President of Ukraine

Speech by President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the Munich Security Conference

15 February 2020 - 13:28

Speech by President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the Munich Security Conference

Ladies and Gentlemen!

The Munich Conference is among the most important platforms for discussing global security issues. And I am grateful for the opportunity to speak here - this is important for me and my country. Especially in the context of the latest expert analysis. I am talking about this year's annual Munich Security Report.

We have mixed emotions about it. On the one hand, I am frustrated, alongside 65 million Ukrainians worldwide, by the fact that the report contains only eight references to Ukraine.

Unfortunately this is the lowest figure since the beginning of the war and the annexation of Crimea. In this regard, and as the President of the country which has been defending its sovereignty and territorial integrity for the sixth consecutive year – I have a fair question - isn’t it too early for everyone to calm down?

This is a hazardous trend. We understand that indeed there are many pressing problems and major conflicts taking place around the world today. But no issue can lose urgency until it is finally resolved. These are not newsworthy events that are “trending” or “not trending”. This is about the fate and the lives of people.

I want to draw your attention to the fact that it is not correct to say "war in Ukraine".

This is a war in Europe. And, along with the annexation of Crimea, it has already lasted as long as World War II.  Imagine that.

Yes, we, like no other, seek to end this war. And we will be happy when references to Ukraine as a danger zone disappear altogether from international reports. But this should happen only when a stable peace prevails in Donbas and Ukraine regains its territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, when our people, Ukrainians, and our territories - Donbas and Crimea – are returned to us.

On the other hand, we note the optimism from some global analysts. Last year, international predictions for the end of the war in eastern Ukraine were pessimistic. Today, for the first time in recent years, world experts note real progress in bringing peace closer and most importantly, they recognize that the new Ukrainian authorities are doing their best.

On the first day of my presidency, I said frankly: “We didn't start this war. But we have to finish it". And we will. Together with you.

And today Ukraine continues to consistently and steadily adhere to a peaceful, diplomatic path of settlement in accordance with the rules of international law.

We have agreed in Paris that we will confirm our commitment to a comprehensive ceasefire. And the corresponding statement of the Trilateral Contact Group was approved on December 18, 2019. But complete silence has not yet been secured. In the last two months, more than 400 incidences of shelling on Ukrainian positions have been recorded. These continue to kill Ukrainian people and Ukrainian servicemen.

Effective mechanisms are required for the ceasefire to take place in reality, not just in words.

They convince us that an effective mechanism is achieved via a direct dialogue with the so-called local authorities in the ORDLO. We are ready for dialogue with the civilians of these territories, not with those who are not recognized in terms of international law and therefore cannot represent the local population of Ukraine.

In addition, I have on many occasions communicated with ordinary people from the temporarily occupied territories. But objectively, the voice of Donbas is not only their opinion. There is also at least one and a half million displaced people from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions who have been forced to leave their homes.

That is why we have initiated the creation of a public dialogue platform "Peace of Donbas" in which they should be involved. They should be involved in consultations within the Minsk platform and actively participate in discussing their future in the united Ukraine.

Our intention today is to hold local elections throughout Ukraine, including certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, in October 2020. I would like that to happen in Crimea as well. But it is impossible for us to do so without basic security and political conditions, in violation of the Constitution of Ukraine and international standards of democratic elections.

Especially when today the Russian party openly informs the world that in 2019, 125 thousand Russian passports were issued in the temporarily uncontrolled parts of Donbas.

I have said this in Paris and will repeat it again. The people of Donbas need elections that will be recognized by Ukraine and the world as legitimate. And they cannot be so if they are conducted not under Ukrainian law, with the sounds of gunfire and without control over our border.

Among other matters, the leaders of the Normandy format agreed to approve three additional areas of disengagement of forces and hardware, which should have taken place by the end of March 2020. Currently, our party has suggested one area, and it is almost approved. The work is in progress.

I would also like to tell you about the initiative of the Ukrainian side on disengagement under the so-called sectoral principle dividing the delimitation line into sectors.

There is a gradual disengagement of forces and hardware. The transition from one sector to another is only possible after the OSCE SMM verifies that there are no illegal armed groups, armed forces and military equipment in the sector. In the near future, we will inform the participants of the Normandy format in detail about the content of this initiative.

Recalling the agreements in the Normandy format, I cannot but mention the secure, safe and round-the-clock access of the OSCE SMM throughout the temporarily uncontrolled territory of Ukraine. Unfortunately, it is not ensured there yet.

I reiterate that the effective work of the OSCE SMM on monitoring and verification is a key prerequisite for the successful implementation of the security package of the Minsk agreements.

I would like to pay special attention to a very important humanitarian event. The mutual release of detained persons.

This is the second positive example in the last six months. And this trend should be continued for the sake of a certain purpose - the release under the formula "all for all".

We cannot stop as long as more than two hundred Ukrainians are still kept in inhumane conditions in the temporarily uncontrolled territories of Donbas. And more than one hundred Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars are kept in Crimea and the Russian Federation.

I would also like to remind you of the important agreement of the Paris Summit - to ensure the effective work of international organizations, in particular the International Committee of the Red Cross. Today, ICRC representatives are involved in the search for missing persons. Unfortunately, there are too many of them over the past six years as well.

The issue of their access to detained persons remains open, but there is every reason to expect a positive solution to this issue.

In general, I want to assure you that Ukraine will continue to do its utmost for the next summit of the leadership of Ukraine, Germany, France and Russia to be held as per the schedule, i.e. in April 2020.

Our key task today is to ensure the steady implementation of the Paris agreements. Ukraine is ready and works on it every day.

Every day, step by step, we move forward on the path to peace. But this is a two-way road, and we are waiting for the other party to take steps forward.

Dear attendees!

I firmly believe that without the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine and the return of Crimea, we cannot fix a damaged regional security system in Europe. Its architecture must be based solely on the norms and principles of international law enshrined in the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act and international treaties.

Ukraine has always made a significant contribution to international security.

Being one of the founders of the UN. Giving up its nuclear weapons and instead losing part of its territory in the 21st century and continuing to lose its citizens.

That is why today Ukraine has every right to speak about the inefficiency of the existing world rules, the need to reconsider and revise them.

We are a country that has directly felt the imperfection of the world's current architecture. The existing institutions are not operating as efficiently as is required today.

Last year, Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel said: "Who is going to pick up the pieces of the world order? All of us".

It is a brilliant statement, which brought the audience to a standing ovation.

But international agreement must be confirmed not only by applause, but also by joint action.

It's time to realize that our planet is not as big as it used to be.

This is evidenced by the crash of the MH 17 aircraft and the Ukrainian Boeing 737.

This is evidenced by fires in Australia and the spread of coronavirus.

This is evidenced by environmental disasters, drinking water problems and cyber threats.

It is time to realize - we live in a world where there is no longer someone else’s war and someone else’s catastrophe.

And there are not seven, not twenty, but almost two hundred independent states in this world.

They are members of the United Nations. Same people live in these states, no better and no worse than others. And these people cannot be spectators, and in fact - hostages of geopolitical theater, in an arena in which several countries decide which of them is in charge.

Today, the expert community recognizes the fragility of the world order, but believes in restoring it on the basis of liberal ideals. They point out that there can be mistakes in a democratic system, but the system itself is not a mistake.

Then why is the principle of democracy violated when dealing with global issues? It is impossible to build a new world order on the basis of liberal values if only certain countries with nuclear weapons or with a certain level of economic development are invited to build them. Problems of humanity must be solved by all representatives of humanity.

And this cannot be done when geopolitical ambitions and unwillingness to compromise on one's own economic interests are put above human security. It is time to recall that the continents of our planet are, first and foremost, not “markets” or “trading areas”. They are home to seven and a half billion people.

Today, humanity has a demand for strong new leaders. But I am convinced that in their understanding a strong leader is not the one who easily sends thousands of soldiers to certain death, but the one who is ready to fight and protect the lives of everyone. To create comfortable conditions for everyone to develop their talents and live in harmony with the environment.

Perhaps, for experienced world politicians and diplomats to understand this, I have to say this - a person who has never been a politician before, who is not a master of vague diplomatic wording or protocol statements without specifics. I have always been a person who says what people say on the streets. And now I am saying what people are saying on the streets in all corners of our planet. And the voice of these people must be heard by the world leaders in this luxurious Munich hotel.

Because the demand for a new world order is not only the desire of influential states and governments. Billions of people demand it.

Thank you!


Working visit to the Federal Republic of Germany

15 February 2020 - 14:00