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Interview with Petro Poroshenko, President of Ukraine; Imagine a World
Aired June 26, 2014 - 14:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight, an exclusive interview with Petro Poroshenko, the billionaire businessman who is the new
president of Ukraine. Can he forge peace with Putin?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETRO POROSHENKO, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT-ELECT (voice-over): I am ready to make a peace deal with anybody. I want to bring the peace to my
country, not because we are weak, but because we are less plotting than anybody. We are ready to defend my country because I hate the idea not to
use the last opportunity to bring the peace in the region.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in Brussels tonight, where President
Poroshenko is set to sign a historic deal for closer ties with Europe.
And so life and politics come full circle because it was backing out of that very same deal that sparked the revolution against his predecessor,
Viktor Yanukovych, and placed Ukraine right at the heart of the worst crisis between the West and Russia since the end of the Cold War.
Moscow annexed Crimea, destabilizes Eastern Ukraine through pro- Russian separatist proxies and here in Brussels, President Vladimir Putin could face calls for broader, even greater sanctions.
Just this week, pro-Russian rebels shot down a Ukrainian helicopter, killing all nine people on board. And now the United States is demanding
that President Putin show concrete signs of disarming those rebels before Poroshenko's cease-fire expires on Friday.
But something has changed with Poroshenko's election and with the stakes sky-high for the entire region, I sat down with him to ask whether
he's the one to deal with Vladimir Putin.
AMANPOUR: President Poroshenko, welcome to our program.
POROSHENKO: Thank you very much indeed for the invitation.
AMANPOUR: How important is this signing to Ukraine?
POROSHENKO: I think this is, under my estimation, second important event in the history of my country. First was getting the independence;
second is signing up the association agreement with the European Union because this is a civilization choice. This is the Rubicon. When we cross
the Rubicon to the Europe and left in the past our Soviet past.
AMANPOUR: What do you expect President Putin to do?
What do you expect his reaction to do? Some are saying they will drop Ukraine from favorable trade status, impose tariffs.
POROSHENKO: From the legal point of view, this is simply impossible because we have not only bilateral agreement from the 1993 and 1997, but
also monetary (ph) agreement for the status of the CIS free trade zone.
AMANPOUR: They're not worried about that?
POROSHENKO: No, no, no.
POROSHENKO: I'm really worried and I think that the -- it will be best way now to have FTA agreement, this FTA agreement with the European
Union, have the same regime with Russia, because it seems to me that in the year 2008, it would be President Putin who said that he want to build up
free trade agreement from Lisbon to Vladivostok.
Now it's the right time to make it evident that this was a true choice.
And Ukraine would be the perfect bridge for that. But the same time, if it would be some negative economic reaction of President Putin,
unfortunately, this is possible, even not taking to account that in normal day, president promised not to undertake this steps.
AMANPOUR: So he said to you in Normandy that he would not punish you economically?
POROSHENKO: He promised that they will have a negotiation in a trilateral format, together with the European Union representative. And so
we do not expect any immediate negative reaction. And we try to do our best to find out a compromise. At least Ukraine from our side.
And I'm actually sure that European Union from their side do their best to find out a compromise because this agreement bring nothing wrong to
Russia except of the very competitiveness, bigger markets, more position for the corporation in the economy. I think that if something negative
happened, unfortunately, that would have only political background, no economy.
AMANPOUR: So let me ask you, because there is obviously a major political problem between you two, plus a hot war in the East. You had a
unilateral cease-fire that expires on Friday. It expires tomorrow.
What are you going to do?
Is there any chance of extending it?
POROSHENKO: Look, first of all, when I go for the election, my main slogan, my main promise, that I tried to do my best to bring peace in the
country. I promised that my first visit would be neither to Brussels nor to Moscow nor to Washington. It would be on Donbas.
And I do that with their peace proposal and with the peace plan (ph) for the 10 days, past 10 days of my presidency, I developed a peace plan
which have 15 practical effects to different human rights, rights of the people living there, deescalation of the conflict and stop war.
At the same time, we plan the biggest and unique military operation in Ukrainian history, just to restore the Ukrainian control --
AMANPOUR: What you call the counterterrorism?
No, no, this is not just a counterterrorism operation. But we want to -- we already done to restore Ukrainian control on the border, with the
Russian-Ukrainian border, because we have, can you imagine, 290 kilometers of border between Ukraine and Russia, not under control. And we restore
We bring this peace proposal and said that we want to demonstrate to the whole world if we really pray wanting for peace. This is not just a
declaration. This is a practical steps with the cease-fire. We already declared and this is the second chance because first chance we had after
Normandy, when I have a feeling that the window of opportunities is open.
Unfortunately next day after that, our military plane with the 49 soldiers were hit there. Very next day, after cease-fire, our sanitary
(ph) helicopter who delivering food and medicine to the soldiers was hit by the anti-aircraft missiles of the terrorists. And believe me, this is very
high price for that.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, then, because reports from Kiev say that you have given the rebels a 12-hour ultimatum to stop or else, logical --
you said logical steps will take place.
What do you mean? Is that true? Have you?
POROSHENKO: No, this is not true.
POROSHENKO: The -- we declared the cease-fire without any precondition for one week. For one week, we expected that we -- they
release all hostages, that we launch consultation what to do on the situation with the -- does they accept or does they want to modify peace
We prepare intent to the parliament the changes in the constitution for the decentralization of power, giving them a right to elect the local
council, which would be elected the leader of the region. We propose the amnesty, full-scale amnesty, which give them an opportunity to withdraw.
I doubt that this is really anything like ultimatum, on contrary. And can you imagine that --
AMANPOUR: So this -- just a quick question.
This cease-fire expires tomorrow.
POROSHENKO: This cease-fire expires tomorrow --
AMANPOUR: And what does that mean?
Do you go back to fighting?
POROSHENKO: If we -- unfortunately, if it would be nothing delivered, if it would be no negotiation, no consultation, no releasing of the
hostages, no cease-fire from their side because this is not possible to give long-time cease-fire unit when Ukrainian army not make fire and these
bandits, this leader of the terrorist group constantly killing our pilot, killing our soldiers, trying to grab hostages and not have any
negotiations. So that means that they are not very objective peaceful proposal.
AMANPOUR: Secretary Kerry and European leaders have said that President Putin must immediately take steps to show that he's trying to
disarm these separatists or the implied threat is that there will be more sanctions.
What do you believe President Putin will do and do you think now is the time to add more sanctions, broader sanctions?
POROSHENKO: Look, I hate the idea to bring the sanctions that is a punishment for Russia. We need that peace. We need that Russia withdraw
their troops because all the troops which present now in Ukrainian territory are Russian. All the leader of this band groups --
AMANPOUR: They are Russian?
POROSHENKO: -- they are Russian citizens. All these leaders of the band group, Karyakin, Girkin and blah, blah, blah, they are Russian.
They're officers of Russian secret services. And we demand just the throat (ph). We -- it would be quite easy for us to find out a dialogue with the
But if it is tanks, if it is armed personal career (ph), if it is trucks of troops with weapons, with drugs, with the finance, it is a real
war and real participation and we ask -- and I really want to thank all the leaders of the whole world which within this seven days support my peaceful
Very, very strong position of the United States, absolutely firm position of David Cameron, Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande, Branislav
Komarovsky from Poland, all the European leaders are together with us because we demonstrate that this is a real peace proposal and real steps
Ukraine has already done.
AMANPOUR: So what do you think President Putin, once you've spoken to him, you're on the phone to him yesterday; I assume you're having several
telephone conversations with him around this important time right now.
What do you think he wants?
Are you the person who can forge a peace deal with him?
POROSHENKO: Look, I am ready to make a peace deal with anybody. I want to bring the peace to my country, not because we are weak, but because
we are less plotting than anybody. We are ready to defend my country because I hate the idea not to use the last opportunity to bring the peace
in the region.
Sometimes the position of Mr. Putin is quite dramatic. Sometimes it is very emotional. I just try to find out the time when he's more
pragmatic than emotional.
AMANPOUR: Now is he more pragmatic since you've been elected?
POROSHENKO: It feels to me I have some feeling during the phone call when he was quite pragmatic. It seems to me that sometimes it is very
harmful, the position of Russian media, because it just war propaganda. Nothing together with the reality. And if you stay in this atmosphere of
Russian media, you have to be the same emotional. But when you -- we start a discussion that, OK, Mr. President, how you can react if your military
plane with the 49 soldiers would be hit by the -- by the bandits, if a sanitary helicopter would be hit, if a 1-year-old boy in the -- not in the
zone of operation would be killed by a grenade, so we should stop that. And it seems to me that sometimes appear some hopes.
AMANPOUR: Sometimes appears some hopes?
POROSHENKO: Cross fingers.
AMANPOUR: Cross fingers.
We're going to take a break, Mr. President. And we're going to talk about your other huge challenge, not just peace but the economy and the
AMANPOUR: Welcome back. Let's continue our conversation.
POROSHENKO: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: First I want to know, Mr. President, do you agree that in order to have peace, in order for this to be resolved, that you do actually
have to deal with Mr. Putin?
POROSHENKO: Absolutely. I think that, look, again, Russia is our big neighbor. Maybe somebody wants that we can have a other neighbor, maybe
United States, maybe Canada, maybe you are more walk and we are having Canada as a neighbor. But Russia is our long-term neighbor and to talk
about long-term perspective of security, would be simply impossible without Russia.
And we should build up the relation which from the very beginning should be relation of trust. Now I think there is a high level of mistrust
and maybe together will be the whole world, you know, we try to build up the new architecture of the security.
It bring us to build up some new relation. I really hoping that.
AMANPOUR: Now we've -- almost don't talk about Crimea any more. Is Crimea gone for good? How long do you think it'll take to get Crimea back
as part of Ukraine if ever?
POROSHENKO: Today I have a -- my speech from the Parliamentary Sunday (ph) Council of Europe. And I said that Crimea are a top priority. We
never have said that and we all the time fighting. Because Crimea is Ukrainian and the whole world can turn to Crimea is Ukrainian.
Now this is a humanitarian catastrophe in Crimea on the national basis and the national field. Those ethnic Ukrainian in Crimean Tatar has a
problem with the job, has a problem with the property, has a problem with security, has a problem with to learning their own languages and I am
absolutely sure that we use all the opportunities to bring Crimea back.
But understanding that we now have a hot form of conflict with Russia, Russians and the Donbas --
AMANPOUR: Donbas being the eastern part of Ukraine.
POROSHENKO: -- yes, this is -- because East is a big part of Ukraine. Donbas is a half of one region and one-third of our religion. Actually it
is not a big territory but we cannot react any other way like this. We should stop the war, to bring the peace because no people in Ukraine wants
this conflict. This all conflict bring from Russia, unfortunately.
AMANPOUR: The conflict is also aggravating an already shaky economic situation.
AMANPOUR: And part of the East that you mentioned is actually the heartland of a lot of your economy.
It's predicted that the Ukrainian economy, the GDP, could shrink by around 5 percent this year. That is what people want you to fix. They
want their leaders to fix the economy and give them jobs and a decent standard of living.
How are you going to do that? You're a business man. Do you know how to tackle this terrible economy?
POROSHENKO: Absolutely. Look, you should understand what is the top priority. Now top priority is peace and stop war. Because it's impossible
to reestablish or renew the economy when we have a war situation because economy under the time of peace and economy of the time of war, this is
completely different economy.
From methodology point of view, this is impossible even to compare the GDP under the time of war and GDP under the time of peace, because some
economy goes to the military real. We should produce some military to supply to our army. This is easy understandable. And the figures from the
peaceful time is different.
But I am optimistic and I am thinking that they -- within few weeks, maybe months, not likely, we can have a deal and establish the peace. And
AMANPOUR: Really? You hope that within a few weeks, maybe months, you're going to have a peace deal?
POROSHENKO: Exactly. And this was deal's deal, not on the -- on the military operation basis, because by the war, it is impossible to have 100
percent win the situation. We should establish the new relation with the society.
We should fighting for the trust of the people. And we easily win this deal if not Russia, they participating in destabilizing the situation,
because mighty Russia, Russia not to want the victory in Donbas. They don't need Donbas. They don't need neither Donetsk nor Luhansk.
But they want present, emotionally. They want a house in the country. They want a weak Ukrainian government, maybe weak Ukrainian president.
That afterwards, to change the situation in the whole country. And we don't allow them to play this scenario.
And the second position would be to make an inform on the economy because there is start on the -- on our interview, we talking about the
European choice of the people. This is not just a slogan, OK. We like to want to be geographic and in Europe. Geographically, we are already in
Europe. We connected the position of the European values as a reform.
No tolerance, zero tolerance to corruption.
AMANPOUR: Well, I was going to ask you that.
POROSHENKO: Building up the new court system and rule of law. Absolutely effective competitiveness deal that, in fact, the country and
favorable trade regime for the -- our goods abroad and absolutely positive in effect an investment climate.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you about the corruption, because for years -- and we've been coverage Ukraine for years -- including in the previous
reform government, people wanted an end to oligarchy; they wanted an end to corruption.
You come from that background, the oligarchs. You are a -- you are a businessman. They asked, can Petro Poroshenko be the person to destroy
that house from the inside and give us really the rule of law? And of non- corrupt --
POROSHENKO: Let's divide the rich person. One rich person has built up one -- probably one of the best company in Europe, based on their very
high level of the competitiveness.
Absolutely transparent, working in a very competitive energy (ph) sector and different, just sitting on their state budget with sorts of cash
flow and stealing from them. And this is completely different, bridge person, completely different businessman. And they understand what does it
mean, the investment climate.
But there's understand how to close the corruption flow, come to fight against corruption.
If you have the strongest people's support for that, because never ever before we have such election results, when all the region of Ukraine
support one candidate and this candidate, within the first two --
AMANPOUR: That's you.
POROSHENKO: -- it's me. And this is a very strong demand for action, for reform and for an anti-corruption step. And I'm not connected with
any, with any political parties, with any business group. We are here to change the country. And one of the main changes is stop corruption. This
is what people waiting. And they are kept excuse if peace would not be in one month but in three or four, five months. But they are not excused if
corruption fighting would not bring a result in the next one, two or three months. That's a big difference.
AMANPOUR: And there's a big challenge for you.
AMANPOUR: We are sitting in Brussels, the heart of some of the best chocolates in the world. You are known as the premier confectioner,
chocolate maker in Ukraine, before you became president.
POROSHENKO: In the past.
AMANPOUR: In the past.
When we come back, I want to ask you about chocolates.
AMANPOUR: Finally tonight, Mr. President, you had a very successful empire, making chocolates, making confections, selling to Russia. You
pledged to sell it off or no longer do it once you became president.
Is that right?
POROSHENKO: My company -- can I use CNN for the advertising?
POROSHENKO: Sorry; that's a joke.
But my company, before I became a president, was named Roshen, was one of the first companies who were hit by the Russian embargo, because in
the almost one year ago -- no, exactly one year ago, the Russia put the ban to import Ukrainian and Russian chocolates.
AMANPOUR: So even sweets, even chocolates got caught up in this political fight.
POROSHENKO: Yes, (INAUDIBLE) can be who are --
AMANPOUR: Even chocolate can be a weapon?
POROSHENKO: -- like you remember that -- like I was kidding about advertising, so probably with the best chocolate in the world, also can be
this type of weapon. But look, my position, my approach was the following. If it would be price for economic independence, of my country, if it would
be that price, I should pay that as a citizen of my country.
And now --
AMANPOUR: -- pay the price to.?
POROSHENKO: Pay the price in form of the embargo for the --
AMANPOUR: Got it.
POROSHENKO: -- for the company, because that was about 50 percent of the production, which is for any other company, would be economic
catastrophe. But we are ready for that, because this is the price for economic independence. This is the price for European aspiration and for
this type of solidarity, people from the whole European Union, and people from the whole world, from Canada to Japan, they now demonstrate the very
strong form of solidarity.
Why? Because to see with us, God is with us. We demonstrate to the whole world, look, we are independent. We are sovereign. We are new
European nation. We have a right to be free. We have a right to be equal. And we have a right to have this solidarity.
And for those who are not supporting us, they feared in the world of isolation. That's why this world have a very great future.
AMANPOUR: On that note, President Petro Poroshenko, thank you so much for joining me.
POROSHENKO: Thank you.
And that's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always contact us at our website, amanpour.com, and follow me on Twitter and
Facebook. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.