The year 2014 is coming to an end. It is definitely the most difficult year since 1945 for Ukraine, Europe and the world in general. The world has become more dangerous and less predictable. Global post-war security system has been destroyed and it doesn’t work anymore.
I do not agree that the world has become bipolar. The world remains civilized and the fact that the entire world has united over Ukraine, the whole world has demonstrated firm unity and solidarity with Ukraine proves that we have serious grounds for optimism.
Still, challenges and risks Ukraine has faced since the beginning of 2014 are really impressive. It is like the other world. A country, which was immediately transformed into dictatorship and totalitarianism on January 16, 2014. A country, which received independence easily and had to pay an extremely high price for the second birth of its independence in February, when hundred best Ukrainian men and women, irrespective of their nationality, sacrificed their lives for the birth of a new country and a new people. A country, which faced the threat to its sovereignty due to the drawing into the Customs Union, which seemed inevitable. A country, which faced the real threat to its territorial integrity after the annexation of Crimea. A country, where direct armed aggression of the neighboring state against our state was initiated in the middle of 2014. A country, whose economic base was destroyed at the beginning of the year because of the reckless and irresponsible financial policy.
We have a great list of risks and threats Ukraine faces for the first time. De-facto there was a liquidation commission aimed at destroying the Ukrainian Armed Forces, security units, the Ministry of the Interior and the Internal Troops. Somebody expected Ukraine to be unable to defend itself. I am proud of the way Ukraine has lived through this year. We have not only withstood, but also found a decent response to all these challenges.
Nobody expected the people of Ukraine to be so organized and responsible in war conditions to conduct the best presidential elections in the history of Ukraine. Immediately after that, we have started preparations for the signature of the Association Agreement with the EU. It was signed on June 27, in Brussels.
Unprecedented measures aimed at enhancing the defense capacity of our state have been taken since the first days. The organizational structure has not been ready for that since the very beginning. There was no money. However, high morale and unique volunteer movement have refuted the traditional proverb associated with Ukrainians: "It's not my funeral". More than 80% of Ukrainians have taken part in the volunteer movement. And it is the country where several years ago only 13% of Ukrainians were willing to defend their Homeland with weapons in their hands.
At first, volunteers' contribution to the defense of Ukraine, its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity has been crucial. There was no food, clothes, body armors and helmets in the Armed Forces.
The first attack has been faced by 6 thousand Ukrainian soldiers having only small arms, scattered across the entire front. In a few months, Ukraine has created one of the most combat capable armies on the continent. Now, foreigners come to us to study our experience, operations and technologies of fighting against the hybrid war.
In 7-8 months, Ukraine has managed to mobilize an incredible international support. For the first time in the history, the Association Agreement was synchronously ratified by the European Parliament and Verkhovna Rada on September 16. The constitutional majority of both parliaments has demonstrated the level of support to Ukraine that has been subsequently reaffirmed in the course of all international forums, including the UN General Assembly, where 100 countries have supported Ukraine and provided significant moral support.
On October 26, parliamentary elections were held in extremely difficult conditions. Many people have blamed me for dissolving the Parliament and declaring early parliamentary elections. The time has shown it had been absolutely right and deliberate step. We do not have the fifth column of aggressor, we do not have communist traitors, we do not have the Party of Regions and I hope we have a solid pro-European coalition that can be responsible for the difficult situation in the country.
I would like to mention the Law on Lustration. It is a certain Rubicon, which demonstrates fundamental changes that must be held in the country.
Positive end of the year is the liberation of 150 hostages. Please note, it was not an ordinary gradual liberation. Militants have been refusing to set them free for 6 months. Many of hostages were sentenced to death, warriors of volunteer battalions and the National Guard among them. Only extremely active efforts and well-coordinated steps let 150 Ukrainian servicemen meet the New Year at home. I am very happy for them.
The Chonhar peninsula and the Arabat Spit have also been liberated. The Ukrainian border guards have liberated the territory of Kherson region completely.
Still, difficult tasks are ahead. We can fulfill them only demonstrating unity and responsibility. The top-priority task is to implement reforms and create all conditions for the economic growth in 2016. We must stabilize the economy, launch new reforms that will ensure absolutely different position on the investment climate, make resolute steps in guaranteeing the rule of law and struggle against corruption. This will allow converting high international authority of Ukraine into direct foreign investments. This is what Ukraine urgently needs today.
It is important to achieve visa-free regime with the EU in the course of the Riga Summit in May 2015. We have everything for that. Ukrainians must have the right to travel around Europe without any visas.
The main thing is to transform the fragile truce in the East into stable, lasting and secured peace on the basis of my Peace plan and the Minsk agreements. We must return temporarily occupied territories under control of the Ukrainian authorities and restore Ukrainian sovereignty there. Once again: it can be done only on the basis of the Minsk protocol, which stipulates all the necessary conditions for that: the ceasefire regime, immediate liberation of all hostages, because 150 are not all of them. With the assistance of the Security Service of Ukraine, a group has been established to find the Ukrainian hostages in the occupied territories. 4 hostages have already been found. This process will be carried out not in the regime of exchange, but in the regime of returning our men home.
The key condition of the Minsk protocol, which will promptly bring peace to our country, is simple – border closure and withdrawal of foreign troops from our territory. As soon as the troops will be withdrawn, there will be no conflict. It doesn't exist. It is far-fetched. The first measures in the liberated territories are the evidence of that. You can go to Sloviansk, Kramatorsk, Lysychansk, Sievierodonetsk, Mariupol and see the way Ukrainian authorities restore order there. It will be additional evidence that the given conflict has been brought to our country from abroad and those who have brought it, occupants and aggressors, must leave our country.
Certainly we need serious international coordination for that. The activity of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, the Ukrainian authorities and the Ukrainian President demonstrated in 2014 will be continued in 2015. My diplomatic year will begin with a meeting in Normandy format on January 15 in Astana. Foreign Ministers of the countries-participants have already been instructed to elaborate the agenda and draft decisions for this summit.
Struggle against corruption remains a serious challenge as well. After the holidays, on January 8-10, I will meet with the newly-appointed officials of the President, the Parliament and the Government responsible for the formation of the board of the Anti-Corruption Bureau. Several potential candidates provide serious grounds for optimism. All respective cases involving corruption will be submitted to the Anti-Corruption Bureau immediately. Using the best world experience, we will take measures to demonstrate that there will be no people enjoying immunity from anti-corruption investigations in Ukraine. I think we will finally be able to demonstrate high efficiency of the given steps.
A great work is ahead. Much has already been done. The key thing for us is to preserve unity and responsibility. I am confident that we will manage to do this.