: Atlantic Council: Worried about Brexit? No, scared, says Ukraine's former PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk

15:13 Jul. 1, 2016

Atlantic Council: Worried about Brexit? No, scared, says Ukraine's former PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk speaks to the media during his final 2015 press conference. (Getty Images)

Arseniy Yatsenyuk on ways Brexit could possibly affect Ukraine and stability in Europe

"I'm not worried [about Brexit]. I'm scared," said Arseniy Yatsenyuk at the Atlantic Council on June 30. In one of his first public appearances in Washington since stepping down as Ukraine's prime minister on April 14, Yatsenyuk urged Europe to get its act together. Brexit, he said, is a "huge geopolitical crisis": the United Kingdom's exit from the EU could split the union, weaken Europe, trigger a domino effect, and undermine trust and confidence in the European idea among Ukrainians. "We need a united Europe," he said.

Watch also How will Brexit affect Ukraine's future? Experts sharing thoughts

Like other reformers, Yatsenyuk is counting on Ukrainians' strong desire to join Europe as a means to incentivize continued legislative reform and clean up the country.

Ukraine has another stake in the EU game, as well, Yatsenyuk pointed out. The EU will extend its punishing sanctions on Russia, although there are early indications that it may not renew them when they expire in January 2017.

"Mr. President [Barack Obama] and the EU leaders, you aren't allowed to lift sanctions against Russia until Russia fully implements Minsk [ceasefire agreement]. And until Ukraine takes over control of Luhansk, Donetsk, and Crimea. Full stop," Yatsenyuk said. "We are not just fighting for our borders....We are fighting for European borders, and for NATO member states' borders, too. And for peace and stability in Europe."

After speaking extemporaneously from the podium for ten minutes, Yatsenyuk took questions from the audience for fifty minutes. His charisma and charm were matched by an intense delivery style and numerous facts.

He laid out his successes as prime minister between February 2014 and April 2016, noting that his government faced tremendous challenges. On his watch, Ukraine got its finances under control, cleaned up its corrupt energy sector and took meaningful steps toward energy independence, established new anticorruption bodies, and reformed the patrol police—all while holding the Russians at bay.

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