Germany’s leading newspaper, Bild, has published an exclusive interview with Ukranian President Petro Poroshenko. In partnership with Bild, Business Insider has published an English translation below.
Poroshenko talked about ongoing tensions with Russia, as he has been pressing Western allies to maintain sanctions on the country over its support for militants in Ukraine.
The Ukranian president also discussed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to involve Russia in the ongoing Syrian civil war.
View the full interview below.
BILD: Mister Poroshenko, you have just returned from a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Has Germany abandoned Ukraine because of the refugee crisis?
Petro Poroshenko: No, on the contrary! The fact that we had such an intensive meeting today shows the priority that Ukraine has for Germany and the whole of Europe. Everyone knows: if Russia threatens Ukraine and also has its sights on other states, this concerns the global security of Europe. Russia is still not implementing the Minsk Agreement, but is increasing the number of its troops in Ukraine.
BILD: How serious is the danger of open war?
Poroshenko: More serious than last year. Russia has not implemented a single point of the Minsk Agreement. Instead, we can see 8,000 Russian soldiers with Russian commanders in our country, new military sites directly along the border, and constant military trainings. Russia is investing a lot in these war preparations. And we are not getting any explanations for this.
BILD: Do you need more weapons from Germany to defend yourself?
Poroshenko: We are open to this possibility and we are advocating it, because this concerns the security situation in Europe. We should all support each other more in order to be prepared for everything. The primary solution is a diplomatic one. Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande play a very important role in the de-escalation process. Exactly one year ago, in February of 2015, we met in Minsk after the Kramatorsk tragedy when a Russian multiple rocket launcher shelled houses of civilians more than 50 km away from the frontline. No explanation was received afterwards.
BILD: At the same time, an increasing number of politicians are approaching Putin and regard him as “a partner” because of the war in Syria. What do you think about that?
Poroshenko: For me it is clear that, if you take a look at what is happening in eastern Ukraine, you cannot support lifting the sanctions against Russia. Europe must not become the victim of Putin’s blackmailing because of the assumption that there can be no solution to the Syria question without Putin. Everything that is happening in the world is directly or indirectly linked to Russia’s aggressions. It is therefore also a matter of our values that we keep up the sanctions. Russia wants to divide the countries of Europe; that is its aim. We must not allow for that to happen.
Even from an economic point of view: the Russian market is not the same as it used to be a few years ago. Europe has become far less dependent on the Russian market.
BILD: In an interview with BILD, Putin has said that borders are not important for him. What does that mean for Ukraine?
Poroshenko: First of all, congratulations to the journalists he said that to! So far, Putin has always acted according to this attitude, but never publicly admitted to it. We in Ukraine know that he does not accept our borders. His statement is therefore rather directed at everyone in Europe, meaning that it can happen to anyone. Putin does not accept any red lines and can annex other countries under the pretense of the alleged discrimination of Russian minorities. You in Germany also have Russian minorities …
BILD: There was a big discussion in Germany about the Lisa case …
Poroshenko: Everyone knows about it now because of Russian propaganda! For Germany, this is new, a shocking instance of propaganda. For one and a half years now, Ukraine is familiar with the lies that are repeated by the Russian media until people start to believe them.
Putin has now also started the information war against Germany. This is Russia’s hybrid war. We all have to fight it together, because the truth is on our side. That is why establishing European TV channel broadcasting in Russian language is a right decision. They need to receive alternative opinions except those presented on Russian state channels.
BILD: In your country, you also have to fight against the corruption. There is massive criticism that reforms and the fight against corruption are not effective.
Poroshenko: We have implemented many reforms, in the police, in the fight against corruption, in the army, in decentralization process, in economy as whole, but of course we want faster progress. But please do not forget that we have been suffering from a war for one and a half years now. Without the war, without Russian troops in the east of Ukraine, we would already have made much more progress with our reforms.