In an interview with the Deputy head of the presidential Administration of Ukraine Konstantin Yeliseyev, which deals with international direction, we met just a week after the NSDC decision on the termination of the movement of goods across the line of contact. This was preceded by a two-month blockade of the Ukrainian “patriots” (with the support of deputies from “Samopomich”) W/d paths in the Donbass, which resulted in the seizure by Pro-Russian militants Ukrainian enterprises.
The interview was scheduled for 16:30, but started a conversation, we are actually at 18:00 – Konstantin Petrovich detained the President. The interview was constantly interrupted by calls: the former head of the AP, and now Secretary of the National investment Council under the President of Ukraine Borys Lozhkin will call the head of the parliamentary Committee on foreign Affairs Hanna hopko, an urgent message from the Ukrainian Embassy…
– Konstantin Petrovich, let’s begin with the positive. We are on the threshold of a visa-free regime. The European Parliament needs to say their “I do’s” on April 6. At the same time, there is a danger that a legislative initiative on the abolition of visas for Ukrainians may not have time to submit to the European Parliament or the Council of the EU in time. Therefore, the date of introduction of a visa-free regime can be postponed for two weeks.
– You know, the danger is always there. But because of this decision, we waited for almost a year, I think, a week or two the weather does not change. But we are on the right track in its final stages and already the partner countries, including former skeptics, the answer is: “Bezviz will”. We sincerely hope that on April 5 this issue will be discussed, and on 6 April – will be voted and a decision in the European Parliament. Then he needs to tell the EU Council of Ministers, i.e. the member States. Thus, barring force majeure, in the summer the citizens of Ukraine will have the right to visa-free travel to the Schengen zone.
– Is it true that France is blocking the consideration of a decision until the presidential elections?
– Again, to date, a consensus has emerged among all countries – EU members, including France, regarding the importance of granting Ukraine visa-free regime. And we appreciate the support of France, Germany, the Netherlands or even take a country like Luxembourg. For EU countries it is becoming a matter of honor and deed of trust to what they promise.
All photos from the site president.gov.ua
Also today (Wednesday 22 March – Ed.) Rada appealed to the U.S. Congress with a request to sign a bilateral defense agreement with Ukraine and to provide us with the status of the main ally outside NATO. The decision of the Ukrainian Parliament agreed with the President?
– Let’s start from the fact that Parliament is an independent authority. But in this case this is a situation when the position of BP and the position of the administration of the President coincide. We want closer and more constructive relations with the United States. The United States is not just a strategic partner – the state-the guarantor of our sovereignty and territorial integrity, in particular, in accordance with the notorious Budapest Memorandum. Therefore, we expect that the U.S. will continue to play a key role in safeguarding our sovereignty and territorial integrity. Unfortunately, back in 2008 at the Bucharest NATO summit, we decided not to provide a Plan of action concerning membership in the NATO (Membership action plan). Believe that as long as the question of Ukraine’s membership in NATO will not be resolved, we need to conclude a series of bilateral agreements in the field of security and defence with our key partners. And one of the key partners is the United States. So I vote that we have agreed and signed with the American side of an ambitious bilateral agreement. Thus we would create clear legal framework for our bilateral cooperation, and deepened the already existing positive experience of cooperation in the sphere of defense and security. Therefore, the decision of the Parliament is a step in the right direction. I hope that our bilateral dialogue with the new administration of the President of the United States this question will find understanding and support.
– If USA will give a positive response that will provide for such a bilateral agreement?
– I didn’t want premature to comment on the possible content of the document. Of course, we have a certain vision. I again repeat that this is not a new idea. It was studied in 2008-2009. Unfortunately, the past administration then lightly treated the Ukrainian proposal. I hope that the new US Administration will take it positively and we will start active preparation. During a recent visit to Washington, foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin invited the American side to begin the discussion of this issue. I am convinced that support of the Ukrainian Parliament will only strengthen our position.
– In Brussels on 25 may will take place the NATO summit. Ukraine will be provided there?
– Ukraine is not a NATO member…
– Last year at the NATO summit in Warsaw Ukraine was represented by large delegation headed by President Petro Poroshenko.
– Following the regular NATO Summit will take place in 2018. These forums occur every two years. I hope that, as in the case of Warsaw, Ukraine will be invited and there will be a meeting of the Commission Ukraine-NATO at the highest level. 25 may this year in Brussels will hold a special meeting of leaders of the countries-members of NATO in connection with the arrival of the new US administration. Task – ensure the integrity and inviolability of the Alliance to admit Montenegro to NATO and to hold the inauguration of the new headquarters of the Alliance.
– Just about the new American President, the American administration has finally formulated its position on Ukraine?
– First of all, we are satisfied with the level and intensity of dialogue between Ukraine and the new American Administration. As you know, held two telephone conversation of the President of Ukraine with President Donald trump. Petro Poroshenko had a long and fruitful meeting with the Vice-President of the United States Mike Pence in February in Munich (on the sidelines of the Munich security conference – Ed.). In addition, dialogue has begun with newly appointed U.S. Secretary Rex Tillerson, twice Minister of foreign Affairs Pavlo Klimkin visited Washington. Continued active visits in the U.S. our members and the visits members of Congress to Ukraine. Get acquainted with new members of the national security Council of the United States and the White House, the state Department… I Think that it is time to go from intensity to a new quality and content of our relations. Today we are doing this. Trying to prioritize so-called Ukrainian question in the foreign policy agenda of the new us Administration. In parallel, we are continuing work on preparation of visit of the President of Ukraine to the United States, to consolidate the positive trends in our dialogue and to bring Washington into active participation in restoring peace and security in Europe.
– Visit of Petro Poroshenko to the States was to be held at the end of February, but the calendar is already the end of March. Some have resorted to conspiracy, they say, the United States is not to Ukraine.
– First of all, as they say, all things work out for the best. Indeed, we have suggested dates in late February. But, as you know, at that time there were some difficult HR processes in the new Administration. At that time, unfortunately, was not yet occupied key positions in the new us Administration, state Department, national security Council. So there are some objective reasons for the lack of specific dates. Secondly, we, of course, interested in substantive visit, not a visit for a visit. Therefore, in addition to dates we would like to form a concrete agenda in order to reach certain agreements. In the near future we plan to continue contacts at the highest level for approval of such agreements.
That is, during the recent visit of Pavlo Klimkin to Washington was preparing the ground for future negotiations of Petro Poroshenko with Donald trump?
– Of course, use all opportunities in order to prepare the main and key meeting of the Ukrainian-American summit. Therefore, the recent visit of Deputy assistant Secretary of the USA Bridget brink in Ukraine was considered in this context. I want to reiterate: the summit will take place as soon as two parties agree on the agenda and content for future meetings. Of course, we would like that to happen as quickly as possible.
– After the story of the visa-free regime does not want to focus on specific dates. But still, is it possible to predict that before the summer new American Administration will form its policy on Ukraine?
– This question would be better addressed to the us Administration. As for Ukraine, we do everything we can to make it happen, and life will show.
– Can States to join the “Channel format”?
My answer to this question is: the problem is not the formats. What we did not format if there is the political will from the Russian side to implement the agreement, any format will not help. From time to time voices are heard that the “Normandy format” ineffective, let’s do “Budapest format, the Geneva format”, etc. My point is this: no matter what format. For us the main thing that in this format present Russia. Now in the “Channel format” is the Russian Federation, in which we work. In my opinion, the talk about formats, make the debate completely the wrong way. I think we need to concentrate more on meaningful things, such as how to ensure the implementation of agreements and work on new initiatives that would bring key peace and stability in the Donbass, the restoration of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders. We are interested not so much the format as a result. Let’s just say we would welcome any format that will bring results.
– Let’s think about a country like Poland. During a visit to Kiev, Polish foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said that “Europe must provide advanced format” of negotiations with Russia.
– First of all, this question is best addressed to the Polish side. But once again I would like to emphasize, not one desire of the Ukrainian side, you need the consent of other participants. We are grateful to the Polish party for its willingness to help Ukraine. We look forward to further active support for the Polish side to overcome the challenges facing Ukraine. Consider, for example, that a good tool for maintaining a successful climate of bilateral relations was the refusal of some Polish politicians from politicizing the topic difficult pages of our common history and sustained its operation in favor of Russian propaganda.
On the sidelines of the Munich security conference held a meeting of foreign Ministers of “Norman Quartet.” But, judging by the results, the meeting was more for the sake of meeting. On what is now the level where contacts are made and that the preparation of a Road map?
– The process of preparing the roadmap continues. The discussion in the “Normandy format” has never stopped. They occur at different levels – at the level of experts, of political Directors, a diplomatic advisers and Ministers. But it is very important that through this format we continue to discuss ways to implement exactly the Minsk agreements and key issues in the field of security, which must be fulfilled by the Russian side. As if someone wanted to, but the Minsk agreements remain the basis for settlement of the situation in the Donbas and the restoration of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
Fact is, Russia does not agree to a Road map authorship Germany, France and Ukraine, as it has its own version of the document?
– I would not want to go into details, because that would be incorrect from the point of view of diplomatic ethics. Today, in principle, the absence of political will of the Russian side to implement the Minsk agreements. The issue is not how good or bad the Minsk agreement. They are what they are. But the problem is the lack of will of Russia to comply with them. The Kremlin is waiting: the internal collapse of Ukraine, early parliamentary elections, favorable changes in the political landscape in Europe. So far, fortunately, all in vain. But that doesn’t mean we have to wait and complain, strewing ashes on his head. We need to work hard, mobilizing the international community, to convince of the need to continue the sanctions policy. We must succeed in reforming our country to become stable economically, politically and financially. After all, politically stable and economically strong, prosperous and democratic Ukraine is the biggest nightmare for the Kremlin. We together with our partners, must create a situation where the Kremlin will understand that it is better to perform the Minsk agreement than their torpedo.
– So Russia has its own version of the roadmap?
– Whatever version of the roadmap, we are working on a joint working document. It was proposed by the Germans and the French. And on the basic parameters of the document from the Ukrainian side, they have a mutual understanding.
– But Russia does not have…
– I don’t want anybody to blame. Continues difficult process. But I am convinced that if the political will (of the Kremlin – Ed.) we will be able very quickly to agree on this document.
– At the same time, we know that on a nose elections in Germany. Is it right to say that the summit of leaders of “Norman Quartet” will not take place until the elections in Germany?
– I use the saying “never say never”. Leaders meeting will be held when it will be a real need and when it will be circumscribed real results. Today we are working on implementing the decisions of the Normandy summit, which was held in Berlin in October last year. Of course, we are actively monitoring the situation in the Donbass, which today is in the context of a number of recent decisions in Russia and supported the militants. In particular, on the recognition of documents of illegal formations “DNR/LNR”, to expropriate Ukrainian companies, on the introduction of the ruble zone, etc. I think there is work to do. But again, it is important for us to perform the first paragraph of the Minsk agreement is to provide a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire, to do everything possible to not killed and did not suffer the Ukrainians. What, today, unfortunately, is not happening.
– You do not think that Russia has long wanted to carry out the expropriation of the Ukrainian enterprises in the Donbas. And then this opportunity came along: in fact, the hands of the Ukrainian “patriots” to take everything, still under sanctions not to get.
– That now occurs on Donbass, we actively monitor. Moscow realized, in fact, the so-called Transnistrian scenario. But unlike Transnistria, according to our forecasts, Russia in the Donbas is not interested in the cessation of hostilities, attacks, provocations, sabotage. With the escalation of tension it is trying to destabilize the political and economic situation in the country, to create a so-called “controlled instability” not to give Ukraine to create a positive background for the active and successful reform. Russia needs a permanent source of instability that it is today, and performs in the Donbas. We will do everything possible to coordinate and mobilize the global Pro-Ukrainian coalition, to exert pressure on Moscow to demonstrate the political will to implement the Minsk agreements. And, of course, we continue to promote the process of de-occupation of Crimea.
– If we consider the negative scenario and Ukrainian enterprises, which expropriated the Pro-Russian fighters, not coming back, what will be the Ukraine? We will appeal to the international community to impose sanctions against these companies?
– The situation with the expropriation of enterprises difficult. The decision of the Council for the adoption of specific measures for the suspension of all trade relations, transport of goods, economic cooperation with those companies, which were seized by Russian militants. I would like to emphasise that cooperation in production, after some confusing and uses the term “trade”. There is no trade, the more “blood” was not carried out. Carried out the normal economic cooperation between the Ukrainian enterprises within the territory of Ukraine and within existing production chains. The national security Council was forced to make this decision because it is impossible to carry out cooperation with enterprises, which had been captured. The mere contact with them would mean the recognition of the fact of seizure. Now we are monitoring the situation which occurs in the temporarily occupied territories after the decision of the NSDC. We actively use international platforms to explain what is happening, the mechanisms of the Tripartite contact group in Minsk “Norman format”.
One key caveat, this is all happening on the eve of presidential elections in Russia in March 2018. But it is clear that open support for the raw material captured by enterprises of Russia will not go until July 31, when the EU will consider the issue of extending sanctions against Russia.
– First of all, I think the international community has not yet said its last word in a situation that is happening now in the Donbas. We look forward to a powerful reaction of the international community, including through the mechanisms of international sanctions against Russia. I do not exclude that the Ukrainian side will also have to introduce targeted sanctions against those Russian companies and individuals that will be involved in business and economic transactions with Ukrainian enterprises, which were seized. We are also actively working with the international community, in order to explain these wrongful and totally rude actions of the Russian side. And, of course, we do and, I believe, will do everything possible to ensure that no Ukrainian product should not get into the territory of the EU or on the territory of third countries. For this we will use bilateral mechanisms for international cooperation: as the Association Agreement EU-Ukraine and norms of international organizations such as WTO, etc. On this issue on behalf of the President active work.
– Is it possible to assume that the Kremlin will go to the annexation of the occupied territories of Donbass on the eve of presidential elections in Russia?
– What is happening now is the creeping transformation of the situation in the Transnistrian scenario. Therefore, do not exclude the holding of any referenda or local elections, even fake, from which Russia dissociate themselves, but in fact de facto it will strongly support and promote. So again I say, everything will depend on the position of Ukraine, and our effective cooperation with partner countries in order to stop it.
– We know that the planned visit of Petro Poroshenko to Malta, where he will host a summit of leaders of the European people’s party. With whom it plans to talk to the President?
– Planned working visit of the President of Malta to participate in the Congress and the enlarged summit of heads of state and government of the European people’s party on March 29-30. It is planned that the head of state will speak during a meeting of the Congress of the European people’s party. Let me remind you that members of the European people’s party (the largest party in Europe) are the leaders of the overwhelming majority of countries-EU members and all the leaders of the institutions of the European Union. So it is very good that you will be given a platform to talk about the priorities of internal reforms, about our achievements and about the challenges that we face in the context of Russian aggression in Donbas and the temporary occupation of the Crimea. Of course, the President will have about a dozen bilateral meetings with EU leaders and leaders of its member countries.
– Meeting with Merkel would not? Indeed, in may, she goes to Moscow…
– I would like to stress that the most intensive bilateral contacts, the President of all European leaders with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. And it even pay attention to our partners, noting the high intensity of bilateral dialogue. I do not exclude that in the near future will be another conversation between the two leaders.
– Maybe there will be coordination before the talks, Merkel and Putin?
My small, but still experience and meetings in the “Normandy format” shows that the German Chancellor is the most devoted to the details of the European politician in the Donbass and Crimea. And I think there is in Europe today a leader who would be so detailed and thoroughly conversant with the situation regarding the Minsk agreements and the dangerous situation which develops today in the Donbas. She always remembers Ukraine and in great detail informed, what’s going on. This was confirmed by her recent visit to Washington and meeting with President trump. But, of course, our coordination is not only limited to her specific visit to Moscow. Our interaction is permanent. And we really appreciate it.