The list of those who plan to take part in the upcoming pre-sidential and parliamentary elections is expanding. Former Security Service (SBU) chairman Valentyn NALYVAICHENKO, who has been at the head of the civic political movement Justice in the past few years, told The Day he is running for the presidency. What does the ex-chief of the special service think of the latest events in Ukraine, particularly the Arkady Babchenko story, Putin’s statements, the likelihood of the aggressor’s activation, the necessity of establishing the Anticorruption Court, and the election campaign? The guest came to Den/The Day’s editorial office after meeting Hugues Mingarelli, Head of the EU Delegation to Ukraine. This is what we began our conversation with.
“THERE IS NO COMPREHENSIVE PLAN TO REBUILD THE RUINED INFRASTRUCTURE”
“Mr. Mingarelli and I discussed two important items on our agenda. One is the Ukraine-EU summit which will find out at last what the Ukrainian leadership has done in the past four years, receiving considerable Western assistance. The other is a very embarrassing situation caused by the government’s resistance to a free unification of communes. The worst situation of this kind is in Transcarpathia, where three territorial communes have been barred from merging for 18 months.”
“The root cause is in the payment of taxes by entrepreneurs who work on the territory of these communes. After they unify, most of the money will remain behind locally – this is why the central government opposes this. The neighboring Slovakia has built an up-to-date hospital near the border, but the Ukrainian side cannot do the same because all the money goes to Kyiv. Communes what to fund a lot of social projects in order to develop their territory, but they are barred from doing so. The EU ambassador and I examined the map of Ukraine and saw that the largest blank spot, i.e., the place with the smallest number of united territorial communes, is precisely in Transcarpathia, a region that requires special attention in order to ward off any manifestations of separatism and social unrest.
“We also discussed the necessity to go on fighting corruption, above all, to expose offshore deals, no matter when – during Yanukovych’s or Poroshenko’s presidency – they were made. Another direction is security cooperation and the EU’s support for Ukraine’s defense industry. There are no orders from the Ukrainian leadership.”
It was reported recently that the governments of Ukraine and France had signed a contract on supplying 55 cutting-edge Airbus helicopters to boost the police fleet.
“I support reequipping the Ukrainian police with up-to-date machines. It is very important for the Special Response Forces which need helicopters. For when Russia committed aggression, neither the SBU nor the police had at least a single helicopter. And those belonging to the Armed Forces of Ukraine are in poor repair. We’ve been wasting time for four years, instead of restoring the production of Ukrainian helicopters – for example, at the factory in Konotop, Sumy oblast. We should have brought back the French investor or set up a repair facility based on European technologies long ago. We are quite capable of doing so.
“Speaking of cooperation with the EU, we have no joint programs of helping forced migrants: it is about employment, the right to elect, daycare facilities, schools, and social security. As of today, it is only the Red Cross and target-oriented aid from some countries, such as Japan, Switzerland, and Lithuania. There is no comprehensive plan to rebuild the ruined infrastructure, although it should have been drawn up and submitted to the Ukraine-EU summit. I think the European Commission would have backed this plan.”
“BEFORE SPEAKING OF PEACEKEEPERS, WE SHOULD HAVE PERSUADED THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL TO MONITOR THE SITUATION”
Did you watch Putin’s latest interview for the Austrian ORF TV channel?
What do you think?
“Neither Putin himself nor his regime has changed. But we must think, above all, of our national interests: integration into the EU and NATO must remain on the agenda every day. We should take a serious attitude to this, for Russia has not toned down its criticisms and threats. Putin’s interview is another proof of this. And the absence of an action plan on our part makes us vulnerable.”
What could be expected from the aggressor, for Russia has been more activate lately in the Donbas and the Sea of Azov?
“Russia will continue the aggressive war against Ukraine. It is very good that we have at last, four years later, entrusted the professional military to supervise the operation in the east. But what the United Forces lack in this operation is support from the defense complex which must work day and night on supplying the military with all the necessary equipment: safety modules, artillery radars, armored vehicles… The main tactical goal is to avoid losses of our servicemen. The next goal is to restore the country’s defense capability and liberate the occupied territories.”
President Petro Poroshenko spoke again the other day about a UN peacekeeping mission in the Donbas. To what extent is it realistic?
“Kurt Volker, US Special Representative for Ukraine, is showing activity in this field, whereas the Ukrainian side is falling short of its target. First of all, it is necessary to set things right on the line of disengagement, particularly to do away with corruption. Next: before speaking of peacekeepers, we should have persuaded the UN Security Council to monitor the situation long ago in order to identify the nature of this operation on the spot. The mission’s mandate should comprise clear-cut conditions – regaining peace and security on the Ukrainian-Russian border. There should be fewer general words and publicity and more concrete things. The mandate itself should be on behalf of Ukraine, for it is our territory. Moreover, we are a UN founding member.”
“I ADVISE ALL OF OUR FANS NOT TO TRAVEL TO RUSSIA FOR THE FIFA WORLD CUP”
What attitude do you think Ukrainians should take to the FIFA World Cup in Russia?
“I think it would be quite right for our soccer fans and state to boycott this championship. Although neither the government nor the Soccer Federation of Ukraine worked on the international level, ordinary people and athletes took a principled stand. I advise all of our fans not to travel to Russia. Firstly, for security reasons because you are unprotected there – there is neither a consul nor the consular law. The cases of Sentsov, Kolchenko, Klykh, Karpiuk, and other political prisoners confirm this. Secondly, we should show that we are ready to free our people instead of traveling to watch soccer and drink beer.”
Now about the Anticorruption Court. There are two viewpoints of lawyers and experts: some say this court is needed to cleanse the system, others argue that it is not needed and it would be better to reform the existing courts so they could try corruptionists. What do you think?
“I am convinced that Ukraine needs an independent anticorruption court, as well as two legislatively-enshrined crucial things: no statute of limitations for crimes of corruption and a mechanism for recovering and returning the stolen money to Ukraine. The No. 1 thing is to begin punishing and confiscating what officials, including the president, stole regardless of when they were in power. For this purpose, there should be an anticorruption court, with judges elected by an independent commission composed of both Ukrainians and foreigners.”
“THE LEADERSHIP WAS TO HAVE FORMED THE SBI AND DELEGATED INVESTIGATIVE FUNCTIONS TO IT AS LONG AS TWO YEARS AGO”
The Law on the State Bureau of Investigations (SBI) was passed several years ago, but this institution is still to be established. Is it going to be the same with the Anticorruption Court, even if the relevant law is passed?
“It is inactivity of the leadership. It was to have formed the SBI and delegated investigative functions to it as long as two years ago. But the president and the prosecutor general are blocking this reform and, hence, must be held responsible. There is so much talk now about Arkady Babchenko, but let us recall real high-profile murders in the past few years. There were four of them – two by means of a car bomb and two by means of firearms. These are acts of political terrorism. Where are the results of investigation? There are none. The point is we don’t have an independent facility. The leadership could have recruited independent specialists, furnished information from other law-enforcement bodies, supplied them with special technical and other equipment, and placed them in touch with international investigative bodies long ago. But this is not being done.”
“ONLY A LEGAL TRIAL CAN SAVE THE BABCHENKO CASE NOW”
What do you think of the Security Service’s special operation to allegedly ward off the murder of Arkady Babchenko?
“When I headed the SBU, I did not allow this kind of operations. The main thing in the work of the SBU and other law-enforcement bodies is legality. So, as far as the Babchenko case is concerned, I urge the authorities to restore legality in law-enforcement bodies. The principle of responsibility towards the Ukrainian people, enshrined in the law, in no way means intimidating people, particularly by the so-called ‘list of 47.’ The appearance of the latter is nothing but an attempt to present journalists as targets and the state as a shooting gallery. They had better investigate the assassinations of Pavlo Sheremet, Amina Okuyeva, and Military Intelligence Colonel Maksym Shapoval. Now only a legal trial can save the Babchenko case, where, on condition of having ample evidence, the Ukrainian counterintelligence should be the main party of prosecution. If the process has begun, it should go on. This is the way I acted when Russia downed the Malaysian MH17 Boeing. It took us 24 hours to name the organizers and perpetrators of the crime.”
Recently, when the international investigation of this tragedy in fact put the blame on Moscow, French President Emmanuel Macron was visiting Moscow. Many criticized his weak position and behavior in front of Putin. Shortly before this, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had come to see Russia’s president in Sochi. What does this line of European leaders mean?
“Indeed, we can conclude that the latest political decisions of the president of France, the chancellor of Germany, the premier of Bulgaria, and the president of Turkey do not take into account Ukraine’s interests at all. I mean Nord Stream 2 and South Stream, as well as active contacts of European leaders with the Russian leadership in general. This in turn means that both the president of Ukraine and our Ministry of Foreign Affairs failed to convince the Europeans. We must work more actively, otherwise we will lose. For example, we should take advantage of the nearest Ukraine-EU summit and apply in writing for European Union membership.”
“WE MUST TELL THE PEOPLE FRANKLY THAT ALL ELEMENTS OF THE DEMOCRATIC OPPOSITION ARE MOVING SEPARATELY”
Ukrainians will be electing the president in less than a year’s time and parliament another six months later. Do you plan to take part?
“The Justice movement’s team and I have resolved to contest elections separately. Our political proposal in the presidential and parliamentary elections is as follows: renewing the country, liberating the occupied territories, fighting corruption. Who are we running with? With those who have shown their position. With professionals, volunteers, medics, war veterans, and patriots, who have never betrayed Ukraine and will never do so while in power. I’ve made a personal decision to run for the presidency and, with the Justice team, for a parliamentary seat. I remain in political partnership with Yulia Tymoshenko, especially in the matters of corruption control.”
Viktor Chumak, who is also running for the presidency, told Den recently that all of democratic oppositionists can, if they wish, actively campaign for themselves. Then it will be necessary to gauge the ratings and support the leader who will run further as a single candidate. Do you accept this approach?
“We must tell the people frankly that all elements of the democratic opposition are moving separately now. It is true. Let the people finally decide because the main indicator for me is their trust rather than artificial ratings and the money of oligarchs. One should unite around a joint platform. Incidentally, I can say after my latest trip to Washington that our US partners have resolved to monitor fairness at the Ukrainian elections. Nobody will allow rigging the elections.”
“WE MUST AT LAST BREAK THE OLIGARCHIC LINE OF UKRAINIAN POLITICS”
As long as there is neither the new Central Election Commission nor the new electoral law, the instruments of rigging still remain.
“Unfortunately, the leadership is not exactly willing to form a new Central Election Commission, let alone reform it from a bureaucratic Soviet body into a European technical entity that will obey the law rather than instructions ‘from above.’ Besides, there is no political will to set the clear-cut rules of fair play, i.e., a new electoral law. Moreover, those who defected from the Petro Poroshenko Bloc are already in the constituencies, ‘sowing them with money.’”
You say it is possible to unite around a joint platform. Who can be your allies?
“I am against an alliance with corrupt politicians, party projects, and those who had a lot of chances when they were in power but betrayed the people.”
You were in power, too.
“Yes, but I am ready to answer for each of my actions – when I was the SBU chief and an MP.
“I welcome the alliance of honest civic organizations that represent veterans, corruption fighters, journalists, volunteers, et al. They are the heart of Ukraine. Politicians must not impose an agenda on people – the case should be the other way round. We must at last break the oligarchic line of Ukrainian politics.”