As Ukraine President Petro Poroschenko heads to Minsk for Russia-Ukraine peace talks, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin told us what he believes needs to be done for the conflict to end.
Interview by Malte Arnsperger and Lisa Rokahr
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT FROM NEGOTIATIONS BETWEEN PRESIDENT POROSCHENKO, ANGELA MERKEL, FRANCOIS HOLLANDE AND VLADIMIR PUTIN IN MINSK TODAY?
This is about peace, it’s not about playing with peoples’ lives. We have had too many human losses in the recent days and weeks. What we need desperately is a truce and also a commitment by the Russians and the Russian-supported terrorists for a touchline, where no kind of firing is going on. And it’s ofcourse about gaining control about the region by an unbiased structure. And in our case this is a monitoring mission.
WHAT COULD HAPPEN SO THAT THE NEGOTIATIONS FAIL?
The critical point, where it all could fail, is resuming control of the Ukrainian-Russian border. Because it’s not only Russian-supported terrorists, it’s regular troops of Russia coming across our border. We can’t reach real de-escalation as long as our border isn’t safe. That should be understood by anyone.
YESTERDAY THE VIOLENCE ESCALATED IN EASTERN UKRAINE AND ANOTHER FIFTEEN PEOPLE DIED. DOES THIS AFFECT A SETTLEMENT TODAY?
Irrespective of what happened so far, we’ll do our best to reach a truce or peace agreement. At this point we are ready to let Doneszk and Lugansk autonomously exercise their economic and democratic rights to chose their local leaders in the sense of a free economic zone in a transparent election. It’s all on the table.
The solution is actually quite simple: This truce has a humanitarian dimension and political dimension. We need the Minsk agreement to be implemented and therefore we trust in the negotiations.
DO YOU EXPECT A LONG-TERM PEACE AGREEMENT? HOW BIG ARE THE CHANCES THAT BOTH SIDES FIND A FINAL SOLUTION TO THE CONFLICT?
As a diplomat I’m realistic. But as a human being I simply have to be optimistic, because in recent days and weeks we saw so many people killed and heavily wounded. It is simply impossible to continue like that. What we need is to put an end on this war which was initiated by terrorists.
Yesterday they fired on the city of Kramatorsk and many people were killed and wounded. This city is 45 kilometers away from the touchline, it’s a normal peaceful town. It’s tragic to punish the people for their wish of living in a democratically Ukraine.
MORE AND MORE POLITICIANS IN THE U.S. SUPPORT THE IDEA OF PROVIDING THE UKRAINE GOVERNMENT WITH ARMS. DO YOU APPROVE THIS STRATEGY?
We need defensive arms because Russia is providing the terrorists more and more with heavy weapons. We need these defensive weapons to protect our positions. In all the recent weeks and months we never provided any sorts of offensive military actions behind the touchline, in that area controlled by the terrorists. But they have been shelling us, every day and every night.
They have killed soldiers and civilians on our side every day and every night. We need defensive weapons to resist aggressive and offensive attacks of the terrorists.
CAN YOU UNDERSTAND THAT ANGELA MERKEL IS RELUCTANT REGARDING ANY WEAPON TRANSFER?
I fully understand her. It’s about historical experience and internal politics. But what we have from Germany is consistent political support. Angela Merkel has started all these difficult efforts. That is a fact which we value very much.
PRESIDENT OBAMA ADDRESSED PUTIN WITH STRONG WORDS - ON THE CONTRARY TO ANGELA MERKEL, WHO ACTS RATHER CONSERVATIVE. WHICH STRATEGY MAY BE MORE SUCCESSFUL?
It is only a speculation that Germany and the U.S. are having distinctions in their positions. But for me there still is a transatlantic unity. The U.S. President and German Chancellor both made very clear, that they both support a peaceful solution. Their aim is the same: They both pursue de-escalation and want regaining control about the Russian-Ukrainian border.
SPEAKING OF NEGOTIATIONS - IS PUTIN A TRUSTWORTHY DIALOGUE PARTNER? DO YOU THINK HE WILL KEEP POSSIBLE FUTURE CONCESSIONS AND PROMISES?
Look, we have Russia at our border, so we need to talk to Russia in order to put an end to what is going on in Doneszk and Lugansk, because these regions have been supported by Russia all the time. We use different forms of dialogue to solve the conflict.
Now we use the “Normandy format” with the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany meeting. This is also about transatlantic unity. We are not alone against Russia, that is a critical and important point. The entire civilized world is standing behind us to help us and guarantee to help solving the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
DO YOU STILL STAND BY YOUR POSITION THAT SEPARATISTS IN EASTERN UKRAINE SHOULD NOT PARTICIPATE IN ANY PEACE NEGOTIATION?
How can we talk to people who for example shot down the Malaysian airplane, who shelled many peaceful towns like yesterday in Kramatorsk or earlier in Mariupol? For us the way to act is clear: Let’s have local elections in Donbas region. We believe that the people of Doneszk and Lugansk are responsible people.
They would elect the real representative of the cities. It is up to them to elect the people they trust. They could be responsible of law and order, of economic development and the reconstruction of Donbas. But it really should be the people electing, not Russia electing their representatives in fake elections and in that way establishing their leaders.
Last week we sent ten buses into the region of Debaltsevo to evacuate the people. All of the ten buses returned full of people, people choosing a peaceful future in the Ukraine. And only one bus of people chose the opposite direction and drove to Donezsk which is controlled by the pro-Russian terrorists. Ten to one. That’s also ten to one for the European united future, ten to one against living with the terrorists.