On July 17 Viktor Medvedchuk, Chairman of the Political Council of the Opposition Platform - For Life Party, presented a peace plan for the South-Eastern Ukraine crisis resolving concept in the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
Members of European Parliament of the UK, France, Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria, Spain, Latvia, Slovakia met with Viktor Medvedchuk.
On January 29, the plan-concept was approved at the All-Ukrainian Extraordinary Congress of the “Opposition Platform - For Life Party”.
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Dear ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much, I am very pleased to be here with you today to inform you of the high-profile issue in Ukraine today, entire Europe is not indifferent to this as well, including representatives of the European Parliament. I am grateful for the kind words to my country, to what our party has been doing, to the plan-concept I would like to briefly describe, and then, of course, I will answer all your questions if you had ones.
First of all, I want to note that the plan-concept on peaceful settlement of the Donbas conflict is the result of my personal experience in conducting negotiations as well, which I have been doing since May 2014. It was in May 2014, when the conflict began in the Donbas, after the well-known events on Maidan in late 2013 - early 2014, after the arrival of a new interim authority represented by Acting President of Ukraine, Mr. Turchynov. On his request I've been to Donetsk and Luhansk several times, as it was correctly shown here by your colleague, to a new airport, then a new one, which was only two years old. It was still standing and accommodating airplanes, as well as the airport in Luhansk, and both the representatives of our party and me held negotiations to end this conflict peacefully and establish a dialogue, without tens of thousands of victims then.
Unfortunately, we did not succeed. Particularly, it did not work out because the government of Mr. Turchynov, then Mr. Poroshenko, was not willing to have a dialogue, to search for trust, in order to restore the situation in which peace could be agreed without using weapons and not doing the things that in result turned up with those victims and losses.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, there are 43 thousand victims of the war in Donbas today –13,000 dead, 250 of them are children, and 30,000 are wounded. Damaged infrastructure and destroyed houses amounted to tens of billions of dollars. This conflict today takes place in a territory which, according to military experts, is the most mined region in the world. According to the UN and the official information they have, today we understand that this conflict, lasting for already five years, is the longest and largest in Europe after World War II. So, this terrifies, and questions raise and we have a vital need to end the fighting and restore peace.
Unfortunately, insufficient steps had been done in recent years to solve the conflict, and your colleagues also mentioned this today. The signing of the Minsk agreements on February 12, 2015, signified a new stage in the peace settlement. These agreements were approved by the heads of state of the Normandy Four, and then by a resolution of the UN Security Council.
Despite that, the actions under this Minsk Agreement were clearly defined, and there was a so-called roadmap for solving problems, it was never implemented for various reasons, both subjective and objective. Every year after 2015 the process of implementation of this plan became more complicated, as all the actions envisaged by it should have been completed before the end of 2015.
Our peace plan-concept, I am presenting and speaking about today, was developed by our party, based on the information we possess, proceeding from the conversations, meetings, and negotiations held and by me with the leaders of the unrecognized republics in Donetsk and Luhansk, with representatives and leaders of the Russian Federation. Our plan-concept has several fundamental foundations, and its foundation has the main strategic goal - to return people, not the territories.
What this plan or this strategic task mean? Today, there is a situation which cannot allow returning these people through their minds. These are citizens of Ukraine, who are living in the uncontrolled territory today. These are people who need to be given those security guarantees, the conditions and opportunities under which they could believe the Ukrainian authorities, being new today, so that they can return, and in our plan, this is called "Return Donbas to Ukraine, and Ukraine - to the Donbas". Through the consciousness of people, through the understanding that we all have to live in one common country, since both our party and we are pursuing these very goals, noble goals of territorial integrity, we provide opportunities for people who could believe that their return will be successful and will protect their rights and freedoms in our country, in Ukraine, whose citizens they are today.
We suggested a mechanism for a direct dialogue and direct negotiations between Kyiv, Donetsk, Luhansk, and Moscow. Of course, this is an internal conflict of Ukraine, and first of all Kyiv must resolve it with Donetsk and Luhansk. Russian Federation has a great influence on the current representatives of Donetsk and in Luhansk. That's why we are talking about direct negotiations with Moscow. And we think that we can solve the problems of a peaceful settlement and the cessation of hostilities in this quadrangle.
I want to pay your attention, dear gentlemen, that today the majority of citizens in Ukraine want to get peace. According to all sociological studies of recent years the main problem that needs to be solved for 75-78% of the population is the peace, the fighting must stop. And just yesterday, we received the latest sociological studies, where this problem, as problem number one, has been raised to the already 86% of support. It was the main expectation at the presidential election from those who will become president, and today it is the main expectation from Mr. Zelensky. This was and remains the main expectation of the parliament. This is exactly what people are waiting for today, voting for one or another party on July 21 at special parliamentary elections.
And when we talk about the fact that we take as a premise the direct negotiations and dialogue, we say that only at the negotiating table we can agree on how to bring peace and end the fighting. Moreover, it should be done in such a way that guarantee of no return to a similar situation in the future. In 2014, Mr. Van Rompuy, the President of the European Council, ending his term in office and speaking at the Paris Institute of Political Studies, spoke about the conflict in Ukraine. And these words, in fact, became symbolic, prophetic: we need a dialogue, a dialogue of trust that was overdue to past situations at the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014. The dialogue of trust between Donetsk, Lugansk and the central government and also the main population of all Ukraine was lost. Unfortunately, the previous government could not do, could not achieve this, for various reasons, including the lack of such a desire to do this, to fulfill the Minsk agreements and bring peace.
That`s why when I talk about the plan that our party proposed, we proceed from what we considered one of the most important - providing a set of measures to guarantee the safety of citizens of Ukraine living in the Donbas. This is not only an amnesty stipulated by the Minsk agreements. Among other things, these are also measures for security and the formation with specifics of law enforcement agencies in this region. Additionally, this is the special detachments of the people's police, which are already provided for by the law on special status, and much more that will protect people in the future and provide a guarantee for the consciousness I mentioned here. It will allow them to consciously and voluntarily decide on the return of the Donbas to Ukraine.
We offered the autonomous status of Donbas region within Ukraine in accordance with the Constitution, and this is absolutely normal from the point of view of basic law. I am a specialist in constitutional law and state-building. We have developed a mechanism for amending the Constitution, which, by the way, is provided for in the Minsk agreements. Because the basis of the whole plan I am talking about and which we represent, including today in the European Parliament, is the basis built on the Minsk agreements and resolutions UN Security Council, as well as on the decisions of the Heads of State of the Normandy Four.
So, when we talk about the status and form of governance in the territory, as we suggest, of the autonomous region of Donbas, we suppose that it is necessary to create a representative body called the Supreme Soviet, and the main executive body called the Council of Ministers of the autonomous region of Donbas. And here, there is nothing new, including if we proceed from the requirements and content of our Constitution, the basic law. Why? Because in our Constitution there is the status of one region, which is autonomous. Moreover, our Ukraine has not ceased to be a unitary state or a form of structure with a unitary distribution of public authorities and administration due to that. And here we are far from fundamentally changing the system of power in Ukraine, and extending this autonomous status, including to the Donbas.
Our plan provides for legislative and administrative sections. Legislative includes the adoption of laws, to which I have referred; this means the enactment of a law on special status, which is adopted today but is not in effect yet; it is frozen until the elections, under certain conditions, moreover, it is temporary. By the way, it would be valid until December 31, 2019; it has been repeatedly extended, and the new parliament should also decide on its prolongation. If it is not renewed, this will mean the end of the Minsk agreements and their possible implementation. We have elaborated constitutional amendments, which are also set out by the Minsk agreements. Clause 11 reads that a special status should be provided for and approved at the level of the basic law, that is, the Constitution; and it had to be implemented before the end of 2015. We have done this to come closer to the realization of the conditions, stipulated by the Minsk agreements. We also believe that the act of amnesty should be adopted, as specified in the Minsk agreements, so we have elaborated its draft. Moreover, we took into consideration Ukraine’s tolerable and used practice, namely, it was used on February 21, 2014, following the results of protest rallies in Kyiv, which took place from November 2013 to February 21, 2014. Then Verkhovna Rada had introduced an amnesty and freed from responsibility all those who participated in these protest rallies. We have proposed to introduce a similar option for Ukrainian citizens living in Donbas. That is, an adequate similar option of exemption from liability, similar to the one used by Kyiv. We consider this to be objective and fully fair. In addition, we have developed law on a free economic zone. We believe that the prevailing devastation, especially in the areas close to the contact line, is a result of hostilities, and the damage, estimated in tens of billions of US dollars, should be restored, so it is necessary to create special economic conditions for sustainable development. We have provided for the direct observance of the rights and protection of those directly involved in the creation of governing bodies of Donbas autonomous region. We have prepared a draft law on the election of these governing bodies. I have already referred to them; these are elements and links of implementation of the norms of the autonomous region of Donbas. All these laws are stipulated by the Minsk agreements.
But, unfortunately, for the entire period of holding negotiations in Minsk by various groups, including the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG), no significant steps, aimed at their implementation, were made. Particularly, this is the fault of the Ukrainian side, and I have repeatedly underlined it, because literally until the beginning of this year, Ukraine has treated these agreements differently from the moment of signing. Poroshenko did not really need these territories, we should realize it, and his policy, raised to the status of anti-Russian hysteria and boorish Russophobia, did not imply any actions aimed at peace. Moreover, the authorities did not need these people in terms of the elections; and warmongers were in power – so they were absolutely useless. And so, about 3 million citizens of Ukraine, who live on the uncontrolled territory, were deprived of constitutional suffrage at the parliamentary elections in July, the presidential elections in April. About 1.5 million of Donbas IDPs, who reside different regions of Ukraine, were also actually deprived of the right to vote for various reasons, bureaucratic delays and because of imperfect legislation that would imply their participation in the presidential and parliamentary electoral campaigns. Not to mention the fact that 2.5 million labor migrants in Russia were deprived of the right to vote. This means that more than 6 million citizens of Ukraine did not participate in the first election campaign and would not participate in the second one. And this is one of the arguments that Ukraine needs peace and hostilities should be stopped, these are the most urgent points that should be resolved.
Our plan is not just a hypothetical presentation of data or mechanisms for the implementation of the Minsk agreements. For the last two years, I have actively discussed all these issues with representatives of Donetsk and Luhansk. I have met with the leaders of these unrecognized territories and formations, talked about the conditions of the realization of the priority of our plan, that is, on what conditions would they return to Ukraine. And this plan was elaborated only after these negotiations, including with representatives and the leadership of the Russian Federation. A few months ago, the leaders of uncontrolled territories assured that the plan proposed by our party could be a negotiation position, and they agree to discuss it. We consider this a major achievement in terms of negotiations, and most importantly, in terms of direct dialogue.
Why? Because referring to the opinion polls, according to the latest data, 55% of Ukrainian population consider it necessary that Mr. Zelensky, as the newly elected president, had undertaken a genuine dialogue with Donetsk and Luhansk. And 70% believe that Mr. Zelensky should engage in a direct dialogue with Mr. Putin on the issue of peace. This is what the majority of citizens think about the resolution of this problem. And therefore, direct negotiations with these persons continue to the present. Just a few days ago I met with them in Minsk. I appealed to them with the request to release four citizens of Ukraine, who as a result of their unilateral actions, the unilateral humanitarian act was released and returned to Ukraine, we also discussed this issue. I also talked with Mr. Gryzlov, the representative of Russia in the TCG, who said several months ago that the Russian Federation supported the peace plan, proposed by our party and was ready to negotiate on its implementation. Exactly the same statement was made on July 10 in Moscow, when our party delegation of the Opposition Platform - For Life met with the United Russia party delegation, headed by Russian PM Medvedev, chairman of United Russia’s party, Russia’s representative at TCG Mr. Gryzlov, as well as with the leadership of the State Duma. We also raised the issue of peace, the implementation of the Minsk agreements through our peace plan.
Therefore, when we say that this is a real plan, and when your colleagues talk about it, we proceed, and I believe that your colleagues also proceed from this, that this plan is agreed with those on whom its implementation depends. And today there are no other proposals, although, of course, if they existed, they would also be discussed so that peace could come to Ukraine and the hostilities should be stopped. Therefore, we continue to popularize our plan, we offered it to the current and previous authorities, but they did not respond to this plan. Therefore, it is very pleasing that today the European Parliament wants to hear an alternative point of view. Not the point of view of the past government, which took a passive position in the matters of peace, another point of view of another Ukraine, which believes that the peace is real, knows how to bring this peace to Ukraine, how to reach it. And we are ready to implement this plan for peace finally descends upon Ukraine. Thanks for attention.