Many statements have been made both by the West, and Russia concerning the current events in Ukraine. Whereas the former blame Ukrainian power for clashes in Kyiv, the latter see in these events an influence of Western countries. On January 23, ex-president of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev made a statement in this concern. He signed an appeal of Lev Ponomarev, executive director of the Movement for Human Rights, in which he asks the presidents of the US and Russia, Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin “to find an opportunity and take a resolute step towards helping Ukraine return to the path of peaceful development.” The Day asked Lilia SHEVTSOVA, a leading researcher at Moscow-based Carnegie Center, to comment on this initiative and tell what can make Putin help to stop the confrontation between the government and the opposition in Kyiv.
“The idea to appeal to these two leaders is a mistake. First, it would be strange, if the subject of appeal is in Russia. Above all, they need to find out what is the attitude of Ukrainian society to this idea, including the part of the society which is involved in the confrontation with the Yanukovych regime. Secondly, the leader of the country, which is directly involved in Ukrainian political process, Russia, is offered for the role of mediator. The fact of giving of a 15-billion loan to the Ukrainian side is proof of its involvement. Moreover, at a press conference RF Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, in fact, acknowledged the fact of Russia’s intrusion into Ukraine’s home affairs. In particular, he stated: ‘Russia is doing its best to stabilize the situation in Ukraine.’ And it is clear how the Kremlin understands the stabilization of situation in Ukraine. The Kremlin is playing on Yanukovych’s side. So, it turns out that we are offering to one of the participants of internal political confrontation in Ukraine to be a mediator. This is beyond common sense.”
Incumbent Ukrainian government has frequently stated that we should solve problems together with Russia, in particular, in negotiations on the Association Agreement or visa-waiver regime. This has been many times stated by the Ukrainian prime minister.
“Ukraine has been successfully taking zigzagging moves in the ‘gray’ area between Europe and Russia, owing to former Ukrainian leaders, above all, Kuchma. The thing is that Ukraine has changed. And the part that supports Maidan does not want to drift in the ‘gray’ area anymore. And the policy of two swings or two chairs has been rejected. Therefore the trilateral negotiations could only be a rotting process, which would delay the situation of Ukraine’s civilization uncertainty. Apparently, this idea has suffered a defeat.”
By the way, on January 28 the EU-Russia summit will take place. Do you think they will discuss the situation in Ukraine? Will the EU try to influence Russia’s position, which is part of the conflict in Ukraine on the side of the government?
“This summit was supposed to take place earlier, but because of the cooling in relations between Brussels and Moscow, it was postponed till this January. The questions of scientific-technical cooperation are on the agenda of the summit. This is another indication that there is nothing to discuss. And refusal from the traditional dinner with Putin is another indication that, first, the agenda is empty, and that, second, the EU by refusing from the dinner with Putin is trying to avoid irritating him and prevent further complications in their relations. Since the agenda has been formulated, somewhere behind the scenes the EU will agree with Putin on something. Moreover, I am confused about the format, even if it takes place, between the two subjects of Ukraine’s destiny. It smells of the very old irony, the past we are trying to escape.
“A different thing is about the EU’s becoming a diplomatic guarantor of negotiations and compromise which can be achieved by the Ukrainian Maidan and Ukrainian government.”
Who can really help Ukraine return to normal way of development, like Gorbachev’s appeal says?
“Of course, for peaceful solution of the civil confrontation in Ukraine the sides that are taking part in political processes in Ukraine should refuse from intrusion. But we know what kind of side Russia is. Will it refuse from supporting the Russian lobby and its Kremlin interests in Ukraine? I don’t see any chances for this to happen.”
What can make the Kremlin refuse from intruding into Ukrainian affairs? For example, the EU or the US?
“I don’t see any readiness either in the EU or the US to influence Russian policy. It is impossible to influence Russia. By all appearances, we have the most complicated political situation, in which the outcome will depend only on the Ukrainian participants of this conflict. But the process of finding a solution will anyway be made more complicated by the factor that Ukraine is the center of other interests. In this sense Ukraine, unlike other countries, where the social confrontation took place and where the government and the society were involved in the conflict, is in a unique, most complicated situation. Ukraine is in the shade of Russia, and Ukraine should finally break away from the post-Soviet influence and, actually, its post-Soviet model. At the same time it should break away from the situation, when Russian power is coming back to the neo-imperial syndrome. Therefore Ukrainian way-out is much more complicated and much more dramatic. At the same time, Ukraine needs as well to find a path of democratization and a path of breaking away from the sphere of influence of the imperial state.”
On its side, Russia blames the West for events in Ukraine.
“This is a typically Soviet-minded rhetoric. Russian politics use Soviet political vocabulary and instruments, regularly stating about the Western intrusion. This is present in rhetoric of Lavrov, Peskov, Putin’s press secretary, and in the statements of Russian parliament.
“Okay, let’s think about whether it is an intrusion when several Western leaders, including German Minister Guido Westerwelle and Catherine Ashton, walk around the Maidan, or several embassies in Kyiv issue a statement? An intrusion is using the money of Russian tax-payers for direct financial support of Ukrainian political regime. For me as a Russian citizen and a tax-payer the following situation is unthinkable: they did not say that part of taxes I paid to Russian budget would be used by Vladimir Putin to support the Yanukovych regime which acts against the Ukrainian society.”
What does the fact that the heads of leading states, Obama and Merkel, keep silent concerning current events in Ukraine mean? Are they giving their consent to Russia’s exclusive influence on the post-Soviet space?
“I haven’t heard any argument or proof of Western intrusion; no proof that the West has financed 100,000 Ukrainians in the Maidan. Vice versa, I see proof, from Merkel to Obama, that Western leaders do their best to say nothing about Ukraine. Recently, especially after the bloodshed in Kyiv, I haven’t heard any statement, either from Merkel or Obama, concerning the recent events in Ukraine. I have an impression that they have either left for Mars, or switched off completely from television and the Internet. I have an impression that they are doing practically everything to avoid irritating Putin, although they are losing a good name before their civil societies.
“Of course, many people in Ukraine and Russia come up with associations with Munich of 1938, September of 1939, and Czechoslovakia of 1968. All these association arise and they are well-grounded, because there is an impression that the Western leaders have silently agreed to revive of spheres of influence, but with one new feature – they have refused from their spheres of influence.”