Ukraine's special representative for humanitarian issues in the Tripartite Contact Group Viktor Medvedchuk in the framework of the "A Big Interview with a Big Politician" project on "112 Ukraine" TV channel spoke on the prisoners exchange, the scandal with the film about Vasyl Stus, US sanctions, and the conditions on which Ukraine could return Donbas
Pavlo Kuzheev, journalist: Our meeting takes place in Kyiv. How often do you come to Ukraine, and where did you come from?
Viktor Medvedchuk: I had vacations, so now I came to Kyiv and started working. I rarely leave Kyiv. I leave Kyiv only on business. I visit Minsk, Moscow, the EU countries but in general, I spend my time only in Kyiv. I work here and do what I consider necessary.
You seem to be the only person who can fly directly from Ukraine to Russia.
Yes, that is true. I really fly directly to Moscow, Sochi, where I have meetings with the leadership of the Russian Federation on those issues that fall under the interests of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people, and those interests that need to be defended, despite the nature of the relations, which, unfortunately, have been built between our countries.
The Ukrainian government is going to stop the railway passenger communication with Russia and introduce a number of other restrictions. Minister of Infrastructure Omelyan said that he had signed a historical document: “Only bears will go to Moscow, just like in the old days.”
You know, I have publicly assessed Mr. Omelyan, a man who has accidentally come to this office, like 80% of Cabinet members who also occasionally serve there, pretending they represent the government and solve Ukraine’s problems. This person is limited in his views. And in fact, how it relates to the interests of the people? Strangely enough, in the last few days, the media has been talking a lot about the passenger traffic between Moscow and Dnipro, Moscow and Kharkiv, Kyiv and Lviv, about the popularity of these trains, and how many people travel to Russia. Therefore, if we ignore the interests of people (this became one of the rules of Ukraine’s government and the Ukrainian authorities), it might be prohibited. They can forbid the air communication too. I am convinced that it does not depend on him [Omelyan – Ed.]. It depends on the mutually respectful decision, and some sober thoughts might be a voice there, which would pay attention to the people’s interest: if some people go there, probably, not for a field trip. Not only those who go for work there, because here Omelyan and his colleagues have not created proper conditions for finding a job. People go to visit their relatives, close friends, etc. Therefore, no matter how much power trying to make the Russian and Ukrainian peoples enemies, no one would be able to do this, neither here nor there.
I believe that these misunderstandings, which have occasionally come to the government, would go to oblivion, and normal people would restore relations between the fraternal peoples. And in the future, these relations would be built in a different situation and would be of a different nature.
Ukrainian frontier guards report numerous cases of stopping Ukrainian and foreign vessels under Ukrainian and foreign flags in the Sea of Azov. They are examined, the team is identified. Poroshenko believes that this is done in order to block Ukraine in the Sea of Azov, to escalate the tension, and to conduct an attack on Mariupol, where the export of ferrous metallurgy products of Ukraine is carried out. He also speaks about an attack on other ports of the Sea of Azov.
I do not share this critical assessment of Ukraine’s president. Moreover, I am familiar with this situation. The talks on the stabilization of the situation in the Sea of Azov are ongoing. And if we talk about the reasons, it is worth remembering that the Sea of Azov is an internal sea of two states – Russian Federation and Ukraine. According to the principles and content of these agreements, the verification of the vessels should take place. You might remember that a few weeks ago the frontier service said: Well, Russia has the right for checking. So it checks. Let us remember about the detention of a vessel called "Nord," about sailors who are not in custody, but cannot go to the territory of the Russian Federation.
Ukraine is already negotiating with Western partners to impose sanctions on the Black Sea ports of the Russian Federation.
You know, the sanctions policy and its popularization by Ukraine with the help of Western countries is the main direction of Ukraine's policy. Speaking about its correctness, I personally face its consequences. Ukraine has joined the EU sanctions, and Russia has imposed anti-sanction. Who suffered from it? First of all, Ukraine. How? Its exports fell. Despite all the actions taking place, we are losing products markets, this concerns the Russian Federation and the CIS. And despite the fact that we have lost 46% of exports since 2014, Russia is Ukraine’s main importer, in the first half of 2018, 15% of all imports have come from Russia. This is the first place. 8% of the Ukrainian products go to Russia. This despite the fact that there was a fall, and it happened at the expense of the Russian and CIS market.
June 22, sanctions against the Russian Federation in connection with the Skrypal case have come into force. A few days ago, the US Congress announced the text of new anti-Russian sanctions, proposing a ban on operations and freezing property in the United States. It is about Sberbank and Gazprombank. What is the reaction of the Russian business community? Are they scared?
I did not feel any fear. Any sanctions have their consequences, it is just a fact. These are restrictions on trade and economic relations. Even in 2014-2015, the situation was different. Yes, there were additional artificial problems. Did Russia overcome them? Judging by its today’s’ economy, yes it did. It is difficult from these sanctions - yes, it is difficult. We are constantly looking for assessments and evaluate someone, but not ourselves. We believe that if Russia is in a worse situation, it will be better for Ukraine, but it does not turn out so. Despite the sanctions. You gave me this example, and I will give you another one. The US demanded to stop the trade between Ukraine and China on the sale of jet engines for military aircraft and rescue service. How so? What China has to do with it? This is the final destruction of our aircraft industry. Maybe we should stop selling engines to China or the countries of the Asia-Pacific region and become an agricultural country? The US is now seeking it from the economy and the government, with respect to which Washington has introduced external management. This affects both the sovereignty and independence of the country.
You are under the US sanctions, right?
"Ukrainian choice" claims that with these sanctions Viktor Medvedchuk feels great and considers these actions of the US a high evaluation of his activity in the fight against external management, which the US introduced in Ukraine. Nevertheless, your assets are frozen, financial operations are banned.
First, I never had any assets in the US. Secondly, I have never had any economic relations with business (in matters of business) with this country. Although I have been engaged in business since 2005 when I left the civil service. I have a long relationship with the Americans. And this story did not begin in 2014. And not with the "Ukrainian choice." This story began in the 2000s when the US accused Ukraine of selling Kolchuga to Iraq (passive sensor is an ESM system developed in the Soviet Union and manufactured in Ukraine – Ed.) - there was such a means of protection against flying objects. Was allegedly selling. The authority of Ukraine was immediately lowered. Remember the summit in Prague, when the alphabet was changed not to let the president of Ukraine sit next to the US president. Then President Kuchma appointed me, and I was the head of the President’s Administration, chairing the state commission to investigate the Kolchugas sell. The "Topaz" plant, which is located in Donetsk, have released 45 copies and a pilot one. The Commission, which I headed, has checked each copy. To whom did we sell them? To the Chinese, to the other countries, to Russia. Then we have proved that these charges were groundless, and the Americans blatantly lied and accused Ukraine. But the most interesting is that the first person who publicly accused Ukraine of selling Kolchuga was then the deputy head of the US diplomatic mission in Ukraine, and today the US ambassador to Ukraine. Therefore, relations with Americans have a long history.
Let us speak about the incident about your influence on the life of Ukrainian dissident Vasyl Stus. This film should be released in 2019, and according to the filmmakers, the Medvedchuk administration called the producers and said to remove Stus’s trial scene from the film, where Medvedchuk was Stus’s lawyer
I did not even know about making the film about Stus. Even now I am not interested in it. I have already read the analysis, and the first thing I read about this film was an interview of Stus's son who said that this film was just ridiculous for him. I am not sure about the film’s value for the history, for the fate of the poet himself.
This is a provocation, one of the stages of what the Americans are doing today. We have proofs of it. I mean, they are constantly provoking. It consists of a series of things, as Medvedchuk is currently a public figure, today Medvedchuk takes part in the public policy, and Medvedchuk is an enemy for them. I do reiterate that I am their enemy. I will do everything possible to make Ukraine independent and sovereign without US influence and control. This is another provocation that unfortunately could be witnessed today. But we will deal with it. Speaking about Stus's affair, which took place 38 years ago, I am really glad that for 38 years the Americans have not found anything new. History is misinterpreted.
I have fulfilled my official duty. I have not broken the law, and during Ukraine's independence, numerous lawyers’ commissions have established my right, I was right as a lawyer. In this regard, for five times I have been re-elected as a president of the Union of Lawyers of Ukraine (1990 – 2005). I am clear on my colleagues. I am clear before my fate and Stus’s life path, I did everything I could. If he did not fight against the Soviet authorities, he would not be a fighter for Ukraine’s independence. Levko Lukyanenko was once asked, "Is he illegally sentenced?", he replied: "Why? He is legally convicted." Soviet laws fought against those who opposed Soviet power. They simply did not consider this power legitimate. And I, for example, considered the Soviet power to be legitimate. And I was a Soviet citizen. And today I do not revise this position for myself. What Stus did was on his conscience. The actions of the organs and the court were on their conscience. And Medvedchuk as a lawyer was protecting him. It did not work out. It happens. Especially in the system, when it comes to a person who advocates the overthrow of the Soviet state. And how should the Soviet government act? Unfortunately, he died after five years of serving his sentence in the colony. And it is ridiculous to accuse Medvedchuk of bringing him to his death. It sounds absurd. For normal people this is obvious.
Let us talk about the Minsk protocols. Is alive or dead?
This is a really complex topic. Let us start with a strategically important question. After all, Minsk agreements are considered to be non-alternative in the whole world, except for Ukraine. Although the President reiterates that they are uncontested, but this idea is voiced for the external side rather than for the internal one because everything that is done by the authorities is done in one context - ignoring and not implementing the Minsk agreements.
The Americans believe that the agreements were the only way out in 2014-2015, it was necessary to stop active hostilities. And they played their part then, and they can play a role further so that everything will end with what is called the return of Ukraine to Donbas and Donbas to Ukraine. This is my formula; this is how I called it. I do not advise calling the Minsk talks dead or alive. This is wrong not only in a diplomatic context; it is also wrong because there are no other agreements.
The realities are such that the decisive factor in the Russian-Ukrainian processes is the decisions of the Russian president. You mentioned a direct dialogue, but what kind of direct dialogue are we talking about, if without a call from the Kremlin, the figures are incapable of taking independent steps?
So we need to arrange a call. I have contacted in December 2017, when there was a dead end with an exchange. I went to Putin and said, dear Vladimir Vladimirovich, please contact the heads of the republics to make an exchange of those who are prepared from both sides. He called them. So this is a confirmation of my rightness. He has contacted Pasechnik (“Luhansk People’s Republic” leader), Zakharchenko (“Donetsk People’s Republic” leader), talked to them, and they agreed. I am not a dreamer. I know that this is possible, not in theory, but in practice.
Is the Kremlin already eyeing those who announced their participation in the presidential election?
At the last meeting with Mr. Putin, we did not discuss this issue. If they were “eyeing,” this would be the subject of our conversation. Such conversations have not been conducted yet.
What are you doing to return Sentsov to Ukraine?
Negotiations on the release of citizens of Ukraine under investigation or convicted in the Russian Federation have not been stopped in recent years - it is a permanent subject of the negotiation process. As for Sentsov and the aggravation of the political situation, in one of my recent interviews I say that through pressure, rash statements, criticism of the Kremlin, Ukrainian politicians are doing everything not to get Sentsov back.
This is just my opinion. I can say that I do not know who is currently negotiating on Sentsov’s issue, several months ago, I was conducting these negotiations. And different options were discussed. Today I see that these negotiations are not being conducted.
You say that there are no decision-makers in the Minsk process. Does not it mean that Minsk format has died?
No. A great job is done in terms of the Minsk process, in this case, taking into account the fact that I work in the humanitarian subgroup for exchange. This means the reconciliation of the lists, verification, the search for persons, the establishment of documents. This is a big work.
How would you formulate Ukrainian national idea? Or maybe you have already formulated it.
This is a good question. It has been formulated. The theme of my doctoral thesis was "Ukrainian modern ideas and topical issues of state building." This was the title of my monograph and my thesis.
Read the original text at 112.ua.