Ihor Zhovkva, Deputy Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine
No one is talking about alternative peace plan anymore
08.09.2023 15:39

The month was marked by several significant events for Ukraine, which were attended by foreign partners. Among these were the 32nd anniversary of Ukraine’s independence, the summit of the Crimean Platform in Kyiv, and visits of President Volodymyr Zelenskyi and his team to several countries, where F-16 fighter jet provision to Ukraine was announced for the first time, and a summit with the Balkan countries.

Ukrinform asked Ihor Zhovkva, Deputy Head of the Office of the President, about this and numerous other issues of Ukraine’s international activities, including when we can expect the signing of the first bilateral security agreement and the details of preparation for the Global Peace Summit.


- For the second time, in the midst of a full-scale Russian invasion, Ukraine hosted foreign guests on the occasion of celebrations of Independence Day and organised the Crimean Platform summit. Ihor Ivanovych, what made the Crimean Platform 2023 different from the Crimean Platform 2023?

It was the third time that we held the Crimean Platform summit. It is crucial that the number of participants who attended this year’s summit increased to 63 countries and international organisations. Some countries, like Timor-Leste, Serbia, Bahrain, and UAE, joined the summit for the first time. New international organisations appeared – the Danube Commission, the World Tourism Organization and UNESCO.

In contrast to last year, when only the President of Poland, Andrze

In contrast to last year, when only the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda, personally arrived in Kyiv, this year, six presidents and prime ministers took part offline this time, and the number of participants at the level of leaders who spoke online increased.

This indicates that the topic of de-occupation of Crimea is, so to speak, on the world leaders’ radar.

Watch the online speech of the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Analyse his speech carefully, and you will hear answers to many questions. Such serious countries don’t just decide on the speech without considering the foreseeable path of development for Crimea.

Another important component of the summit was the interest from businesses. This year, 27 Ukrainian and foreign businesses joined the summit. A memorandum was signed with 14 of them that are already speaking of entering the Crimean market once the peninsula is de-occupied. The document is open for signing.

- So, what are the spheres that businesses are ready to start in Crimea after its liberation?

- We are talking about hotel businesses, airlines, tourist companies, restaurants, banking and energy sector, IT companies, etc. This means that all businesses that are now present on the Ukrainian market will definitely be represented in Crimea. This is even more so because the Crimea will be a unique platform with countless opportunities.

- In three years of the Crimean platform, does this one demonstrates some practical results? What can Ukraine offer businesses to make it interested in de-occupied Crimea?

- Undoubtedly, many leaders were talking about practical things. Businesses that are speaking of their presence in Crimea, check their stance with the state where their head office is located.

In contrast to last year’s summit, which was difficult because we were just starting counteroffensive operations, today, we are having success, including in Kherson Oblast. The countries know that Ukraine will eventually reach the administrative border with Crimea and enter the peninsula.

Certainly, Ukraine makes offers to businesses. I cannot disclose them publicly to prevent pressure on such businesses from the aggressor state. Companies operate in various regions of the world, so expressing interest in operations in liberated Crimea presents a serious risk today. They dared to do it, and we are grateful for that.

- Several days after the Crimean Platform was held, President Volodymyr Zelenskyi did not rule out in one of his interviews that when Ukraine approaches the administrative border with the peninsula, it will be possible to “politically press for the demilitarisation of Russia on the territory of Ukrainian Crimea.” Is this a sign of a refusal to return Crimea by military means or, perhaps, a sign of the partners’ insistence on solely diplomatic methods?

- No need to interpret the President’s words. He did not talk about refusing to return the Crimea by military means. This readiness does not disappear anywhere.

If you’re curious as to whether we’ve discussed ways to de-occupy Crimea with our foreign partners with whom we have recently met, then I will tell you that it wasn’t the primary topic of our conversations.

After all, Ukraine will be the one to decide how to de-occupy Crimea. What is a victory for us will be decided by the President of Ukraine and the people of Ukraine? And the situation has not changed in this respect.

During recent visits, we have discussed defence assistance, for example. The entire last week has passed under the auspices of the coalition of fighter jets.


- We have finally received the first official data concerning F-16.

- Three states –Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway – have already announced a specific number of F-16 fighter jets, and some countries have confirmed pilot training. But we are talking not only about F-16. In Sweden, we talked about Gripens both with the Swedish Prime Minister and with all leaders of the parliamentary parties. President Zelenskyi’s visit was followed by a tweet from Magdalena Andersson asking the Swedish government to start an analysis of how many Gripens could be transferred to Ukraine.

We understand that Sweden isn’t a member of NATO yet, so it has to take care of its own safety for now. But we realise that Sweden will become a NATO member soon. By the way, Ukraine is helping Sweden in this regard, and we are talking to Turkey through all available channels.

When Sweden becomes a full member of NATO, the matter of fighter jets will proceed faster.

- As of now, there are three countries that state the willingness to provide us with fighter jets, and several others have said they would train pilots and engineers. Will there be others?

- The aviation coalition, which was initiated on 1 June during the President of Ukraine’s visit to Chisinau, comprises 14 nations. Back then, we had already been talking about the number of jets, but without any mentions in the press. Then, this coalition was officially formed during one of the Ramsteins, and each country involved joined this coalition consciously, with no one being dragged along.

But there are certain procedures to be followed. For instance, the F-16 is an American-manufactured machine. Each of the nations should be given permission by the US before supplying or even using them for training. Therefore, relevant countries have followed these procedures.

As of now, some states have not yet publicly announced their participation. Yet, each of the 14 participating states will make its contribution.


- How many countries have announced their intentions to join the Declaration of the Group of Seven on security guarantees?

- As of today, 21 countries joined the G7 nations. That is 7 plus 21. Moreover, we are not trying to force any country, but we are merely referring to the fact that the Declaration is open for signing.

To recall, this Declaration was distributed among all NATO members at the summit in Vilnius, but it has been joined not only by Alliance members. Three countries – the USA, Great Britain, and Canada – have already opened negotiations on bilateral legally binding documents. I can announce that soon, we expect to start negotiations with one more country.

To recall, this Declaration was distributed among all NATO members at the summit in Vilnius, but it has been joined not only by Alliance members. Three countries – the USA, Great Britain, and Canada – have already opened negotiations on bilateral legally binding documents. I can announce that soon, we expect to start negotiations with one more country.

- How long can the negotiation and contract conclusion process last? Can it take years?

- No, it will not last for years. By the end of this year, negotiations with those who started them first should have been finalised, and ideally, such documents should be signed.

All contracts must undergo vetting processes before they can be approved.

- The President said that we were striving to conclude the most powerful agreement with the USA.

- Naturally, this is the reason we initiated these negotiations with them first.

- For example, could an Israeli model be applied there?

- Not necessarily. To recall, the US also have the “Korean” and “Japanese” models. But we are writing our own agreement. So, there are several paths we may follow.

- From which other states do we intend to receive fairly solid guarantees?

- I believe we could have such agreements with all of the G7 countries.

- There are concerns that these agreements will be merely declarative.

- There will definitely be no second Budapest Memorandum. No Budapest-2, 3, or 4. We will have clear, legally verified and binding documents.

We have a G7 Declaration. The status of this document has been consciously defined as an open declaration to allow more countries to join it. You can see that a little more than a month has elapsed, and the agreement has been signed by 21 nations, a figure that is three times greater than the number at the time of its approval at the Vilnius Summit.

It is the basis which contains a minimum list of guarantees that should be included in bilateral or multilateral documents. By the way, it is possible that documents may also be multilateral. Then, we will be working on the specifics with each partner country.

- It is clear why Ukraine needs security guarantees. But what is the motivation of our partners to give us these guarantees?

- They need these security guarantees, too, as they will protect not only Ukraine but our entire region. How can we discuss the security of the European continent without discussing the security of Ukraine? How can we talk about the safety of our neighbours, or the safety of any European country, if there are no guarantees that aggression will not happen again after Ukraine wins?!

These security guarantees are intended to ensure that further significant escalation of aggression is impossible or that aggression will not be resumed after the victory.

When countries signed the document, they did it consciously.

And yes, the best security guarantee for Ukraine is NATO membership. No one is taking this issue off the agenda, and the Declaration states that all these guarantees will be in effect while Ukraine pursues its goal of membership in the Euro-Atlantic community. However, this will certainly not happen before Ukraine wins. Therefore, we need guarantees.


- Ukraine is preparing a Global Peace Summit simultaneously with negotiations on guarantees. Do we have an understanding of where and when it is going to take place?

- Increasingly more countries support President Zelenskyi’s peace formula. We really count on the autumn inauguration summit. The location of the summit depends on where the leaders we’d like to see at the summit are willing to travel and the host country, which needs to take care of all the logistics for bringing in as many leaders from the Global South as possible.

A group of diplomats gathered in Copenhagen to discuss the Peace Formula, and then representatives from 15 nations gathered, including four from the Global South. Then, 42 more countries gathered in Jeddah. The global community has come together in support of the notion that the basis for peace in Ukraine will be the Ukrainian formula.

China, India, South Africa and Saudi Arabia talked about peace in Ukraine based on the Ukrainian formula.

Every week, meetings at the ambassador level are held, each time focusing on a specific topic. On Wednesday, representatives from 74 nations participated in the meeting on the topic of “Food security,” which was hosted by the Head of the Office of the President, Andriy Yermak.

We are working in working groups. There are ten groups based on 10 points of the Formula. Office of the President, for example, has a working group led by Andriy Yermak and me and deals with point 9, which is related to the impossibility of escalating the war and repeated aggression.

For each group, a designated minister, representative of the OP, and experts are assigned.

A second round at the level of advisers is needed, which should take place sometime in the near future.

And what is important is that no one is talking about any alternative plans.

- So, there is no “Chinese,” “African,” or “Brazilian” plan?

- No! Indeed, certain clauses of the Formula are currently being modified, not in terms of their order or the presence of a particular clause; no one disputes that, but rather in terms of their wording in light of the positions of specific states.

- What specifically does Ukraine want to get from the Global Peace Summit?

- The start of the process. Confirming the Ukrainian Peace Formula. And after this summit, there will be no other alternative plan available!

After the Global Peace Summit, a series of activities will be conducted on each of the points, with the focus shifting from the leadership level to the ministerial and advisory levels.

For each point, we possess a comprehensive comprehension of the number of nations that will be involved in its execution.

- Is there any point that everyone is avoiding?

- There is no such point. Food security, nuclear safety, environment, and prisoner exchange are popular topics.

The withdrawal of Russian troops, the prosecution of the Russian Federation, and the end of the war are some of the less popular ones.

We don’t require every nation to join the ten points. We require them to share the general philosophy of the Peace Formula and choose the points that are most acceptable to them.

It is, therefore, normal for the countries of the Global South to participate in one or two points. We expect the US and European partners to participate in most points and the EU and UN to participate in all of them.

- How do you connect with the countries of the Global South, especially Latin America? The President of Portugal, a nation that has historically enjoyed close ties with Brazil, paid a visit to Kyiv on 24 August. Did you talk about assistance in establishing contact with him?

- Indeed, the President of Portugal has good relations with the President of Brazil. We discussed several interaction formats with him. Additionally, the expansion of Ukraine’s presence in this region was discussed with the Prime Minister of Spain.

Moreover, it is important to note that the matter of holding the Ukraine – Latin America Summit remains on the agenda of our diplomatic efforts. We would like to hold such a summit in one of the Latin American Countries, perhaps.

Note that the countries of Latin America are already supporting us quite actively. The Crimean Platform and the Core Group for the establishment of the tribunal were both participated by Costa Rica. The same goes for Guatemala. At the EU-CELAC summit, Chile’s President personally defended Ukraine, saying that Russia was waging an imperialist war against Ukraine.

The previous focus was on expanding our presence, including a diplomatic one, on the African continent. The same can be said about our expansion into Latin America. If I am not mistaken, we now have six embassies in the region. Obviously, this is not enough. And we need to open not just embassies but also trading houses, for example.

Ukraine is interesting to the region of Latin America, too. We can see this from the contacts of the President of Ukraine. Accordingly, the government and our diplomatic service have to work to achieve that.


- The President of Türkiye is going to visit Russia and meet with Putin in early September to talk about the “grain corridor.” Did the Turkish side discuss its stance at these talks with Ukraine?

- Certainly. We are always coordinating our positions with the Turkish side. This has already become a tradition.

- Perhaps President Erdoğan might visit Ukraine soon?

- He has been invited by our President to visit Ukraine; it was discussed at the time when Volodymyr Zelenskyi was in Istanbul (7 July – ed.). The Turkish President is a welcome guest in Ukraine.

Naturally, we would like to see him here at the earliest convenience, as there are numerous matters that it is highly desirable to discuss in person, directly, and not by alternative means of communication.

Naturally, we would like to see him here at the earliest convenience, as there are numerous matters that it is highly desirable to discuss in person, directly, and not by alternative means of communication.

- The media reported that Türkiye was allegedly discussing the so-called “new grain agreement” with Qatar and Russia. What does Ukraine know about this?

- I can say that for obvious reasons, this looks like a fake, which was deliberately launched by the aggressor country.

We have no information about the possibility of preparing such an agreement. Instead, we are aware that Türkiye is making every effort to restore the already existing grain agreement it had with Russia and the United Nations.


- To continue the grain topic... Polish President Andrzej Duda was not present at the celebration in Kyiv on the occasion of Independence Day. Is it related to our problems with blocking the transit of Ukrainian grain?

- As the Polish side officially explained to us, President Duda was unable to arrive in Kyiv on time due to his busy schedule. He spoke online at the Summit of the Crimean Platform, where he supported Ukraine and the need for the de-occupation of Crimea.

On 24 August, Mr. Duda called the President of Ukraine to greet him on Independence Day. They talked about future contacts and matters on the agenda.

There is no intrigue here; President Zelenskyi has excellent relations with President Duda, and there is no “cooling off” between us.

We are always open in our communications, and Poland knows our position. Our position on the inadmissibility of violating European law, the principles of the EU common market, and the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU, including the free trade zone, is known to Poland. One EU member state is legally unable to unilaterally establish bilateral restrictions on the export of any type of goods from Ukraine. Period. If it does so, it violates the principle of the existence of the European Union. And this must require a response from the European Commission.

Furthermore, Ukraine is entitled to pursue legal action, including submitting an appeal to an arbitral tribunal, which we are certain to take if the violations of the principles of the common market continue.

- Ukraine must meet the seven recommendations of the European Commission by October to be able to start negotiations to join the EU in December. The relevant Deputy Prime Minister Olha Stefanishyna recently explained that we may not see the complete implementation of the seven recommendations by then, but the state will ensure the implementation of all agreed-upon legislative and institutional steps. Will it hinder the receipt of positive feedback from the European Commission?

- I have been informed by representatives of the European Commission, including President Ursula von der Leyen, and leaders of the states with whom the President of Ukraine meets, that it is imperative that we fulfil the seven recommendations at a 120% rate and ensure the flawless execution of the subsequent stages of our European integration, and make sure there are no questions to us.

The President has given the government a clear mandate to fully implement all seven recommendations prior to the preparation of the report by the European Commission. The President has not changed or cancelled it.

- Do we have the potential to complete all of them?

- The Government assures that there is. Parliament needs to approve several more relevant laws, but things are going well, as we can see based on the dynamics. One of the important laws, for example, which still needs to be adopted, is the amendments to the law on national minorities in accordance with the proposals of the Venice Commission.

Almost every week, the President holds a meeting concerning these seven recommendations. The last such meeting took place on 30 August. Ms. Stefanishyna reported on the success of completing these recommendations.

The President of the European Commission assures President Zelenskyi that if Ukraine completes its homework, the outcome will be favourable.

And then, the schedule is quite simple. Mid-October – a positive conclusion regarding Ukraine’s implementation of the seven recommendations, followed by the European Council on 14–15 December and the adoption of a decision on the start of accession negotiations.

Olena Lytvynenko

Photo: Ruslan Kaniuka

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