President of Ukraine

President's Address to the Nation on the Constitutional Amendments Vote at the Parliament of Ukraine

31 August 2015 - 19:51

President's Address to the Nation on the Constitutional Amendments Vote at the Parliament of Ukraine

My fellow Ukrainians!

Today the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine has approved constitutional amendments on decentralization in the first reading. This has finally happened after more than year-long discussions.

I am consciously undertaking steps to share my powers in favor of local communities and reinforce them with redistribution of financial resources. So that more money and more power for local communities corresponded with more responsibility and influence of local communities and citizens.

Decentralization fundamentally changes the political system of Ukraine. It paves a way to the European model of self-governance, and it is also part of my peace plan. Today’s vote has been uneasy but a sound step toward peace.

Understandably, some people in Moscow are quite anxious because they did not get what they want. The Internet and newspapers are full of headlines such as “The Kremlin did not like constitutional amendments”, “Russia’s Foreign Ministry criticizes Ukraine’s constitutional reform” and “Russia-backed militants are angry that Kyiv did not consult with them on constitutional changes.”

Just recall what circumstances we were under one year ago. They wanted not only federalization, but a confederation where a dozen of Ukrainian regions would be connected to Russia more closely than to the rest of Ukrainian neighbors. Then they dreamt about their proxies taking key decisions in foreign policy, vetoing Ukraine’s integration in the European Union and NATO. But a meager line about the peculiarities of local self-governance is the only thing they got. Does anyone think that it was easy to achieve? We should glorify Ukrainian soldiers and thank Ukrainian diplomats for this.

What would happen if the Verkhovna Rada did not vote for constitutional amendments? The fate of a pro-Ukrainian international coalition would be significantly undermined. Potential extension of economic sanctions that hurt the aggressor would not be on the table. The grim picture of having Ukraine struggling against the aggressor alone would become a real threat.

My fellow countrymen!

It is very sad that some members of the parliamentary coalition attacked the President and the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of their own country instead of directing their burgeoning energy to counter the external enemy. They have also launched a campaign against our closest allies – the United States, Germany, France and the European Union.

I do not claim they are agents of Moscow. Some decided not to take a responsible stand, but instead took a pose that is cynical and dangerous for the country. Some acted not as statesmen, but egotistic politicians that do not see ahead of the local elections on October 25.

How can you call events that unfolded near the Verkhovna Rada other than a stab in the back?! It was an anti-Ukrainian action for which all organizers, all representatives of political forces without any exception must carry full responsibility. I will personally control the fulfillment of this, as I had a meeting with all heads of law enforcement and gave clear orders of conducting a transparent investigation and bringing both the organizers and perpetrators to justice. They have attempted to storm the Parliament. They have thrown a grenade. They have targeted a serviceman of the National Guard in his heart and killed him! They have wounded around 120 servicemen and police officers –many of whom took part in the Anti-Terrorist Operation, some of them are decorated with state awards.

Thanks to the diplomatic efforts last week, including my direct involvement during the visit to Brussels, it has been three days in a row when not a single shot from the heavy artillery was fired on the frontline. It has been three days when not a single Ukrainian soldier was killed in action. On the other hand, someone kills defenders of the homeland here in Kyiv for the sake of advertising their party banners and several seats in a district council.

Whose plans did the so-called patriots fulfill today? The answer is obvious.

My fellow countrymen!

Today’s vote on constitutional issues of national importance has naturally united non-affiliated MPs but – and I am saying this with all responsibility – constitutional changes have to unite the parliament; it does not mean changes in the parliamentary coalition. Do not trust the speculators on this subject. Despite events in the Parliament today, the current coalition will continue to function, because it is crucial for the national interests of Ukraine! Other options are not considered at all. This is my solid position.

Today, Ukraine confirmed its reputation as a reliable partner and strengthened the image of the country that fulfills Minsk agreements in contrast to Russia. If Moscow does not reconsider its position, individual sanctions against those involved in the annexation of Crimea and the occupation of areas in Donetsk and Luhansk regions will be extended this fall. Similarly, sector sanctions will be extended in early January of the next year.

Today’s vote is not final, but it will provide a huge room for maneuver for the Ukrainian diplomacy. The final decision by the end of 2015 will need 300 votes. My fellow countrymen, I assure you this will depend on the developments in eastern Ukraine and whether Russia adheres to the Minsk agreements in the next months.

The draft constitutional amendments do not foresee special status for particular districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. This, in my view, is just a cliché that certain political parties employed as election strategy, an element of the dishonest information campaign against the Constitution and against the president.

Moreover, we are crossing out a clause that allows an illusory opportunity for special status in Article 92 of the Constitution of Ukraine. This was done in order to eliminate any kind of legalistic ways to prevent the emergence of numerous fiefdoms.

Speaking on the peculiarities of local self-governance in certain districts in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, it is defined by a particular law. This law has been approved twice by the previous and the current Parliament. Its timeframe – three years, and one year passed already. Most articles of this law are suspended. They can be enforced only after the fair elections on these territories according to the Ukrainian law and the OSCE standards. And only after the withdrawal of Russian troops and weapons from the territory of Ukraine, as well as the restoration of control over the entire Ukraine-Russia border. Is anyone against this?

Therefore, these constitutional amendments mean not the loss of territories but the opposite. They provide us with a chance and opportunity to settle and return Ukraine’s sovereignty over the de facto occupied territories via political and diplomatic means.

We will definitely win through a combination of strengthening our defense capacities and political and diplomatic efforts.

Glory to Ukraine!