Petro Poroshenko is president of Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is scheduled to address the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday. Poroshenko talked to The Post’s
Q. Is the cease-fire holding?
A. August 29th I was in Brussels and was asked, what did I think of the [Russian] proposal to launch a cease-fire on September 1st? I said, “We were ready to launch it immediately.” And they said, “Okay. Let’s do it.”
There is a positive and negative side to this process. The positive is that we have no artillery shelling — every day we have a few cases of using light weapons but [there is] no artillery or tanks.
What is negative? All the troops of the separatists are now fully controlled by Russia. Every single commander from the platoon or company level is an officer of the regular Russian army. . . .
In the occupied territories of Luhansk and Donetsk, they don’t have any uncontrolled armed units of separatists. That’s why when [Russian President Vladimir] Putin gives an order to make a cease-fire, they do it.
All the other points of the Minsk agreement [have not been implemented], including releasing the hostages. There are hundreds of Ukrainian hostages kept in disastrous humanitarian conditions in both the Ukrainian occupied territories and in Russia.
Indeed, we don’t have any results of the Minsk agreement except for the cease-fire — no withdrawal of heavy artillery and weapons from the battle zone, no withdrawal of Russian troops from the occupied territory, and we don’t get back control of the Ukraine-Russia border. We should make a well-coordinated effort to push Putin to fulfill the obligations Russia agreed to. The Minsk agreement is now in danger because of Putin’s plan to introduce illegal and fake elections.
You are talking about the proposed elections in the Donetsk People’s Republic. You have said that if they hold these elections in the occupied territory, this would be a red line for you. Is that so?
Absolutely. Either offensive actions on the front or these elections [would be a red line]. Last year, they had an illegal election on November 2nd which was not free and fair, and that killed the Minsk process. Now [Putin] wants to repeat once again this scenario.
What do you hope to get from the West and the U.S.?
From the U.S., we need strong political support for the Ukrainian peace plan — the Minsk agreement. If Putin violates it, we need better coordination on sanctions and on efforts to return Putin to the negotiating table. . . . If Putin crosses the red line, we need to increase sanctions and increase our defense cooperation. Putin should know that before, not after, the election.
What do you seek in military assistance?
We do not need any lethal weapons. We now have British, American and Canadian instructors to train our army. We need defensive weapons which can increase the defensive capability of the Ukrainian armed forces. We need counter-battery radar, electronic jamming systems for electronic warfare, drones and secure communications equipment. We are fighting not only for Ukrainian sovereignty and independence but also for democracy and freedom.
Has the response of the West and the U.S. been disappointing in regard to military aid?
We are coordinating with the U.S. administration and the Congress. We are waiting for the supply of electronic warfare [equipment] for Ukraine. From month to month we have better military and technical cooperation.
Reportedly, the administration is giving you a hard time.
Every single month, we have positive news from the American administration, and they give us more opportunity to defend our country more effectively. Of course I expected [it] to do it faster, but politics is the art of the possible.
What is Putin’s aim in Ukraine?
From the beginning, he wanted to control nine regions of Ukraine, including Crimea, and actually break Ukraine. Russian-speaking Ukrainians started to defend their country. This was a big surprise for Putin. We broke his plan. His other idea was to control the entire Ukraine through changes in our constitution. He wanted to federalize my country and put in the constitution that the Ukrainian people should ask permission of the occupied parts of the country to integrate in the European Union and to have an effective defensive cooperation with NATO — he wanted the Ukrainian people to ask permission from Moscow. My answer is very decisive — never, ever. Ukraine is a sovereign European nation. . . .
Putin wants to be a big player in global policy. That is why he sent his troops first to Crimea and then to Syria. Who knows where Putin will send his troops next. That’s why we need global efforts to minimize the danger to global security from Russia. There are [possible] changes in the mechanism of the U.N. Security Council to withdraw the veto right [from Russia]. The veto right in the hands of an aggressor country is like a license to kill.
Putin is afraid of transatlantic unity between Ukraine, the U.S. and the European Union. He wants to break this coalition. He is also afraid of successful reform in Ukraine.
People in the U.S. are very isolationist at this moment. How do you get them to care about Ukraine?
They should understand we have a very dangerous conflict in the center of Europe with the participation of thousands of Russian troops. We are doing our best to block Putin with political and financial support. We have stopped the Russian army. But we understand that at any moment the conflict can develop. My main message is that Ukraine is fighting not just for our independence but for global democracy and freedom. Every American should understand this. When it comes to military cooperation, this is an investment in the homeland security of the U.S. The same goes for Europe. Global security cannot be built without effective coordination to stop the aggression in this territory.