“In the coming weeks people around the world will joyfully celebrate the New Year and Christmas holidays, but this will not be a festive season for millions of Ukrainians,” said Mr Beshta. “Yesterday, and the day before, and the day before, more families were plunged into grief upon learning loved ones had perished in hostile attacks launched at the command of the Kremlin.”
Making a contribution
“I was born in Volyn region in the western part of Ukraine in December 1976, when we were still a part of the Soviet Union. In my school years I witnessed the collapse of the old regime and the first steps of an independent Ukraine. I believed that diplomacy would be an extremely interesting profession and hoped to make a contribution towards developing Ukraine into a democratic and prosperous nation.”
Mr Beshta graduated from Lviv State University’s Faculty of International Relations in 1998, and the same year began his diplomatic career with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 2001, just in his mid-twenties, he was assigned to the Permanent Mission of Ukraine at the United Nations headquarters in New York, where he served first as Second Secretary and then as First Secretary. He was appointed Ukraine’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Kingdom of Thailand in November 2015, and arrived in Bangkok in January 2016.
“The last four years in Thailand have been deeply emotional for me and my family. We grieved along with the Thai people after the passing of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. People in Ukraine know that throughout his 70-year reign, His Majesty served the country with great dignity and dedication. We also took joy in the auspicious Royal Coronation Ceremony of His Majesty the King Maha Vajiralongkorn Phra Vajiraklaochaoyuhua.
“Ukraine and Thailand established diplomatic relations 27 years ago. The President of Ukraine came to Thailand in 2004 and met with King Bhumibol. Ukraine is very much interested in further developing bilateral cooperation with Thailand and making our relations more dynamic in several spheres. A number of important developments have taken place since I took my post as ambassador.
“In June 2017, then Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin paid an official visit to Thailand. In negotiations between Minister Klimkin and Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, (photo) both sides stressed the importance of seeking mutual interests and discussed an agenda for medium term objectives in terms of political dialogue, trade and investment and people-to-people contacts. During that visit a bilateral trade agreement was signed which entered into force in October 2018.
“Last year the Royal Thai Government appointed the Thai Ambassador to Poland, H.E. Sansanee Sahussarungsi, to also represent Thailand in Ukraine. She remains at the Thai mission’s residence in Warsaw. She is the first ever Thai Ambassador to Ukraine not based in Moscow, and we of course warmly welcomed this decision.
“In July 2019, political consultations between our ministries of foreign affairs took place in Kyiv, allowing further discussions on a whole spectrum of issues relating to our bilateral agenda.
“This year has been quite momentous and challenging for both Ukraine and Thailand. I would like to convey again our congratulations on the Royal Coronation of His Majesty the King Rama X in early May. About the same time, Volodymyr Zelenskyy was elected President of Ukraine, bringing new hopes of peace and prosperity to our nation. This year both Ukraine and Thailand held parliamentary elections and new governments have been formed.
“I believe these developments have created favourable conditions for an invigorated cooperation. We are working closely with our Thai partners on a number of ideas, including convening in the near future a Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation and Joint Trade Committee.
“In terms of trade volume, Thailand has always been among the largest trade partners of Ukraine in Southeast Asia, but there is real potential to substantially increase both trade and investment. Due to unprecedented comprehensive reforms in Ukraine, we have quickly become an exciting new investment opportunity right at Europe’s doorstep, especially in the areas of agriculture, energy, information technology, infrastructure and manufacturing.
“When combined with our highly skilled workforce, favorable cost-efficiency ratio, strategic geographic location, free trade pact with the EU and a rapidly improving business climate, Ukraine has much to offer for Thai business and investors.
“Last but not least, in order to facilitate people-to-people contacts we have achieved considerable progress in the liberalization of our respective visa regimes. In 2018 we began allowing Thai citizens who wish to travel to Ukraine for any reason to apply and obtain visas online, without the need to visit our embassy. On the other side, we highly appreciate the decision of the Thai government that entered into force in April 2019 to abolish visa requirements for Ukrainian tourists.
“I am confident that these steps are win-win for both countries and will help increase the number of tourists both ways. To sum up, I am quite optimistic that we are on a path to further develop and strengthen bilateral cooperation in all areas of mutual interest.”
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
“Last April Volodymyr Zelenskyy was elected president of Ukraine with 73% of the popular vote – an unprecedented number in the history of Ukraine. The elections were free and fair as confirmed by hundreds of international observers, in particular the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) Election Observation Mission,” said Mr Beshta.
“President Zelenskyy’s main priorities are to resolve the war with Russia, implement large-scale economic reforms for the benefit of the people and fight corruption. In order to deliver on these ambitious goals, he has begun a full re-launching of the power structure in Ukraine that aims to give ‘new faces’ a chance to deliver on the expectations of the Ukrainian people. In July we had snap parliamentary elections, which also resulted in unprecedented popular support for the pro-Zelenskyy ‘Servant of the People’ party which won 252 out of 423 seats and formed a single-party majority government.
“In a speech at the UN General Assembly in September, President Zelenskyy said: ‘The end of the war, the return of all occupied Ukrainian territories and the prevailing of peace are my tasks. But not at the cost of our citizens' lives, not at the cost of freedom or the right of Ukraine to its own choice.’
“The new government formed by the Servant of the People party recently released a bold five-year action plan for economic and social reform that sets development of human capital, defense, quality of life and European integration as priorities. The plan aims for an ambitious economic growth of 40% in five years, starting with a GDP rise of 5% in 2020, and at least 7% in 2021-24. To make this happen the government expects to draw in US$50 billion in investment over the next five years.
“In addition, full-scale privatization will allow Ukraine to divest its noncore assets. Land market reform is underway, with partial liberalization planned by the end of 2019. A high priority is being given to the digital economy and further implementation of e-government. The idea is that almost all government services could be provided online.”
“In the current circumstances we try to transform challenges into opportunities. For us it’s crystal clear that only democratic and economically strong policies based on the rule of law will enable Ukraine to defend itself from Russian aggression,” Mr Beshta said. “The ongoing war requires that over 5% of the GDP must be allocated for defense and security, but at the same time the government is implementing broad scale of reforms with the full participation of a vibrant civil society and support of our foreign partners.
“According to independent assessments, Ukraine made more progress in reforms during the last five years than in the previous two decades since we gained independence in 1991. We understand that we have a once-in-a-generation chance to transform the country and build a prosperous future for upcoming generations.
“The economy made an astounding turnaround from the 9% GDP decline in 2014 and 6.8% in 2015 to growth of 3.3% in 2018. GDP growth jumped to 4.6% year-on-year in the second quarter of 2019. That clearly indicates a steady upwards trend for the future.
“In recent years 760 legal statutes which impeded business development were cancelled. Ukraine has climbed 48 positions in the World Bank’s Doing Business Index since 2014. In addition, a number of comprehensive structural reforms were launched, including decentralization measures and reform of the judicial, health care, education, tax and pension systems.
“Ukraine has also achieved significant progress on the path to European integration, notably the implementation of the Association Agreement with the EU. This is the most advanced agreement of this kind the EU has signed with any non-EU country. It provides for establishment of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) with the EU and introduction of a visa-free regime for citizens of Ukraine. Now the EU is Ukraine’s largest trading partner.”
“Although the war is no longer anymore in the daily news headlines of the world, I want people to know it still takes a lethal toll every single day. Since the start of Russian aggression back in 2014 about 14,000 Ukrainians have died, and many times more have been wounded. The casualties include large numbers of women and children. This is happening right now, in Europe, in the 21st century.
“Moscow makes our children orphans. It tortures our patriots in its prisons – dozens of Ukrainians
are illegally imprisoned in Russia or occupied Crimea on politicallymotivated charges. Since 2014 over 1.5 million people in Ukraine have become internally displaced as they had to flee from occupied Crimea and Donbas. They don’t know when they will be able to return to their homes.
“Russia is constantly adding to the human tragedy and suffering.
This war has been a daily reality for Ukrainians for more than five years, since the beginning of Russian aggression back in February 2014. Using the pretext of an illegal referendum held under the barrels of the guns of Russian soldiers, Moscow occupied the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine. This land grab amounted to the first forcible annexation of territory of a European country since the end of the Second World War in 1945.
“With its actions in Ukraine Russia has flagrantly
violated its international obligations and commitments, including those enshrined in the UN Charter and the Helsinki Final Act. Moreover, Moscow broke its explicit obligation under the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 to respect the ‘existing borders of Ukraine’ and ‘refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine’.
“Thankfully the world community made it known it could not tolerate Russia’s blatant aggression. The UN General Assembly on 27 March 2014 adopted a resolution entitled ‘Territorial integrity of Ukraine’, in which it reconfirmed Ukraine’s internationally recognised borders and rejected the validity of the sham referendum as a basis for any change in the status of Crimea as part of Ukraine. We highly appreciate that the Kingdom of Thailand showed it is a true friend of Ukraine by joining with 100 other states in voting in favor of this historic resolution.
“However, occupation of Crimea was only the first steon Russia’s path of ruthless aggression toward Ukraine. This was followed in August 2014 by a military invasion in Donbas in the eastern region of Ukraine bordering Russia. Here thousands of regular Russian armed forces joined with bands of local insurgents and mercenaries. Russia supplied heavy weapons such as tanks, armored personnel carriers and artillery systems as well as ammunition, financial resources and leadership. The Russian Federation has set up occupational administration organizations that exercise effective control over the occupied, temporarily, territory of Donbas.
“But Ukrainians are not the only victims. Let’s not forget Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 which was downed over the territory of Donbas in July 2014. This tragedy took the lives of 298 innocent people, mostly from Netherlands, Malaysia and Australia. Despite all the denials from Moscow that it had nothing to do with this crime, investigations tell quite a different story.
“After four years of meticulous work, the Joint Investigation Team (led by the Netherlands with the assistance of Australia, Malaysia, Belgium and Ukraine) in May 2018 concluded that the BUK surface-to-air missile system utilized to down MH17 belonged to the 53rd Anti- Aircraft Rocket Brigade of the Russian Armed Forces, which is permanently located near the city of Kursk about 100 km from the border with Ukraine. The missile system was transferred to Donbas and used to shoot down a civilian aircraft. It was taken back the next day to the Russian Federation through an uncontrolled segment of the Ukrainian-Russian border. Based on this conclusion of the Joint Investigative Team, the governments of the Netherlands and Australia hold Russia responsible for this crime and are taking legal steps to hold Russia formally accountable.
“The Minsk agreements were signed between Ukraine and Russia with the OSCE as mediator) back in 2014 and 2015. They remain the only option on the table to settle the conflict. The agreements contain about dozen steps to be taken to achieve this goal, including a ceasefire, exchange of hostages and illegally held persons, withdrawal of Russian troops and military equipment from the territory of Ukraine and establishment by Ukraine of effective control on currently uncontrolled segments of the Ukraine- Russia border through which the conflict is being fuelled. Ukraine is fully committed to the implementation of the Minsk agreements. We want peace more than anyone. But the reality is that we are under attack. We defend our country and our people die.
“Russia constantly violates the Minsk agreements and cannot even adhere to the very first provision of achieving a ceasefire. Our troops and civilians have been under threat from shelling and attacks every single day in the five years since the agreements were signed.
“We remain as determined as ever to keep defending every inch of our territory. At the same time, we are exploring all available means to end the conflict peacefully. We seek support of the United Nations, the OSCE, the Council of Europe and other international organizations and mechanisms and we will continue along that path. We’ve initiated several legal cases against the Russian side in international courts and have already achieved important results.
“In November the UN International Court of Justice rejected Russia’s jurisdictional objections and agreed to move forward to a full hearing on a case Ukraine filed back in 2017 regarding Russia’s financing of terrorism in Donbas and racial discrimination in Crimea. Since 2014 the UN General Assembly has adopted five resolutions that clearly define Moscow’s illegal actions. Sooner or later the Kremlin will feel the strength of the rule of international law.
“We are grateful for strong transatlantic support and solidarity from all our partners. Back in 2014 the G7 and the EU imposed sanctions against Russia and since then these have been considerably strengthened. These sanctions will remain in place until the Minsk agreements Crimea is returned to Ukraine. It is important that the international community maintains its collective pressure on Russia.
“These last five years have been a tremendous challenge for the Ukrainian people – a test of their determination and solidarity, resilience and faith. Let us not forget what this war is about. Ukraine made a sovereign decision to go its own way and join the free world in following democratic values and rules. Moscow is punishing Ukraine for this decision. Russia effectively has its hands around our throats and is tightening its grip. The ultimate goal is to suffocate and silence us; to see us fail so that we can be incorporated back into a new, emboldened project of Russian empire.
“But we have already passed the point of no return. Five years ago Ukrainian people resolutely chose the way westward – to the EU, to NATO, to the transatlantic community. Russia’s cruel actions throughout these years only reconfirm that this choice was the right one and the only one that corresponds to our strategic interests. Last year our Parliament passed a law that incorporates into the Constitution the obligation of the Ukrainian authorities to ensure Ukraine’s accession to the European Union and NATO. “Russia cannot accept this, which is why it started the aggression back in 2014 and will do whatever it can to destroy Ukraine. And we will do whatever we can to protect our country and our freedom.”
1998-2001: Attaché, Third Secretary, Second Secretary in the Department of UN and Other International Organizations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.
· 2001-2005: Second Secretary, First Secretary of the Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the UN in New York.
· 2005-2007: Counsellor, Director of Division in the Department of UN and Other International Organizations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.
· 2007-2011: Counsellor of the Embassy of Ukraine in the Kingdom of Thailand.
· 2011-2016: Deputy Director-General, Acting Director-General of the Department of International Organizations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.