“Isn’t it a little early for everyone to be settling down?” Zelenskyy’s full speech at the Munich Security Conference

Photo: president.gov.ua 

International

Editor’s Note

The Munich Security Conference-2020 sent shockwaves throughout Ukraine. Not only did the annual Munich Security Report contain a record low number of mentions of Ukraine, a controversial plan for Ukraine signed by prominent politicians which was criticized for “repeating Kremlin talking points” appeared on the website of the forum.

Against this backdrop, President Zelenskyy’s speech at the forum carried no surprises: the Ukrainian leader chided Europe for forgetting about the war in Ukraine, rejected direct talks with the Russian-backed separatists of the “people’s republics” in eastern Ukraine, and revealed new plans for the disengagement of troops in Donbas.

Euromaidan Press provides you with a translation of his entire speech.

The war against Ukraine is ongoing

The Munich Conference is one of the most important venues for discussing global security issues. And I’m grateful for the opportunity to speak here, especially in the context of the latest expert analysis.

I mean the Munich Security Report this year.

We have mixed emotions.

On the one hand, I and 65 million Ukrainians on the planet are perplexed by the fact that the report contains only eight mentions of Ukraine.

And this, unfortunately, is the lowest number since the beginning of the war and the annexation of Crimea. In this regard, as a president of a country that defends its sovereignty and territorial integrity for the sixth year in a row, I have a fair question: isn’t it a little early for everyone to be settling down?

This is a dangerous trend.

We understand that there are many acute problems and hot conflicts on the planet today. But no issue can lose its relevance until it is finally resolved. These aren’t news topics which can be trending or go out of trend. People’s lives and fates are at stake.

I want to draw your attention to the fact that saying “the war in Ukraine” isn’t quite correct.

This is a war in Europe.

And it has been going on, along with the annexation of Crimea, for as long as the Second World War. Imagine that!

More than anybody else, we strive to end this war. And we will be happy when references to Ukraine as a danger zone disappear altogether from international reports. But this should only happen when a stable peace will prevail in Donbas and Ukraine regains its territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, when our people, Ukrainians, and our territories – the Donbas and Crimea – return to us

On the other hand, we note some optimism coming from world analysts.

Last year, international forecasts for the end of the war in eastern Ukraine were pessimistic. Today, for the first time in recent years, world experts are seeing real progress in bringing peace, and most importantly, they see that the new Ukrainian authorities are doing their best.

Are elections in Donbas possible?

On the first day of my presidency, I said frankly, “We didn’t start this war. But we have to end it.” And we will do it together with you.

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Today, Ukraine continues to consistently and steadily adhere to a peaceful, diplomatic path of settlement in accordance with international law.

We have agreed in Paris that we will confirm our commitment to a comprehensive ceasefire. And the corresponding statement from the Tripartite Contact Group was approved on 18 December 2019. But complete silence has not yet been secured. In the last two months, it has been recorded that Ukrainian positions were shelled more than 400 times, in the result of which our Ukrainian people, the Ukrainian military, continue to die.

Effective mechanisms are required to stop the ceasefire in real life, not in words.

We are being told that such an effective mechanism is a direct dialogue with the so-called local authority in the ORDLO.

We are ready to engage in a dialogue with the civilians of these territories. But not with those who are unrecognized in terms of international law, and therefore cannot represent the local population.

In addition, I have many times conversed with ordinary people from temporarily occupied territories. But objectively, the voice of Donbas is not only their opinion.

After all, there are at least one and a half million people from the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts who have been forced to leave their home.

That is why we have initiated the creation of a public dialogue platform called “Peace of Donbas,” in which they should be involved. They should be involved in consultations at the Minsk platform and actively participate in discussing their future in a united Ukraine.

Our desire today is to hold local elections in all the territory of Ukraine, including the certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, in October 2020. I would like that in the Crimea as well. But to do so without basic security and political conditions, in violation of the Constitution of Ukraine and international standards of democratic elections – is impossible for us.

Especially now that Russia is openly informing the world that 125,000 Russian passports have been issued on temporarily uncontrolled parts of Donbas in 2019.

I have said this in Paris and will repeat it again.

The people of Donbas need elections that will be recognized as legitimate by Ukraine and the world.

And they can’t happen if they are not held under Ukrainian law, to the sounds of gunfire, and without control of the Ukrainian border.

New conditions for the disengagement of forces

Among other things, the leaders of the Normandy format agreed to agree on three additional sites for the disengagement of forces and equipment which should take place by the end of March 2020. Currently, our party has proposed one site, and it is almost agreed.

We are in the process, we are working.

I also want to talk about the initiative of the Ukrainian side to disengage by the so-called sectoral principle. According to it, the separation line is divided into sectors. Forces and equipment are gradually disengaged.

The transition from one sector to the next is only possible after the OSCE SMM verifies that there are no illegal armed forces, armed forces and military equipment in the sector. In the near future, we will inform the participants of the Normandy format in detail about the content of this initiative.

Remembering the agreements in the Normandy format, I cannot but mention the reliable, secure and round-the-clock access of the OSCE SMM throughout the temporarily uncontrolled territory of Ukraine. Unfortunately, we still don’t have it.

I reiterate that the effective work of the OSCE SMM on monitoring and verification is a key prerequisite for the successful implementation of the Minsk Security Package.

Freeing Ukrainian hostages

I would like to pay special attention to a very important humanitarian event – the mutual release of detained persons.

This is the second positive example in the last six months. And this tendency should be continued for the sake of a defined goal – a release based on the formula “all for all.”

We cannot stop while more than two hundred Ukrainians are still being held in inhumane conditions in temporarily uncontrolled territories of Donbas, and more than one hundred Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars are being held in Crimea and the Russian Federation.

I would also like to remind you of an important agreement of the Paris Summit – to ensure the effective work of international organizations, in particular, the International Committee of the Red Cross. Today ICRC representatives are involved in the search for missing persons. Unfortunately, there are too many of them over the past six years.

The issue of their access to detained persons remains open, but there is every reason to expect a positive solution to this issue.

In general, I want to assure you that Ukraine will continue to do its utmost to have the next summit of the Heads of Ukraine, Germany, France and Russia in the Normandy format in due time, that is, in April 2020.

Our key task today is to ensure the steady implementation of the agreements made in Paris. Ukraine is ready and working on this every day.

Every step of the way, we move on the path to peace.

But this is a two-way road, and we are waiting for reciprocal steps.

It’s a small world

I firmly believe that without a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine and the return of Crimea, we cannot repair Europe’s damaged regional security. Its architecture must be based solely on the norms and principles of international law enshrined in the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, and international treaties.

Ukraine had always made a significant contribution to international security. When, along with its allies, it defeated Nazism, and when it was one of the founders of the UN. When it gave up its nuclear weapons but in return lost part of its territory in the 21st century and continues to lose its citizens.

That is why today Ukraine has every right to speak about the inefficiency of the existing world rules, the need to reconsider and revise them.

We are a country that has felt immediately that the current architecture of the world is imperfect. And the existing institutions are not operating as efficiently as is required today.

Last year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “Who will pick up the fragments of the world order? Only we, all together.”

This is a brilliant statement to which the audience applauded while standing. However, international agreements must be confirmed not only by applause but by joint action.

It’s time to realize that our planet is not as it seemed before.

This is proven by the crash of flight MH17 and Ukrainian Boeing-737. This is proven by fires in Australia and the spread of the coronavirus. This is proven by environmental disasters, drinking water problems, and cyber threats. It’s time to realize that we live in a world where someone else’s wars and someone else’s catastrophes no longer exist.

And in this world, there are not seven, not twenty, but almost two hundred independent states. They are members of the United Nations. The same people live in these states, they are not better nor worse than others. And these people cannot be spectators, and in fact – hostages of a geopolitical theater, on the arena of which several countries decide who is in charge.

Today, the expert community recognizes the fragility of the world order but believes in restoring it based on liberal ideals. They point out that there can be mistakes in a democratic system, but the system itself is not a mistake.

Why then is the principle of democracy violated when dealing with global issues? It is impossible to build new world rules based on liberal values if only selected countries with nuclear weapons or a certain level of economic development are invited to the construction site. The problems of humanity must be solved by all representatives of humanity.

And this cannot be done when geopolitical ambitions and unwillingness to yield to one’s own economic interests are put above human safety. It is time to remember that the continents of our planet are first and foremost not “markets” and not “trading zones.” They are home to seven and a half billion people.

Today, humanity has a demand for new strong leaders. But I am convinced that in their understanding, a strong leader is not one who easily sends thousands of soldiers to death, but one who is prepared to fight and protect the lives of everyone. To create a comfortable environment for everyone to develop their talents and live in harmony with the environment.

Perhaps, for experienced world politicians and diplomats to understand this, it must be said by me, a person who has never been a politician before is not a master of vague diplomatic wording or protocol statements without specifics. I’ve always been a person who says what people say on the streets. And now I am saying what people are saying on the streets in all the corners of our planet. And the voice of these people must be heard by the world leaders in this luxurious Munich hotel.

Because the demand for the renewal of world architecture is not only the desire of influential states and governments. Billions of people demand it.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy,

Munich, 15 February 2020

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