English translation of the interview (original - in Bahasa Indonesia)
After more than two and half years of Maidan Revolution, some people say "Revolution of Dignity", as a president you faced a very tough and difficult relationship with Russia under Mr Vladimir Putin administration. What is your main priority in term of foreign policy and economic development?
Indeed, the Revolution of Dignity has become a historical turning point for Ukraine. The Revolution started as protests against attempts to halt Ukraine's Euro-integration process but very soon it turned to be a fight for democracy, freedom and dignity, as well as for a right to choose country's future without any external pressure.
You are well aware, what happened next. Being driven by the thinking of the past, Russia occupied Crimea and unleashed aggression in Donbas. Unfortunately, Kremlin's choice was confrontation instead of cooperation.
It was done by a country that was entrusted to guard the UN Charter. And it was done against a neighboring country that always promoted a peaceful policy, in particular, willingly surrendered the third nuclear arms arsenal in the world in the name of disarmament and peace.
Nevertheless, my key priority remains to bring peace and stability back to Ukraine with diplomatic and political means. We are closely working on that with our international partners. To succeed, we need to keep the international pressure on Russia using sanctions policy in a wise manner that is the way to urge Russia to retract from Ukraine. And this is about respect of the international norms and principles – of sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of borders.
Second, Russia's aggression became a challenge for us also in terms of economic security. That's why, our another priority is structural economic reforms, as well as diversification of trade partners and markets.
So far, we succeeded to conduct a number of important reforms in such areas as judiciary, prosecution, law-enforcement, anti-corruption policy, energy sector, public procurement, macro-economic stabilization etc. We do those reforms to finally break with the Soviet past, which is currently embodied in Russia's aggressive behavior. That is what our choice is about. We strive to live in peace and develop ties of cooperation and Indonesian investors are not that far away to explore the economic potential of Ukraine.
Eastern part of Ukraine is still on unstable condition after the Revolution and thousand Russia troops also presence near the border. What is your long plan policy for the eastern region which is also slightly dominated with Russia ancestry.
Once again, let me be clear Ukrainian citizens have lived in peace until we were attacked by thousands of Russian troops and mercenaries armed with sophisticated Russian weaponry.
Just look at numbers. 475 Russian tanks, 948 armored combat vehicles, 762 artillery systems, 208 MLRS, and other heavy weapons and about 7 000 regular Russian troops still remain on Ukrainian soil. And Russia continues to send them to Ukraine and continues its provocations with about 60 shellings per day, despite its obligations. I mean on the Ukrainian sovereign territory. On the border, we have much bigger Russian military presence. And the international community fully understands that.
Of course, Russia want the international community to believe that there is ethnic, or linguistic, or religion-based split in Ukraine. We call this a hybrid warfare with military, political, economic, and information components.
But that is not a case. All Ukrainians want to live in peace, democracy, and prosperity. To prove that just imagine that only one third of Donetsk and Luhansk regions or about 3 per cent of whole Ukrainian territory are under occupation. And that is because local population does not support this aggression, despite numerous attempts of Kremlin.
As I already mentioned, my key priority is bringing peace back to Ukraine. That's why I proposed my peace plan that later became a basis for the Minsk agreements. To achieve this goal, first we need to pull Russia out from Ukraine and to seal border with Russia. And we strongly rely on international support and solidarity in that.
Second, it is economic renewal and development of the region. A great part of enterprises of the region were destroyed or looted by Russia. But to rebuild the region first we need the peace.
We already have a good example of that. In towns and villages, which were liberated from Russian troops, infrastructure is being restored, economic activity intensifies. People are returning to their homes, they can go back to work, school. And the Government is allocating appropriate funds to support them and to return liberated territories to peaceful life.
And third, we need to restore a stable self-governance in that regions. So far, we have already taken some steps towards decentralization across whole Ukraine, by giving more powers to the local communities in order to provide citizens with the opportunities to better manage their lives at the local level. And we will do the same in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as soon as Russia leaves Ukraine.
Crimea, once belong to Soviet Union, once belong to Ukraine and now belong to Russia under one sided point of view. Is that Crimea issue still bothering you and Ukraine people? Some Ukraine politician said that Crimea must be back to Ukraine someday and somehow....What is your stand for this issue?
Crimea is Ukraine. This is out of question.
In March 2014, one hundred countries, including Indonesia, supported the UN resolution 68-262 on the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
Indonesia was one of the first countries in South East Asia to declare its firm support for Ukraine's territorial integrity and to refuse to acknowledge any forced change of borders.
Ukraine is extremely grateful for Indonesia's continued support of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
After occupation Crimea has fallen under extensive human rights violations, including persecution, illegal imprisonment, kidnappings, torture, and even murder, and we are deeply concerned about that, as well as about the militarization of the peninsula.
In particular, the Russian occupation authorities are bearing a grudge against the Muslim Crimean Tatar minority who are the most outspoken against the occupation. As a result, the Crimean Tatars have become the main target of relentless persecution.
Taking into account these appalling facts, strengthening international sanctions remain the only way to urge Russia to deliver on its commitments and to end the occupation of the peninsula.
I would like to remind that current crisis in Europe started from the occupation of Crimea followed by the aggression in Donbas. That's why I remain strongly convinced that this crisis can be ended only with de-occupation of Crimea.
We understand, two years after the Revolution it is clear that hopes of a quick reconstruction and modernisation of the Ukrainian state as a political and institutional system have not been fulfilled. The resistance of the bureaucrats, politicians and oligarchs who make up the informal, corrupt systems has proven to be very strong. Is those kind of issues really your main challenges under your administration?
It may be impossible to turn a decades-old system around overnight, but we are continuing reforms with a long-term perspective and are starting to slowly see results.
We have conducted judicial reform, began implementing a broad civil service reform to cleanse the system of those involved in the former corrupt regime, introduced anti-corruption legislation. We created a politically independent Anti-Corruption Bureau and a Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office. Officials are being detained and are facing the consequences for their deeds.
Ukraine underwent a complete overhaul of the law enforcement. The old law enforcement agency, the Militia, was discontinued, we founded a completely new Police and recruited new law enforcement officers to fill its ranks.
In economic terms, laws that have been passed to help the transition from state-owned enterprise to private sector, to eliminate wasteful subsidies, to reform the energy sector, deregulate, lessen the pressure on business, and make Ukraine more hospitable for investment.
Of course, the Government is often forced to make difficult decisions along the way, and not in every sphere can we see immediate changes. But overall, both, European and American observers are commending us on our progress. The economy, which is slowly bouncing back, corroborates their positive reviews.
The revolution, however, has revealed the profound social changes which have taken place over two decades of independence, mainly through generational change and the increasing de-Sovietization of public consciousness. As a president with the very successful businessman background, is that phenomena has to be an advantage factor for you? Or not? A measure of the generational change, the most important social transformation to affect Ukraine since 1991, is the growing number of those which could be called 'the independence generation'. This part of generation, which is still too young to aim for power in the country, is free of the Soviet Union heritage, and did not undergo the methods of indoctrination associated with that period, including military service. As a president, as a father of them, what is your plan for this kind of generation considering they will someday become a sphere head for your country development....
Ukraine gained its independence from the Soviet Union in August 1991, exactly 25 years ago facing numerous challenges, including transitioning from authoritarianism to democracy, from a command to a market economy.
The Revolution of dignity marked the point where Ukrainians realized their rights and responsibilities as citizens and learned to stand up for those rights and to fully assume those responsibilities.
De-Sovietization of public consciousness involves an increasing sense of responsibility for one's own fate, a more enterprising mentality, greater creativity, and greater freedom, which are perfect conditions for development, any businessman will recognize this. Now is a very exciting time for Ukraine and I am lucky to witness this potential and take part in galvanizing it.
And as the President of the country facing foreign aggression, I find this as a great advantage. It was a resilience of the civil society, which helped us to stop Russia.
I see this new vibrant, creative, educated, dynamic generation, a generation with an empowered mindset, as a huge asset for our nation.
Today Ukraine the fourth most educated nation in the world, we have 640 000 graduates annually. Ukraine has become the no. 1 software engineering force in Central-Eastern Europe, is in the top 3 for certified IT professionals globally.
Young Ukrainians are very entrepreneurial, and we are eager to support their creativity and initiatives. We do this by reinforcing democracy, facilitating entrepreneurship, supporting our academia and the scientific community in order to give young people the opportunity to develop.
As a father of four forward-thinking millennials, I can't help but feel pride looking at our young people. They will make Ukraine an enviable member of the international community and coveted partner.
Over twenty-five years of diplomatic ties almost two dozen agreements were signed between Ukraine and Indonesia. Bilateral trade at one point reached 1 billion US dollar, and we believe that is not the limit. The two countries have a history of mutual support. When Indonesia needed the United Nations Security Council to recognize its independence, it was Ukraine's delegation to the United Nations that supported Indonesia and put the issue on the agenda. What is agenda to increase relationship with Indonesia, in term of trade, economic cooperation and more warm political partnership?
We consider Indonesia a priority partner, as the biggest state in South East Asia and one of the most dynamically developing countries in the world. Ukraine sees Indonesia as a gateway to the region, and can become for Indonesia a gateway to Central-Eastern Europe. We have extensive potential to expand cooperation in trade, agriculture, investment, science and technology.
We look forward to expanding our cooperation. This visit is the first top-level visit in 20 years, and I hope it will bring bilateral relations to a new level.
I plan to visit Jakarta, where I will meet with President Joko Widodo, to conclude a series of bilateral agreements to strengthen our relations. Ukraine and Indonesia have strong interparliamentary ties. Our respective parliaments have active bilateral friendship groups, which exchange delegations from time to time. My meeting with Speaker Ade Komarudin during this state visit will solidify this strong partnership. In Yogyakarta and in Bali I will meet the respective Governors to discuss prospects for interregional cooperation. I will also open a Ukraine-Indonesia business forum. From the Ukrainian side, a delegation of 50 representatives of government, ministers, business leaders will take part. I am happy to note that our respective business communities are eager to cooperate.
We expect people-to-people contacts to improve as well. Starting this year, more Ukrainian tourists will have the opportunity to discover Indonesia, as Indonesia introduced a visa-free regime for Ukrainian citizens. Some of Indonesia's Southeast Asian neighbors are receiving 40 thousand Ukrainian visitors per year, ten times more than Indonesia. We are expecting these numbers to grow significantly due to the new visa free policy. And we will be making reciprocal gestures to encourage Indonesians to visit Ukraine.