Ukrainian leaders talk on language, decentralization and amnesty for protesters in address to nation
The Ukrainian interim president and parliament speaker, Oleksandr Turchynov, and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, have jointly addressed the nation in a live TV speech. They promised that the Russian language will be granted official status in the regions where the majority speaks it, more power to the regional authorities and amnesty for pro-Russian activists who lay down arms and vacate seized buildings. The following is the text of the joint address of 18 April 2014
[Oleksandr Turchynov] Dear compatriots. Today, on the eve of the great Christian holiday of Gods' resurrection, the heads of the parliamentary factions of the coalition initiated the signing of a memorandum of unity. Unfortunately, the Party of Regions and the Communist party factions refused not only to sign, but also to vote in favour of this document. We outlined the main points of the memorandum in the statement signed, on the commission of MPs of the majority, by Ukrainian interim president and parliamentary speaker and the prime minister. Let me proclaim this statement.
Ukraine is approaching a great and light Christian holiday: Easter. It brings hope for renaissance and a renewed peaceful living. In the days of a great reconciliation and all-forgiveness, we call on all compatriots to give their hand to each other and reject radical actions and the language of hatred, to return to joint actions on the defence and creative development of a single, democratic and unitary Ukraine where representatives of all nationalities, religious beliefs and political views will live in the atmosphere of freedom and friendship.
We strongly condemn attempts of separatism and splitting Ukraine. We call for the consolidation of all the citizens of Ukraine in the name of saving the unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine, reaching civil consent in society.
The leadership of the country, with the support of the majority in the Supreme Council of Ukraine, will spare no effort to urgently discuss the amendments to Ukraine's constitution and the conducting of reform of local self-government and power bodies in the regions of Ukraine, making provisions for the decentralization of power and widening the authority of territorial communities, establishment of executive bodies of local councils instead of state administrations, providing the regional authorities with financial means they need and setting up mechanisms of the participation of communities in taking decisions by the local authorities.
In order to reach peace and mutual understanding between citizens of Ukraine, the regional, city and district councils will have the right to take decisions on giving the official status to the Russian or other languages spoken by the majority of the local population along with the state Ukrainian language.
The Ukrainian government has tabled a bill to the Supreme Council, which envisages inadmissibility of criminal prosecution, bringing persons to criminal or administrative responsibility over the events that occurred during mass protest rallies, under the condition of voluntary surrender of arms, ammunition and explosives to state bodies and vacating of all the buildings, state and local bodies seized during mass rallies.
Dear Ukrainian citizens. We are all different. But we have one important uniting feature. We are all citizens of the sovereign and independent Ukraine. We should do everything we can not to deprive our descendants of this priceless treasure.
I am convinced that all the MPs of all the factions will join this memorandum and vote for it and will support all the laws aimed at the stabilization of the situation in our country.
[Arseniy Yatsenyuk] Dear fellow Ukrainians, on the eve of Easter, this statement indicates our direct intention to stabilize the country, preserve peace and calm, and respond to the demands which people have today, including the demands of people in the east.
The Ukrainian cabinet is ready to carry out a comprehensive constitutional reform that will state clearly the powers of the regions and under which the regional and district state administrations will be abolished and people will elect their councils and executive committees.
We are granting a special status to the Russian language and we will protect this language. We are granting a special status to any other language spoken in any territorial community.
Our statement is dictated by the desire to make sure that accord prevails in Ukraine. In order for territorial communities to have sufficient resources, the government is ready to amend the budget and tax codes and fill each Ukrainian land with sufficient financial and economic resources.
This statement is also a result of the agreements reached at a meeting that took place in Geneva [on 17 April] and involved Ukraine, the USA, the EU and the Russian Federation. The Russian Federation was compelled to condemn extremism, and the Russian Federation signed a statement which should result in all illegal paramilitary units being disarmed and all administrative buildings, including the buildings seized locally, those of the Security Service of Ukraine, the Interior Ministry and local executive bodies, being vacated.
No-one will support the terrorists. We support peaceful Ukrainians who have the right to rule in their land and who have the right to influence both their central and local authorities.
The Ukrainian cabinet has already tabled a bill granting an amnesty for all those who will lay down arms, who will vacate the buildings and who will, together with the people of Ukraine, begin to build a sovereign and independent Ukraine.
It is a pity that this bill has not been passed, even though it could have been passed if our political opponents had had the will to do so. We, nevertheless, call on all the sides to immediately stabilize the situation and adopt this bill in the chamber next week.
On behalf of the Ukrainian cabinet, I would like to assure everybody again that this is the government of Ukraine. This is the government of Donetsk, Aviv and Ternopil, Luhansk and Simferopol. This is the government of one single country and it is in our power to preserve Ukraine and it is in our power to make it successful, and it will be so.
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