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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Yurii SHUKHEVYCH: “People want to change the system”

The Hero of Ukraine on the prospects of “old faces” in politics
26 February, 2014 - 18:05

Events in Ukraine have been changing with kaleidoscopic rapidity in the past few days. Parliament resembles a weathervane that is spinning at a crazy speed in the wind of revolutionary turmoil. This interview with Yurii SHUKHEVYCH is on the current situation and the influence of Maidan activists on the course of events, and power of the people.

Mr. Shukhevych, what do you think of the situation in Ukraine? Is it perhaps unfolding too fast?

“Too fast? This may be even good. Why? Because we were all treading water for three months. So we are making up for lost time, so to speak, and beginning to do what should have been done long ago. The question is whether we are doing this right. I, and not only I, harbor serious doubts about these things, including the Maidan. We can see the same politicians who have spoiled everything in the past 23 years, the same faces. These are the people who were brought up in the Soviet era and, accordingly, they have a Soviet mentality – they are homo sovieticus. They are building the state on the basis of that experience.

“Conversely, those who are on the Maidan are the young people who were born after the collapse of the Soviet Union. They have a different mindset. What is playing a role here is, of course, education and the fact that many of them have visited foreign countries and seen the world. Besides, do not forget that information technologies are developing very fast. It is not a problem to come to know what is going on in any nook of the world. This information awareness makes the younger generation different. And it is rejecting the terrible (the right epithet!) life we have lived for 23 years.

“On the one hand, the Maidan is aware that we can no longer live a life like this and, on the other, it does not trust the old politicians who think about nothing but keeping their chairs, offices, and power intact. No more than this!”

Is it really possible that – after so many sacrifices and great efforts – the present-day MPs will not heed the Maidan’s opinion?

“I would say ‘will not heed as yet.’ But the Maidan has said, not without reason: ‘We will not go away!’ The people will be standing, and it is not ruled out that tomorrow they will move from Independence Square closer to the Verkhovna Rada and demand that they be heard. They will demand this! For, what is the government? It is the ruling party and the opposition. They used to be the government and failed to heed the people, which eventually resulted in those tragic events.

“Should they also fail to heed the people now, I do not think there will be any tragic events of this kind, but these people may come to the Verkhovna Rada and quote the words Oliver Cromwell pronounced in the British Parliament: ‘Depart, I say; and let us have done with you!’ They may just disband the Verkhovna Rada! I think if there were elections now, on the crest of a revolutionary wave, we would have an entirely different Verkhovna Rada. In any case, we would not see the old faces we are accustomed to see on TV screens – there would be altogether new people.

“We had already made a similar mistake. When we proclaimed independence, we should have dissolved that Verkhovna Rada, held new elections, and begun to live a new life. And that wave would have brought new people, there would have been an altogether different majority, not 239, and we would have been developing differently. It may have been the road of the Baltic countries, even though it was not so easy for them, either, in the first years. But they still managed to overcome Sovietism.”

If the Verkhovna Rada makes appointments which the Maidan does not accept, what then?

“The Verkhovna Rada is composed of people’s deputies. After all, there is Article 5 of the Constitution, which says: ‘The people shall be the bearer of sovereignty and the only source of power in Ukraine. The people shall exercise power directly and via central and local bodies of public administration.’ The grassroots have the right to be dissatisfied with certain Verkhovna Rada members. In fact, the grassroots are already dissatisfied that Turchynov has become, albeit temporarily, the parliament speaker. I would personally never wish to see him in this office.”

And who would you like to see?

“I am not prepared to answer spontaneously, but, in any case, not Turchynov. He is Yulia Tymoshenko’s creature. After all, he held important offices after the Orange Revolution, but I can’t say anything good of him. Yatseniuk and a number of other persons were also in that government. What did they do in all those years? Tymoshenko once said at the beginning of her trial: ‘I demand a jury trial!’ The demand seems to be right and constitutional. But Tymoshenko, too, being in power for five years, didn’t lift a finger to establish this kind of court. My question is: did she have a moral right to demand a jury trial? This is only one of so many examples. So, do they have a mortal right to demand one thing or another? No, they don’t because they did nothing for this in their time. The Maidan is demanding the right judges, and we know what kind of judges there were under and before Yanukovych. This kind of judges came when Kravchuk and Kuchma were in power. The MPs are still unaware that the people want to rule and change the system, not the person in power.”

In conclusion, could you forecast the further course of events?

“The Maidan will not break up! After all, the Maidan has already announced this. And if the Maidan does not break up, it will continue to demand not only the replacement of certain functionaries, but also the introduction of a governance method and reforms that will really bring the people to power and give them an instrument and levers of influence which will enable them to have an impact on and rule the state. I mean direct power of the people now in force in Switzerland and the United States, where people can – for example, by way of referendums – approve and revoke laws, confirm in office or dismiss officials. In other words, they can exert direct influence on events in the state. I favor this!”

By Tetiana KOZYRIEVA, The Day, Lviv