Where is our country leading to?
Yushchenko: I am a big optimist, to be frank. The time we are experiencing is a great time of national universal education or enlightenment. Over the past 4-5 years, we have seriously changed as a nation. We have become different: stronger, we respect our own, Ukrainian. And what we lacked most of all about five years ago, unity, today we have it.
We have allegedly shown to the eastern part that Ukraine is an absolutely normal state, but still, there are those who are looking in Putin’s direction.
Ten years ago, when a sociological survey was conducted, who would you like to see as president, 70% wanted Putin.
Why so? Tell us more about him, you know him.
Russians as a people do not like freedom by their nature; they love slavery. They want to have a king. They do not want democracy. Russia had too few Nemtsovs (Boris Nemtsov, Russian oppositional politician, murdered in Moscow, February 28, 2015 – ed.). Too few Basilashvilis (Oleg Basilashvili, Soviet/Russian film and theatre actor, political figure in the former Soviet Union and in the new Russia, - ed.), too few Makarevichs (Andrey Makarevich, Soviet and Russian rock musician and the founder of Russia's oldest still active rock band Mashina Vremeni, - ed.). Alexei Tolstoy has said once that there are two Russias – the one, which is more Kyiv-like, and all that is inherent in Europe is there. This is Rus’, which has created the world culture, at least the European one. And there is Russia taiga. Here we are talking about this kind of Rus.
In 1991-1992, Moscow was steaming, when people with intelligent faces appeared on the screens, where are they today?
A few years ago, a conference called "Russia 2020-2030" was held in St. Petersburg. There were several panels that formed the predictions of the nature of the Russian state could be in 2020-2030. They said that it would be impossible to keep such a body, which is now called Russia, within the invariable non-graphical border.
You told me that Putin has once visited your house, your Banderist house (Yushchenko has an old Banderist house, a real stash house, transported and reconstructed).
My relationship with the president of Russia... I can’t say anything bad about our relationships. Those contacts (and there were a lot of them: both at the level of premiership and at the level of the presidency) have brought a lot of interesting things. If we talk about the human, sensitive dimension, when Vladimir Vladimirovich came to the house, he came close to the stove, raised his hands and laid them on the stove. He stood there for about twenty seconds and did not say a word. But I saw that he was trying to remember something, something very warm and precious, perhaps only known to him alone. And then we sat down at the table where all the presidents who came to Ukraine were sitting – from African to European leaders.
I did not know Putin, whom he has become today. I do not remember him saying something arrogant or doing something rude, disrespectful… He was a rather tactful person. He never said “no.” He used in a formal-you mode. And was very tactful.
If we treat our relations with Russia as a war, and this would be reasonable as 62 thousand of our children, girls are killed, injured, 13% of the territory is first annexed, half of those territories are occupied, a significant part of our industry, economy, trade is lost, and this is one of our greatest misfortunes. If this is a war, what should we do? Let us open the Constitution. The constitution of any country says: if you have a war if you are threatened with the first global question of a state, security, then immediately look at four areas of relations with the aggressor, occupier. Question one: what to do with the goods? Question two: what to do with the services? Question three: what to do with financial transactions and capital? Question four: people, human relationships. As a rule, these relationships cease. Considering that we have survived 300 years of Russian colonization, our integration into Russia, it is easy to give an answer to these four topics.
The Constitution says: you cannot hold elections during the war. The authors of the Constitution wrote it out just following the other constitutions: if you have a war, don’t hold any elections. Therefore, Churchill has not been holding elections for six years.
And when he did it, he immediately lost.
Yes. The United States had two presidential terms, and then they have adopted four. In other words, if there is a war, do not create internal resistance, do not create those competitions that ruin the unity of the nation and the people – just do not go to elections. The second question is: if there is a war, why are you talking about privatization? If the house is on fire, who sells it? Third: if you have a war, why do you amend the Constitution? This is all prohibited by the Constitution.
What was the GDP growth when during your presidency?
From 7%, and even 14% in some quarters.
People who were close to you during Maidan, now go to the parliament and the Cabinet of Ministers. Haven’t you experienced some bitter disappointment that you could not see those enemies on your stage?
This is not my fault or the fault of someone else. In order to change the chances of the nation in 2004, various forces had to be consolidated. The most difficult thing is to keep the dialogue going. I think that the conflict of the Ukrainian nation in 2004 was much higher than in 2013-2014. In fact, there were two Maidans; 400-500 m were between them. On the third day, we carried food and water there. And my first proposal to President Kuchma was to organize a dialogue, an uprising, and power. We have a quiet protest. We do not want to shoot at anyone, to shed blood, because we understand that if a drop of blood was spilled on the Independence Square, they would use force against us.
I have secretly met with the commander of the internal troops, and I told him then: as long as you do not have a written order, do not go to Maidan and do not do anything, please. You have to understand us, the civil society. It looked like President Kuchma did not want to hold this dialogue. Although we made a lot of efforts, including together with Ivan Plushch (Ukrainian politician, thrice served as the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, - ed.), we personally addressed; we would like to hold a public dialogue. But for some reasons we were refused. I think that many advisors to President Kuchma represented the "hawks" camp. And so we had to turn to Europe. At that time I called everyone who could answer the phone: come, we will organize an open Ukrainian round table under your supervision. We do not need your ideas, hints, we know what we are doing. But we have no opportunity to convene a platform for dialogue. First, there must be a dialogue to create a great miracle - trust. Trust creates consensus. So in three days, we came out with the contract, which settled both Maidans. Of course, no one can say that this is a pure victory. I gave way like no other. I refused from all the powers that President Kuchma had, I did it for peace. Part of the rebels did not support me, part of the authorities did not support me
If we take world history, democracy has been always developing from tsarism to a constitutional empire, then to a republic, then to a parliamentary republic, and then to self-government. That is the logic of freedom. Therefore, it was easy for me to go for it. I was convinced that if I delegated these powers to the prime minister, the prime minister would be from this cluster. And these are my brothers. I never thought that they would betray me, that they would start playing their own game to split democracy. Here we are not talking about some kind of personal relationship. The road to democracy is being shaped by major joint efforts.