[Ed. - Having not found the Ukrainian president's reply to Dmitry Medvedev in English to share with my network, I translated it myself. I have also posted a translation of Medvedev's original message here on East of Main - Andriy]
I cannot disagree that there are serious problems with our countries’ relations, but find it surprising when you completely rule out Russia’s responsibility in this.Our country has never strayed from the principles of friendship and partnership, set down in our major agreement of 1997. It has done everything possible for the fruitful, mutually-beneficial development of our bilateral relations. What’s more, according to the above-mentioned agreement, our countries must build relationships based on the principles of mutual respect and equal sovereignty.
Still, I would like to step away from emotions and dispassionately analyze the state of our bilateral relations:
Ukraine’s position on last year’s events in Georgia is widely known and matches the positions of practically all of the world’s countries. It consists of exclusively respecting the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the inviolability of the borders of the Georgian or any other sovereign state.
The complaints about supplying Georgia with weapons are also groundless. It is unfortunate that, despite repeated, clear and understandable explanations from the Ukrainian side regarding the legality of its activities on the weapons market, the Russian side continues its campaign directed at forming an image of Ukraine as a country that breaks international rules and regulations on military-technical cooperation. With that in mind, it is worth remembering that Georgia was not and is not now subject to any international sanctions or embargoes for shipments of weapons, military technology or dual-use technology by the UN Security Council, OSCE, the EU or other international organizations. Besides, the Russian proposals to instill such limitations in the OSCE framework, brought forward after the Russia-Georgia conflict, were not supported.
Ukraine’s course of integration into NATO cannot be subject to political complaints from Russia. This forces us to repeat the established facts that the right to choose international tools of ensuring national security (such as participating in military-political alliances) is an integral element of any country’s national sovereignty - and Russia must respect it. I remind you the Ukraine’s law “On the basics of Ukraine’s national security”, which was passed by Ukraine’s parliament in 2003 (including by the leaders of our current opposition) envisions Ukraine’s direct integration into NATO right up until actual membership. The President of Ukraine is guided by this [law].
I would also like to once again stress that our nation’s desire to gain the membership in NATO is in no way directed against Russia, whereas the final decision regarding joining NATO will be made only after a countrywide referendum.
I would like to make a particular note that the Section 17 of the Constitution of Ukraine does not allow the placement of foreign military bases on Ukraine’s territory. At the same time, our nation remains loyal to its internationally agreed responsibility for the temporary location of Russian Federation’s Black Sea Fleet on Ukraine’s territory until May 28, 2017 and is fulfilling the full scope of the respective base treaties of 1997.
Furthermore, I must state the existence of serious problems in the Russian side’s implementation of these base treaties – in the questions of land, real estate, radio frequencies, navigation tools, etc. Throughout Russia’s Black Sea Fleet being stationed in Ukraine, its commanders systematically committed grave breaches of our bilateral agreements and Ukrainian law, something which the Ukrainian side continually informed the Russian side about.
Ukraine has consistently worked to develop pragmatic economic relations with Russia, especially in the energy sphere. Ukraine has started a program of modernizing the Ukrainian gas tanasport system to bring its level in line with high international standards and is ready to welcome the potential of other European countries and other stakeholders to this process.
Our country has repeatedly proven its reliability as a transport partner for energy resources - gas, oil, and nuclear power materials. Ukraine is one of the few countries in the world, which this June welcomed the Russian Federation initiative regarding its readiness to begin a multi-party dialogue on improving the international law foundation in the energy security sphere, which, in our opinion, should be based on the Energy Charter and documents developed in its framework.
Your letter also contains the latest repetition of your reproaches whose goal is to attempt to take away Ukraine’s own view on its own history, its own national interests, and foreign relations priorities. I am convinced that the issues of history, along with native language, culture, and family ethic are the fundamentals of forming a nation and Ukrainian national identity.
When they raise issue of recognizing the Great Famine in Ukraine in 1932-1933 on the international arena, the Ukrainian people also honor the memory of the millions of Rssuans, Belarussians, Kazakhs, and other nationalities, who died from famine in the Volga region, the Northern Caucausus, in Kazakhstan and other areas of the former USSR. During the “Eternal Candle” memorial action for the 75th anniversary of Ukraine’s Great Famine, windows in hundreds of cities around the world, including those in Russia, displayed lit candles, signifying the international solidarity with Ukraine on recognizing this fact.
I can in no way agree with the supposed squeezing out of the Russian language from social life in Ukraine. Unbiased assessments of the language situation in Ukraine and Russia show just the opposite. It is in the Russian Federation itself that the Ukrainian minority is practically deprived of its right to meet its cultural and language needs. The proof of this is in the widely-known conclusions by international organizations.
In answer to your note about the supposed Ukrainian government interference into the Orthodox Church’s affairs, I will say this. The Ukrainian leadersip respects the canons and traditions of churches and religious organizations. The church in Ukraine is separate from the state and every citizen has the right to observe any faith. At the same time, noone can forbidthe citizens to freely express their position about any issue, including religion.
As for the Ukrainian visit of Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus, it is worth emphasizing that he voiced thanks towards our country’s leaders for the high level of his visit organization. And of course the head of the Russian Orthodox Church did not make any of the negative or critical assessments you list in your letters, which discredit the spirit of his visit. All in all, we consider [your] connection of Patriarch Kirill’s Ukrainian visit and bilateral political relations irrelevant and contrived.
When we look at Ukraine’s forced decision regarding two Russian diplomats, we need to underline that prior to tht step we thrice called Russia’s attention to its high-level diplomats’ illegal actions. The Ukrainian side has provided enough proof of their activities in Ukraine, which harmed Ukraine’s national interests. Furthermore, Russia’s subsequent actions towards the Ukrainian diplomats are absolutely unfounded. I hope that in the future our two states can avoid repeating such unfortunate incidents, which cloud our bilateral relations.
To conclude the above, I’d like to state my conviction that solving the existing problems in Ukrainian-Russian bilateral relations requires intensive work. That’s why the decision to delay sending a new Russian ambassador to Ukraine without doubt will not help the constructive development of our relations.
Ukraine continues to favor broad co-operation with the Russian Federation, based on mutual respect, equal rights, and maintaing a constructive dialogue including on the highest level. I have proven my readiness for dialogue at the conference table at least three times in the last year in letters adressed to you. This offer still stands today. Unfortunately, earlier replies included only an invite to the Russian President’s prize horse race and other public events. I hope that this time your reaction to it will be constructive.
I am sure of the fine future for Ukraine-Russia relations, based on deep traditions of friendship and good neighborliness between our two peoples, and obviously stronger than the interests of individual political circles and do not depend on the situational discourse of a given political moment.
Photo Credit: Sara Matos