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Address by the President of Ukraine on the occasion of the Day of Dignity and Freedom
21 November 2016 09:49

Fellow Ukrainians!

Three years ago, a few hundred brave girls and boys gathered at Euromaidan without any politicians to express peaceful protest against the actions of Yanukovych’s regime that stole their great European dream. Then, savage beating of youth by the Berkut stirred up the whole country.

In few days, millions of Ukrainians came to the streets and squares. Came to disrupt the plan on transforming Ukraine into a malorossiya corner of the Russian Empire. To demonstrate their pro-European choice.

Per aspera ad astra. The path towards stars goes through the thorns - this is a well-known eloquent expression. However, in November 2013, nobody could have imagined difficult challenges fate has prepared for us… And the high price we’ve had to pay for such values like freedom, dignity and independence.

After the victory over the regime, it turned out that only the steering wheel was left of all the state machinery. And it was rotten. Ukraine was being choked by default, which seemed inevitable. Economy hasn’t yet recovered from global crisis. Russia hasn’t only unleashed war, but also organized true commercial blockade inflicting losses in the amount of hundreds of billions of dollars for Ukraine. There have been virtually no army and special forces. This is how deep our bottom was, from which we have started to ascend.

Right after the victory of the Revolution of Dignity, the best and the bravest Maidan activists went to the frontline. The first volunteer battalions have inscribed themselves in pages of our military history with their blood shed for the Homeland. And this year, we have allowed ourselves to abandon another wave of mobilization, transfer demobilized warriors to the reserve and sign contracts with dozens of thousands of volunteers. This is a striking evidence of progress in the enhancement of defense capacity of our state. The army was equipped and well-fed. It is professional and armed. Not with the state-of-the-art equipment, but enough to deter Russia.

To avoid default and disaster in the economy, the Government had no other choice than to resort to strict and unpopular measures. The same standard measures taken by successful neighbors from Central and Eastern Europe already in the beginning of the 90th.

The IMF support remains vital for us. And the Fund never prescribes sweet drugs. So I understand that we have unwittingly hurt millions of families. It is not a sin to apologize for that. But I am sure that soon the effectiveness of measures taken will be experienced by more and more people.

Our economic organism has already been discharged from intensive care and demonstrates signs of recovery. After 14 quarters of decline, which, by the way, began a year before the revolution and the war, the economy has finally resumed growth.

The revival of business activity, the first steps of de-shadowing and increased budget revenue enabled us to schedule noticeable increase of salaries for teachers, doctors and other state employees and make a step towards the poorest - to raise twice the minimum wage to 3200 UAH in early 2017.

It is time to reap the first, though still not very juicy, harvest of tough anti-crisis measures.

But the soil on which we nurtured shoots of recovery is not solid yet. Not much efforts are needed to diminish all the efforts and sufferings. The enemy not only attacks Ukraine from the outside, but also undermines us from within. The aim of the Kremlin is constant internal destabilization, anarchy, otamanshchyna. Early elections in Ukraine and strengthening the position of pro-Russian forces in the new parliament. And then - revision of the European course. And then - complete change of the foreign state vector. And finally - return of Ukraine to the imperial stables.

If we go the path of acute internal conflicts, we can quickly throw the country into the abyss of chaos and disorder and make it insecure from external aggression. As President, I will not allow such a scenario.

I have repeatedly demonstrated by historic examples how authoritarian Muscovy used the benefits of democracy in the neighboring states for it own interests - up to the absorption of these countries. I am confident that it will fail this time. Why? Because we, Ukrainians, are wise people who can hardly be led astray.

At the same time, I urge you not to stigmatize every participant of mass rallies. Of course, people have reasons to be disappointed and every free citizen in free Ukraine has an integral right to protest. Democracy and freedom of speech have become apparent achievements of the Revolution of Dignity. War and crisis prevented focus on welfare issues. Now, the government and all authorities have an opportunity to focus on this.

Fellow Ukrainians!

Freedom of speech and compliance with all other rights and freedoms even in times of war. New patrol police and independent anti-corruption bureau. Anti-corruption electronic system of state tender procurement ProZZoro that has already saved dozens of billions and decentralization that has redistributed money from the center for the benefit of communities. Declaration of fortune of senior officials and beginning of reconstruction of roads. Was it possible in Ukraine before Maidan?

We have implemented 144 items of the Visa Liberalization Action Plan and completed a series of vital reforms. This week, the EU Council has unanimously adopted a decision that recognized full implementation of all commitments by Ukraine. It declared clear political will of the EU and all its member-states to provide visa-free regime for us soon after coordination of some purely internal procedures of the European Union.

My negotiations with leaders of the EU states and institutions also provide grounds to predict that a mutually acceptable compromise between Ukraine, the EU and the Netherlands will be found and the Association and FTA Agreement will be ratified.

It is Euromaidan, Revolution of Dignity and Heavenly Hundred who have determined the European vector of Ukraine irreversibly. We are moving in the right direction and towards right goals. But the path towards stars of Europe, just as anyone else, goes through the thorns - рer aspera ad astra. That is why it is so difficult on the road. That is why mistakes in solving complicated problems are inevitable.

Sometimes I ask myself: “Could I avoid mistakes?”. Common wisdom of many people replies: "The one who does nothing makes no mistakes".

Horizon is seen a bit wider from above. I still see a lot of problems and I am not going to adorn the reality. But I cannot but share my clear understanding that we have already passed the most difficult period in the economy and everything will be fine if we do not let certain state-mongers reset the result achieved due to such a high price. If we do not let them turn the hard work of authorities, civil society, volunteers and all the people that have been laying the foundation of new Ukraine for three years in Sisyphean labor.

Vaclav Havel once said that governments, parliaments, presidents, even the best in the world, were unable to do anything by themselves, because freedom and democracy provided for participation of all.

So, thank you, dear Ukrainians that we are building together our European country!

I congratulate all of you on the Day of Dignity and Freedom.

Glory to Ukraine!

 

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