Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission at the level of Defence Ministers

  • 15 Jun. 2016 -
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  • Last updated: 15 Jun. 2016 17:14

(As delivered)

Good morning.

We have just finished a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission. 

And we discussed about security. We discussed about reforms. And we addressed our support.

The situation in eastern Ukraine, caused by Russia’s actions, remains of concern.

The ceasefire violations continue every day. And OSCE monitors continue to be hampered in their important work. The Minsk Agreements remain the path to a sustainable solution. It is urgent that they are fully implemented by all parties.

We stand firm in our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Allies do not, and will not recognise the illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea. And we will continue to call on Russia to stop its destabilisation of Ukraine. Russia needs to stop supporting the militants, and withdraw its forces and military equipment from Ukrainian territory.

In response to Russia’s actions, NATO has stepped up its support for Ukraine. Our level of political and practical engagement since 2014 is unprecedented.

And today we decided to do even more.

Ministers approved a Comprehensive Assistance Package for Ukraine. It brings together all the strands of our support. This Comprehensive Assistance Package will provide advice and assistance. 

Our aim is to help Ukraine establish more effective and efficient defence and security structures. And to strengthen civilian control over them.  We are already implementing projects under the Trust Funds we have set up for Ukraine.

On command and control, logistics, cyber defence, and rehabilitation of wounded soldiers.

We are also developing new projects, including in the areas of countering hybrid warfare and explosive devices. Ukraine has ambitious plans to reform its security and defence sector. Today, Minister Poltorak presented his country’s defence reform roadmap: the Strategic Defence Bulletin.

Modernising Ukraine’s forces while they are engaged in conflict is no easy task. But the government is making good progress. Ukraine is committed to continuing reforms. This is important. And we welcome it.  

We look forward to our meeting with President Poroshenko at the Warsaw Summit.

This meeting, at the level of heads of State and Government is a clear sign of NATO’s commitment to Ukraine’s stability and security. 

And with that, I’m ready to take your questions.

OANA LUNGESCU (NATO Spokesperson):  We’ll start with Reuters, first row here.

Q:  Thank you very much. Secretary General, in the latest OSCE report there were over 150 explosions on Sunday night, there was shelling and a hole was blown in the side of a building. How long can you pretend that there is a ceasefire in Ukraine? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General):  The ceasefire is violated again and again and this is of great concern and we have seen many ceasefire violations over a long period of time and there are also many casualties; Ukrainian soldiers have lost their lives and this is just underlining the dangers and also the instability related to the situation in Eastern Ukraine. But we can, we are not able to see any alternative than continued support for the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements because that remains the best foundation for a negotiated peaceful solution to the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. We have seen many setbacks, we have seen many violations of the ceasefire and we also have seen several times that the work of the OSCE monitors have been hampered, have been made difficult not least by for instance downing of the UAVs which they use to monitor the ceasefire. So it is serious, it is of great concern but we continue to support the implementation of the Minsk Agreements.

OANA LUNGESCU:   UNIAN, first row.

Q:  News Agency UNIAN, Irina Somer. Secretary General after today meeting what exactly is your expectation from a meeting with President Poroshenko in Warsaw?

JENS STOLTENBERG:  My expectation is that the meeting between NATO heads of state and government and President Poroshenko will once again confirm the strong commitment of NATO to continue to support Ukraine, to provide strong political support for Ukraine, for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, but also to continue to support Ukraine with practical support, advice, assistance, not least in helping Ukraine implementing reforms to modernize its defence and security sector. NATO allies are helping Ukraine in many different ways. We use the trust funds, we have advisors and we have agreed on the comprehensive assistance package. I also expect that the meeting will strongly underline the importance of that Ukraine continue to be strong when it comes to fighting corruption, to modernize its different government institutions and in particular the defence institutions. One element of that is to make sure that there is political democratic control over Ukrainian Armed Forces and these are one of the issues we discussed today.

OANA LUNGESCU:  Lady in the second row.

Q:  RBC Russian. Today the Ukraine and NATO Support and Procurement Agency signed a sales agreement on random brokerage services support to the Ukrainian Army. According to some Ukrainian and Russian media it’s an agreement on weapon supplies. Could you clarify it please?

JENS STOLTENBERG:  NATO does not sell weapons, NATO does not possess weapons. So NATO is not in a position where we can supply weapons to Ukraine because we don’t possess weapons. Then different NATO allies may engage in different kinds of agreements with Ukraine.  I am not able to update you on all those different bilateral activities which are taking place. Ukraine is a sovereign nation and of course Ukraine has the right to buy weapons if they so wish but this is something which is not organized within NATO because NATO does not possess weapons.

OANA LUNGESCU:  Gentleman first row.

Q:  Mr. Secretary General, Channel 24 Ukraine. With the, within the scope of the recent prisoner releases made by Russia, I mean we have two more people back home now, do you really believe that this is a move from, Russia’s move towards peace? Do you really believe that this is what is going to set peace in Russia’s best intentions in this conflict? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG:  I welcome prison release and to release prisoners so our, or is one part of the Minsk Agreements but as I already stated there are so many violations of the Minsk Agreements, especially the ceasefire, so we have a very, very long way to go. And we continue to see violations of the ceasefire and we continue to see that the OSCE monitors are not allowed to monitor the ceasefire in a proper way.


Q:  Secretary General, in Russia the, last, yesterday in Russia the new snap exercises have started. Do you have any kind of contacts with Russian side? Do you have any explanations about this military activity to help the transparency of the military activity between Russia and NATO? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG:  We have seen reports about the new snap exercise and this is part of a pattern where we have seen several Russian snap exercises over a long period of time and one of the challenges with the snap exercises is that that’s a way to not implement the agreements we have for instance in the Vienna Document to notify and to inform about exercises. So snap exercises are undermining transparency and predictability and it makes it impossible to have any effective and useful transparency and observation of the exercises. So this is part of a pattern and we’ve seen it for a long time and that’s one of the reasons why NATO strongly supports efforts to strengthen the mechanisms we have for transparency, predictability including modernizing the Vienna Document. So we should use it also for snap exercises, there should be a way to establish snap observation and inspection. So this just underlines the importance of strengthening the Vienna Document and other mechanisms to secure transparency and predictability related to military activities.

OANA LUNGESCU:  Kommersant.

Q:  Thank you very much. Mr. General Secretary could you please specify how much money by now has been spent by NATO countries on support of reforms of Ukraine or on consultations, on training et cetera? And second question how would you evaluate the progress on implementing reforms in Ukrainian defence sector by now? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG:  Ukraine is making progress when it comes to implementing reform in the defence sector and Minister Poltorak highlighted the importance and stressed the importance of Ukraine’s commitment to continue to implement reforms and we discussed different parts, different elements of the reform process related to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. As I had mentioned one part of this is democratic control and also the fight against corruption. But they still have a long way to go and that’s exactly why we will continue to support them, that’s exactly why we are as part of our comprehensive assistance package also very much addressing how we can assist, advise, how NATO advises in Kyiv and Ukraine to help them implement these reforms because they are so important for Ukraine and for their ability to create a modern security sector and armed forces. NATO and NATO allies provide support to Ukraine in so many different ways. Partly through the advisors we have in Kyiv, partly through the trust funds but then on top of that there are different bilateral arrangements. The UK mentioned during our meeting that they do training of Iraqi, sorry of Ukrainian forces. So there are many different channels of support, ways to provide support, so I cannot provide you with any specific figure because we provide support in so many different ways.

OANA LUNGESCU:  Lady over there.

Q:  RFE Ukraine. You’ve promised on Monday to tell us the details of this comprehensive plan of aid to Ukraine. Can you explain what it will be and when it will start acting? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG:  The comprehensive package is going to be then finally endorsed at the summit but the comprehensive package brings together all the different strands of our support. And this is about advice, this is about assistance, this is the different trust funds, on logistics, on countering IED, on command and control and medical rehabilitation and other trust funds and activities which we then bring together under this comprehensive assistance package. Our aim and a part of the comprehensive assistance package is to establish more effective and efficient defence and security structures. So there will be advisors helping the Ukrainians with doing exactly that and the aim is to also then strengthen civilian control over the security structures. We will also start to implement new projects and that’s partly related to counter IED, it’s partly related to projects addressing how to better counter hybrid warfare and we are also working on new scientific projects on how we can develop better equipment and better methods for de-mining. So there are many different concrete projects which are part of the new comprehensive assistance package bringing together our different strands of work and then also launching new concrete projects at the same time.

OANA LUNGESCU:  Agence France Presse.

Q:  Secretary General, NATO has called for Russia to withdraw since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine, how would you assess Russia’s involvement today? How, what form is it taking, how many military or advisors from the Russian Army are today in Ukraine and what are they doing exactly?

JENS STOLTENBERG:  So Russia continues to support the separatists in different ways. They provide support with material, with equipment, with weapons and also different kinds of advice and assistance. They also mass troops along the Ukrainian border and they continue to provide support directly to the separatists inside Eastern Ukraine. So that’s the reason why we will continue to call on Russia to fully respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and Russia continues also its military build-up in Crimea which is part of Ukraine and the military build-up in Crimea is a violation of the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

OANA LUNGESCU:  This wraps up this press conference. We will see you again after the next and final session of this ministerial. Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG:  Thank you so much.