One can already foresee that the fall political season in Ukraine will be not less hot than the current summer. A lot of work has accumulated for representatives of the highest levels of the government that will soon return from their Crimean residences to heat-stricken capital. First, the regional election campaign starts, second, a looming, difficult budget process, third, preparation to the heating season and a traditionally luxurious “bouquet” of problems pertaining to it. At the same time, the government embodied by president, prime minister, and representatives of the parliamentary coalition, demonstrates the confidence in their forces and states that it will cope with political, economic, and social problems. Moreover, the president’s surrounding, as well as the government itself, say that despite plenty of serious challenges the government won’t backtrack on the announced policy of reforms.
However, the winds of reform are still very far from Ukraine, and that is unlikely to change. At any rate, this is the prognosis for The Day made by the first president Leonid Kravchuk. He also spoke about the inevitable problems Viktor Yanukovych would face, the progressing degradation of the Verkhovna Rada, the powerful ideological pressure of Russia on the Ukrainian government, and the historical punishment for those who today consciously transgress the law.
Mr. Kravchuk, internal conflicts (both technical and personal) have recently become more frequent within the ill-assorted Party of Regions. In the past, the Party of Regions had the goal of being in power. This has been achieved. Do you think the trial of power for the “blue-white” team will result in unity or…
“Successfully dealing with trial of power is possible only when there is a real and organized power with one goal and a single program. Such a government always passes the trial of real deeds. And our government consists of both the Communists and people’s-democratic forces, as well as some individual deputies. In a word, everything was mixed up, and then called the government. A question arises: will the government cope with the tasks it set?
“Honestly, as of today, it coped more or less with only one task — organizing the government. However, one shouldn’t forget that this organizing was done through gross violations of the Constitution. People shut their eyes to it because they were sick and tired of the struggle inside the government, conflicts between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko. They were tired to the extent that they said: ‘Let the government be organized in a not quite legal way, but finally be organized.’ By the way, the West had the same position.
“At present, another question emerges: will a government created this way be able to cope with its tasks? And their tasks are ambitious. When the Party of Regions participated in the elections, they said: look, we have progressive bills, everything is available. Only one thing is left — coming to office, and everything will run smoothly. However, as a result, it turned out that they don’t have anything. Even those bills which they submitted for the consideration of the Verkhovna Rada (for example, the law on the taxation system) turned out, to say the least of it, to be unprofessional.
“I was in the Sports Palace when Yanukovych presented the achievements of the 100 days of his presidency and introduced his team. I’ll tell you right away: the program is wonderful. But does he have a team capable of realizing it? My answer is: he doesn’t. This is a hodge-podge of people who understand and act on their own. For example, once the decision about increasing gas prices has been made public, not only the opposition, but also the Communists, coalition members themselves, stated that they didn’t have an intention to support this decision.
“And, generally, I have the authority to claim: President Yanukovych still hasn’t felt the problems which will appear later. He will inevitably encounter spiritual, political, economic, and social problems because Ukrainian society is very diverse. It is impossible to overcome these problems only by means of the verdict of the Constitutional Court which can be bought, outbid, and threatened (and these guys are good at it). And Viktor Yanukovych will have to face it. As a person with some experience, I would wish him the best. It is fine to have a coalition, an opposition, and the struggle between them. But when problems which we must resolve together are considered, one should stop chasing one another and looking for enemies.
“What can Yanukovych do? Stop the struggle between the coalition and the opposition, between the East and the West, between confessions, etc. He must be above all this and say: ‘The 20 years of struggle have affected us so profoundly that no water will wash them away. Stop making excuses, let’s get down to business.’ The struggle that has been continuing all these years drained the country of its spirit. Yanukovych, in view of the power he has, the will, and solid organization he relies on, could do it. Unlike Yushchenko, by the way, who seemed to have failed in analyzing himself.
“Currently there is a planned and presented program, but it looks like no one is going to implement it. In any case, they don’t have the power for this.”
Does society today see this inability, or perhaps it doesn’t want to see it, being satisfied with the illusions?
“First, there should be a society, then a nation. And what did they do? Take a look: all 20 years the Party of Regions and other eastern politicians have been tending to their own society, their voters, and their support. In the West, the same — their own society, their voters, and their support. The same picture is in the Center. Thus, every regional elite created voters for itself by deceiving them (and this continues to be the case). Generally, they can’t help deceiving the voters since as soon as they cease doing that the voters will immediately take a position common for all Ukraine.”
What is the common position?
“It’s democracy, decent life, civilization, normal relations with Russia and other states. I stress, relations, not subordination. Everything would take its proper place. But no! They need language, church, culture, Lord knows what else. Some in the East, others in the West, a third group in the Center. As a result, three different “Ukraines” enter the Verkhovna Rada. “Ukraines” that are incapable of anything except conflict between them. It is the same nowadays: the new government put pure politics, and not economic reforms, first. In addition, the patriarch Kirill comes incite mutiny.”
By the way, many observers claimed the visit of the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate was political.
“Recently I’ve passed through Pochayiv. And you know, they say very interesting things take place there during the sermons in the Pochayiv Lavra. In short, agitation and propaganda is ongoing on a full scale.
“Patriarch Kirill is an educated person, he has high culture — ecclesiastical, spiritual, and scientific. But many of his sermons also contain agitation and propaganda.”
You’ve just said Ukraine must make friends with all states, particularly the Russian Federation. That it must build friendly relations without domination. How would you characterize the current stage of Ukrainian-Russian relations?
“Friendly relations are a good thing, but they come here themselves to state we must think about a single spiritual domain, about the sacred Kyivan Rus’. What does it mean? That in this spiritual domain the leading role will be taken by Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church. And I want this spiritual domain (and it exists) to consist of independent nations, independent peoples, and independent states. So that there is no the situation when we write five, meaning six.
“When we celebrated the 1020th anniversary of baptizing Kyivan Rus, all Kyiv was full of people, and what about now? On Volodymyr Hill two thousand people and three thousand policemen gathered. It means that people understand: one can’t come here every year and hold a synod with the conclusion: ‘Come and repent.’ Perhaps it’s grief, maybe even a spiritual tragedy, but the fact remains: we have three Orthodox churches. And if a patriarch of Moscow, a person with a high spiritual mission, came and said that he came to start a dialog in Ukraine, there wouldn’t be any questions. But it is not about dialog! It is about the ‘Raskolniks’ headed by Filaret, who must come and repent.
“The patriarch is coming? Let him come, it’s his right. He speaks about uniting, but there is a question: will it be a union of the equal?
“Let’s create an Orthodox Church in Ukraine, and in Russia (and it exists already) too, and make friends. But no, that’s not what they want.
“The conclusion is as follows. They come to create full-fledged Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine. I can’t accuse Volodymyr [Sabodan. – Author.] of anti-Ukrainian policy. In no way! I don’t speak about this, but if we want to put the spiritual domain of the state in the Orthodox order — let’s try that. The Moscow Patriarchate worries so much about Ukrainian Orthodox believers, so that they have a possibility to communicate with the global Orthodox church, with the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Federation? So let’s make these believers Orthodox. But they speak about who is pious and who’s not. It would be very good if Orthodox believers, regardless of where they live — in Lviv or the Crimea — could go to Moscow, and pray in Zagorye. Catholics go from one country to another, visit the most important center of the Catholic world, pray, and it’s normal. They pray and listen as equals. They don’t have the division like: these are believers, and these are not; these are baptized, and these are not. If the Moscow Patriarchate wants to help Ukraine create a church, let’s initiate a real equitable dialog.
“Today the position of the Moscow Patriarchate takes believers hostage, and there are millions of them. They don’t punish just Filaret. Such a church does exist! In history (particularly, in Orthodox history) there were many examples when churches emerged and then became principal. Why then can’t we give the Ukrainian believers an opportunity, regardless of what Orthodox church they attend, to pray to God and be equal among themselves?”
What about official relations between Kyiv and Moscow?
“Generally, the approaches of Putin and Medvedev are analogous. They come and say: yes, we need ties between Ukraine and Russia. I’m very supportive of transparent relations between Ukraine and Russia. Indeed, we shouldn’t fight, we must live in peace and tranquility. However, there is a different question: who will be father and who will be mother? People who know history well, and know the difficulties we’ve seen, how we fought, perished, endured the Holodomor and repression. All this is still alive, and we don’t want it to repeat, do we?
“I’ve been to Moscow recently, participated in a television show dedicated, among other things, to Belavezhskaya Pushcha. Fifty-two percent of the audience said that if we don’t unite in any form, we’re doomed. And I ask: ‘Who will rule the union?’ It’s clear who. Therefore, we need to understand that under these circumstances it’s also difficult for our government to work. I don’t want to think that Viktor Yanukovych or someone else will consciously bring us somewhere. They are helpless in the conditions of immense ideological pressure.”
By the way, about the helplessness and pressure. I can’t help recalling your recent speech in the Verkhovna Rada dedicated to the 20th anniversary of independence. From the very tribune of the parliament, you boldly stated that the Verkhovna Rada became a branch of the presidential administration, a yes-man of sorts. You saw the hall of sessions and must have noticed the reaction of the Rada to previous convocations and the current one. What are your conclusions?
“Parliamentarians of previous convocations applauded me. At this they continued applauding while I was heading to my seat. The current deputies pretended they didn’t hear what I meant. But even now I want to state with all responsibility, whether someone likes it or not: today the Verkhovna Rada is so humiliated, so robbed (constitutionally, legally, and spiritually) that it is very difficult to comprehend. I stress, very difficult.
“I believe the Verkhovna Rada should protect itself. The heads of the parliament and factions must finally say: ‘Stop making smoke!’ And now they don’t burn but make smoke. However, this smoke stinks so much that one can’t breathe. Nobody except for the Verkhovna Rada can oppose the present situation. And they shouldn’t fight, they shouldn’t humiliate the president or the government. Everything should be arranged in compliance with the law, and only one phrase should be said: ‘This is the Verkhovna Rada, and today it will work according to the Constitution.’ And what happens at present? If we fail through referendum, we’ll go through the Constitutional Court. But where is it written that the Constitutional Court can cancel reforms? In Ukraine it’s possible if it is told to do so. But let’s face it, when the Court said that Kuchma worked for two terms but only one, when the Court says that the Verkhovna Rada’s regulations in the process of elaboration are higher than the Constitution. At this, no one blushes or feels shamed, speaking to the people. In such cases I always say: there is one unbeaten philosophy in the history of the mankind: in the future children will never forgive their parents the humiliation they exposed them to. Never! And this fact is absolutely reasonable and determined. If parents don’t want to act according to conscience, honor, dignity, and tolerance, this will affect their children. Children will feel humiliated, people will poke them with their fingers —saying your father was in clover in the Verkhovna Rada.”
Given the situation, no one thinks about it today.
“I agree, but as they say, your actions will always catch with you.”