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Vlaschenko: The first Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk kindly agreed to give an interview to share his thoughts with us. Good evening, Mr. Kravchuk. Let us start with summing up 2016 year. What was 2016 for Ukraine and for you personally?
Kravchuk: This year for me was a leap year. Leap years are always difficult for people. This year has been a incredibly difficult for Ukraine. We have experienced so many problems... and not all of them were not solved favorably for us. I prefer not to have more such a year anymore. I have got an impression that people just cannot be without war. In general, Russia is fighting for 150 years. But these wars are getting bigger, and the effects are incredibly tragic. When some countries mastered nuclear weapons, everyone was afraid of the Great World War. So people find other ways to conquer: hybrid wars or military pressure. The world sometimes face the situation when there is no other ways of solving the problem, except military one. Large states gather, make decisions, and impose it to others. But then you have to accept that the war will be constantly because those that do not advice that does not take into account, they have left the path of terrorism. I think that international organizations, like UN, must make joint decisions and consider all of the common interests.
We do not get lethal weapons, but only monetary assistance. What does the West want from Ukraine taking into consideration such lending volumes?
And what have we done? If we really launched the reforms, we would developed such political lines that would bring the country to democracy, freedom, and rights. We want to go to the civilized world, we want to be together with Europe and ask for help. But we have not done anything for this, but on the contrary, we are mired in corruption, and there is no serious progress in the reforms. Of course, we cannot say that absolutely nothing was done. For the first time since independence, Ukraine has the growth of the gross domestic product by 1.5%, and the world admitted it. Recently, I have been to the United States at a conference, and felt how they were looking at Ukraine. They support it, they see our problems, see Russian aggression, but they say: "You must quickly and actively carry out your reforms."
Could you call Poroshenko the leader that is creating the modern history? What exactly Poroshenko did in 2016?
Manipulating politics and relying on the power – this is Russia, this is not a real politics. This is the policy of war. I do not praise such a leadership. If you ask me, what Poroshenko has been done in real life, I would say that not that much. But I would say that much has been done in addressing the fundamental issue of Ukrainian life. We have chosen the European course. Europe and the whole world have recognized it. For the first time in the history of independence, Ukraine has chosen the European course. I judge by the decisions of the parliament, the President, and some other practical actions. I think this is the greatest merit of the current government. The ways of strengthening the Ukrainian army. When this government came to the helm, actually, we did not have an army. And today we have an army that is fighting back terrorists. We have articulated the anti-corruption system in legal terms; of course, it still does not work yet, but it did not exist before. We have identified the ways to approach to judicial reform. Judicial reform is one of the most painful and serious problems in Ukraine.
Did you have an opportunity to talk to Poroshenko this year?
Of course. We often talk about the life of Ukraine. For Ukrainian presidents have met on this occasion, but the main issue was Ukrainian church. We receive many letters, proposals, ideas… Ukrainians want to have their own autocephalous church.
And what Poroshenko thinks about this?
Porohsenko opened his position in his speech at the monument to Volodymyr. He fully supports the creation of Ukrainian autocephalous church.
Ukrainian Parliament adopted the budget for 2017 at night. What do you think, is this a good reason to express gratitude to MPs?
We should remember that there is the content of the budget, the form of its adoption. If you take the media, they try to think whether the budget is useful for Ukraine, and when asking about its adoption - why at night? I believe that the budget could not be different at this time. The growth in the minimum wage and many other things talk about the positive aspects of this budget. But voting for the budget at night should not become a tradition.
A very important issue today is the constitutional reform. What should we do with Donbas?
We must take the Constitution as a whole, as a national specific document. The document, which is supported by the people. The Constitution, which is always subjected to some amendments, has no credibility. It is necessary to adopt a new Constitution. Donbas cannot have any special status in the Constitution. Why some international organization is dictating us, the nation, what kind of constitution should we take. This is a misunderstanding, a mistake!
Now it will be a problem for us. They would always remind us about elections in Donbas. If you take all the positions of the Minsk agreements, they can performed, except the Constitution. We say that we cannot do it today; we have war in Donbas, Ukrainian government is not restored there, we do not have borders, which would ensure the sovereignty, integrity of our state.
Then it means a dead end, because they say that we should hold these elections.
We would not do that. Even if we have started it, we just cannot accomplished this. We have proscribed some nonsense, and now they are manipulating this nonsense. Let someone from the Western leaders say, is it possible to hold elections during the war. Thus, we are legitimizing the power that is there today.
Some MPs say about the returning nuclear status of Ukraine. What should we do with this?
From the very beginning, the question about the nuclear weapons is populist and manipulative. Now there is a manipulation with nuclear weapons. We could not leave nuclear weapon in Ukraine because it was made outside Ukraine, and the physical time of nuclear weapons due to expire in 1997. In 1998, nuclear warheads were dangerous for Ukraine - I do not know, it would be a Chernobyl or maybe something even worse. And it was the right decision. It is about the restoration of nuclear weapons. When this question was put in my time, we believed that the restoration of nuclear weapons requires US $ 45 billion, I think that today it is $ 100 billion. I do not know where these gentlemen can see that kind of money. In theory, the government can make nuclear weapons. If North Korea did, Ukraine could do this too. Even if we had that money, we should look at the reaction of the world. Then I was convinced that Europe and the United States strongly opposed the increase in the world's nuclear states map; and my mind has not changed. There was another reason why I have opposed the nuclear status. I believe that any weapon of mass destruction is not the main factor for peace. Peace is achieved without weapons.
Our tinkering at the margins surprised the whole world.
If we do not fight, and call is anti-terrorist operation, all consequences of the war cannot be formulated in international assessments and formulas as they would be formulated in terms of war. This is a challenge for us, but we should remember that our aim is preventing opened Russian aggression.
Should Ukraine cancel the institution of the presidency and become a parliamentary republic?
Parliamentary republics have presidents too. I think that the powers should be clearly delineated, and if the president does not have the authority, he cannot walk in someone else's garden. These tend to aggravate the situation and cause serious harm to the administration of the state. I stand for a parliamentary-presidential state.
Do you have trouble there that we can lose statehood, if we do not solve the problem in the east? Whose fault it would be, Putin’s?
I do not know whose fault would it be - Putin’s or ours? We fail to understand one simple thing - the unity of people before the face of the threat. Unity does not mean the absence of criticism. Unity means that people want to build a democratic state, they do not want war and chose the European course. We must do everything so that people feel that it is done.
How was this year for you personally?
For me it was a bad year; in terms of politics, and there were some personal reasons too.
Why your children and grandchildren do not participate in politics?
I was in politics, it seems, from his childhood. It happened. I talked with them about politics, and I persuaded them, politics is something that must be approached very carefully and comprehensively. Perhaps, they prefer no avoid being involved in politics.
What would history books write about you?
Leonid Kravchuk is one of the leading politicians, who secured the independence of Ukraine.
Did you fall in love with married women?
Which alcohol do you prefer?
Which politician has surprised you in 2016?
Yatsenyuk, I mean his resignation.
What makes people happy?
When the others understand them.
Are there some things that you never tell us?
There are both state and personal things that I never tell you.
What was the happiest event in your life?
The birth of a son.
Who of the present-day Ukrainian politicians will remain in history? Whom would you prefer personally?
I think people and history will determine it.
What would you change in the story?
I would not do it. Because history is a capricious woman that will not allow to do what she cannot do.
What were three most important events of the year?
The most significant event was that Council of Europe recognized Ukrainian European choice. We voted together - both in Europe and in Verkhovna Rada. This is a real, positive achievement. Negative one is our inability to use the internal capabilities. That is, the dominance of corruption.
What do you want to wish our readers?
Believe in yourself, trust people, and trust God. If we think only about the negative things, negative tendencies will follow us. Faith begets force. The strength and faith! Faith and power!
Thank you, Mr. Kravchuk.