Remarks by Vice President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (December 7)

PRESIDENT POROSHENKO:  (In Ukrainian, no translation.)

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN:  Well, Mr. President, thank you very, very much.  Thank you for your hospitality.  It’s good to be back in Ukraine.  As you pointed out, it’s the fourth time since the Revolution of Dignity two years ago.  And I’m always overwhelmed by your warmth and your friendship and the way in which the Ukrainian people — even folks on the street today — how gracious and welcoming they are.

And I want to thank you, Petro, personally for your friendship you’ve shown to me and the leadership you’ve shown in taking steps to move Ukraine forward.

The events at the Maidan, the bravery and the determination of the Ukrainian people to reclaim their country and Ukraine’s journey over the past two years have been nothing short of inspiring.  And they’ve inspired not only me and my countrymen, but the world.  Particularly the over 1 million Ukrainian Americans — the pride and expectation and hope that they have is palpable.  You should come see it and feel it.  It’s real.

Today, the President and I discussed the progress that Ukraine has made up to this point, the critical reforms that have been passed.  And we are starting to see real signs of economic progress, as the President referenced.  The GDP has started to increase, and industrial production is growing.  Agricultural exports are up.  And Ukraine’s currency has stabilized.  If we had said that two years ago with certainty, people would have looked at us like I’m not so sure that will happen.  But under your leadership, it has occurred.

We have spoken about the vital importance of Ukraine following through on its IMF commitments.  We know from experience they’re not easy.  These commitments are hard.  They require some very tough political decisions for not only you to make, Mr. President, but for all the members of the Rada.  These are not easy things to do to overcome the last 20, 30, 40 years of lack of an economic program of any consequence.  But it will continue to boost your economic progress, and we’ll continue to be your ally with the IMF.

And with the support from the United States, as was mentioned here, and thank you for mentioning it, Ukraine has set up a new patrol police to provide security in Kiev, Odessa, and Kharkiv.  And it is clear from the reports that we’ve gotten that it is palpable to the people on the street.  It makes a difference.  It’s that contact closest to the people, and it is felt.  And it radiates through I think — presumptuous of me to say, Mr. President — but it gives them hope of further reform, further progress.

In just a few weeks, Ukraine will finally see the implementation of the Trade Association Agreement with the European Union, the issue that first sent protesters and patriots to the Maidan in the first place.  But a lot of hard work as you — the President and I discussed — a lot of hard work remains, including reform of Ukraine’s law and justice sectors.

But the payoff will be worth it.  It will be genuinely worth it for Ukraine and all the Ukrainian people.  Economic benefits of this agreement for the Ukrainian people are substantial.  Ukraine is taking important steps in the right direction.  The President, the government, the Rada — they’ve all worked hard.  And today President Poroshenko and I also spent a long time talking about how Ukraine must keep pushing ahead to realize the dreams of those who stood for months on the Maidan.

I just was visiting what I’d guess you’d refer to as memorial, a shrine, looking at the pictures of all of those 100 who were gunned down and killed — ranged in age from in their early 20s to one person 82 years of age.  They came from all over.  They weren’t just folks from Kyiv.  And they gave the last ounce of everything they had to see the dreams of the Ukrainian people realized.

And as I have each of my visits, I’ve urged the President to continue to work very strongly with Ukraine’s democratic forces.  That’s what the Ukrainian people expect, and that’s what they deserve.  And that’s how Ukraine is going to continue to move forward.  All Ukrainians, officials, business leaders, the business community, everyday citizens — they’ve got to work together to root out corruption that has held this country back for so long.

Mr. President, you and I have discussed this before.  The Ukrainian people cannot once again have their hopes dashed based on the cancer of corruption.  The Orange Revolution occurred and hopes were extremely high.  And here we are again because of the sacrifices made two years ago.  One more chance.  One more chance.

And it’s absolutely critical for Ukraine, in order to be stable and prosperous and part of a secure Europe to definitely, thoroughly, completely root out the cancer of corruption.  The people need to see that in ways — that the ways of the past are permanently gone.  They no longer exist.

The means hard decisions.  That means ramping up the pace of reforms, avoidance of past practices, advancing good governance, increasing transparency across the board at every level of the government and strengthening the rule of law.  It means everyone playing by the same rules from the folks at the bottom, to the folks at the very top.

And as I told the President at our meeting, as long as you continue to make progress to fight corruption and build a future of opportunity for all Ukraine, the United States will stand with you.  We will stand with you.

We’ve already, as the President outlined, made significant financial commitments.  But we also have become your ally around the world making Ukraine’s case for an opportunity for a new day.  And today I’m announcing another $190 million — almost $190 million in new assistance to support Ukraine’s progress.  It bring us to almost $760 million in direct support from the United States to Ukraine since the change in government in 2014; including more than $260 million in security assistance.

These new funds — this additional roughly $190 million will help fight corruption in law enforcement and reform the justice sector.  It will attract more investment by streamlining regulations and privatizing state-owned enterprises in a transparent way, increasing Ukraine’s capacity for trade and improving access to capital for small- and medium-sized enterprises, improving energy security, advancing constitutional reform, and support of civil society and an independent media.

A strong civil society — as I’ve said from my first visit to today, and I know the President agrees — a strong civil society is critical to Ukraine’s future.  There is no democracy in the world that is a true democracy that does not have a strong, civil society.  One cannot exist without the other.

And before my meeting with President Poroshenko, I sat down with reformers, including activists from Ukrainian civil society, to discuss how the United States can be a strong partner with them, as well.

Of course, we also discussed the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.  The United States stands firmly with the people of Ukraine in the face of continued — and I emphasize continued — aggression from Russia and Russian-backed separatists.  And we continue to believe that the best way to end the conflict in Donbass is through a diplomatic framework that’s laid out in the Minsk Agreement.

But both sides need to hold up that bargain.  Minsk cannot succeed if Russia does not fulfill its commitments and if President Putin fails to live up to the promises he has repeatedly made to my President, to you, and to the international community.

And President Obama very recently in meetings with President Putin has conveyed that message directly to President Putin that all of our international partners are expecting Putin to meet his obligations and commitments.  Moscow has to fully implement the Minsk Agreement and work constructively with Ukraine to create the conditions for free, fair, and safe local elections to occur in Donbass.

And one more thing, let me be absolutely clear, the fact that we are not talking as much every single day about Crimea does not mean in any way we have forgotten that the illegal invasion — and it’s an invasion — by Russia of Crimea will not be accepted by us or the international community.  This attempted annexation is contrary to international law, is wrong, and we will not accept it under any circumstance.  And Moscow eventually has to end its occupation of Ukraine’s sovereign territory.  Crimea is still sovereign territory of Ukraine.

I’ll be speaking about these issues tomorrow in my address to the Rada, something I am very much looking forward to doing, Mr. President.  So I’ll end by saying thank you again, Mr. President.  Thank you for your warm welcome.  You have shown me, as well as your partnership with our country — it is true I have only been here four times in two years.  But I think we may have logged close to a thousand hours on the telephone.

PRESIDENT POROSHENKO:  Yes.

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN:  I think I tend to be in more direct conversation for longer periods of time with the President than with my wife.  (Laughter.)  I think they both regret that.  (Laughter.)   But it is important.  It is important.

We made good progress today, Mr. President.  But as you said, there is so much more to do.  Ukraine is on the cusp here.  Ukraine is on the cusp.  What happens in the next year is likely to determine the fate of this country for generations.  And the Heavenly Hundred went out there not for themselves, but for future generations.  It’s an overwhelming obligation that you have, Mr. President, that the government has, that the Rada has to step up and make sure that we talk about this period in our collective history books about that was the beginning of the end of what no one welcomed; and that you have a free, prosperous, democratic society because your people are so brave.  They have put so much into this.  They deserve no less.  And I know that is your obligation and objective, as well.  And we want to help in any way we can.  Thank you.