Artem Member of the Parliament of Ukraine, deputy head of the presidential political party «Sluga Narodu». Parliament’s Committee on Regulations and Parliamentary Ethics vice-chairman. Member of the Parliamentary Commission for the Protection of Investors’ Rights.
Today, as Russia raises troops on Ukraine’s border and the West and Europe are in a diplomatic “fever” to avoid a war, Artem Kultenko speaks exclusively to the newspaper ‘dimokratiki’ and explains what is happening in his country.
By Peggy Dokou
-Mr Kultenko the West (USA and Europe) are watching the developments in Ukraine with anxiety. At the same time Russian Federation has in place 70% of military in borders. Can you describe us what’s really happening in your country these days?
We remain calm and try to act rationally. This is reflected in society, and there is no panic in our country. On the streets of peaceful cities, everything is calm, and life goes on as usual for now. Of course, our army is now preparing and strengthening in any case.
In the Donbas, there are no exacerbations now either, but we understand that the biggest threat now looms over people there, the same as it has been for all these years. There are still Ukrainians there who couldn’t leave for various reasons, not because they don’t want to. There are problems with checkpoints that are not under our control, and it is more difficult for people to leave from there now; this situation has been going on for the entire period since the beginning of the pandemic.
We will not welcome war in our country, and people do not want it. Also, Ukraine will never start a war. But we don’t stop strengthening our army because, since 2014 and 2015, we have realized that in any case we must pay a lot of attention to the army, strengthen it, and spend our efforts on it. Nevertheless, while the diplomats are talking, the weapons are silent. And I hope that the diplomatic path will give its result since the lives of our citizens are most valuable to us.
-Ukrainian President, mr Zelensky has already the support from Europe, NATO and USA. In your opinion can Ukraine face this enormous challenge, coming from Russian Federation?
It is important for us that the issue of peace in Ukraine is perceived correctly, as an issue of peace also for all other countries. Peace should be a common interest. A strong alliance lies precisely in this position.
We are really grateful to the people from all over the world who care now and stand up for peace. And it is not even so important whether this person is a country’s government official or an ordinary citizen. After all, politicians are elected by citizens, by ordinary people. And if voters don’t like the idea of war, then in the next election, they won’t vote for the politician who supported the war.
We are doing everything possible so that there is no war in our country. This is the goal. Since we have had a military conflict on the territory of Donbas for several years, we know exactly the value of a peaceful sky. For eight years, thanks to the hard work of our military, the rest of the country has lived in peace and developed in safety. Every day we thank God for this gift, and we want peace for Donbas as well.
I think that ordinary Russians, just like us, Ukrainians, would not like to lose their sons, husbands, and fathers in the war. I know that many people in the Russian Federation do not support the idea of a war with Ukraine.
-Are you optimist that Ukraine can enter NATO and European Union next years?
I am optimistic that Ukraine will develop and become more comfortable and successful. The people here deserve it. I, like most citizens, attach much more importance not just to the mark that we are in alliance with other countries but to the development of the country, the standard of living in it, the security of its citizens and businesses in Ukraine. For this purpose, we need to develop the economy and continue to protect the law. And that is what we are working for.
For example, we have recently passed a law that will allow technology companies to operate on very favorable terms in our country: this is the most minimal taxation among those in Europe. The IT sector is actively developing, and we plan to increase its share in GDP. In the Parliamentary Commission for the Protection of Investors’ Rights, in which I work, we return hundreds of millions of dollars to the country’s economy per year, we will soon reach a billion. This is the protection of investments of both Ukrainian and foreign investors. And it tells them that there is justice, and the law will work if they run into trouble.
With such steps, sometimes big, sometimes small, I believe we will reach the level of TOP-countries; so, we are working on that.
-Can you give our Greek readers a message from Ukraine and the government?
I will tell you on behalf of a citizen of Ukraine.
Our country is doing everything possible to keep peace in Ukraine, and it has been doing this for several years. We are grateful to everyone who helps us in this matter and who believes, just like we do, that human lives are of the highest value. I am grateful to everyone who chooses peace. Bright times will come with our joint efforts and with God’s help.
Personally, I have a great hope that we will soon have completely different topics for discussion, for example, which Greek island a Ukrainian should choose next to visit, or which part of Ukraine would be better to start exploring the country for a Greek tourist – the Carpathians or the Black Sea. I hope so.