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You're reading: Dmytro Firtash: Ukraine must be strong, independent and neutral

Since the ninth century, Ukraine was the center of one of the great world trade routes passing connecting Europe, Asia and the Middle East and served as an intercultural bridge for peoples and entire civilizations. 

This is why, today, the people of Ukraine speak different languages, and follow different religions. About three-quarters of our people, primarily in the west, are, like me, ethnic Ukrainian.  About one-fifth of the population, primarily in the east, is ethnic Russian and has family and cultural ties to Russia. There are also Byelorussians, Moldovans, Poles, Jews, Tatars, Bulgarians, Hungarians and many other ethnic groups living in Ukraine.

While we may speak in different languages and have different cultural traditions, we are all Ukrainians. Ukraine is a common home for peoples with various ethnic, national, and linguistic roots, but with a common national identity. This has been the case with America, Russia and the countries of Europe. We can respect and encourage autonomy and the preservation of historical ties and languages in the regions of Ukraine, but nevertheless still be one country and one nation. 

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