The Armed Forces completed the largest military operation in the modern history of the country. The army took under fire control and established the defense regime on almost the whole line of the state border with Russia in Luhansk and Donetsk regions. The CTO forces liberated a great number of inhabited localities from terrorists and encircled extremist groups.
The state is obliged to protect its citizens from terrorists and armed gangs. Taking extraordinary efforts, Ukraine is restoring combat capability of the army and created the National Guard. Now, we have enough power and political will to deliver the final blow to illegal armed formations.
On the other hand, we soberly understand possible number of casualties among both Ukrainian servicemen and civilians of Donbas. Civilians are in fact being held hostage by militants now. That is why I suggested a peaceful plan. We are ready to restore the territorial integrity by all means, but now, we place a priority on peaceful measures.
As Supreme Commander-in-Chief, yesterday, in the headquarters of the Counterterrorist operation near Sloviansk, I commanded the Armed Forces, the National Guard, the MIA units and the border guards to unilaterally cease fire. Ukrainian authorities were the first to make such step because I feel my responsibility for the fate of the country.
The cease-fire period is limited to one week – until June 27. These are the decisive days that give a good chance for a peaceful settlement.
All illegal armed formation must understand: the initiated cease-fire doesn’t mean that Ukrainian soldiers are forbidden to shoot back. Any attempts of militants to attack will face the rebuff. Of course, not verbal.
Please, dear participants, let me inform you on some details of my peaceful plan.
In the coming days, the Verkhovna Rada will be offered to adopt the law on amnesty to those members of illegal armed formations who didn’t kill civilians and Ukrainian soldiers, who will lay down their weapons in a short time. Everyone who illegally took weapons must do so.
Hostages must be immediately liberated. I mean all hostages – from international observers to Ukrainian teachers, doctors, journalists and law enforcers.
Corridor for the escape of Russian mercenaries to their motherland will be opened. But there is a condition to leave machine guns, tanks and armored vehicles here.
10 km long buffer zone will be established on the Ukrainian-Russian border. It will become an additional protection from further entry of mercenaries and weapons to Ukraine.
Another important element of the plan is liberation of administrative premises in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Dismantling of roadblocks and barricades around them. Order must return to the streets of Ukrainian cities. By the way, not only in Donbas. This information should be heard by those who stayed too long without a reason on the tires in other regions of Ukraine.
We must restore the functioning of legal local authorities. With the assistance from the Center, they must immediately revive the social security system, power supply and water supply destroyed by extremists. It is related to both Sloviansk and Kramatorsk as cities which suffered from terrorists most. Today, I have already given the instruction to the Government to immediately restore the functioning of treasury paralyzed by militants. People must receive wages, pensions and all social payments despite any obstacles.
Immediate fulfillment of the peaceful plan will open the path to the political dialogue. I invite legally elected representatives of local government, civic organizations and everyone else to this dialogue.
Diametrically different views will not be a barrier to participation in the negotiations. I am ready to talk with those who have erred, who mistakenly stood in the position of separatism. Except, of course, people who were involved in the acts of terrorism, murder or torture.
Moreover, I guarantee safety for all participants of the negotiations. For anyone who wants to speak the language of arguments instead of the language of weapons.
Important remark. The issue of territorial integrity of Ukraine is out of discussion! We hear and reckon with specific opinions of Donbas citizens. But we cannot and will not transform Ukraine, which is pretty unanimous in the issues of unity, territorial structure, language and geopolitical orientation, in accordance to them.
So where is the way out of this situation? It is in a broad decentralization of power.
For the first time in the history of Ukraine, instead of taking a full pack of powers and fighting, as it usually was, for the expansion of his power, the newly-elected President does the contrary. I will convey part of my powers to local authorities and territorial communities. In the first reading, respective amendments to the Constitution can be adopted in a few weeks. We can count on final adoption already in September.
Under the new Constitution, we will hold the elections to local Councils. The Councils will form the executive committees and elect their heads. And it will be they, not appointees from Kyiv, who will rule the regions and manage local budgets. These budgets will be substantially increased. Part of taxes will be redistributed for the benefit of communities, cities, districts and regions.
Decentralization provides for the expansion of the rights of regions in the issues of historical memory, cultural traditions and language policy. These issues will never again separate the country. Local communities of Donbas will have a right to freely use Russian language along with the state language. Communities will determine themselves to what monuments they should lay flowers. What they should celebrate and what songs they should sing at the holiday table. By the way, in which churches to pray.
But in conditions of decentralization, Donbas will not be able to deal with its problems alone. Not only Ukraine, but also the EU will come to help. We will help to restore the infrastructure destroyed by militants. At the cost of the state, we will restore housing destroyed during combat actions, we will restore workspaces. Donbas residents will have a place to return, to live and to work.
The program of creating new jobs in Donbas is being elaborated with the assistance of the EU. The case is not only about free or cheap credits, but also about the system of political risk insurance for the investors in the economy of Donbas. It is clear that there will be no investments unless there will be peace.
Peaceful plan cannot be implemented without a broad support of residents of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Militants must feel pressure both from Kyiv and local residents. For example, residents of Mariupol, the north of Luhansk region, the west of Donetsk region have had their say and now they live in peace.
It is gangs of mercenaries who paralyzed normal life and left people without means of living. I think that even those who had sacrificed their bodies and souls to create shields a few months ago have already changed their mind today.
I understand that not all people are ready to perceive or even hear the peaceful plan under the roar of cannon fire and naked nerve of the whole society. By the way, it is surprising that especially critical were those who did not smell gunpowder and do not know what a real war is.
To solve the problem by force is not an easy task. It means to sacrifice new and numerous casualties consciously and forcedly. To pay much bigger human price than the losses we have unfortunately already suffered today.
We must understand the main thing: not hundreds of people are taken hostage by terrorists, but hundreds of thousands residents who turned out to live in the area controlled by the terrorists. We, Ukrainian servicemen and politicians, think first of all about the fate of civilians in this situation. Otherwise, terrorists would have been wiped off from the face of the earth long ago.
I spent part of my childhood and juvenility in Transnistria. A lot of my classmates died in that military conflict. And a self-declared republic not recognized by anyone has been barely glimmering for more than 20 years already. I will not let Donbas transform into something similar to Transnistria.
I love our Donetchyna and Luhanshchyna just like my native Odeshchyna, Vinnychyna and Kyiv. Just like any other corner of my mother Ukraine.
Despite all the criticalness of the situation, we still have a choice and a chance to resolve the problem peacefully or by force. We must use this chance. We foresee various scenarios. Peaceful scenario is the main. It is our plan A.
But those who are planning to use peaceful negotiations only to kill the clock and regroup forces must know that we have a detailed plan B. I am not going to speak of it now because I believe that our peaceful plan will work out.
Our peaceful plan has already been supported by the whole global community. Particularly, by President of the United States Barack Obama, President of France François Hollande, Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron, leaders of many other countries of the world, international organizations, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, President of the Swiss Confederation, OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Didier Burkhalter (today, we have discussed with him the participation of the OSCE monitoring mission in the control over the cease-fire regime), Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland and others.
Finally, President of Russia Vladimir Хуйло also positively evaluated the decision of Ukraine to cease fire and supported concrete steps of my peaceful plan on the settlement of the situation in Donbas.
The whole world understands: there is no better option than peace.
May God help us!
Glory to Ukraine!