1. Due to the unstable situation in Belarus I have a feeling that the attention of media and also experts has somehow switched away from Ukraine. But that doesn’t mean that situation in the East of Ukraine has improved, that doesn’t mean that tensions between Ukraine and Russia have disappeared. How would you evaluate the situation in your country in short terms?
It is obvious that the situation in Belarus, in particular the brutal suppression of peaceful protests by Lukashenko's government, has left no-one indifferent. Ukraine also supports the aspirations of the Belarusian people to hold fair and transparent presidential elections in Belarus.
At the same time, I am sure that the Russian aggression against Ukraine is and will be on the international agenda. It is a war in Europe, and the consequences of this war go far beyond Ukraine’s geographical borders.
Over 6 years, which have passed since Russia illegally occupied the Ukrainian Crimea and formed separatist groups in Donbas, more than 14,000 Ukrainians have been killed, more than 40 thousand have been wounded and 1.5 million citizens of Ukraine have become internally displaced persons.
It is necessary to emphasize grave violations of human rights by the Russian occupation authorities in Crimea, illegal prohibition of activities of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, declaring Crimean Tatar leaders as persona non grata in Crimea and detention of more than 100 Ukrainian political prisoners both in the occupied territories of Ukraine and in Russia.
During the Russian occupation, almost all religious communities of Ukraine in Crimea (except the Russian church) have been suppressed and persecuted by the Russian occupation authorities.
The russification of Crimea continues by displacing Ukrainians and mass relocation of Russian citizens to Crimea. In Donbas, the russification is carried out by mass issuance of Russian passports to Ukrainian citizens. The Russian authorities are violating international norms by drafting the Ukrainian population of Crimea into the Russian armed forces.
In my opinion, Russia’s further militarization of Crimea should be concern not only to Ukraine, but also to the international community. Unfortunately, the current international sanctions against Russia are not effective enough to stop aggression.
2. Of course, everyone is interested in situation in Eastern Ukraine. It doesn’t look that a solution is somewhere around the corner. What are the future actions from the Ukrainian side to solve the conflict? And what do you expect from the other side of the conflict?
The problem is, that, unfortunately, there is not any real operating mechanism to influence those countries that grossly violate the norms of international law.
The situation is even more complicated if a nuclear-weapon country acts as aggressor state.
But what if such an aggressor state is also a member of the UN Security Council? This leads to impunity and growing tensions, not only for the regional security, but also globally. Putin’s Russia reflects this situation not only by undermining the sovereignty of Ukraine, but also through waging a hybrid war against the whole international community.
It is unlikely that the Kremlin would resolve the conflict in the interest of Ukraine. Therefore, we do not rely on the good will of Russia. We can only rely on the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the support of the international community.
In order to make Russia respect international law, it is necessary not only to maintain existing sanctions, but also to introduce additional mechanisms of pressure.
In this context, the President of Ukraine initiated the Crimean Platform. Its first summit is to be held in May 2021 in Kyiv at the level of the head of states and governments. The Crimean Platform will include meetings and events in different formats at the level of head of states, governments, foreign minister, parliamentarians, as well as experts.
The aims of the Platform are:
- to increase the effectiveness of the international community’s response to the ongoing occupation of Crimea;
- to respond to growing security threats;
- to increase international pressure on the Kremlin;
- to force it to change its aggressive policy;
- to prevent further violation of human rights and protect victims;
- to achieve de-occupation of Crimea.
3.Ukraine has expressed it’s willingness to move towards a deeper integration between EU and NATO. How real are those perspectives from your point of view?
The Euro-Atlantic integration is a priority of Ukraine’s foreign policy. Accordingly, the political and economic system of Ukraine is being reformed.
Among the achievements, I can mention the following results:
- land reform;
- the banking law;
- tax and anticorruption reforms.
For example, land reform. Finally, Ukrainians will have the right and opportunity to buy and sell land. Firstly, the land market will be open for individuals, and then – for companies.
It is also worth to emphasize the reform of the Ukrainian army in accordance with NATO standards.
Ukraine is aware that joining the EU and NATO depends only on our efforts. The faster we implement the membership requirements, the faster we join the EU and NATO.
4. If none of these organizations offer a clear perspective of membership, can Ukraine exist as a non-aligned country? How efficient and self-sufficient can Ukraine be in the international system?
The only option, we are considering for our country, is the Euro-Atlantic integration. I would like to note that Ukraine is progressively on the way to achieve the membership requirements.
We have already paid a heavy price in the fight against the Russian aggressor for our Euro-Atlantic choice. It is clear that Ukraine in the Donbas defends not only its territorial integrity, but also protects shared European values.
5. One of the requirements for a successful integration is internal reforms in many sectors. Lately we have seen some worrying tendencies inside Ukraine, regarding some controversial decisions by constitutional court, some controversial actions and suggestions from leaders of the country. How would you evaluate the progress that has been achieved so far and where do you see some stumbling blocks?
All the developments you have mentioned show that today in Ukraine each side - the government, the people and the opposition – can express its point of view.
There is a heated debate in the parliament, in the media and among the experts regarding the latest developments. Such process helps Ukraine to reach decisions which meet the interests of all Ukrainians. I would like to say that such process reflects the country’s democratic development.
6. What about the political situation inside the country? We experienced the “green wave” of president Zelenskyy’s political party just few years ago and now I have a feeling that the enthusiasm about the leadership of the country is fading. And the results of the local elections lead to prove this suggestion. And some previous politicians/leaders are appearing more and more often. Do you predict some tense competition for power in the coming future?
Decreasing in popularity of the presidential political party could be viewed as a widespread phenomenon around the world and there is nothing special happening in Ukraine.
People usually want quick changes towards a better life. But unfortunately, it does not happen the next day after the elections.
We remember that President Zelenskyy won the presidential election with 73% of support of the Ukrainian voters. But it is too simple to think that 73% of voters supported only Mr. Zelenskyy. This figure also included votes not for Zelenskyy, but against Poroshenko.
The local elections on 25 October, 2020 became the key event for Ukraine. These elections showed the real balance of political forces in Ukraine.
Now about 40% of voters supporting the President indicate quite a real backing of Mr. Zelenskyy and it is quite a big figure, given the Covid-19 pandemic and the war with Russia.
7. Ukraine has not been protected from Covid19 as well and the situation in your country is also not very bright How would you evaluate the fight against the virus and how big will be the economic impact of this crisis?
It’s no doubt, that Covid-19 pandemic has a significant impact on the situation in Ukraine. As of 10 November, a total of more then 480 thousand cases of Covid-19 had been confirmed in Ukraine, including 8.7 thousand deaths. The pandemic effects not only Ukraine, but also all countries worldwide. Definitely, the government of each country takes unpopular decisions, which have an impact on both the economy and the people.
I have not seen any messages in the social networks that show satisfactions of the population with such restrictive measures. It is natural. We all find ourselves in a new reality. We all are looking forward for the way out.
8. This crisis has also influenced the way the politics are made and the way countries communicate and interact. How would you, as an ambassador, comment recent relations with Latvia? What has been the strongest/weakest points?
First of all, as Ambassador of Ukraine to Latvia, I would like to thank the Latvian side for its consistent support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. I would also like to note that Latvia became the first country in the world to recognize in May 2019 the deportation of the Crimean Tatars as genocide.
Our mutual understanding and support for each other are based on shared European values and on the common history of our countries and peoples' struggle for independence against the Soviet occupation.
Presently, the bilateral dialog is quite effective via online formats. For example, tomorrow we will have online such an important event as the Session of Ukraine – Latvia Inter governmental Commission on Economic, Industrial and Technical Cooperation.
9. P.S. most likely I will ask something also about the US elections and the question will depend on the outcome!
Since 2014, the United States have supported Ukraine against Russia’s aggression.
The election of Joe Biden as the new president of the USA will strengthen this support. Given that Mr. Biden visited Ukraine many times during the most crucial periods for Ukraine, he knows the Ukrainian-Russian war in detail. And victory of Mr Biden is offering a new chapter for relations between Ukraine and America.
That’s why we are optimistic about the future developments.
Інтерв'ю - Uģis Lībietis. Фото: LETA, Ieva Makare
Оригінал статті: Ukrainas vēstnieks Latvijā: Krievijas agresija Ukrainā ir un turpinās būt dienaskārtībā