Ukrainian society is now divided into various sides, both religious and linguistic. Is the unification possible?
Yuriy Boyko: First of all, the agenda should not contain the issues that really divide our society: such as language law, education law, church issues. And as soon as they are removed, as soon as unifying laws appear (the key unifying purpose today is a motive for peace), the society would immediately unite, and all these things that divide the country would disappear. Therefore, the main thing is to generate those questions that unite people. Peace. The peace issue is Ukraine's national idea. The question of reducing draconian utility tariffs, fight against corruption, that is, everything that people prioritize when asked about what should be done in the state.
Are you ready to take the post of the prime minister?
The current situation has been forming for years. For all five years, step by step, the authorities that go away, have been leading the society to total poverty. The militant rhetoric, the external governance of the country — all these components have led people to simply wait for concrete steps to resolve their issues. The first problem is a question of peace. Of course, we need a compromise, because the issue of peace and the end of the conflict is very difficult. But we must honestly tell people that the war will be over step by step by political means. This is an appropriate compromise. These are a few things that need to be addressed, and the public should be honestly told about this. The second question is the utility tariffs issues that have led people to poverty. And since we have already held two rounds of negotiations with the Russian Federation, here we have a mechanism on how to switch to direct contracts and significantly reduce the gas price. After signing of direct contracts, the marginal price of gas would be 135 USD, not 285 USD, as it is today. And this will be a step to help people. I believe that the reduction of tariffs will be the main step in overcoming poverty.
A referendum is one of the principles of democracy. Does your political force support this idea?
Of course, we support everything that concerns and makes it possible to hear people’s opinions. And although there is no law on referendum, it does not have a direct action in our country (like in most European countries), nevertheless, when a referendum is held and people express their opinion on it, the government is obliged to listen to it.
Last week, Ukrtransgaz company announced that from June 24, the work of the Ukrainian GTS is under threat.
This is a purely technical problem, because Naftogaz of Ukraine, which is the owner of a transit contract that receives funds from transit, must provide sufficient funds for the process gas to be purchased by Ukrtransgaz. This is a problem of power’s paralysis, a mess in power, and it could be solved at the local level. I do not see many problems here. A much more complicated issue is connected to the new transit contract, which ends at the end of the year. We have negotiated on it. There is too little time to conclude a new transit contract, because if Nord Stream 2 and TurkiStream are launched, then we practically do not have gas in the GTS.
What determines the Russian Federation to sign a new contract?
There is an understanding that the partnership should be restored, including in the gas industry. There is an understanding that the Russian markets should be open for our goods because today we sell goods to Russia for 4.5 billion USD and buy Russian goods for 7.5 billion. That is, we have a negative trade balance. We give $ 3.5 billion from our economy to the Russian Federation, while the remnants of the ruling majority shout that Russia is an aggressor state. Well, if you put the question like that, then at least make the conditions for us to get more money. This will be useful for our economy, it will give the opportunity to support it.
You are a vocal opponent of Ukraine’s healthcare reform.
First of all, I believe that there was no healthcare reform in our country. There was a situation when a corruption agency was created in Kyiv, where the entire budget of the Ministry of Health was brought. They began to distribute it manually, and deputies of regional and local councils were removed from this process — this is, a direct violation of the principle of decentralization. And they created such a corrupt “feeder.” Of course, we need insurance medicine in its classical form; we do not need to invent anything new – the state pays for a retired person, the employer pays for the employee with tax benefits.
In recent years, there has been a decrease in payments and benefits. How to find a solution to this problem?
Firstly, indeed, a terrible situation took place in December 2014, the parliament, when a larger coalition still existed, deprived of the benefits of all: Chornobyl victims, veterans, and the disabled. So they thought it would be easier for the state budget. They voted for the budget in a few days and increased payments to all the security officials. That is, they solved the problems of the law enforcers at the expense of the pensioners, at the expense of the victims, of Chornobyl victims, at the expense of large families. Naturally, we did not vote for it. Last July, the Constitutional Court (at our request) decided that the privileges for Chornobyl victims should be restored. And we immediately submitted a draft law on changes to the budget in order to be able to pay them before the end of the year. The government has failed to do this, and members of the government who have failed to comply with the decision of the Constitutional Court will be punished: they will answer in a criminal sense. Because I have already sent an appeal to the Attorney General. This concerns tens of thousands of people, and wherever I go, people raise these questions. And it comes to cynicism when as much as 171,000 USD were laid down in the budget for the treatment of all those affected by the Chornobyl accident. This money would be enough to cover 0.2% of the person who really needs treatment.
Ukraine suffers from de-industrialization. What should be done today to raise the enterprises?
In fact, it is necessary to urgently adopt a state program to support individual sectors of the economy, and preferential loans, and tax exemption for those enterprises that need it. We should not forget about the personnel training, because so many specialists have left the country. There should be a number of programs, so then we would be able to restore the industrial potential that we have. Which, fortunately, has still remained, because we had an appropriate base. This might be a kind of driver for the entire economy. Because today if 6-7 industries are supported, they can increase the entire economic potential of our country. I am talking about shipbuilding, space industry, engineering, automotive, of course, agriculture.
Ukrainian people want some changes. In your opinion, is this parliamentary campaign capable of meeting these expectations?
People really have very high expectations from the parliamentary elections, because we can see this political slap in the face that the outgoing government... These are the results of the presidential elections, this is not just an assessment of the work of President Poroshenko alone. This is an assessment of the work of the parliament, which lived a separate life from the country, adopted some political laws, without paying attention to the needs of the people. This is an assessment of the government’s actions, which praised itself and left the economic chaos. People are waiting for concrete decisions, and for some time they will rejoice at bright performances, but in fact, they are waiting for all the questions that they pose to be resolved. Peace, social support, security, democracy, economic development.
According to the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology survey, five political parties might get to the parliament. Is your Opposition Platform - For Life party ready to join a coalition with the presidential Servant of the People party? Under what conditions?
We do not raise the issue of the coalition now. If there is a political force in the parliament, which sees the settlement of Donbas conflict through political means, with components related to the special status of Donbas, the amnesty law, fundamental things, articulated in the Minsk agreements, then we are partners. If this force reduces tariffs, tries to fix the economic situation, support enterprises, then we are also partners. And for us, we do not have a priority to obtain the offices; we have already lived in opposition for five years. We struggled with the regime, seeing that it brought trouble to the country. And in fact, the main thing for us is to observe the principles that are dear to the people who sent us to the parliament. Therefore, this is the main thing for us.