Zakhar Vinogradov of Rio Novosti interviews
Autotranslation (with minor editing by Quemado Institute)
December 10, 2015
Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych gave an interview to RIA Novosti on how he assesses the actions of the Ukrainian government and the opposition, on the situation in Ukraine and its future plans.
ZV: Viktor Yanukovych, the last time we spoke with you in 2012. In Ukraine, for the past three years, many things have happened. I wonder what do you personally think about this?
VY: In 2012, when we met, Ukraine was successful state. It was the year of the Euro 2012 European Football Championship, we successfully carried out. We were building big plans then on the development of the country. We were thinking how to raise pensions, salaries, scholarships for students. While we have considered issues of development of Ukraine. We began to changes in the economy, social life. It was true.
What happened after that, in 2013 and 2014, it cannot be called otherwise than tragedy. It was human suffering, pain, thousands of deaths. There was a tragedy that led to the division of the state, the loss of independence and, of course, the terrible grief of people. It was impossible to speak without pain in the heart. One gets the impression that the authorities of Ukraine, announcing the return of Donbass and Ukrainian calling it, are talking about territory, and not about the people living there.
By counting the military casualties, no one wants to notice that there are not only people killed by shells, but also from hunger. This is especially true of older people who were left without the current government pensions and benefits, and doomed to die. People can not receive proper medical care, medication is not enough. All this is arranged by the consequences of the blockade of Donbass Kiev authorities.
If they believe the residents of Donbass are Ukrainian citizens, what citizens are different from those of people in other regions? Why is the power of Ukrainians consider “special” and tries to put them on trial “will survive – will not survive.” People who have worked hard all my life, do not deserve such attitude.
The worst thing that happens all this on the eve of the arrival of cold weather. On the eve of the winter is necessary to make every effort to ensure the people’s warmth and everything necessary to avoid a humanitarian disaster! Most importantly there is an urgent need to repeal this “deadly” blockade, or Donbass expect a humanitarian catastrophe.
ZV: What do you think will happen to the Minsk Agreement? What are the prospects of their implementation?
VY: Firstly, I believe that today there is no alternative to the Minsk Agreement. The fact that these agreements should go into 2016 – there is also no doubt about it. Today there it is, the sixteenth year on the doorstep. And while not seen such great progress. Yes, there is a process, but [it takes place] very, very slowly. Very difficult. I think that as long as there is this rhetoric of “separatists”, “terrorists”, until after this humiliation of people, yet will not leave this division of people into “us-them”, in the class who has what kind of … It It will be very difficult for all.
ZV: What would you have done in a similar situation?
VY: I would not have allowed it. Remember in February 2014 there was the seizure of the state bodies in the Western Ukraine. I did not use force and the army against the inhabitants of the Western Ukraine, because they are also citizens of Ukraine. Their life I was supposed to protect. I sat down to negotiate with the opposition and on 21 February signed an agreement that would also endorse the Europeans. Failure to comply with this Agreement and the subsequent tragic events are fully on the conscience of the leaders of the then opposition and European countries, which has endorsed the Agreement.
To solve the current tragedy in Donbass, you need to turn to history. View examples out of similar crises in the past. I know that the subject, for example, federalism – it irritates the current government today in Ukraine has become synonymous with separatism and terrorism. Why not ask for the same United States, Germany, Switzerland to share their experiences of federalization? In any case, you need to start this dialogue, and when the situation is ripe, then go on this way. Anyway, the question of the federation, it will hang. Yes, this question is not today. Here, I agree. But that Ukraine was tomorrow, today we have to look for something that will unite the whole Ukraine.
ZV: How do you assess the current situation in Ukraine?
VY: Today, write off, as they say, the war has nothing. Today, the fog has cleared. And tomorrow it will need people who are said to serve bread, circuses have ate here so everything! The oligarchs have ‘namaydanilis. ” All life requires a completely different approach, which, incidentally, has not yet spoken. We do not see development plans in Ukraine.
ZV: As far as I remember, on the stage Maidan opposition leaders, who later became government, voiced certain plans and steps of development of Ukraine …
VY: Let’s look at what promises so generously handed out on the Maidan were met.
They demanded democracy and freedom of speech. And I ask myself a question – and that there was little freedom of speech under my presidency for the opposition? Every day, on all channels, they get as much air as they wanted. And the government does not interfere with this.
On the Independence demanded to deal with the oligarchs – is now in the hands of oligarchs even more power. At their disposal today own army and “manual” faction in parliament.
I have already spoken about freedom of speech, but I want to say once again – journalists who express opposition point of view, threatened with criminal cases, they are beaten, kept in prison, just shoot.
Journalist Ruslan Kotsaba for his statements against the mobilization for almost a year behind bars without trial! And none of the journalists and foreign fighters for the freedom of speech does not pay any attention to it. Oles Buzin cynically, in broad daylight, was shot near his home, and the suspects in his murder try to present perhaps the heroes!
People demanded to improve their well-being – as a result, Ukrainians have become three times poorer. And it was done very simply – the devaluation of the hryvnia. The Ukrainian people have become poor in three. And the oligarchs who kept their savings in dollars abroad, respectively, became three times richer. And now for a song going to buy up all of Ukraine.
After the Maidan never raise pensions and wages. How many Ukrainians with an average salary of $ 150 can not afford to go to Europe?
And the government continues to feed the people with tales of visa-free regime. They promised him enter just a few months after the coup. But this remained a promise. And I remind you that the Association Agreement with the EU, the signing of which was delayed by us in 2013 in Vilnius, had nothing to do with the visa-free regime. But all the people through the media presented differently and brought under these slogans on the Maidan.
ZV: Do you think people in Ukraine have already realized that they were deceived on the Maidan?
VY: Unfortunately, the expectations of the people on Maidan just used for personal gain. All TV channels were in the hands of oligarchs and distort what is happening on the Maidan. People are misinformed. The authorities were in dark colors, and the actions of the opposition extremely bright.
But now, the recriminations yesterday’s colleagues on the Maidan has finally made it possible for people to hear the truth more often. Even the US ambassador Payette had no time to extinguish the numerous conflicts in the Ukrainian government. The coalition openly accuses the government in its incompetence, corruption. The Prime Minister and President of lobbying the interests close to him oligarchic clans, who stood behind them since the days of the Maidan.
ZV: Can you name the names of those oligarchs who stood for the opposition, and in fact organized the Maidan?
VY: You know, I’m very cautious about this or that person to cling to someone labels. But they themselves say about it. For example, in the Austrian court Firtash said that he supported Klitschko. Kolomoisky – I know whom to support, and he also spoke about this, and so on. Today, every member of the government are the oligarchs, who can say, “pushed” to the government of his people. And it’s no secret to anyone in Ukraine.
ZV: Interestingly, while the oligarchs, what was the use of what happened on the Maidan? After all, they had already been wealthy …
VY: Well, at that time, when, as they say, “the nuts twisted quietly,” and we needed to pay taxes on time, that taxes are fair, of course, did not like the oligarchs.
Suffice it to recall a single law – on transfer payments. When this law was passed, to which he was sent? Naturally, it was a just law. Because the surplus, which was obtained at the time the largest businesses in Ukraine, which is called oligarchs, of course, they were unfair. And this law aims to somehow level the financial situation in the budget at the expense of the poor and by the rich. And we talked about this openly. It was one of the reasons.
And they, of course, needed a president obedient as they thought, which can be controlled. They have achieved this, and today the president was their colleague – one of the oligarchs. But I think that today, many of them realized that they made a mistake.
Because what happened then with the country … In fact, the government was overthrown with the help of the oligarchs, the hands of nationalists, which most talked about independence, democracy and so on.
And what have we got? We got a split in Ukraine, we have today a totalitarian power. In fact, the country now controlled curators appointed from the West. Yes, and a number of ministers today have come from other countries – not Ukrainians. Do we have your staff is not enough?
This is actually all that is said on the Maidan, almost two years ago, exactly the opposite happened. They said, will fight against the oligarchs – the oligarchs brought to power, say for an independent Ukraine – Ukraine split, put Ukraine on the management of people from other countries.
ZV: But among Ukrainian oligarchs, must have been and your friends, there were those who supported you?
VY: You know, when in power, it is known to all – all my friends are singing sweet songs of devotion and friendship. It’s not a secret. I’m not very fond of, to put it mildly, these “songs”. Quite the contrary. But such a life. In fact, they have always thought and will think only about their own interests. But this time they have miscalculated. As big mistake.
ZV: Still, in your opinion, what was the interest of the oligarchs to undermine the economy of Ukraine? Or they have other interests? Why should they be maintained Maidan?
VY: I was not wrong when I said that a strong government should all put in place. Because appetites are growing. I always jokingly said that someone “forgets about the diet.” I often carry out such work. Often or, I would say, systematically and continuously. Like – not like, as they say, I have no one looked in the mouth. You see ?! But today, when it’s all mixed up like that – they forgot about the Maidan, forget what was said there, you forget about everything like crazy. And it will end badly.
ZV: You say that “strong power should all put in place.” A number of recent detentions, arrests, perhaps, is an attempt to Poroshenko, to “put all in place …”
VY: This is just a performance that played the power to distract from the urgent problems. Law enforcers are chasing small fry, but imitating the fight against corruption. Give the people bread authorities can not – get a sight!
Give me at least one corrupt official, who received real term? It is not to be punished corrupt officials, close to the first persons of the state, it is difficult to believe that being a real fight against corruption. This everyone knows. And ordinary people about this, too, is well aware. Neither of which the fight against corruption and speech can not be. No one in this never believe. It’s all “blurry eyes.”
And how do you show the arrest Korban? Were recruited hundreds of employees of the SBU, dozens of prosecutors, Korban and then released under house arrest safely drink cognac. Today the prosecutor general’s office, controlled by Poroshenko, under the pretext of the fight against corruption is simply inter-clan fighting on the side of the President!
ZV: Returning to the corruption. You probably know that the people who come after you, said the following: that the 15 billion dollars that Ukraine has signed the contract with Russia are “bribe Yanukovych Putin.” What can you say about it?
VY: This is politicking. It’s all well aware, and in Ukraine, and I think all understand. Of course, this money has been directed to the development of Ukraine, of course, at the expense of these loans we solved a lot of questions, and, in particular, we are in the period of time agreed to a significant reduction in gas prices. While the price of gas was over $ 400 (per thousand cubic meters – ed.), And we agreed, I think, 272-275 dollars at the time. Therefore, the current government, including at the expense of these agreements, in 2014 pumped enough gas for a very cheap price at that time. And last winter 2014-2015 year. I do not know how the situation is there now, but in 2015 took place in Ukraine, including due to the fact that there was an opportunity to upload the cheapest gas in storage.
ZV: And here you are reminded of a very interesting point related to 15 billion dollars. Why did you take this credit still from Russia, not from the IMF or some other European financial institutions?
VY: So, I’ll tell you about that … We are .. I do not remember in the 20 days of November, may 23th, 2013 received a final negative response to the IMF.
There is a word “zamanuha” … All the time served cake, saying, “That’s it, we will give, give, give ….”. And we have those expectations lived for several years. But we did not agree on the conditions that were offered to us – to raise tariffs by 50%, raise the price of gas, including for the population. We did not go for it. We are looking for various ways to convince, to work at all levels. Work systematically and seemed on the verge, we agree.
Unfortunately, 23 (approximately) on November, we received a formal rejection of the IMF. We were counting on that money. We were in a very difficult situation when it happened.
Just a few days we had a CIS summit in Belarus in Minsk, and I was involved there, representing Ukraine. I asked this question to Putin: “Our situation is so complicated, I do not know how we should be, and if you have the opportunity at any condition … I would like this issue to be discussed.”
“I do not mind, please (said Putin – Ed.). Ordered the government, I Medvedev instructed the government to let work begin. If these conditions coincide with the two sides, we can resolve this question. ”
That’s all. It was very short, just a five-minute conversation on this subject.
And in December, began the negotiations with the Russian government, in December, I think, somewhere in the first decade. Our ministers, everyone who was involved in the execution of this loan, worked. Government works. In my opinion, in the 20 days of December, it was found a solution which satisfies us that does not drive us here in these commitments, which led to a deterioration in people’s lives, to the difficult situation of tariff, price increases. And I went to Moscow to make the finishing touches. Finishing touches, as always, it was the price of gas.
Hard, very difficult conversation was, as always, they are never simple. Many times I have commented on this. Since 2002, I have dealt with all these issues. Russia had for us was not so easy partner. Because they are very experienced, “toothy”, professional, and we are always prepared very seriously.
We have, you know, there was no familiarity. Russia to defend their interests, and we – his own. So we pulled the rope. And finally somewhere to find solutions. Here and on the price of gas. We agreed with the president (Putin – Ed.). He gathered all the experts, were with me all the ministers, too, and it was the last – the price of gas. And when all this has coincided – we signed an agreement and was determined schedule of financing.
ZV: However, many spoke about your over-dependence on Russia. US President Obama said recently, supposedly you were a puppet of Putin.
VY: Firstly, I’m not sure that it was he talking about me. In his speech talked about the years when he first became president – in those years in Ukraine, President Viktor Yushchenko was …
If, however, to assume that he was talking about me, then … We met with Obama several times, and during our meetings, he never raised questions about my dependence on Russia or issues of corruption in Ukraine. Moreover, we can compare the years of my presidency and now Ukraine. The role played by foreigners in the Ukrainian government then and now.
Who could have imagined at the time, for example, Foreign Minister Lavrov will arrive in the parliament and the Ukrainian parliament will begin to learn what to enact laws like this, for example, makes Nuland? Or, for example, come the Prime Minister and Medvedev will head the meeting of the government in Ukraine as it did Biden? Or, for example, I would have started to appoint ministers in Ukraine Putin, his representatives? You can imagine it was present or not ?! I tried very pragmatic work with all countries. Of course, I paid a lot of attention to our strategic partners. And among the strategic partners were Russia.
ZV: Is it worth it for that, I am referring to the appointment of foreigners to the government, blame the current government? Maybe foreigners as more experienced professionals more effectively manage the economy?
VY: The most objective evaluation of the work in the power of foreigners can only give the Ukrainians themselves. Recent opinion polls in Ukraine showed that the vast majority of people believe that their financial position in comparison with the year 2013 worsened dramatically.
I have already said that after the coup never raise salaries and pensions. Given that the hryvnia exchange rate fell by three times, almost the same prices rose. Today the average Ukrainian salary is 150 dollars, and pension – $ 50. This is the level of African countries. How can people survive getting “African” salaries at “European” prices?
ZV: But the Ukrainian authorities to explain the deterioration of the life of the need to carry out reforms that your government has not carried out …
VY: Of course it’s a lie. We must remember 2010, 2011, 2012 and see how much we spent reforms. So many reforms, but held my Government, since 2010, I am sure, I was not carried out in all the years of independence. We greatly simplify doing business, the licensing system was reorganized very much. We were just in times reduced the number of different resolutions. We have introduced the principle of a single window. I lived with these problems and we have done a lot. There were reforms that we just do not have time to bring to a logical conclusion.
Now all that is said about this last time, portrayed in such black colors. It – politicking.
Whenever you criticize your opponents, look at yourself.
Let them look over what they have done during that time. What kind of reforms do you mean? Cadge international loans, renting, as they say, national interests. Increase utility rates. Declare total privatization, then to buy the assets for a pittance.
Do the ordinary Ukrainians now, due to what the government is going to improve their lives? What are they – Poroshenko, Yatseniuk – want to develop, the Ukrainians were able to start making money and live better? What are they going to build a new Ukraine, in addition to “fence” on the border with Russia? If the government has no clear strategy of development of the economy, reform of the public can be a question ?!
Of course, the reforms that supposedly outlined now in Ukraine, they can hardly be called reform. How can reforms be called the increase in tariffs for energy, which led to a huge increase in public services? How can a pensioner who receives now 1,300 hryvnia, pay utility bills, which cost 1500-1700 hryvnia? And so on. I sometimes read online, I see how people speak out. Today, sociology shows that most people believe that the lives of people in Ukraine has become much worse. Even the famous governor of Odessa – Michael Saakashvili, who said that in order to achieve a standard of living that was under Yanukovych need 15-20 years.
ZV: And yet here I am an example. Most recently, the Government of Ukraine reached an agreement with international lenders on the part of the delay in payment of debts. According to the Ukrainian side, it will give impetus to the development of the economy in the near future.
VY: The Ukrainian government has hastened to present the alleged cancellation of 20% debt to international lenders as a victory. And in fact, this is the same as the gas contract Tymoshenko in 2009. Then, in order to six months to get cheap gas, Tymoshenko led the next 10 years the Ukrainians to buy gas at exorbitant prices.
By the way, her colleague Yatseniuk is now “seen the light” and began to blame himself Tymoshenko in the same – notoriously unprofitable signing the contract for the country.
Although Yatsenyuk already surpassed Yulia Vladimirovna and entered an even more cynical. In exchange for a 5 years grace period on debt and writing off $ 3 billion, it just robs future generations of Ukrainians. It condemns them to give for the debts of most of Ukraine’s GDP. We are talking about additional payments to foreign creditors over twenty years, anywhere from 60 to 150 billion dollars, on the basis of what will be the growth of the Ukrainian economy.
For such restructuring and Yaresko (Minister of Finance of Ukraine – ed.), And Yatsenyuk have to answer before the court more than Tymoshenko for a gas contract.
ZV: Recently published an interview in the “Ukrainian Truth” one, as they are called, mladooligarhov, Grigorishin. He is a longtime partner of Poroshenko, just in the energy sector. There, he said, a mysterious phrase, I still do not understand whether it was a joke, whether it’s true – allegedly in the trunk you Mezhyhiria brought Yatsenyuk. Can you explain it’s true or a joke?
VY: Well, I can not say anything about the trunk. But I have met repeatedly with Yatsenyuk and others.
ZV: During the Maidan?
VY: Yes. And I met with other representatives of the Maidan, and radicals, including, and not only in the presidential administration. Why? Because I was looking for a peaceful solution. I did everything to avoid bloodshed. This is my principle of life. I am deeply convinced that no power is not worth a drop of blood spilled. So I drove all the negotiations and look for ways how to peacefully resolve the conflict.
ZV: How do you assess the relationship between the president and prime minister now? What there is a conflict, what is the problem there?
VY: It is absolutely different people. And the mentality, and capabilities. Poroshenko come already rich, and Yatsenyuk just wants them to be. Therefore, they have a huge conflict of interest.
Poroshenko I know very well, as you might imagine. He came in due time, my Government Minister of Economy. After working for some time. And I know the possibility of this person. We have, in general, at that time, he worked his way to the office, there were practically no differences. It was about the economy. He has sufficient experience was, and then my principle, that should be a dialogue inside the government … Poroshenko – a strong opponent from the economic point of view. He contributed opened and weaknesses we have seen. And this dialogue is very necessary. So today, when he does the opposite, and relates to the intolerance of his opponents, and in fact can not tolerate a dialogue – it is a huge mistake. Huge mistake! And, of course, people who are now in his power … It’s very difficult to work with him.
So I do not want to judge who is right and who is wrong. But the conflict is laid. He may once have to go outside, once they are hiding it, but today we see that the coalition rages.
ZV: You said that Poroshenko abhors dialogue. Why do you think so?
VY: Ukraine has breached the fundamental balance of political forces. Before the coup opposition had sufficient powers to express their point of view. The Verkhovna Rada of them headed the committee, the vice-speaker was a representative of the opposition, they were free to hold rallies and protests.
Can we observe such a day? No. With the help of, so to speak, “a law enforcement rink” and radicals and intimidated people, and journalists, and politicians who disagree with the point of view of the authorities. Now in Ukraine dissidents killed in broad daylight, or driven to suicide.
The man who allows himself to criticize the government immediately declare “enemy of the people” or “agent of the Kremlin.” Today in Ukraine in prison may be anyone who does not follow the “general line” of the current regime. Authorities discovered using methods of political revenge initiated on trumped-up criminal charges against their political opponents. This is pure totalitarian system of power that controls everything and everyone in Ukraine.
For example, representatives of the Party of Regions “prescribed” guilty but only for what they had or have to do with this political force. We see that now the criminal prosecution is subject to one of the leaders of the Party of Regions, Alexander Efremov.
It is harassed Mayor of Kharkov Gennady Kernes. Authorities are trying to send to jail one of the best mayors of Ukraine, which recently re-vote majority of Kharkiv. This attempt on him, no one investigates!
A recent detention Helen Lucas – in fact it was actually a diversion of power from a failed attempt to arrest Korban and their pathetic attempts to show the alleged impartiality of the judicial system. However, striking cynicism with which the mother of two minor children illegally held in prison for several days, at a time when for it was timely submitted a pledge!
ZV: It is often said that in the political arena of Ukraine “opposition bloc” largely continues the line of the Party of Regions, honorary chairman of which you were up to the moment we left the Ukraine. Tell me, do you think “The opposition bloc,” the continuation of the Party of Regions, or is it an independent political force?
VY: Indeed, the majority of the “opposition bloc” – are former members of the Party of Regions. I know almost all of them quite well. But a lot of former members of the Party of Regions, now and in the Block Poroshenko! Therefore, if we talk about the Party of Regions, the answer is ambiguous. Who greatly loved power, he is now, but with a different political power has gone.
As for the “opposition bloc” … I understand that you can have different attitudes to them. And my attitude is different. But I can say one thing – even the fact that they have created a unit and went on this way now and in the current government – is a feat, bravery, can be named.
That is, they have the responsibility to tell the truth, to take responsibility to show an alternative to the current authorities. It’s good.
But, of course, if we talk about wishes, they sometimes do not have enough determination. Although I understand that, where resolution – there is repression. It does not just repression and sometimes even killing opponents. Therefore, I wish them to be more active, more concrete and more determined.