Remarks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko
Secretary of State
PRESIDENT POROSHENKO: (Via interpreter) Dear Mr. State Secretary, dear John, dear ladies and gentlemen, I am sincerely pleased to welcome you to Ukraine. For me and for all Ukrainians, for the whole world, this visit is a reflection of mighty support that the United States has been providing at the very crucial stage of development of our country. This visit is deeply symbolic and we are very pleased that you have come, Mr. State Secretary.
This is also a very vivid reflection of a deep trust that the United States has for Ukraine and the effective coordination that we have reached between Kyiv and Washington. Today’s fruitful negotiations have demonstrated a real, substantial content of Ukraine-American relations and our commitment to reforms and joint work against aggressions.
I am sorry that our press conference started one hour later than it was scheduled, but it only shows just how big an agenda our negotiations had. And I can confirm that these negotiations were very effective.
We are noting the effectiveness of our coordination, the effective establishment of an anti-corruption system in Ukraine. And we are grateful to our American partners for supporting us, for very powerful expert assistance that the United States has been providing, very mighty financial assistance that we get from Washington. And this plays an important role in renewing economic stability and economic development in Ukraine and the conduct of the necessary reforms. We have managed to create an anti-corruption system from ground up, and not only provide legislative basis for its existence but also for effective cooperation between anti-corruption bureau, special corruption prosecutor’s office, and anti-corruption bureau. And this has brought us concrete results. You can see how many meaningful steps have been made over the last 10 days, beginning from the prosecutor’s office, officials being detained, and also some deputy governors and also some government officials.
The Verkhovna Rada has been operating very effectively in providing timely permits for detention of those persons. We are convinced that this is only the beginning of decisive fight against corruption for – in which there can never be ours and the other side. And there will be no rules to protect those guilty. This is something for everyone to understand and to hear very well. We hope for American support and we discussed this in detail with Mr. State Secretary concerning implementation of constitutional amendments as concerns the reform. Civil society, transparency, competition in anti-corruption in courts being established in Ukraine – and this is key to providing for anti-corruption fight and also for investment climate in Ukraine. And this is the right of Ukrainians for the – for good legislative conditions.
We also noted the good progress in increasing defense capabilities of Ukraine, provision of Ukraine – of American equipment and munitions to Ukraine, and we – and also joint trainings. It is very important to provide for coordination in defense sphere. I’m sure that this cooperation will only increase in time in the context of the fight against the current challenges. I know that the United States remains – has been and remains the key ally of Ukraine in the international arena. We have the same goals, the same values, and we know that only together can we stand in this world against the – against the attempts to change the security architecture in the world.
Of course, we did not miss discussing the matters of guarantees, security guarantees by the United States in the context of the Budapest Memorandum. For Ukrainians it is important to understand that the United States stands as a strategic partner alongside Ukraine against the challenges that are facing our country. And we hope that the American Government will also provide for the continuity of support of Ukraine. And this is our success; this is your success also, and we proceed from this principle.
We dedicated special attention to the problems of counteraction of Russian aggression and the situation in the Donbas. And of course, we both understand that Russia and the militants supported by it have the exclusive – they are exclusively responsible for the failure to observe Minsk agreements. And we believe that Minsk agreements are the roadmap for stability in the Donbas. But we have already stated and we state today that there cannot be an effective progress without comprehensive and sustainable security, and we believe that the security component is one of the key components of the Minsk agreements. And we insist on decisive implementation of them into life. And the political process must have a prospect – and this is a key of the Ukrainian position, and this is well received by our allies.
I would like to point out the Americans’ principal position for support of security and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including the Crimea. This is the country which really stands behind the principles of the international law. Their violation – it cannot be tolerated in the post-Second World War world.
Also, we discussed the symbolic character of this visit. I would like to point out this especially, that this is happening on the eve of the Warsaw summit of the NATO. We will have two events of extraordinary importance in Warsaw. One of them will be the seating of Ukraine-NATO Commission, and the second one will be the unique format in which the countries of the Great Five – United States, Germany, France, Great Britain, and Italy – will just the same way as we sat in Wales in 2014, there there will be official time for this format to be dedicated to discussions of the matters of security and reforms in Ukraine.
This is also the confirmation of our mutual interest for consolidation of our special partnership. Ukraine expects that the Great Five and the Ukraine-NATO format will enable us to coordinate further, further forcing the Russian Federation to de-occupy the Crimea and the occupied territories in the east of Ukraine. And we have to find the international mechanism for de-occupation of Crimea. In this context, it is important for us to keep solidarity and mutual responsibility. Only thanks to this international responsibility for sanctions pressure against Russia can be provided.
This is not a punishment. This is motivation of Russia so that the Minsk agreements can be implemented in full, especially so that – so as to keep Russia at the negotiations table and to make it finally start implementing its own applications.
I would like to thank you once again, Mr. State Secretary, for the constant attention that you provide to Ukraine and for the constant support that we feel from your side, from the United States Government, and for the very timely visit, and for the effective and constructive negotiations that we had today in the spirit of consolidation of strategic partnership between Ukraine and the United States of America. Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: The floor is given to the Secretary of State of the United States, John Forbes Kerry.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well – (coughing) – excuse me. Thank you very much, Mr. President, and good afternoon to everybody. I want to thank President Poroshenko for, first of all, a generous welcome back here to Kyiv. I’m really happy to be here in the summer time; the last two times I’ve been here, I think it was in the dead of night, and at least started that way, and it was cold – in fact, snowing.
I’m very grateful to President Poroshenko for his generous welcome here today. But more importantly, as he has just described, we had a very constructive and longer-than-we-planned initial meeting, and we’re going to go from here to meet even further. And later today I will be seeing Prime Minister Groysman, and Foreign Minister Klimkin, and Speaker Parubiy.
And I want to thank all of those who are working, particularly the people of Ukraine who have displayed a remarkable level of courage, determination, and a vision for the future that they want here in their country. This has been a difficult journey already. It still remains difficult, even as some lives are lost on the lines of separation. And that concerns all of us in public life. The United States is not satisfied with any day that goes by that lives are lost. And so there is an urgency that we do feel with respect to the full implementation of the Minsk agreement.
I’d just say that this Monday was July 4th in the United States of America. We have the privilege of celebrating – though still a young country – 240 years of independence. And I begin with that thought because there is a deep connection between the ideals celebrated in the United States on July 4th and the goals that Ukrainians have displayed so clearly that they share with us.
The American Declaration of Independence lists specific grievances that were settled long ago. But the founding principles, frankly, remain as relevant today as ever before. A simple thought, but a beautiful thought: that all men and women are created equal, and that all are endowed with the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The same or similar expressions are included in the freedom declarations of many countries now. And nowhere is that quest for liberty and dignity more immediate or more compelling than here in Ukraine.
Two and a half years ago, thousands of Ukrainians took to Maidan Square in an historic moment of a demand for a sovereign and democratic country that they wanted and deserve. And I will personally never forget walking down Institutska Street in March of 2014 and seeing the barricades, seeing the tires, the barbed wire, the bullet holes in the street lamps, and the photographs that had been put up in a makeshift memorial to all of those who put their lives on the line for the future of this country. Americans know from our own history that the democratic road is filled with obstacles and that the journey is not completed overnight.
But Ukraine’s democratic potential is far brighter today now than it was even since my last visit in February of 2015. Since I was last here, Ukrainians have a new patrol police which we are privileged to have been helpful in the State Department, helping to develop; a new national anticorruption bureau; greater transparency in their government; laws that have been passed to try to help the transition from state-owned enterprise to private sector; important efforts in the energy sector, other reforms to put in place.
In just the past 70 days, the Rada has approved constitutional amendments to reinforce judicial independence, eliminate wasteful subsidies, and to begin implementing a broad civil service reform. In any country, anywhere, at any time, that’s a pretty significant agenda and a pretty significant set of accomplishments. But here, where there still continues to be difficulties with respect to security, it’s even more profound a statement of purpose and of commitment and of accomplishment.
So Ukraine is undeniably moving forward, but I think we all agree that the job isn’t done. More has yet to be done to strengthen Ukraine’s democracy. And the imperative of reform was one of the major themes of our discussion today, and I want to thank President Poroshenko and his team for their thoughtful consideration of the steps yet to be taken and for their commitment to take those steps. With the president and other leaders today, I am discussing Ukraine’s efforts to clean up the prosecutor general’s office and the judicial system, to tackle corruption and break the oligarchic stranglehold, to stay the course with the IMF, to strengthen Ukraine’s financial system, to privatize the economy, and to improve the business climate, to attract capital because of all of those other reforms that are taking place.
Everybody knows that those who invest invest for the purpose of, yes, doing good, but also to try to make money. And so the ease with which they can invest, the transparency with which they can invest, the accountability that exists – all of that helps to attract the investment that is so critical to the growth of the economy.
But let me point out that contrary to many predictions, because of the difficult decisions that President Poroshenko and his team have made, Ukraine is growing today. Its economy, unlike other economies in the region, is growing. And the prognosis for growth next year is even double what it is today. So that indicates the positive reactions that come from difficult political choices.
In addition to that, let me point out that the people of Ukraine have already sacrificed a lot to be able to change the system. I think Ukraine’s leaders honor that sacrifice by ensuring clean, accountable government and by rejecting easy pleas to an easy populism and demagoguery that doesn’t take you forward, but only takes you backwards. And I have witnessed firsthand the resistance to that easy ability to be able to fall back into old and even corrupt habits.
So long as Ukraine’s democratic forces stay united and continue to make progress towards the goals that the people of Ukraine have expressed, I can assure you, on behalf of President Obama and the American people, the United States will stand with Ukraine.
And during our meetings today, we are also discussing the situation in eastern Ukraine. As I have said many times, the fastest way to truly resolve the conflict is through the full implementation of the Minsk agreements. Now there should be no doubt about what that requires: a real enforceable ceasefire of the contact line; unfettered OSCE access to all of Donbas, including the border; the return of all hostages; free and fair elections in Donbas that meet the OSCE standards and accord with Ukraine’s constitution; the withdrawal of all foreign weapons and forces; and ultimately, the return of Ukrainian sovereignty along its internationally recognized border.
To be crystal clear: Ukraine is making a good-faith effort to implement Minsk, no doubt in my mind about that. It has begun the process of granting special status and amnesty and decentralizing political power. And it has committed to do more as the security conditions allow. And today, I informed President Poroshenko that the United States will provide nearly $23 million in additional immediate humanitarian assistance to help thousands of vulnerable people who are affected by the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine.
But without real security in the Donbas, an end to the bloodshed on the contact line, the use of heavy weapons, blockading of OSCE (inaudible) – without that, Minsk is doomed to fail. Now, this was President Obama’s message to President Putin in their phone call just yesterday, as they talked very frankly about the steps that are needed to be taken in order to move the process forward. And President Putin indicated that he does have a desire to try to see this process move forward, as does President Obama. And so we are hopeful that in the days ahead, that we will in fact be able to translate those expressions of hope and words in the telephone call into real actions that will make a difference. In Warsaw, the United States will continue our work with Germany and France in order to chart a course with President Poroshenko and his team to ensure that the level of security necessary to be able to allow for elections and the other political aspects of Minsk are able to go forward.
So make no mistake: If Russia chooses the path of de-escalation and full implementation of Minsk, the international community – all of us – will welcome it. And we pledge to work very closely with President Poroshenko to make sure that his government and Ukraine is doing all in its power to live up to its responsibilities. If Russia does not move in the direction of embracing that possibility and de-escalating, then the sanctions will remain in place.
The same is true with respect to Crimea. From the very beginning of the conflict, the very beginning of Russia’s move to Crimea, the United States has said consistently that we do not and we will not recognize Russia’s attempted annexation. And our sanctions that apply to the issue of Crimea will stay in place until, ultimately, that issue is resolved.
In closing, I’ll just note something that perhaps, as I approach the final months of service as Secretary of State, as you look back and think about what has been happening, it is clear to me that one of the things I’ve learned after years of public life is that there is no end to the challenges, no end to the tests. Every generation faces its set of tests. The testing is constant and it should be obvious today that governing effectively is as challenging today in today’s world of rapid communication and extraordinary change, it is as challenging as it has ever been – even in countries that have been stable and democratic for a long period of time. Yes, Ukraine’s leaders face extraordinary challenges, but let me also make it clear they have already proven that they are prepared to and capable of accomplishing important things.
So, I once again thank the president for his very warm welcome, for a productive and candid exchange this afternoon, and I assure everyone in this great country that the United States stands with the people of Ukraine in their desire to make their own choices about their own future. We will continue to work together to closely support a unified, peaceful, stable, sovereign, and democratic Ukraine.
I thank you and I’m pleased to join with the president in answering a few questions.
MODERATOR: For journalists, we have one question from each side. From American side, first question to Reuters.
QUESTION: Yes, good afternoon. President Poroshenko, do you feel more optimistic about the possibility of the progress on Minsk given your discussions today with Secretary Kerry? And what kinds of timeframes are you looking at here for a political settlement on it or agreement?
And Secretary Kerry, you said that it was urgent to implement the security part of the Minsk protocol and you had some positive words from the Kremlin yesterday. Do you believe that that can be implemented – the security part can be implemented before this Administration ends?
And when we come just to North Korea very briefly, you’ve imposed sanctions against the leader of North Korea. Do you think that can be effective without China making its – or making progress on its side?
SECRETARY KERRY: Do I think that it what?
QUESTION: Do you expect that to – those sanctions to work without China implementing or helping from its side?
PRESIDENT POROSHENKO: Okay. So thank you very much indeed for the question because your question about the timeframe is exactly what we are looking for – timeframe in a roadmap, what and when should be done, what is the sequence, what is the guarantee of things to be implemented.
I fully support Minsk agreement. I want to remind you the (inaudible) of the Minsk agreement – this is the steps for the implementation of my peace plan. It’s very important that everybody understand that there is no any alternative of the Minsk agreement. And I think we have a good progress in our discussion with our American, German, and French partners about the roadmap, about the sequences of steps necessary to be done.
Everybody understand that the security component is a key issue. We should have a ceasefire, we should have a withdrawal of heavy artillery weapons, we should have (inaudible) withdrawal artillery and ammunition, mortar (inaudible) tanks into sealed storage, we should have uninterrupted access of the special monitoring mission of the OSCE both to the touchline, to the sealed storage, to the uncontrolled part of Ukrainian-Russian border. And this is very important to make these efforts more effective by implementing the special armed police force of the OSCE.
And about the timeframe, we need (inaudible) to make it as fast as possible, because Ukraine pay a very high price. Every single day, we have lives of Ukrainian heroes and a lot of my soldiers is wounded because of Russia is violating the ceasefire using the heavy artillery and weapons prohibited by Minsk agreement. And with that situation, I think this is the very important – and vital if you want to choose – for us to organize the situation with Russia will implement the agreement.
And your question, am I optimistic enough – look, I offer you the confidential information: This is impossible to be the president in a country in a state of war and not to be optimistic, because this is the only way to return Ukrainian flag to the occupied territory. Yes, I am optimistic, and I think that we can reach the result in a very short period of time with the support of our partners and allies. Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I’m also an optimist and I think to have these jobs, it’s a requirement. But I’m proudly an optimist because I think it’s the way you get things done, is to believe in the possibilities. And yes, without excessive optimism, with a pure note of reality, I am convinced that in the time left there’s the ability in short order, frankly, to begin the process of the full implementation.
Now, I think that it is necessary to find a path forward that unites the interests of the parties in a way that is fair and sensible, and provides assurance to both sides – to all sides, because there’s more than one, or two – that the requirements of Minsk are in fact being met and being met in a way that gives everybody an assurance that their needs are going to be satisfied. Now, how does that work? That means President Poroshenko has already moved significantly to develop the election law, to deal with the amnesty requirements, to focus on the political aspects of some decentralization. And that law is now considerably developed and documented in writing between the parties, though there is still some work to be done. The security piece, which is critical to Ukraine and Ukrainians and to the president – as he said, no president can sit there while people are being picked off two a day or more, people are being wounded. So it is critical that there be security steps that are also being taken to give confidence to the president, to the Rada, to the people of Ukraine, that this is not a one-sided event.
I am convinced that over the course of the next days, it is possible to more fully develop the steps that everybody needs to take in order to achieve those assurances, to build that kind of confidence, and to achieve the end result that people want. And that’s the work that our teams need to do, and our teams are ready to do that work. There will be, as the president mentioned, a Quint meeting – Germany, France, Britain, the United States, Italy – will meet with the president. There will be a meeting of the Ukraine-NATO – NATO-Ukraine Commission. So there’ll be important conversations that will take place in the next two days. And then, obviously, diplomatically, it’ll be our job to follow up on that in every way possible in order to give life to what I just described, and we’re going to try and do that.
With respect to North Korea, the human rights abuses in North Korea are without any question among the worst anywhere in the world. The government continues to commit extrajudicial killings. There are enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, detention, forced labor, and torture. And many of these abuses are committed in the political prison camps, where currently an estimated 80,000 to 120,000 individuals are detained, including children and family members of the accused. So the report that we put out in the State Department is the first listing of persons determined to be responsible for serious human rights abuses and censorship in the DPRK. And we’re going to continue to identify individuals as we obtain additional information, and create accountability for actions for which a lot of people – those detained, those tortured, those killed have no recourse but the good will of nations and people who will stand up and be their voices.
Now, obtaining this kind of information, especially the identities of people below the top leadership is always a very, very difficult task when you have a closed country of the nature of the DPRK. In fact, this report represents the most comprehensive United States Government effort to date to name the specific officials who are responsible for or associated with the worst aspects of the North Korea regime’s repression. And we have taken this step because it is important to hold people accountable, responsible, for serious human rights abuses and for the activities that the DPRK is engaged in.
Now, the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act, passed by the United States Congress, requires a specific finding be made with respect to Kim Jong-un’s responsibility for serious human rights abuses and censorship. And I think it’s important, President Obama believes it’s important, the Congress believes it’s important that all North Korean officials know and understand going forward that at all levels there are consequences for actions, and they hopefully might consider the implications of those actions going forward here. We’re in close consultation with our allies.
And I want to make this very, very clear with respect to China and the part of the question you asked about China’s engagement: Of course China’s engagement is critical; we’ve always said that. In every visit I’ve made to Beijing, in every conversation we’ve had with the Chinese, we have emphasized the importance of China to trying to change the behavior of the DPRK and to trying to get to the Six-Party Talks again to deal with the problem of the nuclear program. And it is our hope that China – I just talked to the foreign minister yesterday – and our hope that we will continue to cooperate, as we have been, in the last months particularly with the UN Security Council resolution that we passed in which China stepped up and significantly increased its own actions with respect to the behavior of the DPRK.
So my hope is that this will make clear to the world that we’re serious and that the threat of a nuclear weapon in the hands of the DPRK, in the hands of Kim Jong-un, is unacceptable. We stand ready and prepared to go to talks, both to talk about the denuclearization as well as to talk about peace on the peninsula and a road to normal behavior and normal acceptance for the North, should they choose to behave like a normal country. And we remain, obviously, poised to try to get to that goal.
MODERATOR: And from Ukrainian side, (inaudible).
QUESTION: (Via interpretater) (Inaudible.) For both presidents, one question. On – which results of the Warsaw summit are you awaiting, and which agreements with NATO countries and Normandy Format you are expecting?
PRESIDENT POROSHENKO: (Via interpreter) First of all, I would like to say that Ukraine is the only country with which during the NATO summit there is conducted a higher – highest level commission sitting. And the second thing is that the meeting is planned in the Quintet format – the Great Five – with me, where we plan to discuss a great number of issues starting with security, the issue of security. You know that Ukraine has made the decision of a national security and defense council for security bulletin, which is the roadmap for reformation of security and defense here in Ukraine. And the great assistance for reforming the security sector is being provided by NATO countries through relevant trust funds. And we have decided to continue this cooperation, and we hope that new, ambitious projects will be developed in our cooperation with NATO countries.
During the Quintet meeting, we will not only discuss security issues, but also the matters of support for reforms in Ukraine and special attention will be given to judicial reform, the reform of the customs sector, reformation of state fiscal service, and anticorruption measures by Ukraine, and other sectors. But I would like to stress that this is a NATO summit, and of course, the priority will be given to security matters – the expansion of security cooperation, military-technical cooperation, and the great number of developments has been observed by today and it is a – this circle will be enlarged. And we expect support by NATO and we expect that Bucharest’s promises, especially on the open doors for all European countries, will be kept. Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I should begin by thanking you for promoting me, but let me just add very quickly to what the president said, because the president has really summarized what will happen there. And as I mentioned earlier, the NATO-Ukraine Commission is going to meet at the level of heads of state, which is a very important statement in and of itself. They will approve a comprehensive package and assistance package to streamline and consolidate the NATO support for building the capacity of Ukraine’s armed forces. And NATO will also welcome Ukraine’s progress on defense reforms, particularly on civilian oversight of the armed forces and its move towards NATO standards. So that will be recognized. In addition, we have strongly supported – the United States has strongly supported not only that package, but we’ve contributed – we have contributed in kind to four of the six trust funds that were mentioned by President Poroshenko – specifically the command and control, the cyber, the medical rehabilitation, and logistics.
Now, in addition to that, let me just say that the United States stands by our open-door policy. We’ll welcome new members when they’re ready. As President Poroshenko himself has said on several different occasions, Ukraine has a long way to go in order to modernize and reform its defense sector and increase its interoperability with NATO, which is part of the discussion that takes place in the context of the NATO-Ukraine Commission. And he himself and your country has not yet made a decision as to whether or not you even want to apply for membership. I can assure you that your newly – Ukraine’s newly announced and launched defense reform effort, which includes measures to enhance civilian control of the military, is very welcome. It’s a very important part of the democratic process, also a very important part of working together on the interoperability with NATO, and is a part of the Ukraine’s stated intent to cooperate more with NATO in the framework of the distinctive partnership that it currently has. So we will continue to work on that and the future will be determined as decisions are made here and elsewhere that fit whatever the dynamics are at that particular time. But right now, anything else would be premature.
MODERATOR: Thank you. (Inaudible.) Thank you very much.