Statements to the Press by Vice President Biden and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko
Presidential Administration Building
3:10 P.M. (Local)
PRESIDENT POROSHENKO: (As interpreted) Dear colleagues, dear friends, first of all, I would like to greet everyone on the Day of Freedom and Dignity that Ukraine marks today for the first time, the first anniversary of our revolution of dignity, and the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Orange Revolution.
I think that both of these events played a significant role in forming the modern Ukrainian state, not a lesser role than the 24th of October -- August when Ukraine gained its independence. And now that we are fighting a patriotic war, Ukraine requires, as never before, wisdom and consolidation.
I believe it is very symbolic that today we are having the visit of our -- the dear friend of Ukraine, the Vice President of the United States of America, our great friend Joe Biden.
The subject of our negotiations is very broad. It is assistance and coordination by the United States here in Ukraine. In these very difficult times, it is very important. I like the phrase that Mr. Vice President spoke that these six days, the six weeks and six months will probably be of the biggest importance for Ukraine.
And, in fact, within the six days, we have to finish forming the coalition government to find all the compromises, all the factions that participate in the coalition process. And I congratulate everyone that today the factions have signed, in fact, the coalition agreement that paves the way for the quickest possible formation of the government. I completely agree with this estimation. And I absolutely support the necessity of its quickest formation.
Of course, the priority of our negotiations today with the Vice President of the United States was two things. Firstly, the security and defense. And secondly, I would like to say that we agreed that the most agreeable format for the peace process is the format of the Minsk negotiations; a third partite -- three-partite contact group where we have to provide for several key elements of the Minsk peace plan. Those are the immediate cease-fire; creation of a buffer zone; the immediate withdrawal to the separation zone and the withdrawal of armed units and armed machinery; and immediate beginning of negotiations through local elections under Ukrainian active legislation in the temporarily occupied territory in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
The peace plan is needed as never before. Ukraine has been adhering to its obligations that it took upon itself when the Minsk protocol and the Minsk memorandum were signed. And we are now reaching common opinion that these are the basic framework that all the sides have to adhere to. And we have to make everything possible to provide for this. We are very thankful that we are continuing our cooperation in the United States in the defense field. And I am convinced that this is all great assistance to us in implementing the position of protecting the independence and security of our nation.
We have discussed our cooperation in the energy sphere and many other points from atomic energy, to crisis response -- especially for the situation when gas supplies will be put under question. And of course, we have made a great contribution that relevant documents were signed in Brussels. And this is what the energy security of Europe and Ukraine are depending on. And we are providing for that.
And the third point is our cooperation towards reforms. We presented today the main directions of reforms. Most of them were included in the coalition agreement, and the big part were reflected in the 2020 strategy.
Today our representatives, I hope they can make a road show to present our reform program in Europe and the whole world. And we have agreed about a very profound assistance that the United States and our European partners will be able to provide financially and otherwise towards the reforms. This is what Ukraine needs the most today.
We have also agreed on the financial assistance in coordination with the International Monetary Fund. And we expect that right after the government has been formed these processes will soon be completed.
And as for the upcoming days and weeks, coordination and cooperation in the fields of security and reforms -- economics and finance and energy are very effective. Thank you very much for this effective cooperation.
I would like to thank our dear friend of Ukraine, Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you for welcoming me once again. This is my third trip in the last seven months. You must be getting tired of seeing me as often as you do. And counting your trip to Washington, this is the fourth time we’ve met in person. And if anyone measures importance by the effort America is putting into this relationship on making sure that the Ukrainian government, it’s democratically elected leaders, making sure that you have international support. This is a pretty good place to start.
Mr. President, you’ve shown tremendous leadership under extraordinarily difficult conditions. And today, on this day of dignity and remembrance, I want to congratulate all Ukrainians on last month’s successful parliamentary elections -- which were overwhelmingly endorsed by Ukrainians as well as the entire international community as being fair and free. And I want to congratulate you again, Mr. President.
This is an important moment -- a chance to make good on the promise of 25 years ago when the Iron Curtain came down; the sacrifices that brave Ukrainians who are even now defending against Russian aggression in the east -- to make good on the efforts of thousands of unsung heroes, civil society activists, ordinary citizens who are trying to preserve a normal life in Donbas, preventing -- preserving their freedom in cities like Mariupol; and of course the promise of those long nights on the Maidan, freezing and facing down sniper fire. You are a remarkable people, the Ukrainian people. You’re a brave people. And you’ve demonstrated that once again to the whole world. And through your courage and your sacrifice, Ukrainians have won -- you’ve won for yourselves a chance to fundamentally alter the history of your country for the better -- much better.
So I want to urge all Ukrainians to seize this moment, take advantage of the momentum of this day, and keep building the democracy that you so desperately and richly deserve to keep moving your country forward.
Today, the President and I discussed all the work that's ahead. We spoke about the threat to Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity posed by Russian aggression. It’s simply unacceptable in the 21st century for countries to attempt to redraw borders by force in Europe, or anywhere for that matter; or to intervene militarily because they don’t like a decision their neighbor has made.
In fact, Russian behavior represents a flagrant violation of the bedrock principles of our international system. Which is why the international community has responded with one voice --amplifying your voice, Mr. President, the voice of all Ukrainians, helping Ukrainians defend their sovereignty and their security and the security of your nation. The international community condemning Russian actions, expanding security assistance to Ukraine, imposing greater and greater costs on Russia for its illegal actions, and refusing to accept the so-called elections held by separatists on November the 2nd.
These weren’t democratic elections. They were a Kremlin-orchestrated farce. And let me say as clearly and categorically as I can, America does not and will not recognize Russian occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea. We do not, will not, and insist others do not accept this illegal annexation.
Now, there’s a different path for Russia and her proxies, a different path they can take. In fact, it’s a path that has already been signed on into paper via the Minsk agreement that the President spoke of; a series of concrete commitments: adhere to the ceasefire, which they are not; restore Ukrainian control over its own borders, with permanent monitoring at the border; remove now illegal military formations, military equipment and militants; and facilitate the release of all hostages. That's what was agreed to by Mr. Putin. None of that has occurred.
If Russia were to fulfill these commitments, and respect Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, we can begin a rational discussion about sanctions. But that's not what has happened. Instead, we’ve seen more provocative actions, more blatant disregard for the agreement that was signed not long ago by Russia. And so long as that continues, Russia will face rising costs and greater isolation. It’s quite straightforward and simple. There’s a way to change all that. Do what you agreed to do, Mr. Putin.
But as President Poroshenko and I have discussed, even if the guns in the east fell silent tomorrow, Ukraine would still face a struggle for its democratic and economic future here in Kyiv. There’s a lot of work to do in Kyiv. It begins with forming a new government -- in days, not weeks. Form a new government as quickly as possible. It should be done in days not weeks.
Push forward the reform agenda that has been agreed upon and the Ukrainian people -- an agenda that the Ukrainian people have so resoundingly endorsed: stronger democratic institutions; a more accountable government; greater integration with Europe; a more prosperous economy; and resolute efforts to root out the cancer of corruption that has hobbled Ukraine for a long time.
It will face no more consequential mission than confronting corruption. President Poroshenko has shown a seriousness of purpose, and the Rada has passed important anti-corruption legislation. Now the real challenge is seeing it through.
Later today, I’ll be meeting with members of the parliament and civil society to talk about how we, the United States, can work with you -- can work with them, can work together to maintain the momentum in this all-important fight.
The President and I also discussed Ukraine’s economic situation. President Poroshenko and Prime Minister Yatsenyuk have worked very hard to develop a reform program with the IMF. The President and I have met with the IMF, as well, regarding Ukraine. And let me assure you, as Ukraine continues on this course, international partners will step up and help, starting with the United States.
We’re working closely with international institutions to make sure Ukraine has the financial resources and support that it needs. And as we do, we are looking for opportunities to improve Ukraine’s business climate and increase trade and investment. But it all depends on following through on the reforms, which have begun.
And finally I want to make clear America’s commitment to Ukraine is not just about business and governments, it’s personal. It’s grounded in the friendship between our people. And in the next few months, American Peace Corps volunteers will be returning to Ukraine to continue the work they have done for more for than 20 years.
Building a democracy is difficult. Building a democracy takes patience. Building a democracy requires follow-through on the rhetoric that sounds so good when it’s asserted. Hard work, ironclad determination -- these are what is needed. And even then there is no absolute guarantee of success. It’s hard work.
What I can guarantee is that, so long as, Mr. President, you and your colleagues keep faith with your commitment to build a more democratic and prosperous life, you will never be alone. The United States will be at your side -- your partner and your friend.
So, Mr. President, may God bless you and your colleagues and the people of Ukraine, on this important day of dignity. And may God bless the United States of America in being able to continue to help you in your efforts.
Thank you, Mr. President.
3:28 P.M. (Local)