by the acting Minister of Defence of Ukraine Mykhailo Koval following the meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission in Defence Ministers session
MYKHAÏLO KOVAL (Acting Minister of Defence, Ukraine): Thank you. Good evening.
Ladies and gentlemen, today we've had a NATO-Ukraine commission meeting where we informed about the military and political situation in Ukraine and the ways out of the crisis in the east of our State.
The Defence ministers of the allied countries who spoke at the meeting unanimously supported Ukrainian authorities, Ukrainian Armed Forces and security forces engaged into antiterrorist operation in the east of Ukraine as well as congratulated Ukrainian nation with legitimately elected Ukrainian President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
And I'm ready to answer your questions.
Q: What assistance and support from NATO you're going to get specifically besides words of support? And the second question, Deputy Chief of the administration of the President blamed your deputy for some abuse of his office.
MYKHAÏLO KOVAL: First of all I should emphasize that Ukraine has been cooperating with NATO for quite a long time. We have been… I mean Ukrainian military participate in many activities and many operations of the Alliance, including stabilization forces, that's why Ukrainian military are well-known at the NATO Headquarters as well as well-known to the Allies.
That's why a discussion with my colleagues, with Defence ministers, was very pragmatic; it was very practical-oriented and the assistance is in full progress; in particular we received assistance from France, Poland, United States, as well United Kingdom, and also assistance is coming from other Allies. There is a very long list of items.
About… you know anyone can be blamed, but this could be legitimate only if it is proven by the investigation, by the court, but so far there is no information available.
MYKHAÏLO KOVAL: At the moment, we are talking only about non-lethal weapons and the assistance which we receive is like non-lethal weapons.
MYKHAÏLO KOVAL: So far I haven't got such information. I know that the operation is in progress but I don’t have such information.
MYKHAÏLO KOVAL: At the moment, I don’t have such information and… and maybe you'll give me more details, but this is for the first time I hear something like this. With your permission I will add to… answering to this question. Probably it's about the next group of NATO experts who have arrived to Kiev; what do they do there. We realized and armed forces realized that without any profound reforms, we'll not be able to defend national interest of the State by the armed forces. That's why in order to move forward we have to conduct the total review of what we do have and what we do want, and only then we'll be able to define what assistance we need, what assistance we need in a month, and what assistance we'll need in a year.
Q: News agency UNIAN, Ukrainian news agency. Minister, I would like to come back to the commission, NATO-Ukrainian commission. I'm interested what kind… (Ukrainian)…
MYKHAÏLO KOVAL: In fact I made a brief presentation on the current situation in the east of Ukraine. I described the situation, made conclusions on the basis of assessment and informed colleagues about practical steps taken by the antiterrorist operation command aimed at extermination of criminal groups in the east of Ukraine and the reaction of the Defence ministers - and 21 ministers spoke to the events happening in Ukraine - was in a sort of support in activities and actions of Ukrainians authorities, antiterrorist operation, and all ministers congratulated Ukrainian nation, Ukrainian Armed Forces with legitimately elected president.
MYKHAÏLO KOVAL: There is quite a lot of evidence and we see this evidence every day on our national television. Our servicemen get prisoners and recently you saw interview by Ramzan Kadyrov standing nearby to so-called journalists who were arrested or detained with MANPAD, nearby Kramatorsk, this is another proof.
Another proof, a huge number of dead bodies which were delivered from Ukraine to the territory of Russian Federation as well as threats from some literacy(?) in Russia that they would take a revenge for Russian soldiers being killed in Ukraine.
And there have lots of such cases, they have been documented, and everything will be used during the court litigation which will be started by our State against those who (break in transmission) this war on its territory; non-declared war.
Q: This change with NATO and is there… (Ukrainian)…
MYKHAÏLO KOVAL: We have enough information and enough capabilities to get objective intelligence information for us to be able… well-informed decision in order to successfully fulfilled antiterrorist operations. We didn't receive such information from NATO.
Q: What would be a vision, when antiterrorist operation may be completed in order to think about introduction of martial law?
MYKHAÏLO KOVAL: About completion of the antiterrorist operation, you should understand that this is quite a complicated operation which is conducted at the area populated by five million of civilians, civilian residents, and the tragedy and complexity of this operation is caused by the fact, by Ukrainian authorities ordered the participants of the antiterrorist operation that no civilian person should suffer as a result of that operation.
It is extremely difficult to conduct all these operations, and I should tell you the commanders of the antiterrorist operation give commands to liquidate some groups if they are absolutely sure that there are no hostages or civilians at the place which is subject to the operation.
The authorities… the commanders of the antiterrorist operation define certain stages of the operation; the operation is going according to the plan and we have all the grounds to say that antiterrorist operation will be successful.
And we will conduct it within the timeframe defined by the authorities of the State, fulfilling on the tasks which we face.
Martial law, it's also not a prerogative of military forces; this should be… this should be the political will of the authorities; if they decide this, we will do this.
Q: Internet, publication (inaudible) yesterday there was a big fight nearby Luhansk. Ukrainian bodyguards fought with some hundreds of terrorists. And yesterday Seleznev declare that antiterrorist operation provided a lot of assistance but the fights finished. But this morning there was information that in reality there was no assistance. And the bodyguards were left alone against those terrorists and now the situation is developing in a way that there is another hit on this bodyguard point is quite possible. The question is when this mess will come to an end when your speakers don't tell the truth, or they tell the truth and we don't get enough information?
MYKHAÏLO KOVAL: First, I would like you to speak in a more correct manner. Yes, yesterday the Luhansk bodyguard director at personnel was repelling, not even stunned, they didn't stun the territory, they were fighting against… just shooting…
There was definitely assistance - shown by television, by the way, aviation; nine… two fighter planes conducted nine sorties to that place. And during these sorties they hit the territory around that bodyguard station as well as vehicles coming to assistance of separatists and there were three trucks hit by these fighters.
Also there were four… MI-24 attack helicopters operating there. What do you mean by the assistance…? I don’t understand what you say because the antiterrorist forces… first of all I should say that the bodyguard unit is surrounded by separatists, there are only two airborne companies located on the Luhansk airport territory and they are protecting this territory of the airport, and there was no need to assist them with some other forces because after the strikes which I mentioned, because the strikes were also aimed at checkpoints of bandits on the road, Luhansk, (inaudible), Luhansk, and these three checkpoints were completely destroyed which also helped the bodyguards. That's why what you told us about is… is not true in fact. As professional military I can tell you that everything is done correctly and it will lead to a success.
A lot of information. There was a lot of information. You say that national guards, they have their own tasks, and I know about everything which is happening in the process of antiterrorist operation and there was no decision about national guards.
The people spread in rumors about national guards, the same ways about the right sector, these rumors are spread especially to intimidate local population, and nobody sent national guards there. They have different tasks to do.
MYKHAÏLO KOVAL: They head of the Defence Ministry. Yes, together with the Foreign Ministry, we would get information. I know in which hotel those people stayed and which root they moved because when the Foreign Ministry requested our assistance, we did everything possible to provide for security of OSCE personnel who work in this area.
But I must tell you that I'm always present at all meetings and the authorities of our country told the OSCE authorities that there was no need; they should not send these people to Donetsk in particular. Unfortunately OSCE didn't listen to our advice and they sent their people to that dangerous territory, and we know what is the result of that.
Q: Jane's Defence Weekly. (Ukrainian)…
MYKHAÏLO KOVAL: I must tell you that we today received the most important, the total support of the whole Alliance. As I told you 21 ministers spoke and all supported us. It is very important for us.
Our country has necessary capabilities to defend the country. We do have it, and we're using the potential to full extent. Yes, we have some problems with some air defence systems, intelligence and communication equipment. All the rest, we do have, and we used all these to… fully; we use these fully.
Q: (Ukrainian)… military journalist. In mass media, there is information that Russians might use aircraft which they captured in Crimea for provocations. Do you have any idea of what provocations those could be?
MYKHAÏLO KOVAL: Yes, I must agree with this. I verified this. This really takes place at the moment on the territory of Crimea, in particular in Belbek airbase, there are Su-29 aircraft which are combat-ready, and according to our negotiations with Russian Federation, we are to get them back, to bring them back to Ukraine, and only nine aircrafts stay there. These aircrafts are marked with Ukrainian national signs, and this night we got information that these aircrafts are being actually prepared for provocative sorties; you know that to bomb civilian population and to alert the Ukrainian Armed Forces in killing… I'm sorry, these are aircrafts are MiG-29, not Su. And hitting civilian population. Yes. And the reaction all of us made (?), it was very correct.
So the Russians should understand that we know about this. This is very important; to inform all the world about this possible provocation.
Q: Minister, Ukraine together with NATO plans for 2014 a number of large scale exercises like Rapid Trident, Sea Breeze or… what is the destiny of these manoeuvres, of these exercises?
And another question: what tasks will be given to the battalion, joint battalion, Ukrainian-Polish-Lithuanian? Ukrainian Parliament approved multinational exercises including two exercises with the United States also which you have just mentioned.
MYKHAÏLO KOVAL: We are preparing for these exercises; funds have been allocated and we're going to conduct these exercises the second half of this year in Ukraine.
Ukraine has not refused any activity of our troops in terms of peacekeeping operations. We are participating in all these activities fully.
You have a little bit incorrect information. Yes, there is a resolution by the cabinet, our ministers, and I'm to sign an agreement between Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania on setting up Ukrainian-Polish-Lithuanian brigade; it is a very important step, and I have already talked to my colleagues from Poland and Lithuania and we agreed that this document is going to be rectified on the 18th of June this year.
Q: Minister, during today's meeting you were asked about possibility of a referendum in Ukraine initiated by Tymoshenko on accession to NATO.
MYKHAÏLO KOVAL: No, there was no such a question asked to me.
As Acting Defence Minister of Ukraine, the fact that I'm here shows that our country is interested in cooperation with NATO, definitely. Yes. Do we understand each other?
Q: Do you have any information about the number of peaceful residents who were killed during the operation and about the losses on both sides?
MYKHAÏLO KOVAL: I don’t have any information on the number of peaceful citizens who were… who died, at least from the antiterrorist forces, for there is no fact that… there is no proven fact that they killed any peaceful citizen.
Unfortunately, from our side, beginning with Crimea, went to military service mandate, in total we lost 42 persons, I mean armed forces; 42 persons died, were killed.
MYKHAÏLO KOVAL: I respect very much Republic of Georgia very much and I respect the armed forces of this country, but we have enough our own reformers to fulfill all the tasks.