Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has urged the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to keep pressure on Moscow over “the Russian aggression in Ukraine,” urging the assembly not to return to “business as usual” with Russia.
Speaking at PACE’s plenary session in Strasbourg, France, Poroshenko said on October 11 that Ukraine is fighting a war on two fronts at the same time – one to counter military aggression and restore its territorial integrity, and the other to implement difficult and complex reforms.
Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimea region in March 2014, sending in troops and staging a referendum denounced as illegal by dozens of countries. It also backs separatists in a war that has killed more than 10,000 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.
In the wake of Moscow's takeover of the Crimean Peninsula, PACE deprived Russian delegates of voting rights.
"Systemic repressions have turned the Crimean Peninsula into an island of no freedom and a land of fear," Poroshenko told the assembly. "In the occupied Crimea, Russia applies the worst practices of the Soviet repressive machine. Anyone who dares to reject the so-called ‘reunification with Russia’ becomes a victim of arbitrary detention, prosecution, torture, extrajudicial execution, and inhuman treatment."
Rights groups and Western governments have denounced what they called a persistent campaign of oppression targeting citizens who opposed Moscow's takeover.
Poroshenko also strongly rejected any suggestion that Russia’s occupation of Crimea was a fait accompli.
“This tribune was not invented for calls for appeasement,” the Ukrainian president said. “Neither was it for appeals to trade in territory for money, oil, or gas. It was invented to safeguard our fundamentals, our values, and our principles.”
The comments come a day after Czech President Milos Zeman told PACE that Moscow’s move was a “fait accompli” and that there should be dialogue over Russian compensation to Ukraine, possibly with gas, oil, or money.
Poroshenko reiterated Kyiv’s readiness to find a peaceful settlement to fighting between government forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine and urged Russia to “finally begin to implement security commitments under the Minsk agreements.”
The conflict has persisted despite an agreement signed in Minsk in February 2015 that called for a cease-fire and set out steps to end the conflict that have gone largely unimplemented.
Regarding Ukraine's aspirations to become a member of the European Union, Poroshenko said that Ukraine has made “considerable progress” on the path of reforms and pledged that Kyiv would continue to bring its laws, practices, and institutions into line with the standards of the Council of Europe.
He said an “unprecedented” series of anti-corruption measures has already brought positive results and that renewing trust in Ukraine’s judiciary is his next strategic priority.
Poroshenko said that those reforms would include the creation of a special anti-corruption court that would be free of political influence.