Skip to main content

Ukraine's President vows to defend territory 'no matter what'

By Ben Brumfield, CNN
updated 11:51 AM EDT, Sat June 7, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Assistant to separatist leader killed in broad daylight
  • "I don't want war. I don't want revenge," Ukraine's new President says
  • "Those who enter with the sword will be met with the sword," he says
  • Ukraine's natural place in the world is with Europe, the President says

(CNN) -- In suspense, a nation listened to the Ukrainian President's inaugural speech Saturday, hoping for answers to the question: Will there be peace?

"I don't want war. I don't want revenge," Petro Poroshenko said after taking the oath of office. But then his talk turned tough.

He promised to meet anyone challenging Ukraine's territorial integrity with military might. Alluding to a Biblical verse he said, "Who comes with the sword will fall from the sword."

The statement was met with enthusiastic applause.

The country will build the means to do so, Poroshenko said, and re-arming the Ukrainian army must be a priority. "No one will protect us, if we do not learn to protect ourselves."

Crisis in Ukraine
A man looks at a bullet shell next to a destroyed car after a gunfight between pro-Russian militiamen and Ukrainian forces in Karlivka, Ukraine, on Friday, May 23. Much of Ukraine's unrest has been centered in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, where separatists have claimed independence from the government in Kiev. A man looks at a bullet shell next to a destroyed car after a gunfight between pro-Russian militiamen and Ukrainian forces in Karlivka, Ukraine, on Friday, May 23. Much of Ukraine's unrest has been centered in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, where separatists have claimed independence from the government in Kiev.
Crisis in Ukraine
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Photos: Crisis in Ukraine Photos: Crisis in Ukraine

He called for separatists in Ukraine's east who have taken up arms against the government to lay them down and offered amnesty to those who "do not have blood on their hands."

Poroshenko also called for corridors to open to allow fighters who have joined pro-Russia separatist forces from outside the country to leave Ukraine.

In Russia, President Vladimir Putin ordered border guards to stop the illegal crossings of people from Ukraine by beefing up security, the state-run ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

Meanwhile, in Donetsk on Saturday, an assistant to Denis Pushilin, the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk Republic, was killed in an attack in broad daylight, a CNN crew at the scene said.

Attackers shot at the car that Maksim Petruhin was in, and when he exited the vehicle, he was shot and killed. It was the most brazen attack in Donetsk since the unrest began.

Heading West

Obama reaffirms US support for Ukraine
Ukrainian soldiers sit on an armored vehicle as they take up a position in a sunflower field near Donetsk, Ukraine, on Thursday, July 10. Here's a look at the upheaval that has persisted in eastern Ukraine since the election of President Petro Poroshenko. Ukrainian soldiers sit on an armored vehicle as they take up a position in a sunflower field near Donetsk, Ukraine, on Thursday, July 10. Here's a look at the upheaval that has persisted in eastern Ukraine since the election of President Petro Poroshenko.
Ukraine after the election
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Photos: Ukraine after the election Photos: Ukraine after the election

Poroshenko, one of the world's richest men and an experienced politician, took the oath of office in the country's parliament Saturday.

He was presented with the symbols of high office -- a presidential badge, a seal and a mace -- before taking to the podium for his inaugural address.

His opening remarks left little doubt over the tenor of his speech, as he praised the activists of the Maidan, whose rebellion in the center of Kiev led to the ouster of his predecessor in office, Viktor Yanukovych.

The pro-Russia former President sparked rage from Ukrainians who wanted the country to join the European Union when he nixed an agreement with the EU in favor of closer ties to Moscow.

Ensuing street battles resulted in the deaths of dozens.

Poroshenko condemned the former pro-Russia government as a "dictatorship."

"The people stood up," he said, declaring his country's new direction toward the West.

Before at least four European Presidents and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, the man who became a billionaire as a chocolate maker vowed to quickly continue Ukraine's move toward the EU, calling Ukraine's path to Europe "irreversible."

Ukraine's natural place is with Europe, he said, adding that he's prepared to sign an economic partnership agreement with the European Union as soon as its officials approve it.

The agreement is just one step toward Ukraine becoming a member of the European Union. Poroshenko received a standing ovation for the remark.

Ukrainians have reason to look forward to a brighter future, he said. "We are being supported by the whole world."

Armed conflict

But the new President inherits a country with a burgeoning armed conflict in its east.

Violence there is taking lives daily, and government troops and rebel fighters are beefing up their might.

The names of the cities Donetsk and Luhansk have transformed into monikers for flashpoints of tension between Russia and the West as the government in Kiev breaks its ties with Moscow to embrace Europe and the United States.

But ethnic Russian separatists in the east and south yearn to stay with Moscow. The Kremlin, holding fast to centuries-old ties, is said to be helping them dig in their heels after annexing the region of Crimea, which before 1954 was part of Russia.

Poroshenko addressed the move directly. The territorial integrity of Ukraine is not up for discussion, he said, and he has taken an oath to uphold it.

"I will stand by this oath no matter what," he said.

He promised to visit Luhansk and Donetsk and maintain respect for the Russian language, commonly spoken in Ukraine's east and south.

The government will be decentralized, giving those regions more say in their own affairs, he said.

"New powers will be allocated to regional powers," Poroshenko said.

But there will be no federalization, as many separatists have demanded. Some analysts believe such a move would help cement Russia's influence in their regions.

Ukraine will be one unified country, the President said.

Meeting Putin

Security prospects have seemed elusive, but on Friday, a ray of hope pierced the ominous clouds between Moscow and Kiev during D-Day celebrations in France, where Putin came together with Western leaders to honor common sacrifices made to defeat fascism in World War II.

Putin came face-to-face with Poroshenko.

Afterward, Poroshenko announced that negotiations between the two sides would begin Sunday, his second day in office.

But in his address on Saturday, he spoke of the meeting with Putin in more assertive language.

"Yesterday I made a firm statement about it to the Russian leadership in Normandy," he said. "Crimea was, is and will be Ukrainian soil."

Poroshenko sets out Ukraine's European destiny, warns adversaries

'It's hell down there': Inside the battle for eastern Ukraine

Separatists, government troops continue faceoff in eastern Ukraine

CNN's Tim Lister in Donetsk, Ukraine, contributed to this report

Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:17 AM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
Donetsk's neediest line up for food handouts. There are long queues at the bus station as people try to leave town. There are no banks left open.
updated 5:25 AM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
Barking overwhelms the thud of artillery fire. An animal shelter is crammed with 1,000 dogs, many orphans of the conflict with owners who have fled or been killed.
updated 3:51 AM EDT, Fri October 3, 2014
Reza Sayah looks into why thousands of Ukrainians have left their old lives to volunteer to fight.
updated 4:48 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
CNN's Ralitsa Vassileva speaks to The New Republic's Linda Kinstler about Putin's motives with Ukraine and China.
updated 10:36 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
President Barack Obama speaks at the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly.
updated 5:58 PM EST, Thu November 13, 2014
The Commander of NATO forces in Europe says Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defense systems and Russian troops -- all heading into Ukraine.
updated 8:58 AM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 broke apart in the air after it was hit by a burst of "high-energy objects" from outside, a preliminary report by Dutch aviation investigators said Tuesday.
updated 12:11 PM EDT, Wed September 3, 2014
On a country road in eastern Ukraine, a scene of bucolic tranquility was suddenly interrupted by the aftermath of carnage.
updated 4:19 PM EDT, Tue September 2, 2014
In the city of Donetsk, the devastation wrought by weeks of fighting between pro-Russia rebels and Ukrainian forces is all too apparent.
updated 8:00 PM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
CNN's Diana Magnay reports from the front lines in the Ukrainian conflict.
updated 7:26 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
A few miles south of the town of Starobeshevo in eastern Ukraine, a group of men in uniform is slumped under a tree.
updated 9:43 AM EDT, Sat August 23, 2014
A shopkeeper's mutilated body, relatives' anguish, homes destroyed ... this is Donetsk.
updated 7:12 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
A 20-minute drive from Kiev takes you to a neighborhood that feels more like Beverly Hills than central Ukraine.
updated 9:12 AM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
Photos illustrate the ongoing crisis in Ukraine as fighting continues to flare in the region.
updated 12:31 PM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
Future imports, exports between the EU and Russia are now banned -- but existing contracts continue.
updated 11:40 AM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Some contend that larger weapons have come into Ukraine from Russia.
updated 5:25 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
The downing Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 put the pro-Russia rebels operating in Ukraine's eastern region center stage.
ADVERTISEMENT