Mr. Portnov, why have you not been in Ukraine for five years and three months?
Portnov: I was in exile – this is a well-known fact. Due to prosecution for political reasons, falsification of criminal cases and other facts, in 2014, I decided to leave the country. These are well-known events. I have been working in the EU. In 2014 I lived in Moscow, in 2015-2016 I lived in Turkey, then moved to Austria, where I’ve been until recently.
Let us retrospectively recall the events that took place in Ukraine just during your physical absence here. The annexation of Crimea, Donbas war... What do you know about that notorious letter of fled president Yanukovych to Putin, asking Russia to send in troops to Ukraine?
I don’t know anything about this. February 22, 2014, was the last time I saw Yanukovych. I didn’t talk to him anymore, I’m not interested in his affairs – I don’t care. As for Crimea and Donbas, I have already said a hundred times: these are Ukrainian territories, which I consider to be occupied. I am a Ukrainian, defending the interests of my country, for five years I’ve been in opposition to the ruling regime by chance. This has nothing to do with either Russia or Crimea. During these five years, my position has been clear. I am Ukrainian, I support my country and I consider these territories Ukrainian.
Have you had any meeting and conversation with Yulia Tymoshenko upon your return to Ukraine?
Of course not. We do not work in the same political team. I am an independent person, a lawyer, an expert.
Please, tell as a lawyer, how should we change the Constitution?
I believe that nothing should be amended. Nothing will help. There is our Constitution – that’s it is. Now it looks like that. You just have to follow it, not to change something.
Let us speak about the initiative to elect the president by parliament.
You are now talking about amending Constitution, which we do not actually need. Perhaps we need to remove some dualism between the president and the government. Because, after all, we have a parliamentary republic, it forms the government, and the people credit the president by voting in direct elections. And they expect that the head of state would implement the state policy. Not only foreign policy, not only defense policy but also internal policy: economic, social, legal. Against this background, the conflict is already laid in the electoral system itself.
In 2014, Poroshenko became the president. His campaign slogan was “to live in a new way”. Why did he become president?
It seems to me that, firstly, he outwardly looked like Yanukovych. I consider this a pure coincidence: Yanukovych with his 22% disappeared, and there was no longer any trust in the political leaders who were in talks with him. I believe that Poroshenko actually became president thanks to this populism and cheap hype. I think that this is a mistake of our people, a mistake of our country, it should be corrected by the restoration of justiceю Justice is a sentence. There must be a judgment on him.
What is the influence of oligarch Dmytro Firtash on Ukrainian politics?
I don’t know. I could communicate with Firtash when I met him somewhere in the city, we exchanged opinions, drank a cup of coffee, and that was that. For several years of living in Austria, we had three meetings, probably.
Let us also recall the post-Maidan decisions: amnesty not by the court, but by the parliament. That law on the release of political prisoners is still in force.
Yesterday, during interrogation on the Maidan, I told the investigators that I believe that they should investigate the circumstances of the adoption of this law in the framework of the Maidan case. In the Maidan case, two facts need to be investigated: who shot at the people who committed mass riots, and how the people who committed the mass riots shot at the police officers. It is necessary either to change the law on amnesty and begin a broad comprehensive investigation or to amnesty the second half: the employees of the Berkut special police force should be released immediately. These two antagonisms make it difficult to achieve this goal. In order to fully establish this picture, you need to hold timekeeping, every minute. We do not see this complete picture, because a special law was adopted in February 2014, and this law prohibits an investigation into activists of the Maidan. The society will always be divided into two parts: those who will consider Maidan a crime, and those who will consider it heroism. And this civil conflict will be used, including by the third countries, enemies of our state, in order to influence our domestic and foreign policy.