President Petro Poroshenko's full speech at the First Moment of Peace, the solemn symbolic ceremony held in Kyiv on May 8, 2017
Your Holiness! Your Beatitudes, fathers!
The most respected veterans of the Second World War and the national liberation movement! Fighters for independence who are currently protecting our land from the Russian aggression!
The most respected foreign guests whom the Ukrainian capital city is now hosting so gladly, sincerely and hospitably!
Eurovision is the true festival of peace that unites the post-war Europe; it’s been the second time that Kyiv has been hosting this event. Twelve years ago, Ukraine’s Ruslana made it possible, and now, our country hosts it again – thanks to Jamala. She is the one who turned attention of the entire continent to the fate of Crimean Tatars, to the history of her homeland, the Ukrainian Crimea. Crimea is now the peninsula, which is annexed by Putin’s Russia – just like Hitler’s Germany captured large territories of Europe almost 80 years ago.
In May 1945, our forefathers defeated the Nazis, serving within the global anti-Hitlerite coalition. But not every nation could enjoy the hard-won freedom. The Soviet Union released and immediately captured Eastern and Central Europe, created the socialist camp – what a precise definition! – and separated it with the iron curtain from the free countries. Due to the Velvet Revolutions of the late 1980s and the early 1990s, the curtain eventually collapsed.
On May 11, the Council of Europe should finally approve the visa-free regime for Ukrainian citizens who travel to Schengen area in Europe. It’s a truly historical event, without a slightest exaggeration. It marks our final and conclusive return to the consolidated European civilization.
It is quite natural that for four consecutive years, on May 8, we’ve been marking the Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation in WWII along with most of the European countries. 23.01, May 8, 1945 is the moment when the fire ceased, and Europe enjoyed the first minute of the hard-won peace.
The WWII is the most horrible war in the entire history. An abundance of human and national tragedies combined, making an epic picture that makes blood curdle even now – though dozens of years went by.
65 million fatalities all over the world; from eight to ten million of those are Ukrainians. The deadly firestorm hovered over Ukraine twice – eastward and westward. Our homeland witnessed intense military actions, which involved about 60 percent of the Wehrmacht divisions and half of the Red Army’s units. That war was also about the two million Ukrainian girls and boys brought to Germany for compulsory labor. It was about hard labor and concentration camps. It was about Babyn Yar ravine, where in autumn 2016, we marked the 75th anniversary of one of the scariest pages in Ukraine’s history – a tragedy of Jews, Ukrainians, Russians, Roma and many other nations. We remember – and always will – that about 1.5 million Ukrainian Jews were killed by the Nazis.
Apparently, it is about certain things that cannot be erased from the people’s memory, especially the generation that knows the hard truth about the war – without textbooks or other people’s stories. It is obvious that these days remained in the Ukrainian history for good. There is no trust those saying that someone is going to delete these days from our calendars. There’s no such man who would dare doing so; because there are no families in Ukraine that wouldn’t suffer a loss during the period from September 1939, when the war came to Ukraine, to August 1945, when the last shots of this war were made in the Far East.
Winston Churchill wrote that of all nations who survived the Nazi rule, Ukrainians suffered the most. I quote: ‘But, with that, this nation made a huge contribution to the victory in the Second World War, at the cost of millions of lives of their representatives’. These are Churchill’s words. And many people in Russia say their country would have won the war even without Ukraine. This is so false!
In terms of geography of the struggle against the Nazis, almost seven million Ukrainian soldiers served in at least seven armies.
Unlike Moscow, we’re not going to privatize the common great victory of all nations of the USSR and the anti-Hitlerite coalition. But we’re not going to disavow our sizeable share, either. No one will ever be able to diminish the act of valor of our forefathers.
About six million Ukrainians fought the Nazis in the Red Army. Another 100,000 joined the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, while 250,000 more fought in the regular armies of the Allied Forces.
There is not enough data on this page of our history. This is why we opened an exhibition at Maidan Nezalezhnosti in Kyiv. It covers stories of Ukrainians who fought not just in the Red Army or the Ukrainian Insurgent Army – but also in French, British, Canadian, U.S. military units. These people tasted glory in the battles in European low land, in the deserts of North Africa and in the vast expanses of the Pacific.
I’d like to quote a Canadian publicist of Ukrainian origin: ‘Walk across the cemetery of the fallen in Normandy and just take a look at the great airborne troops who landed on the French coast in 1944; and you’ll find a lot of Ukrainian surnames there…’
Wally Bunka was one of those who landed in Normandy on June 6, 1944. I only recently heard the rich and bright life story of this 92-year-old descent of Ukrainian migrants who moved to Canada in the late 19th century. Wally fought against the Nazis as a soldier of the Royal Winnipeg Rifle Regiment; he fought in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. He is the national hero in Canada (the country whose uniform he wore), in the Netherlands (the country that he liberated) and in Ukraine (the country of his origin).
The most respected ladies and gentlemen, as we mark the Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation, we first and foremost pay tribute to millions of our compatriots who protected Ukraine, Europe and the entire world from the Nazis.
But that’s also a history lesson, and we all have got to remember why such tragedy as the Second World War ever took place. And we’ve got to understand what we should do to avoid another world war.
It’s May, 9, and Russia has been repeating this motto – ‘We can do it again’, while we, like the entire Europe, strive to prevent something like from ever happening again. Feel the difference between ‘do it again’ and ‘never again’. It is obvious.
The disaster could be prevented, if the democratic governments managed to stop the Nazi aggressor in good time. Starting from the mid-1930s, Hitler deliberately and freely crushed the European collective security system, breached the agreements, captured new and new territories. Certain politicians urged their counterparts to stop the attempts to appease the aggressor, but these were the voices crying in the wilderness. Last month, when I was at Chatham House in London, I had quoted Churchill like I did today. The great Englishman wisely warned those wanting to feed the crocodile that the predator might eat them as well. That was said 77 years ago, but how timely and urgent it sounds now!
Another mistake could cost lives of many millions of people. Ukraine has learned it very well. Gradually, others have been considering this. ‘Russia has been the world’s largest threat in Earth, considering its capabilities and intentions,’ James Comey, FBI Director said most recently, commenting on the current Russian threats to U.S. democracy.
We, the Ukrainians, are on the frontline today – just like in the WWII. Our homeland is the front of opposition to aggressor, the front of struggle for the values of democracy and the supremacy of law, the frontline of the free world.
Thanks to the courage of Ukrainian warriors and the efforts of our diplomacy, intense military actions ceased. But both the fuse of war and the button of peace are in Moscow. These tools are in the hands of a man who has imperial ambitions, who is delusional about geopolitics, the man who couldn’t care less about the international law.
Having created one of the most powerful and effective armies in Europe and defending ourselves carefully, we are still the devoted supporters of the peaceful solution to the conflict with Russia. However, Kyiv’s good will meets the stubborn unwillingness of the Russian aggressor to make any advances; instead, this aggressor keeps on with the crawling occupation and annexation of the Ukrainian Donbas.
The Russian hybrid army has never observed the ceasefire regime – so far. The military parades in Donetsk and Luhansk are, of course, merely parodies, but they are another evidence of Russian military presence.
Once again, I reiterate: the progress in completion of the political part of Minsk agreements is impossible without providing the key security conditions. It means the stable ceasefire, the withdrawal of heavy weaponry and artillery, the withdrawal of Russian troops, full access for OSCE observers to the militant-held areas of Ukraine and the release of hostages who have been held captive in the occupied areas and in Russia for almost three years now.
We support the active negotiations in the Normandy format. Most recently, I spoke with German chancellor Angela Merkel, who leads this democratic European country, the powerful diplomatic supporter of Ukraine in its struggle against the Russian aggressor.
I want to congratulate the people of France, nations of EU member countries and the people of Ukraine on the victory of pro-EU forces. I sincerely congratulate Emmanuel Macron as he gained both the support of voters and the mandate to strengthen the European principles and values.
I am sure there can be no safe future for Europe without security at the Ukraine-Russia state border, withour effective measures of global influence on Russia, which aims to persuade the Kremlin that peace is the best option for everyone.
I do hope that in June, the EU member countries and the G7 will make a unanimous decision to extend the sanctions against the aggressor country.
Dear Ukrainians and guests!
As a president, I express my deepest respect to all veterans of the Second World War, participants of Ukrainian liberation movement – to everyone who survived the terror of the Nazi prosecutions.
As the Supreme Commander, I am grateful to Ukrainian military servicemen for courage in defending the country from the Russian aggression.
I congratulate you, dear compatriots, on the Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation and the Day of Victory over the Nazism in the Second World War.
Glory to veterans of the Red Army and the partisan movement!
Glory to warriors of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and all fighters of national liberation movements!
Glory to everyone who protected Ukraine from the aggression by the Third Reich!
Glory to Ukraine’s Armed Forces, the National Guard, the Security Service of Ukraine, Ukrainian Border Guards, volunteers; to all law enforcers who protect our motherland from the hostile intentions of the Russian Federation!
Glory to Ukraine!