Sept. 21, 2014

Poroshenko defends his peace plan
by Ivan Verstyuk

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko, in a Sept. 21 interview with major local television channels, defended his controversial peace plan that includes ceding control over large parts of Ukraine's eastern Donbas region to Kremlin-backed separatists.

"I presented my peace plan yet when I was elected as president (in May) and that plan included amnesty and decentralization of power, which is why now I'm surprised to hear all these questions regarding why we've passed the laws regulating these issues," Poroshenko said.

"For the past three months we've expanded the territory that we control very substantially," he told journalists.

Poroshenko reiterated Ukraine's conditions for further peace negotiations with Russia: calling all the Russian troops off the Ukrainian territory, closing up the border and release of the prisoners held in Russian jails.

When asked to comment on the special status for the parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts which remain under the control of Russian combatants and their proxies, Poroshenko said: "There's no special status for these regions in the law, but a special regime of self-governing."

If they don't want to have a Ukrainian flag on their public offices, they will not be forced to have them, president added.

Meanwhile, those who have been killing Ukrainian soldiers or been involved in any terrorist activity may not qualify for the amnesty, the nation's leader explained. Whoever wants to get a Russian passport is free to do so after canceling one's Ukrainian citizenship.

"I've never given an order to target resident districts or social infrastructure in the area of anti-terrorist operation. And those who violated this are currently put under investigation," he commented.

Poroshenko told about the decision to build a special defensive line to protect the country from its aggressive neighbor. Thus, Deputy Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman leads the initiative on constructing the fortifications along the line which borders Ukrainian territory from Russia and fragments of territory seized by Russian proxies.

"I had a phone conversation with an associate professor of Luhansk Shevchenko University. She told me about her life. This lady gets up from her bed at 5 a.m., goes to get water and comes back no earlier than 9:30-10 a.m. Then she goes to get a loaf of bread which usually takes up to four hours, so she's back at home at 2 p.m.," told Poroshenko. "Afterwards she can't step out of her house as there're armed people on the streets who just shoot whoever they want to."

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Poroshenko have spoken by phone at least twice since the Sept. 5 peace deal in Minsk. "I've had two very long conversations with him over the phone and then one at a meeting in Minsk," head of Ukrainian state mentioned. "And current ceasefire is a direct result of those talks."

Poroshenko also lamented that the Western media is prone to making money on Russia's desire to publish anti-Ukrainian propaganda in globally read outlets. "The Washington Times had their cover totally devoted to an advertisement that was saying what is wrong in what Poroshenko does," he said and showed a copy of the newspaper's issue. "Moreover, the Washington Post published a story which was ordered (by Russians)."

When Oleg Panyuta, anchor for the weekly news program at Ukrayina television station, asked the president whether he's able to find common language with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, "who stands for the violent resolution of the conflict," Poroshenko said: "The president, the Cabinet of Ministers and the Verkhovna Rada are unanimous in their peace effort."

Ukraine's leader didn't avoid the questions on the upcoming parliamentary elections that the bloc which he leads participates in. "The elections (in Donbas) may take place only after the combatants put the guns aside," he expained.

Zurab Alasaniya, head of state-run television station Pershy Natsionalny, asked Poroshenko why he decided that involving journalists in a political campaign is a good idea. "Not everyone supported an invitation of Sergiy Leshchenko and Mustafa Nayem into our political bloc, they saw this rather as a problem," president said. "But it was a right decision."

"The election rhetoric has nothing in common with the national interests," Poroshenko added.