Address by the President of Ukraine on the occasion of the Day of Dignity and Freedom
Three years ago, several hundreds of young people organized a peaceful protest, Euromaidan, against the actions of Yanukovych’s regime that stole a European dream from them. The sudden protest occurred without any involvement of established political parties. The horrifying beatings of students by the Berkut riot police shook the whole nation.
Millions of Ukrainians took to the streets after the beatings. The people came out to put an end to the plan of transforming Ukraine into the Little Russia within a Russian empire and show their pro-European choice.
Per aspera ad astra. Through hardships to the stars – goes a famous Latin phrase that we all know very well. However, no one could imagine what kind of trials were about to befall on us in November 2013; how high would be the price of freedom, dignity and independence.
We freed ourselves from the pro-Moscow regime just to realize that the whole state structure withered away – only a rotten steering wheel was left. Ukrainian state was threatened by an economic default that seemed imminent. Our economy still did not recover from the 2008 financial recession. Russia did not only wage a war on us, but launched a fully-fledged trade blockade that cost our economy hundreds of billions of hryvnias. The armed forces and intelligence services virtually did not exist back then. It was our nadir from which we started to rise.
The bravest and the finest rushed to the frontline right after the Revolution of Dignity. First volunteer battalions shed their blood for the homeland and entered Ukraine’s military lore forever. This year we obtained the opportunity to refuse from another waves of mobilization, decommission our soldiers and sign military contracts with dozens of thousands of volunteers. This is an illustrative example of our progress in strengthening the state. Our soldiers are well-equipped and well-fed, professional and fight with modern weapons. It might be not the latest and most advanced military hardware but it is enough to contain the Russian aggression.
The former and current governments had to resort to unpopular and tough measures to avert catastrophe and economic default. The same steps that our successful neighbors in Central and Eastern Europe went through in the early 1990s.
The support of the International Monetary Fund has been and remains crucial for us. The IMF never provides a smooth remedy. I understand that having introduced the elements of the shock therapy we have unintentionally harmed millions of families – and I believe there is no dishonor in apologizing for this. But I am confident that a growing number of people will feel positive changes of our measures soon.
Our economy is far from being sound but we have managed to get off life-support showing signs of recovery. The economic downfall, which started one year prior to the Revolution of Dignity and war, is demonstrating steady growth.
The increase of business activity, measures to bring the economy out of shadows and the rising level of available public funds ensured the salary increase for teachers, doctors and other public employees. We lent a hand to those who need help the most, doubling a minimal salary to 3,200 hryvnias in 2017.
It is time to reap the first benefits of tough anti-crisis measures.
The foundation of our recovery is not yet strong enough. The process still can be halted or even reversed. The enemy attacks Ukraine from the outside and tries to undermine it from within. The Kremlin’s goal is to foster perpetual internal destabilization, anarchy and warlordism, as well as organization of early parliamentary elections and strengthening of the pro-Russian factions. Next step: reversal of the pro-European course and complete U-turn of Ukraine’s foreign policy objectives. The end goal is to return Ukraine back to the Moscow’s orbit.
If we follow the path of internal quarrels, we would throw the country into the abyss of chaos and anarchy, make it defenseless against the external aggression. As the President, I will not allow this to happen.
I have talked regularly about historic precedents of how Muscovy used democratic features in the neighboring states to its own advantage until those states were subjugated and annexed. I am confident this will not happen today. Why? Because Ukrainians are a wise nation that could not be tricked.
I want to call everyone not to stigmatize participants of mass gatherings. Naturally, the people have legitimate reasons for grievances and every free citizen in a free Ukraine has the inherent right to protest. Freedom and democracy were the two main achievements of the Revolution of Dignity. War and crisis obstructed our focus on the issues to improve the people’s prosperity. Now the government and all authorities have everything at their disposal to tackle these issues.
Dear Fellow Countrymen!
Freedom of speech as well as upholding other rights and civil liberties even during the wartime; new Patrol Police and independent National Anti-Corruption Bureau; transparent e-procurement system Prozorro that saved us billions of public funds; e-declaration of the high-ranking officials scrutinized by civil society – could we imagine all of this in the pre-Maidan Ukraine?
We have fulfilled all 144 points of the Visa Liberalization Plan, implementing important reforms. This week, the Council of the European Council unanimously confirmed that Ukraine fulfilled its obligations completely. It declared a strong political will of the EU and all its member states to grant us a visa-free regime soon after the resolution of internal procedures of the European Union.
Based on my latest communication with the leaders of the EU member states, I have an opportunity to foresee a compromise between Ukraine, the EU and the Netherlands. The ratification of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement will be complete.
Maidan and the Revolution of Dignity sealed Ukraine’s pro-European course. We are following the right path to achieve the right goals. The passage to the stars of Europe goes through hurdles just as any other. Per aspera ad astra. That is why it is so difficult sometimes. Miscalculations in solving such complex tasks are inevitable.
Sometimes I ask myself: could I avoid making so many mistakes. My inner voice answers that only those who do nothing do not make any mistakes.
The current latitude allows us to see farther. There are still plenty of problems and I am not going to hide them from you. But I cannot help sharing my adamant belief that we have overcome the most difficult times. Everything will be fine if we avert politicking that might undermine the results of the arduous work of the government, civil society, volunteers and the whole of the nation who laid the foundations of new Ukraine.
Václav Havel once said that even the best governments, parliaments and presidents cannot do anything on their own, as freedom and democracy require participation of every single one of us.
Thank you, dear Ukrainians, for building a European nation together.
Happy Freedom and Dignity Day!
Glory to Ukraine!