Foreign Ministry during the Revolution of Dignity: Andrii Deshchytsia Looks Back on His Time There
Tuesday, 21 November 2023
Ten years have passed since Ukrainians took to the Maidan, the main square in Kyiv, to defend their pro-European choice.
European Pravda has decided to document memories of these events and the role that diplomats played in them. So our guest today is Andrii Deshchytsia, the first Minister of Foreign Affairs appointed after the Maidan protests.
He was the person who incited other diplomats to rebellion in January 2014. His name is the very first in the joint statement of Ukrainian diplomats in support of the Maidan.
In this interview, ahead of the 10th anniversary of the start of the Euromaidan, Deshchytsia tells us about what the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did during the Maidan protests, his appointment as acting minister, and what happened next.
I remember this day (referring to 21 November 2013, when the government officially decided not to sign the Association Agreement, and Yanukovych confirmed this decision in a conversation with EU representatives). And it was a huge shock.
Especially for us diplomats, as we had been trying to persuade our partners to sign the Agreement in Vilnius for several months.
That's why we saw protests by Ukrainian diplomats later.
On 4 February 2014, we published an open appeal by Ukrainian diplomats expressing solidarity with the people on the Maidan and condemning the violence against them.
We were far from certain then that the revolution would succeed.
But many diplomats seeking change in Ukraine were convinced that change had to happen despite everything.
There were two further statements after the shootings [when the police fired on protesters] – on 20 and 22 February. In the second one, we publicly declared that we would not carry out the decisions and instructions of Minister [Leonid] Kozhara [then Foreign Minister].
The main challenge was to explain to the world what was happening, because support for Ukraine was not as it seemed to many at that time.
The Maidan Council elected me as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, which was unexpected.
My main task was to convey the truth about Ukraine to the world.
Dealing with journalists turned out to be easier.
With Western governments, however, it was not so easy.
On 1 March, when it became clear that Russia had occupied Crimea, Ukraine appealed to its partners for help. But there was no response.
They didn’t understand what had happened, but they saw that it was changing their lifestyle.
So they made suggestions like "Let's calm down and negotiate."
In addition to giving our partners proper information, we also urgently needed to make staff changes at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
But was there a full lustration of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs? I don’t think so.
In reality, what the Ministry of Foreign Affairs needed back then was a reboot. We limited ourselves to a few minor tweaks.
Late March saw the beginning of a period of American leadership that was genuinely helpful.