An act of despicable barbarism happened in Ukraine on July 17. A commercial airplane of Malaysia Airlines was shot down by pro-Russian separatists in the eastern part of the country. The world has lost 298 lives, people from 11 nations.
My deepest and sincere condolences go to their compatriots, families, friends and loved ones. Innocent children, bright scientists, nuns, teachers and students -- beautiful, brilliant people were brutally killed by intoxicated terrorists supported, inspired and equipped by Russia. And this intoxication of terrorists is not just a result of alcohol and drug abuse, but also the consumption of Russian media propaganda spread with an enormous amount of brutal lies, day after day, since the change of government in Ukraine in February. I wonder what else needs to happen for some European leaders to understand that what we are dealing with is not a local conflict. Nothing can be local when Russia is involved. This is aggression designed and aimed at changing the political landscape of the entire world: the system of rules and agreements established by humankind after World War II.
It all started with the annexation of Crimea. Through an illegal referendum, the invasion of Russian forces consisting of so-called “green men” (the name given by Ukrainians to Russian invaders in the Crimea who wore green camouflage without any insignia) and a hidden, hybrid war, Russia brutally violated a long list of basic bilateral and multilateral agreements to get the piece of land where people of dozens of nationalities have been living in peace for 60 years. In this move, Crimean Tatars -- the indigenous people of Crimea -- were deprived of their dream to live in their homeland. They were not allowed to commemorate the 70th anniversary of deportation, the annual Crimean Tatar National Flag Day and their leaders, Mustafa Kirimoğlu and Refat Chubarov, were forbidden to enter Crimea. Instead, Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officers are present now at every mosque, questioning people about how long they have been preaching Islam and why. In spite of all the declarations and promises of the new regime, it is now almost a crime to speak the Ukrainian or Crimean-Tatar languages in Crimea. Tens of thousands of people have left Crimea for mainland Ukraine to live in freedom and peace.
But that was just the beginning. Hybrid war came unannounced to the eastern part of the country; Russian citizens, former and acting officers of the military special operation forces and local bandits came together to create chaos and instability in the most industrialized part of Ukraine. What those masterminds in Moscow failed to understand is that Ukrainians love their country and even those who speak Russian at home or have family relationships with Russia love Ukraine, too. When plans to repeat the Crimean scenario in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions failed, Russia chose a different approach. An enormous quantity of heavy weapons, including sophisticated artillery, was provided to terrorists through the Russian-Ukrainian border and we had no choice but to start a full-scale anti-terrorist operation. A peace plan brought to the table by newly elected President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko was rejected by the terrorists. The Ukrainian army has been conducting these operations in the most careful manner possible, aiming not to harm the local population, but as a result of the brutal fire of the terrorists, hundreds of local people and our servicemen have been killed during the conflict. And now, the terrorists have come to the apotheosis of their actions -- they shot down a commercial plane. They were celebrating on social media outlets, thinking that it was a Ukrainian military cargo plane. They were reporting to their superiors in Moscow that they had succeeded in demonstrating their superiority in the air, not knowing at that time that a grave mistake had been made and an international crime of enormous proportions had been committed. It always happens when people with evil intentions get access to modern military equipment. I wonder what is coming next "from Russia with love" -- weapons of mass destruction or direct military invasion?
Ukrainian authorities have provided the international community with proof of crimes (including proof related to the shooting down of the plane) committed by pro-Russian terrorists in Ukraine. We invited international observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), experts from the Netherlands, Malaysia, the US and other countries to access the site of the crash and to conduct an open and fair investigation. But unfortunately, this territory is still under the control of terrorists and they retained possession of the aircraft's “black boxes” and the bodies of the perished passengers for five days after the crash. They denied the investigation team access to the site, destroying evidence and thus making it impossible to conduct the investigation properly. Worse than that, they were stealing the personal belongings of the passengers like money and jewelry, and started to use their credit cards. They were moving bodies, trying to hide their crime. As one member of the OSCE observation team told CNN, the ”intoxicated” man in uniform did not allow them to do their job. This is the ugly face of Russian-supported terrorism -- intoxicated, brutal murderers.
The leaders of the terrorists are Igor Strelkov, Igor Bezler and Alexander Borodai. They are all Russian citizens, trained in Russia and brainwashed by Russian propaganda. There are dozens of Russian mercenaries, recruited and trained in the camps in Crimea and Rostov. They are paid thousands of dollars to do their dirty job, including special premiums for each killed Ukrainian soldier. They are looting shops, banks and private apartments and seizing cars. Most recently, they started to shoot heavy artillery at apartment buildings, trying to create an impression that this is being done by the Ukrainian army. Twenty civilians were killed in Lugansk in recent days.
Turkey did not recognize the annexation of Crimea, and since the beginning of the conflict, has expressed its support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine many times. Special attention has been given to the problems of Crimean Tatars, and Ukraine is grateful for all those efforts. We urge Turkey to condemn Russian-supported terrorism in Ukraine and join the efforts of the international community to stop it and to prevent such conflicts in the future.
Since the annexation of Crimea, we have often been asked why the Ukrainian army did not respond with force against the Russian invasion. The answer is hidden in an interview of Russian leader Vladimir Putin himself that was widely televised several months ago. He said he wants to see how the Ukrainian army will fire when Russians are advancing behind -- not in front, but behind -- the local civilian population. The Ukrainian soldiers did not fire. We sought to protect people's lives. We are trying to protect the civilians in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions now, as best as we can. By shooting a commercial plane and trying to hide evidence, those terrorists and their masterminds have crossed the line and the international community will have to respond with full strength. We are counting on every vote in Europe to help us stop this war. We count on the voices and actions of our friends and neighbors against this aggression. We are counting on everyone's support to bring those responsible for these killings to justice. We will remember.