Do you think the results of the recent local elections in Ukraine will change the political landscape, particularly, the prospects of power retention by Petro Poroshenko Bloc?
The results of the local elections will not lead to any serious changes in Ukraine. First and foremost, the local elections proved that no Ukrainian party has a monopoly on power. Second, the elections showed that not everyone is pleased with the level of reforms. Third, many voted just for the familiar names, not for new ones, because the elections were held in line with the new laws and not everyone is familiar with them. In addition, some people perceived the actual split of the former Party of Regions into several new parties as emergence of new forces. As for Petro Poroshenko Bloc, it has never had a full power in the country. Since 2014, there is a coalition in Ukraine. Hence, it is not so correct to speak of 'power retention.
At the same time, I should say that Ukraine understands the stands of Yerevan and Baku on the conflict in our country. Certainly, we would like Yerevan to openly condemn the annexation of Crimea as a violation of all basic standards of international law. However, we perfectly realize the external pressure, the conflicts in the Caucasus, and the close economic ties that are important to the country. Therefore, I think, Ukraine needs to work with Yerevan and Baku more actively so that they could have a full and clear picture of the ongoing developments and the prospects of strengthening relations with Ukraine.
According to the Ukrainian and Russian media reports, Polish President Andrzej Duda has called on the Poles “to be ready to fight for retrieving Polesie, Galicia and Volhynia.” Isn’t Kiev concerned over such statements given that Ukraine is striving to join the EU and that two more members of the EU – Hungary and Romania – can also make such claims?
I think you might have noticed that not a single serious Ukrainian media outlet has published such “news”. Unfortunately, the propaganda, information war, fakes and rumors have become an important weapon in this conflict. Over the past 2 years we have regularly come across photos from Bosnia made in 1995, which illustrate the Donbass developments of 2014, photos adjusted by means of Photoshop, as well as phrases torn from the context or misinterpreted speeches of the world leaders. This is part of shaping of public opinion. Long before the outbreak of the crisis, the Russian media outlets often disseminated information about alleged threat from Romania, Poland and Hungary to revise the Ukrainian borders. This information caused only sneers in those countries, because they are interested in territorial integrity and stability of Ukraine. Today such statements are just a failed attempt to convince the public that Ukraine will all the same undergo disintegration, that Western countries also want to get some pieces of Ukraine and that Russia’s annexation of Ukraine is not unique.
The participation of the Russian Aerospace Forces in liquidation of the ISIS terrorists in Syria has drawn the international community’s attention away from the Ukrainian problem to some extent. What consequences may it have for the conflict and the general situation in Ukraine?
Russia's operation in Syria and its policy towards Ukraine is to some extent part of the same mosaic. Russia has always striven to be at the negotiating table around the key issues and problems in the world. Actually, this showed its status - the one the USSR was used to. Until recently, it was the Iranian nuclear program. Russia participated in the negotiations around it amid Ukraine crisis. However, Iran's problem has been resolved and Russia - because of Ukraine - has found itself outside the formats where it can highlight its importance. Moscow interfered with the Syrian conflict for several reasons. The first one was to prove the big powers that they need Russia at the negotiating table despite its isolation and the sanctions over Ukraine. Perhaps, it pursued a goal to distract its actions in Ukraine. However, the Western countries are so far studying these two options simultaneously. No one is going to rescind the sanctions or reduce criticism against Moscow due to its involvement in the talks around Syria.
Speaker of the Russian Federation Council Valentina Matvienko has recently expressed confidence that Russia and Ukraine "are doomed" to the closest cooperation in the historical outlook. Do you also think so?
The phrases "are doomed" and "brotherly nations" recently uttered by Russian politicians resemble a "mantra" and "self-persuasion" like in the movie "The most charming and attractive". Such remarks in Ukraine cause sad smiles. One cannot come to one's neighbor, ruin his orchard, beat his relatives and then say - let's make friends. Over the past 300 years, Russia has failed to understand that Ukrainians are very patient but one should not outwear that patience. In the best case scenario the two states will normalize their relations to some extent, because it is impossible to change the geography. Many will keep speaking Russian and reading the classical Russian literature because it is a part of history and culture. But the understanding that we are different is getting stronger and stronger. These are basic things. For Ukraine freedom and dignity are above all, while Russia gives high priority to stability and strength and Russians are ready to sacrifice even their freedom.
Though U.S. President Obama has vetoed the draft defense budget of 2016, which envisages $300 million aid to Ukraine's army, Kiev hopes that the U.S. military and other aid to Ukraine will be continued through a so-called “continuing resolution”, which will put off the financial expenses of the budget 2015 till 2016. How would you assess the efficiency of the U.S. aid to the Ukrainian army in the light of the protracted conflict in the southeast of the country?
The defense budget is just part of the aid Ukraine receives from the United States and other partner-countries. This figure is rather the direct aid in terms of various types of weaponry. Simultaneously, the U.S. provides a significant aid to Ukraine for army reform, training of soldiers and officers, as well as supplies of medical and related equipment. It is not easy to assess the U.S. aid to Ukraine separately from the aid rendered by other countries, as it has a synergistic effect. Ukraine relies on its own resources, first of all.