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Big Interview with Big Politician: ex-President Victor Yuschenko

Author : Pavlo Kuzheev

Respondent : Viktor Yushchenko

Ukraine's former president of the post-Orange revolution five-year period Viktor Yushchenko on Minsk talks, Budapest Memorandum, language issues, and autocephaly Yushchenko: It is difficult to resolve Donbas conflict without American involvement
13:00, 25 September 2018

Viktor Yushchenko, in the framework of the "A Big Interview with a Big Politician" project on "112 Ukraine" TV channel, proposes his view on Ukraine's most topical challenges

Open source

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew told Patriarch Kirill about the approval of decision on Ukrainian autocephaly, and two exarchs haму already arrived in Ukraine. This is part of the process of granting autocephaly to Ukraine’s Orthodox Church. How will this change the country?

This will give us a second wing. By this moment, we had only one wing, we were talking about a difficult road for the development of our statehood, the newest road, and it, in fact, has never been easy. Let us remember the 20th years of the last century when we had three states and the project was over, unfortunately, or let us talk about the previous times. Building a state is not a simple goal, and most importantly, sometimes even a few generations are required for this. Especially in the state, when we did not have of statehood tradition for 300-400 years. But spiritual issue no less important. In fact, people are united not by physical instincts, but by spirituality. And when we talk about the way of a secular state, starting with the canons of several councils - the state appears where the church itself appears. If the Catholic church model is based on what Rome is, then there is the Pope, the governor of God on earth, and all the rest are branches of the Roman church, Orthodoxy is built on the contrary - there is a free state. There is an original, local, first-apostolic Orthodox church in a free state. There are 15 Orthodox churches, and the full life of the state begins just from when the state, secular wing, and church, spiritual wing, are combined. During the last 10 years, we have been actively putting obtaining the canonical method of autocephaly on the agenda (the Orthodox Local Ukrainian Church).

Related: Ex-president Yushchenko: The oligarch should not be in power

On the eve of Vilnius summit, you advised President Yanukovych to sign only the political component of the Association Agreement. And postpone economic one. Who was more afraid of the prospect of signing this deal - Yanukovych or Putin?

If you recall the then materials from the press (of September, October), the positive depiction of Viktor Yanukovych was paralleled with a European flag. Beginning in September, he clearly, vividly declared that that journey was a rapprochement with the EU. Until November 23, when the prime minister issued a decree to suspend all documents for rapprochement with the EU. That brought to the students of two universities. It was a meeting of three presidents and then the then president Yanukovych in his residence. I received an invitation to hold a meeting with President Yanukovych together with Kravchuk and Kuchma. There was a basement, where Leonid Kravchuk was whipped into shape (powder, hairstyle). I was amazed because I thought we came just to talk. I asked Kravchuk what was he tinkering for? And he replied: "We are going to have an interview," which made me very surprised. Just before it, President Yanukovych and said that he could not sign the Association Agreement, because Ukraine’s economic interests were not taken into consideration. And then I had to speak that the Association Agreement consists of different blocks. Moreover, speaking about the third and fourth stages of European membership, no one has signed the economic package. Everyone had to start with political and security package. Therefore, it is easy to abandon the economic package – and now we need to politically declare that our course is EU membership. When it happens is the second question, because the course of convergence with Moscow is being developed in parallel.

Speaking about the economic block – was it a refusal?

Rather an excuse. Leonid Kravchuk said to me: "He will appear here in a few minutes, so you tell him." After some time Viktor Yanukovych came in and I told him that we could remove these risks from the agenda, on the condition that we sign the political and security part… There was a pause of 10-15 seconds, and then he replied: "I have to think," and went away. I am deeply convinced that if President Yanukovych signed the Vilnius agreement, then the students of the Shevchenko University, whenever he arrived at Boryspil airport, would just throw his car up with the flowers. He would be a hero.

Related: Ex-president Yushchenko on why bandits are not in prisons

What should we do with the Budapest Memorandum? Many people advise to forget about this document and try to look for new forms for ensuring Ukraine's security.

If we take the entire diplomatic portfolio, we will find some documents that none of the European political nations has: the guarantees of a nuclear club. Why do not they work? Why do not we appeal to them? Someone says this memorandum is a soft document. I think that the President of Ukraine when signing this agreement in the 1994 year, evaluated this document as a solid one. We can imagine that the Ukrainian parliament, in connection with the situation associated with the occupation of Russia by Ukraine, Donbas, has appealed to the British government concerning fulfilling its commitments. What would they answer? Or imagine a similar appeal to the French government, China or the US. This is, in fact, the first document on nuclear disarmament - do you think that it does not matter? Then you will talk to the president of northern Korea, the leader of Iran. If this unprecedented political step made by Ukraine is worthless for the world, then this leads us to transform many very fundamental views. I understand that there are some nuances, which influence Ukrainian policy. There is "Minsk-2", followed by large European leaders. A document that you cannot easily unmount or split it into pieces. We should be careful with it. We should not lose our partners because of this document, knowing that several parties to this document are our partners, with whom we need to communicate tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. But, all the same, it says that in four years, none out of 10 points of this agreement is implemented, and it is not our fault. And this suggests that the document does not work. At least, it might mean that maybe we should think about its modernization?

You mean Minsk - 3? Or Minsk - 2.5?

I am quite allergic to the word "Minsk." This name would not work, it is a failure. We are in a kind of a tombstone. We sincerely wanted "Minsk" to be successful, but obviously, it has exhausted itself. It should be upgraded... Modernization should begin with the expansion of the table. I am convinced that it is difficult to resolve this conflict without American involvement.

Related: Maidan was successful only for those who stood at rostrum, - Yushchenko

On the other side of the Ukrainian border, the issue of national security is also topical. This is the Zakarpattia region. Hungarians, language, the law on education. And those tensions now appear there.

If we do not solve the integrity, unity, integration of the Ukrainian nation, if we do not solve it, in fact, the question from which we started - the national question, then the question of any community will seem like an earthquake. I warmly support the law on education, its future would not be easy… For example, if we take the issue of the Hungarian language, then I think that as a president, I have paid the highest number of visits to Hungary than any other president. Three of four times together with Victor Orban we have opened schools together (there were Ukrainian-Hungarian ones), we had a strong friendship. So now I have a simple answer - maybe we should try to adopt the same law on education, which exists, for example, in Hungary. It is possible to make exclusion, given the status of our complex and sensitive relations. We can take the Hungarian law as a model, it is considered European, democratic one.

How to prevent a demographic crisis in Ukraine?

If you tell a person that she does not have the right to go abroad because the life there is better, this means building a policy of feudal times. No one can stop you anymore. We live in a highly integrated world, in the world of advanced communications. A man of my age will already stay here and die here. But we are talking about the young generation, and I raise my hand so that the younger generation has a chance to find itself where it wants to. And this is not only the policy of my country. Lithuania has the same problem. There are daily charters to the UK. The same is applicable to the Poles, the Bulgarians. Take any Eastern European nation - to a greater or lesser extent, this process would take place there.

Related: Vienna police detained Yushchenko’s ex-adviser in Firtash case, — media

Is it possible to say that at the time of President Kuchma, the oligarchs were somehow afraid of the president, then at the time of your cadence they have just taken off their belts?

There are some differences. I was the president of a parliamentary state. If you want to say that the president of Ukraine should put people in prison, then I will say that I have the opposite opinion. I do not recall that Nicolas Sarkozy or Alexander Kwasniewski put someone behind the bars. Dozens of European presidents. Read the Constitution - is it the authority of the president? No. So why are you asking me why haven’t I put them behind the bars? How could I do that? Should I become authoritative? Then I had to move away from the ideas of the Maidan.

Related: Yushchenko: West is weak as never before

Given the consequences and the mood of Maidan, we just cannot say that Ukrainians are the nation of the lost chances?

No, I am a great optimist, you know. We have become internally more integrated into the main thing. The center of Ukraine has already moved eastward from the Dnipro. Already, the separation that was 10 years ago, along with the Dnipro, does not exist. I think that the heart of Ukraine has moved eastward. We are becoming a bigger family, we are better integrated, we better understand our task, challenges. Generally, I'm much more optimistic than three years ago, or ten years ago.

Read the original text at 112.ua.

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