisichansk, Kramatorsk and in many, many other cities including Mariupol, where we have restored law and order and have a fantastic dialogue with the local communities. There is not any single reason for disturbance. That is why our unity and solidarity is so important.


Thank you, Mr President, for your comprehensive address and for updating us on the advancement of the reforms in Ukraine. We particularly appreciate your country’s efforts to reform the judiciary, to fight corruption and to guarantee the highest ethical standards, as well as to promote decentralisation. Your views on the way forward for a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Donbass are also very important. For there to be peace, stability and respect for human rights, violence and fighting must stop. It is therefore very important to ensure full implementation of the Minsk agreement.

On behalf of the Assembly, I thank you most warmly for your address and for the answers given to questions. I wish you and Ukraine every success. Thank you.