Olena Kondratyuk: Ukraine invites especially Muslim countries to attend the Peace Conference to be held in Switzerland -INTERVIEW

Olena Kondratyuk, Deputy Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine

© APA | Olena Kondratyuk, Deputy Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine

# 15 May 2024 13:06 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-based APA News Agency interviewed Olena Kondratyuk, Deputy Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine

Farid Azeri: Let's start our conversation with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg's visit to Ukraine. We would like to get your opinion on the meetings held during this visit, Mr. Stoltenberg's talks with the Ukrainian government, as well as the current state of Ukraine-NATO relations.

- It is very important for us that the major organizations of the world, especially the leaders of the alliance, visit Ukraine and witness the actions of the aggressor Russia. To be honest, Ukraine is currently facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. Almost every day, Russian airstrikes kill people. This is a very scary sight. Of course, the visits of leaders of various countries and organizations provide an opportunity to thank them for their support. We are talking about countries and organizations that provide both military and humanitarian support to Ukraine. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Azerbaijani side, President Ilham Aliyev, for the humanitarian aid provided. This manifests itself both in the field of infrastructure and energy. At the same time, Azerbaijan's support to the energy sector is very important. Because Russia is under fire every day at huge energy facilities of our country. Assistance in this field is very important for our living and working, as well as for our children to be able to study. Even if they continue their studies in shelters, energy assistance to Ukraine is of great importance. In parallel with humanitarian support, we consider it important to supply missile defense equipment. Because both the security of our country and the lives of peaceful people depend on it.

Zumrud Pashkin: Although NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg made a statement that the alliance and its allies will continue to support Ukraine, during the press conference, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that this support is not enough and that it is necessary to accelerate the supply of weapons. What do you think, is the supply of weapons and ammunition to Ukraine, as well as air defense systems, expected to accelerate after this statement?

- You mentioned very correctly. Because it is very important for us to organize a reliable defense against air attack. This includes the supply of both Patriot systems and unmanned aerial vehicles. Our partners supply us with various types of artillery shells, but we call on them at the same time to organize reliable air defense of Ukraine. The next issue is the holding of the next NATO summit on support for Ukraine in Washington. Because we expect a political decision on the issue of our country's NATO membership to be made at this summit. Ukraine has clearly defined strategic directions. They are also reflected in our constitution. The first direction defines goals such as membership in the European Union, and the second in NATO. As statesmen, we do our best to realize these goals. That is why preparation for the Washington summit is of great importance for our country. At the same time, we also understand that it is impossible for our country to become a full-fledged member of this military alliance until the end of the war. Therefore, the most important aspect for us now is to create a coalition of countries that support justice and peace. We call on countries from all continents to join this coalition. This challenge applies especially to Muslim countries. Ukraine invites Muslim countries to participate in the Great Peace Conference to be held in Switzerland. The date of the event is already known. This summit will be held on June 16. You know that during his visit to Switzerland, President Vladimir Zelensky had a number of meetings there. During my visit to Baku, I invited Azerbaijan on behalf of my country to participate in that summit at the highest level. As it is an event related to peace, justice and security, it is very important for us that Azerbaijan participates here.

Farid Azeri: You touched on the summit to be held in Switzerland and Ukraine's relations with international partners. The issue of Ukraine's membership in the European Union has been a topic of discussion for a long time. What prospects do you see for your country to join the European family? What steps should be taken to successfully complete this process? Can it be said that the issue of membership may be prolonged due to the current war conditions?

-As I represent the Verkhovna Rada, I would like to say that we, as a parliament, have done our best to start the process of negotiations on Ukraine's membership in the European Union. If we can say so, we have fulfilled our homework in this direction, i.e. all the criteria set before us by the European Commission. We very much hope that the pre-negotiation process on the issue of our country's membership in the European Union will begin in mid-June, and the negotiations themselves will begin at the end of the same month. The start of this process is of great importance for our country. Because Belgium is currently leading this process in the European Union and the European Parliament. Before Azerbaijan, I visited Moldova. By the way, we are implementing the process of joining the European Union in parallel with this country. As a parliament, we have successfully carried out our work. Currently, complex negotiations are underway between the governments. Because we are currently joining the competition with other countries that want to join the European Union, so to speak. Ukraine is a country with great economic potential, especially in agriculture, engineering, energy and other fields. Simply put, our society wants the negotiations on the Eurozone membership to be conducted in an extremely open and transparent manner. We very much hope that the war will not create an obstacle to our country's membership in the European Union. At the same time, we must protect ourselves from our neighbor, the aggressive Russian Federation. 85 percent of Ukrainian society supports our country's membership in the European Union. This is a very important indicator that cannot be reduced. I believe that we should do everything to make the dream of joining the Eurozone family come true.

Zumrud Pashkin: We know that membership issues are in the interest of both sides - both the European Union and the Ukrainian side. To be honest, some countries within the Eurozone, including Hungary, a number of forces are trying to obstruct this process to some extent. For example, Prime Minister Viktor Orban tried to block this process during the discussion of financial support to Ukraine. How do you think such obstacles can be overcome in the future?

- As I mentioned a while ago, there is a competition going on here in a certain sense. I can tell you that very important discussions were held with our Hungarian colleagues, either at the level of the foreign minister or the president's adviser. Because the issues that cause differences of opinion should be resolved. In my opinion, the policy implemented with the statements made does not coincide in some cases. When we look at other countries of the European Union, we see that people there support Ukraine's membership of the organization. This is very important. Therefore, the authorities of any Eurozone country, including Hungary, are well aware of this factor. We would very much like the Hungarian authorities to make pro-Ukrainian statements. We have started this process within the framework of negotiations. In fact, we have fulfilled all the conditions presented to us by Hungary, including the requirements it set before us regarding education and national minorities. This process can also be seen as a competition with the European Commission and the European Union. By the way, they also removed some of the criteria for Ukraine's membership. I think that everything depends on the countries and the lobbies within them. I am sure that we will solve the remaining issues.

Farid Azeri: Now we would like to touch on the Ukrainian-Azerbaijani relations. It is known that diplomatic relations between our countries have been established since February 1992. At what level are these relations developing at the moment? What are the prospects for their further development?

- Thank you for your question. This is a very important question. Firstly, our countries have friendly relations at all levels. As you know, heads of state meet and hold discussions almost every year. From 2022 to the present, two meetings were held between them, and the last discussions took place within the framework of the Munich Conference. There is no doubt that the existing friendly relations will continue. Azerbaijan is a strategic partner of Ukraine. This in itself means everything about the level of our relationship. There are friendly relations between the parliaments of our countries. There are friendship groups in both parliaments. The heads of both these groups and individual parliamentary committees also have personal friendships. Our countries have great opportunities for economic cooperation. During the next visit, we had a meeting with the management of the Minesweeping Agency. Clearing our territories of mines is a very important issue. I thank the Azerbaijani side for sending special equipment for the purpose of clearing anti-personnel mines. This issue also stands as a priority problem for our country. Because 30 percent of our territories are currently mined. Your country has unparalleled experience in this matter. At the same time, we have applied to the Azerbaijani side for conducting trainings for Ukrainian minesweepers, as well as sending special equipment for cleaning anti-tank mines. Because we also helped your country in difficult times. Now Azerbaijan is providing similar assistance. Official Baku also supports us in the field of energy and especially energy security.

Zumrud Pashkin: You mentioned that your country needs special equipment to clear anti-tank mines. For this purpose, you have applied to the Azerbaijani side. Was there a positive response to this appeal?

- I cannot say whether this request was answered positively or not. I think it is not right for me to say this. We held negotiations at all levels, and at the same time, we had fruitful discussions with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, Jeyhun Bayramov. I want to say that we are extremely pleased with the start of the "Great Return" process in Azerbaijan. Last year, I participated in the 100th anniversary celebrations of Heydar Aliyev in Azerbaijan. I feel that there have been positive changes in the mood of the Azerbaijani people over the past year. Now there is a higher, victorious atmosphere, feelings of confidence in success and the future. I wish that the same mood is established in the hearts of the Ukrainian people. I heartily congratulate you on your victories. Azerbaijan prioritizes the principles of ensuring Ukraine's independence and territorial integrity in its foreign policy. I repeat once again that we feel the support of your country in this matter. Azerbaijan's participation in the process of reconstruction and demining of Ukraine is very important for us.

Farid Azeri: On February 1, the European Union approved another 50 billion euro aid package for Ukraine. 33 billion of this amount was determined as a loan, and 17 billion as a free grant. Of course, this institution will control the distribution and spending of those funds. But how will the government implement this process? On the other hand, the union has a number of reform demands for Ukraine. We would like you to comment on the situation surrounding their implementation.

- First of all, let me say that we highly appreciate the support of the European Commission. Second, this financial aid is a trust loan. On the other hand, this loan is for 5 years. There are several state agencies specializing in the fight against corruption in Ukraine. Their activity is completely in line with our requirements. The distribution of these funds is an integral part of that anti-corruption policy. Our country is currently finalizing the process of judicial reforms. I believe that both the government and the Verkhovna Rada will take all necessary steps to successfully complete the reform program. I should also mention that there are correct directions for allocating those financial aids. One of them covers further expansion of reforms, economic development and other areas. We see this process as a starting point for Ukraine's accession to the European Union. Thirdly, this support is an indicator of the current political leadership in the Eurozone countries, as well as the result of the efforts of most states to protect the rights of Ukraine. Achieving economic success in wartime is a very difficult task. Because 80 percent of the budget funds we have are used for security purposes, armaments, as well as salaries and social benefits to be paid to our soldiers, payments intended for internally displaced persons who have to leave the territories along the front. By revitalizing the economy, we are focusing on areas that need to be developed. I live near Tripolsk Thermal Power Station. Before coming here, that station was subjected to airstrikes. The fired rockets passed over the house where I live. As a result, nothing remained of the station. However, despite everything, we must live, create and develop. This is not an easy process.

Zumrud Pashkin: My next question will be about the support of NATO and its allies to Ukraine. We know that because they are committed, they are doing their best to achieve this goal. But if we compare the number of personnel in the Ukrainian army with the Russian army, we will see that there is a significant difference. Don't you think that this issue can create a big problem for Ukraine?

- Do you know, if we approached the war from the point of view of comparing the number of personnel of the Russian army with the number of personnel in our army, then, as some countries say, we would not be able to withstand Russia even for a week. We approach this issue in terms of quality, not quantity. Our success in the war is facilitated by our strong spirit and our overwhelming belief in victory. We understand very well that at present we are a nation fighting for our independence as well as the freedom of our lands. Our war differs from Russia's aggression precisely in these aspects. Our military believed that the number of dead Russian army soldiers could finally stop both the war and Vladimir Putin. However, their policy of colonialism and imperialism does not stop. This means that human life is unimportant for Russia. We attach importance first to the life of every soldier and every Ukrainian, and then to the war. This includes the lives of our loved ones and veterans. Their social protection is very important. Therefore, we are well aware that the quality of the weapons we have acquired, the amount of financial assistance pending the approval of the US Congress, and the support given to the revival of the current economy of Ukraine, also contribute to the development of the military industrial complex.

- If we summarize the situation along the front, how can we evaluate the position of Ukraine in all directions?

- We are currently in a determined defensive position and are waiting for new weapons to be sent to our army. We are sure that tactics will change at this time. I also believe that we will be able to maintain our defense until the end. We have absolutely no doubt about it. At present we are making very serious losses. It is about the loss of the lives of the best sons and daughters of our country. I am sure that we will endure.

Photo - Ilkin Nabiyev ©️ APA GROUP

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