President Volodymyr Zelenskyy emphasizes that despite the challenges facing Ukraine today due to the COVID-19 epidemic, achieving peace in Donbas and deoccupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea have been and will be his top priorities.
“The point that was not the first, but is the most important for me and, I am convinced, for all Ukrainians, is the end of the war in Donbas, the achievement of peace, the return of our people and the return of our territories,” the Head of State noted during his address to the Verkhovna Rada on the internal and external situation in Ukraine.
The President reminded that Ukraine has unblocked the Normandy process to this end, which has been blocked since 2016. Ukraine managed to release 136 of Ukrainian citizens, including Ukrainians sailors, Oleh Sentsov, Edem Bekirov, Oleksandr Kolchenko, Stanislav Aseyev and many others.
“We fight for every Ukrainian, both military and civilian. For me, a human is the highest value. And every citizen should know: I am Ukrainian, and my state will not leave me. The process of releasing our citizens is underway, we remember all those who are still in captivity, and we are doing everything we can to bring them back,” the President emphasized.
The Head of State called the ceasefire announced on July 27 important. "Today, the regime of silence lasts for the 86th day in a row - the longest in years of war," he said.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy agreed that this regime is not ideal - violations and attempts to disrupt it are recorded. But the main thing is that the number of gunshots has significantly decreased and over this time Ukraine has had one combat loss.
“It hurts. But the fact that there are days, weeks and even months when we do not bury our heroes, when mothers and children do not cry, gives us hope. When locals say they don't listen to the news about "silence" because they hear real silence, it gives hope,” the President emphasized.
He noted that the European Union, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Turkey and other partners continue the unwavering support of Ukraine, and Ukrainian diplomats are constantly working to prepare for the next Normandy Summit in Berlin to continue movement towards peace in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian authorities do not forget that our citizens live both in Crimea, and in the occupied Donbas. And we have to take care of them and fight for them. That is why they have restored the bridge and the road in Stanytsia Luhanska, resolved the issue of drinking water in Donbas, build new, convenient, modern checkpoints, including on the border with Crimea.
“It is very important what kind of Ukraine our citizens see when crossing the temporary border. We do our best for them to see it illuminated, paved and comfortable,” the Head of State said.
Struggle for the youth in these territories, for their intelligence also continues. Starting from this year, children from Crimea and ORDLO can go to all higher education institutions in Ukraine and study there for free.
In order for people living in the occupied territories to know the truth about Ukraine from Ukraine, and not from the invader's propaganda channels, Ukraine launched Dom channel, which broadcasts to Crimea and Donbas.
“Of course, we can't have objective numbers of views there, but the barrage of constant criticism of the Dom channel from the Russian media shows that things are moving in the right direction,” Volodymyr Zelenskyy noted.
The President informed that he always invites world leaders to visit not only Kyiv, but also the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Together with Volodymyr Zelenskyy, this was done by Donald Tusk, President of Switzerland Simonetta Sommaruga, Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Martin Sajdik, Ambassadors of Germany and France to Ukraine.
“They see the real situation there and pass it on to our other partners. I am very glad that tomorrow 120 deputies of the Servant of the People party will go to Donbas as well. Not to Turkey, not to Maldives as before. The deputies will go to the frontline. And they will hear about the situation there not from social networks, but from our military and local residents,” the Head of State stressed.
The President regretfully noted: “Unfortunately, the issue of Crimea has never been on the agenda of the Normandy format. But it has been, is and will always be on our agenda. As long as Crimea remains occupied and Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars are regularly persecuted, the world must not forget about Crimea”.
The Ukrainian government is looking for new effective tools for this. In particular, it is creating a "Crimean Platform" format - the coordination of international efforts to protect the rights of Crimeans and deoccupy the peninsula.
“I have already discussed this initiative in detail with representatives of the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, Turkey and other partners. Many of them are ready to join and take an active part in it,” the Head of State informed.
According to him, the state and government officials must make decisions that will bring deoccupation closer already now.
“All Ukrainians must equally understand what will happen after the liberation and return of our temporarily occupied territories. Having achieved peace, we will begin secure reintegration based on successful international experience. This is a package of laws on the transition period, first of all - on responsibility,” the President noted, adding that it is also about special economic conditions for Donbas.
“We need the Strategy of economic development of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which will include tax and customs preferences, insurance of military-political risks for investors, arbitration according to international standards. Work on it has already begun,” he stressed.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy also noted that in the context of the return of the occupied territories and the citizens who live there, there is much room for manipulation, in particular regarding the so-called amnesty.
“The dreadful word "amnesty" is not about everyone and not about avoiding responsibility. It is about millions of our citizens whose hands are not coated with blood and who are now in fact being held hostage by the invader. And they need a clear signal – do not be afraid, a decent future is possible only with Ukraine,” he concluded.
The President separately emphasized: the onset of peace in Ukraine does not mean that the state authorities will stop caring about the army.
“On the contrary, only a modern and capable army will guarantee the continued observance of peace and be the key to Ukraine's security,” Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.
Along with fake draft notices, horror stories about the destruction of the army, there are indisputable facts – in 2020, the budget for the army became the largest in the history of Ukraine, as stated by the President.
“During the coronavirus crisis, it did not decrease by a single hryvnia. And please do not spread the "betrayal" that in the year 2021 we will decrease funds for the army. This is impossible because the budget has not yet been approved. I will not allow this to happen. At the very least, these funds will remain at this year's level. That is more than 117 billion hryvnias. That is 15 billion more than in the era of billboards about the army,” the Head of State said.