Relations between Russia and Ukraine: a New Era Must BeginTV-speech by Russian president Dmitry Medvedev on the 11th of August 2009
A few days ago, I sent a letter to the
President of Ukraine. It was not an ordinary document, I should say, as it
contains a number of complex and unflattering characteristics of the actions
by the top political leadership of Ukraine. In my today’s address I would
like to explain the reasons behind my step.
There has been public concern in both Ukraine and Russia of late over the state of our bilateral relations. Ukrainian politicians themselves have admitted that relations are at an extremely low point today, and it is hard not to agree. The strain in relations between our countries has indeed hit unprecedented levels.
I have on many occasions stated that Russia seeks to be a predictable, strong and comfortable partner for its neighbours, all the more so for a country with which we share common historical and cultural roots. We are more than just neighbours; our ties are those of brothers.
Nikolai Gogol, the great writer and son of both Ukrainian and Russian peoples, said, “There are no bonds more sacred than the bonds of brotherhood”. As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Gogol’s birth, we remember these words once again. These celebrations are yet another vivid illustration of our peoples’ spiritual closeness.
Set against this background, the difficult – to say the least - relations our countries have been experiencing make an even stronger contrast. Let’s take a look at what is actually happening.
The leadership in Kiev took an openly anti-Russian stand following the military attack launched by the Saakashvili regime against South Ossetia. Ukrainian weapons were used to kill civilians and Russian peacekeepers. Russia continues to experience problems caused by a policy aimed at obstructing the operations of its Black Sea Fleet, and this on a daily basis and in violation of the basic agreements between our countries. Sadly, the campaign continues to oust the Russian language from the Ukrainian media, the education, culture and science. The Ukrainian leadership’s outwardly smooth-flowing rhetoric fits ill with the overt distortion of complex and difficult episodes in our common history, the tragic events of the great famine in the Soviet Union, and an interpretation of the Great Patriotic War as some kind of confrontation between two totalitarian systems.
Our economic relations are in a somewhat better situation and are developing, but we have not yet succeeded in tapping their full potential. Again, the problem is that Russian companies frequently face open resistance from the Ukrainian authorities. Bypassing Russia, Ukraine’s political leaders do deals with the European Union on supplying gas – gas from Russia – and sign a document that completely contradicts the Russian-Ukrainian agreements reached in January this year.
But no matter what the complexes or illusions motivate the actions of individual Ukrainian officials, we will always value our fraternal ties with the Ukrainian people and will strive to strengthen our humanitarian cooperation. It is with this aim in mind that we plan to open branches of the Russian Science and Culture Centre in several Ukrainian cities and will do all we can to support Ukrainians living in our country in their efforts to develop their national culture.
Patriarch Kirill’s recent pastoral visit to Ukraine was also an event of great significance. I had a meeting with the Patriarch following the visit, and he shared his impressions and said many cordial words. We both are of one and the same opinion that the two fraternal peoples may not be separated as they share common historical and spiritual heritage.
I am confident that our relations with Ukraine’s people will overcome any problems. They cannot be destroyed by politicians’ selfish interests, fickle changes in the global situation, or individual leaders’ mistakes, and all the more so, cannot be undone by empty words and pseudo-historic research.
I am certain that a new era will begin. Nevertheless, in the current situation, I have made a decision to refrain from sending the Russian ambassador to Ukraine. The new ambassador will commence his duties at a later stage, and naming the exact date for it will depend on the positive dynamics in bilateral relations.
There can be no doubt that the multifaceted ties between Russia and Ukraine will resume on a fundamentally different level – that of strategic partnership – and this moment will not be long in coming. I hope that the new leadership of Ukraine will be ready for the break through. We will in turn make our best for it to happen.