Viktor Medvedchuk is a guest of the "Maga" program
Petro Maga: Everyone says that Medvedchuk is back in big-league politics.
Viktor Medvedchuk: I have entered politics in the mid-90s. I have gone into politics after being elected as Ukraine’s MP for the first time (Irshava constituency, Zakarpattia region). I was supported not just by the majority of citizens, but by 94.15%. By the way, no one has yet broken this record on this constituency. Then I was elected again by the system of simple plurality as a member of SDPU (o) (Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (United); at the 1998 and 2002 parliamentary elections it won parliamentary seats, since then not, - ed.). I have been always inherent to a consistent position of a man with a certain set of views and worldview. These views today are depicted as part of different caricatures, as you say when people talk about Medvedchuk (people discuss many politicians, and I am not an exception) ... Apparently, hatred, outrage, and disagreement with my position are often expressed by those whose views I do not share and against whom I speak. Yes, I have always opposed radical nationalism, although I believe and I am sure that there is nothing wrong with nationalism. Any state, any nation has its right to an extreme, associated with nationalism. But radical nationalism with its forms of the recent years, beginning with 2013-2014, is something that goes beyond civilized and permissible framework.
By the way, what language did your family speak?
Our family spoke only Russian. Including my father. We used it in everyday life, you know that in Ukrainian families... My family was Ukrainian because we were just living there (Medvedchuk was born in Pochyot, Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russian SFSR, Siberia, - ed.), because my father was sent there, and I was born there in 1954. And my father had served a sentence, and in 1952, he was sent to the Krasnoyarsk Krai... I was brought up as a Soviet citizen, a schoolboy, a Komsomol member, a progressive Komsomol member who defended the interests and understood what was happening. I never doubted the correctness of the Soviet government, because when everything was destroyed in 1991 and Ukraine became independent, I was already a professional lawyer who reached certain heights: in 1990, I was elected President of the Union of Lawyers of Ukraine.
You never speak Ukrainian.
(Speaks in Ukrainian) No. I use the Ukrainian language very often, I speak it. Today I am back in politics and as “Opposition platform - For life” chairman, and when I try to bring to the people my point of view or ideology of our party, I speak Russian. (Continues in Russian) Our political force “Opposition Platform - For Life” is aimed primarily at protecting the interests of the residents of Ukraine’s southeast, the Russian-speaking population, and all citizens of Ukraine, who do not put up with the reality, to which the so-called Euro-reformers have brought us during the last five years.
You are pretty sharp in your expressions.
This is a demonstration of integrity and firmness of my position and confidence in it.
What is your position? Call your five main points, please.
My views are principled and consistent in the part of Ukraine’s today’s borders, this is a territory that was once artificially created. If we trace the history of the X-XI centuries, there were 7-8 different states on the territory of modern Ukraine – from Kievan Rus, the Golden Horde, Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Kingdom of Poland, the Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Russian empire, and the Soviet Union. Other state principles have been inherent in this territory. Building of the state, the formation of society within the framework of this state have taken place under certain conditions, which cannot be reduced to a common denominator. But today we appreciate the fact that we have received such a territory as an independent sovereign state. We should not only be proud of this. We must take this into account. When speaking of all these principles today, the policy of the present-day government in the last five years is aimed at neutralizing some concepts, close for certain segments of the population. We are talking about a modern country in the center of Europe, multi-million country (several tens of millions, surely nobody knows, from 30 to 45), a country in which people go to different churches, speak different languages, a country that in different ways, I emphasize, honors its history – someone honors the Great Patriotic War and Victory, someone calls it Second World War; people recognize different heroes...
For five years, you have been negotiating ineffectively on the prisoner exchange. Or at least we don’t know about the results.
In fact, the negotiation process should take place outside the cells, apart from journalism, and only its results can be heard to the public.
How many people were released thanks to you?
485 people. Including three people who were released while serving a sentence in the Russian Federation. I mean Savchenko (Nadia Savchenko, Ukrainian MP, currently imprisoned by Ukrainian authorities,- ed.), Afanasyev (testified against Oleg Sentsov, but later refused from his testimony,- ed.), Soloshenko (Afanasyev’s grandpa, - ed). 482 are those people who were brought to justice and kept in prisons of Donetsk and Luhansk.
How many people do you think are there?
Today, according to my data, there are (those identified) 55 people there.
You're no match for hype in this regard.
When I released people from Debaltseve in 2015... They have lined up a convoy. A lot of Russian journalists were there, but the Ukrainian ones did not come. And here is our column, a hundred people. I came closer and talked to the guys. I stood together with the representatives of Luhansk and two more people. We were waiting for the miners to arrive in order to check the road; mine clearance has not been conducted there. And we were waiting for a miners’ dog. A white tank arrived from the village. It drove onto the road, turned around drove away from us. The tank turret began to move in our direction. The head of the Afghan veterans detachment, Luhansk police chief were also there. And the police chief said: “Do you know whether they have got their salaries paid?” What a story, I said to me. Later, I told this story to some people, some of them laughed. Everything was possible. But despite all this, I believe that if I can, I must do it. And I cannot blame others for not doing this.
In May 2014, Mr. Turchynov sent a lot of MPs there (to Donbas, - 112.international). A lot of them were from there as it was Ukraine. And the task was to meet Gubarev (self-proclaimed People's Governor of "Donetsk People's Republic," -ed.) it was such people's governor. Bolotov (Russian militant leader, known for his involvement in the Donbas War, - ed.)was in Luhansk, he is the sergeant of the Soviet Armed Forces, Afghani veteran; besides, there was Borodai (so-called Prime Minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic,-ed.), the citizen of Russia. And they had never met any of them. And then Turchynov asked me. Together with Nestor Shufrych we went there. It happened in the middle of May, right after the referendum on independence. Then we flew to Donetsk and Luhansk from Kyiv by plane. I called that I wanted to meet them. They were messing up for two-three days, and then I called to Moscow, complained about the situation, and they commanded properly. I have arrived there, Borodai came. We were in one of the restaurants of one Donetsk businessman, who lives in Kyiv now. He took out the Makarov pistols. We watched it calmly. We did not feel danger. They said: we respect you. But we hate those, Kyiv authority, from whom you came. We will never return.
You deliberately go to some things that provoke negative information against you. Now you are back in politics. Why?
It would not be correct to say that I have not been in politics before. There was a "Ukrainian choice" public movement. The policy is power. I have not been in power since 2005. I have left on January 21, 2005, after Yushchenko was elected president. And, by the way, not really going [to be involved in politics] today. Speaking about the “Opposition Platform - For Life” and its participation in parliamentary elections, this question is open for me today. I am ready to do it, but I have not decided for myself to what extent I am ready to do it… I understand that there are things that could be done only by me. Not because I am the smartest or the most prepared person here. This is because I have such opportunities. Let us take away the knowledge, intelligence, communication as a resource, as a filter of opportunities. I have been trying to achieve some kind of result since May 2014. I feel and I am sure that we can reach peace. We can negotiate on peace. And I understand everything: here are those barriers, related to me, and the actions of the authorities, consciously or unconsciously, interfere with this. But I still think that this must be completed. This must be accomplished due to only one goal: I live in this country, I am a very wealthy person, I could live in any other country. But I am not going to do this fundamentally. This is my country, my parents are buried here, my family lives here, we feel well here, and most importantly, I feel great here. I understand everything that can happen to me, I understand all the risks and dangers, but I will continue. Not for hype.
You are often accused of monopolizing the entire natural gas market.
Yes, I've read about that.
Do you find it interesting reading something about yourself?
They always say: “Why do you read this?” And I reply: “In order to know.” “Probably, you want to know who your enemies are?” I say: “I am not sure that people who write this are my enemies. They are indeed my opponents. And they do envy. Why do I read? I have adapted to this dirt, to this negativity, as one should be strong for this. So that when you see that it’s a lie, and you understand that you are better than this. This is not true. My wife tells me: “You should go to court.”
Do you know how many trials I won? Around 30-40 over these years. Do you think it’s a pleasure for me? No. Dirt is everywhere, and you, as a media representative, you know that dirt spreads and it becomes relevant when it spreads... But I have the power to adapt to this dirt.
What does family mean for you?
This is the most important thing today, and this is what has been formed during the last 5-10 years. We, after all, remember the family in the last place. Work is first. What is the main thing for a man? Work, sports, friends, meetings. At some stage, you understand that power, politics, business are all coming and going. And the family is forever. Wife, children. You understand that everything might happen. Sometimes, unfortunately, friends betray you, although my friends have never betrayed me. And I'm proud of it. But there is still nothing closer than the wife and children.