ANTONY J. BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE
MAY 6, 2021
MS KVIEN: Hello. Good afternoon, everyone. I’m Kristina Kvien. I’m the charge d’affaires here at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. And it is my enormous pleasure to have with me today our Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
We’d like to thank you all for joining this roundtable today. As many of you know, Secretary Blinken knows Ukraine well through three decades of work on foreign policy, including with the White House, the State Department, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
While here in Ukraine, Secretary Blinken has met with Ukrainian Government, civil society, and members of the press. And one of his primary areas of discussion with all of these groups has been Ukraine’s reform agenda and fight against corruption, which is why we’ve invited stakeholders from civil society, business, and anticorruption institutions here today to discuss the important work that they do, share their assessment of Ukraine’s progress on reforms, and advise how the United States can support their efforts.
So – and now please allow me to introduce Secretary of State Blinken.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Kristina, thank you so much, and it’s wonderful to be with all of you virtually. I wish we were together in person, but maybe next time, but meanwhile I really appreciate everyone taking some time this afternoon to have a conversation. And as I look at it, Ukraine is facing aggression from without and from within. From without, obviously from Russia and the actions it’s taken since 2014 – Crimea, the Donbas, including recently – but from within, from corruption, from oligarchs and interests that would put themselves ahead of the interests of the Ukrainian people. And so just as there are incredibly brave soldiers on the front lines in the Donbas, in many ways you are on the front lines in that second fight against corruption and for a democracy that has strong institutions, that has transparency, that has accountability.
We know that corruption literally eats away at Ukraine’s democracy from the inside. And so the work that you’re doing and the courage that you show in doing it could not be more important. And I really want to salute you for that.
We had some very good conversations today with leaders in the government, including President Zelenskyy, including about the reform agenda. And what I really am anxious to do is to listen to you, to hear from you about how the United States can be a strong and even stronger partner for Ukraine in moving forward with reforms, and particularly in combating corruption. What can we do more effectively in support of Ukraine as it takes on this fight?
And some of the things we discussed today with government colleagues were the very great importance of corporate governance, and particularly to make sure that there are true, independent people overseeing the particularly state-owned enterprises. We talked about as well the vital importance of sustaining and strengthening the anti-corruption board. We talked about the importance of judicial reform and making sure that the process for picking judges is transparent and relies on outside evaluation and expertise, not on inside interests. We talked about the reform of the security forces to make sure that they’re truly working for the Ukrainian people.
And finally, we talked about the importance not only of passing the right laws and making sure that the legal foundation is there to deal with corruption, to advance transparency, to deal with the judiciary, but that those laws are actually implemented. Because it’s necessary but insufficient to have laws on the books; they actually have to be used for the purposes to which they’re intended.
So we, as I said, had a very good, open, direct conversation. We want to know how we can be more helpful. And so I’d really like to learn from you, to listen to you, both about your assessment of the state of things, what’s working, what’s not working, and again, whether there are things that we can do to be a strong partner to Ukraine in advancing reform and combating corruption.
MS KVIEN: Thank you so much, Secretary Blinken.