Conservative MPs Ted Opitz,

James Bezan and Minister John Baird

 Hold Separate News Teleconferences

 from Kyiv


Friday, February 28, 2014, (Kyiv)


Minister Baird: “Well, thank you very much. It’s been a privilege to be here in Kyiv, once again to be among our Ukrainian friends, especially so soon after the world has witnessed such a remarkable turn of events in this country.

And I was moved by their sheer courage. Today, on the Maidan, the entire Canadian delegation paid our respects to the fallen. Their sacrifice in defence of democracy and freedom has brought change to this great country. They will not be forgotten. Their sacrifices have put Ukraine squarely on a path which leads to stability, prosperity and a political and business culture that is free from corruption. It is a path which leads to Ukraine’s European integration. This is a path that has been ruthlessly blocked by the Yanukovych regime, and it will not be an easy one to follow.

The hard work of reform and restructuring are yet to come. That is why I felt it extremely important to be here in Kyiv, to welcome the new government, to meet with the courageous leaders who brought Ukraine to this important point in its history and to demonstrate Canada’s ongoing and enduring commitment to Ukraine and its people.

In that spirit, I’ve met with the Acting President, the Acting Prime Minister and the new Foreign Minister in recent hours. And former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko for whose freedom from a politically-motivated incarceration Canada has fought for many years. I also met with Maidan civil society representatives as well as representatives from the country’s religious communities. Obviously religious freedom is something tremendously important. Concerns about anti-Semitism and the role of the Muslim minority in Crimea were tremendously important.

I carried the same message to everyone that I spoke with: to succeed, Ukrainians’ new leaders in Parliament and in civil society must stay united, and they must focus on governance. They must make a great priority of rooting out corruption. And they must strive for inclusive national politics. It’s time for unity and inclusivity in this great country.”

James Bezan: “Good morning or afternoon over there. Ted and I and minister Baird and senator Raynell Andreychuk and our community leaders at Canada’s – this mission today really had a great day of discussions and understand, have full knowledge of the difficulties that are facing the Ukraine. Despite what has been accomplished over the last few months, it’s still a lot of hard work left ahead of us to go forward and set a path to a stable peaceful country. There’s economic uncertainty, there’s security issues, there’s need for democratic reform, an election is on the horizon, there’s tension of course in the Crimea and all the leaders, all the political leaders, the Euro maidan leaders in the civil society, people that we spoke to, they pretty much had fairly common themes along those lines.

Meeting with the new prime minister, meeting with former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko as well as presidential candidate Klitschko and president, acting president Turchynov, it was I guess enlightening to see that they are prepared for the challenge and that for the most part, everyone is ready to work together to achieve the goals and the aspirations of the people of Ukraine and I think that’s the biggest thing that we see here, that we haven’t seen in a long time in Ukraine. So this is now about the people rather than about power struggles between oligarchs and political leaders and with that, I’ll let Ted say a few words before we go to questions. “

Ted Opitz: “Absolutely, thank you, James, absolutely there are common themes and that’s an impression I also came away with is that regardless of political party you come from, there is a unanimity of through right now and the direction that has to carry on forward, but let’s take you back to the beginning of our day today on the Maidan. I was here in December for the elections and the Maidan I walked then was an absolutely different place to today. Today, you could tell there was a revolution, there was a fight, there was a war and you could see where all the spots were marked, where the bodies had fallen and they’re very solemn and they’re very tastefully done and it was absolutely sobering and at – it took – it took us some time to process this, because when you do, you realize that the will of a nation has changed the course of its history.

The will of the people on the Maidan is something to behold and they’re there, they’re still there, and they remain there until the type of change that they want to see in the end ultimately takes roots and flourishes, but this is a people-driven revolution. The politicians take their cues from the people on the Maidan and that is what has spurred this, this monumental change at absolutely warp speed in the last week, so much so that I think that is one of the catalysts for the unanimity that we’re finding from all political leaders that we met today.

There is a goal, there is a purpose going forward. They understand that the economy must be rebuilt. The understand that the principles and foundations of democracy and democratic institutions in this country must be rebuilt and strengthened and they understand that they have challenges across the board in this nation to also include all the minority groups and the language groups within the construct of that democracy so that all people are fairly represented in the – as I said, the democratic construct. Rick?

Operator: The question is from Walter Derzko from New Pathway newspaper in Toronto. Please go ahead.

Question: Thank you very much. My question is to the participants. President Putin is illegally harbouring a wanted criminal and mass murderer ex-president Yanukovych and we’re wondering what pressure can Canada apply on the international stage to bring this person to justice?

James Bezan: And essentially, that’s for the – for the people of Ukraine to bring forward those charges and accusations. We understand that they have made a motion at – to The Hague from what we heard today and would like to see president Yanukovych repatriated, extradited back to Ukraine, but again that’s a similar situation to what we saw with (inaudible). So it’s up to the Russian government and their authorities to work this out with the people of Ukraine.

Ted Opitz: And it’s important to note that the new government is exercising the levers of international bodies correctly as a new government and I think that’s very encouraging that they do that.

Operator: Thank you.

Other journalists who took part included  Marco Levytsky (Ukrainian News) and Margaret Polikaska from the Polish press.