Joint press point
with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko
MODERATOR: Dear journalists, we’ll start our press conference, so we'll have one by one questions from foreign media and then questions from Ukrainian media, so first question is to Wall Street Journal.
Q (Wall Street Journal): Mr. Secretary General, you said this is not a military exercise but do you think that is likely to be perceived in Moscow and elsewhere as a military exercise? And Mr. President, do you want to see NATO do an explicit military exercise here in Ukraine [inaudible] security?
JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General): So this is a civilian exercise and I think you all witnessed that. This is an exercise about rescue, it's about saving lives and it's very important to exercise and to increase also the ability of different nations, NATO allies and partner countries, to increase their ability to work together. So we have been absolute transparent about what this exercise is about, we are exercising something which is of great importance, both for Ukraine and for many other NATO allies and partners, and there is no reason to create any misunderstanding about this exercise because it is a civilian preparedness rescue exercise.
PETRO POROSHENKO (Ukrainian President): Thank you very much indeed, Secretary General. The presence of such a big number of journalists is the exact evidence that we are completely open and transparent and everyone of you can see that this is a completely civilian exercise, but very symbolic, because this is the first time in our cooperation between Ukraine and NATO we have this type of exercise with the participation of more than 1,100 participants, more than 34 countries which participate in this exercise, and this is a real civilian exercise for our services of emergencies.
But we are interested in different forms of exercises which increase our coordination and cooperation with NATO, and I think this is very, will only have a positive effect, and when we plan this possible type of exercises we would be the same, open, and we invite the same number of journalists. Thank you.
Q: Mister President... Mister President... How would you comment on blockades... on trade blockades on the administrative boundary with Crimea? And the …. [inaudible] that we heard from Odessa that local activists want to block the same way the border with Transnistria.
PETRO POROSHENKO (Ukrainian President): I think these points are of principal difference. Crimea is a Ukrainian territory which as a result of the annexation was captured, seized by armed people from the regular troops of Russian Federation, captured in February 2014.
Today, the blockade is an action of public activists of Crimean Tartar people. And Ukrainian state services have received orders... I mean Ukrainian bodyguard troops as well as Ukrainian law enforcement officers were ordered to provide for law and order and to prevent any provocations during this action.
The aim of this action is, as I said yesterday, in my interview, Ukraine will do everything possible in order to provide for the quickest possible restoration of Ukraine’s national sovereignty over Crimean land. Nothing more.
Transnistria is not part of Ukraine. We cannot compare these activities. I think this will go beyond my comments.
MODERATOR: France Press, please.
Q: Mister Poroshenko, France Press, the first question is about the Russian Army's presence in Eastern Ukraine. According to NATO, are there still Russian troops in the conflict area? And if yes, how many? And the second question is about the ceasefire. Do you think it's working? And is there still a threat of the escalation of conflict? Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General): What we have seen... and I think that the President can elaborate even more on that... what we have seen is that the ceasefire is mainly holding. And this is, of course, encouraging; because that was not the case before.
But still the situation is very fragile. Russia continues to support the separatists, they provide them with weapons with different kinds of equipment, with training with their forces. So the situation is still fragile. But I welcome the renewed efforts to make the Minsk Agreements work. I welcome the fact that the ceasefire is mostly holding. And I very much underline that the path to peace, the way to reach a peaceful negotiated solution to the crisis in Eastern Ukraine is the Minsk Agreements. And therefore we need to see a full implementation, meaning also that Russia has to stop supporting the separatists in Eastern Ukraine.
PETRO POROSHENKO: Thank you very much indeed for your question. Yes, we have now from the 29th of August a very fragile ceasefire. From the time when we have before up to 200 shellings per day, today we have one, two, three, four and normally from the light shelling... from the light weapons.
Yesterday and today, we do not have any casualties, neither wounded nor killed. And I just want now, in front of you, to now open the report which I have from our General Staff: We have a zero shelling today and zero losses from combat.
And of course, if you approach from this point of view, this is very effective and very important. But does this situation with the ceasefire can bring us to the peace? This is very necessary but not enough component. Because for having peace and stability for the de-escalation of the situation, we need to remove any Russian and Russian-backed terrorists from Ukrainian territory; we should close the border; we should launch the political process and election under the Ukrainian legislation which will meet the standard … [inaudible] of the OSCE. This election should be free and fair and political, humanitarian, economic, infrastructure, security. Dialogue which is the significant and considerable part of the Minsk process. It can bring the situation on the East of my country to the de-escalation and bring the peace to this land. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Kiev Post.
Q: Johannes Sanders the Kiev Post, Mister President, Mister General Secretary, in 2008, Ukraine and Georgia was left in a very vulnerable situation. They weren’t given Membership Action Plan to NATO. So...But also it was stated that they could eventually at some point become a member of NATO. Considering NATO's subsequent action, do you think that was a mistake done at that point? And should the Article 5 actually be reviewed to count for covert attacks as we've seen on the Russian side?
PETRO POROSHENKO: OK, I can start. Our understanding what... how we can estimate the situation in the year 2008. We have a decision of the Bucharest Summit of NATO from the year 2008. This decision was absolutely a clear message to Ukraine, the door of NATO is open for us.
And we need to make a reform in our countries... By the way, 99% of the reform for being adequate to the standard of the European Union and standard to the NATO is the same. This is democracy. This is anti-corruption. This is the rule of law. This is the investment climate, security sector and different, different … [inaudible]. And we now strongly and decisively provide and implement reform in our country. Considering the door is open, does the Ukraine ready now to be a member of NATO? The answer is very simple: No, and we should be prepared for that.
Does NATO ready that Ukraine would be a member? The answer is the same: no. But we should work hard to change my country to be a member of the European Union. And this is my main focus … [inaudible]. As I said 99% is the same. The door of NATO is open for Ukraine from year 2008.
JENS STOLTENBERG: I remember very well the decisions we made in Bucharest back in 2008. At that time, I was there as Prime Minister of Norway. I remember the discussions and the decision; because the important thing which we underlined there and which is also something which NATO has underlined again and again is that it's a fundamental right of any nation to decide which path it wants to pursue and also what kind of security arrangements it wants to be part of.
And this is not actually only a message from NATO. But this is also a fundamental principle which is enshrined for instance in the Helsinki Final Act which also Russia has signed to. So the principle that every nation has the sovereign right to decide its own path is a fundamental principle which, of course, is still valid.
Then as the president just now stated Ukraine is now focussing on the reform, on modernization... modernizing their armed forces. And NATO is working with Ukraine on implementing those reforms and implementing a transformation of the armed forces of Ukraine so they become even more mobile and more capable and meet NATO standards.
And then when they have finished these reforms, then it's up to Ukraine to decide whether they would like to apply. And if Ukraine applies, then of course we will assess an application from Ukraine in a way we will assess any other application.
So I can see that this is a problem now; because it is a very clear principle. Then, Ukraine is moving forward. And we are developing the partnership together with Ukraine, enabling Ukraine to modernize and to reform.
MODERATOR: And two last questions.
Q: Mister President, in spite of the Minsk Agreements, the so-called Lugansk and Donetsk People's Republics announced that they will have their own elections on the 18th of October and the 1st of November, what will be the reaction of Kiev if they go ahead with this?
PETRO POROSHENKO: The reaction will be the same as it was to the fake elections which run counter to the international law and Ukrainian legislation and have no legal consequences. These elections will not be recognised by anybody in the world because they will be just fake elections. They are not elections per se. They are not free and fair. They fail to meet OSCE standards. And they clearly run counter to the Minsk Agreements.
Another point is this creates a serious threat to the Minsk Agreements and just like elections of the 2nd of November damaged the Minsk protocol and memorandum of September. And I would like to remind you that the 1st Minsk Protocol was concluded on the day of the NATO Summit in Wales. So I believe that likewise these decisions will be viewed as totally irresponsible and will harm the Minsk process.
Our vision of the situation is very simple: the elections should be based on the Ukrainian legislation. We have communicated the election law to them. If there are some specifics and there are some specifics. And the first specific point is the fact that a lot of people, up to a million people, living in Donbass are IDPs. And they have no opportunity to vote.
The best pro-Ukrainian people who were forced to leave Donbass according to this law are disenfranchised which means that the result of the elections will be distorted. Therefore, we stand ready for discussion. But these specifics should envision clear compliance with … [inaudible] and OSCE principles at the Trilateral Group meeting which will take place tomorrow. We had a representative from the … [inaudible] and he expressed a position which totally coincides with the Ukrainian vision. And we said that we want the elections in Donetsk and Lugansk to be properly prepared.
And in terms of Ukrainian political parties the operation of election commissions we want to remove the armed people from the streets; because we cannot have elections at the barrel of a gun. There should be transparency and everything should be done to make sure that the result of these elections we should have no Russian troops on our territory; the border be restored; and Ukrainian sovereignty be revived.
MODERATOR: Europa Press, the last question please.
PETRO POROSHENKO: Not... Frankly speaking, I don't understand your question. Because if you said that you want to change the position of Ukraine that Russia becomes an aggressor, this is absolutely misunderstanding because Russia is already, starting from the February of year 2014 when first Russian troops appeared around the Parliament of the Crimea. And the armed Russian troops were annexing the Crimea: Russia is an aggressor. And unfortunately, the situation has not changed during this one and a half year. And we're really expecting that Russia withdraw their troops. We closed the border. And we would provide the effective policy for the de-escalation situation in Ukraine.
But the problem is not only in Ukraine. Russian troops now are in Syria. Russian troops are now in some other areas completely de-stabilizing the global security system. And that is the very tough challenge for the whole world on the security matter. Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: Let me just add that the actions of Russia in Crimea and in some parts of Eastern Ukraine is not only a violation of the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of Ukraine. But it's also undermining the rules-based order which peace and security has been based on in Europe for decades. So this is a challenge to all of us... to all of us who are striving for a stable and peaceful development in Europe. And that's the reason why we have been so strong is supporting Ukraine; but also in underlining the importance of respecting and implementing the Minsk Agreements. And let me then also refer to the previous question that any elections which take place in Eastern Ukraine which are not in accordance with Ukrainian law will be a violation of the Minsk Agreements. They will be fake elections. And they will be not... and they will not be recognized by any NATO Ally. So the important thing is that the election has to be in accordance with the Ukrainian law and that is an important part of the full implement of the Minsk Agreements which is the best way of solving the crisis in Eastern Ukraine.
PETRO POROSHENKO: Thank you very much, thank you.