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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

Irina KHAKAMADA: “The opposition also bears responsibility for bringing Russia back into the past”

Public figure and former politician told The Day about the sentiments in Russian society and Putin’s motives
13 May, 2014 - 11:16

Irina Khakamada shocked and disappointed Ukrainian society with her recent “question to Putin.” At the beginning of Euromaidan, speaking on air on Russia One this public activist, who finished her political career back in 2008, but is still regarded as a renowned expert, supported the revolution in Ukraine as people’s right for self-determination and noted she respected the sovereignty of Ukraine and its language. However, recently, while asking Putin a question on the same channel, Khakamada called him a winner who carried out a special operation without a single fired shot, and said that Crimea has always needed Russian identification. This angered Ukrainians. But has Khakamada really changed her position and what is the point of her “if you cannot win, you must be able to negotiate”? In her interview with The Day Khakamada explained her views and the issues which she considers to be the most important at the moment.


Khakamada agrees with the Russian political analyst Lilia Shevtsova, who said that “From now on, Russia finds itself in an international isolation, the consequences of which (for the society as well as the elites) are yet to experience,” and that “now Putin’s Russia can only exist as a military state, which inexorably moves towards totalitarianism.” In Khakamada’s opinion, the political regime will only incline even more towards the harsh authoritarianism. However, she shares Khodorkovsky’s opinion, who says that even the strongest sanctions of the West towards Russia will not influence Russia’s economy. However, even now Russian and American experts who analyze the economic situation say that during the past three months the outflow of capital from Russia has been bigger than during the whole 2013. And Russia’s foreign exchange reserves can decrease by 200 billion by the end of the year.

How can the process of Russia’s isolation be stopped? The public activist thinks that trilateral negotiations between the US, Ukraine, and Russia are needed in the first place. “Perhaps, Europe too, but it follows the United States. All this madness around Ukraine must be stopped,” Khakamada emphasizes. “Ukraine needs to be given a chance for self-determination at the election. And only negotiations can help prevent Russia’s further isolation and finally leave Ukraine alone, it is an independent state, let it figure out its problems on its own.”

However, Khakamada contradicts herself while clarifying the topic of the negotiations. “Americans, Russians, and Ukrainians must agree on joining NATO, the representation of the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine in governmental institutions, and on the possible degree of regionalization. Meanwhile, Russia is obliged not to do anything in Sevastopol, not to threaten Ukraine’s sovereignty, and America is obliged not to move troops closer to NATO borders. These must be their internal professional negotiations.” Regionalization? Not joining NATO? We can figure it out by ourselves, can’t we?


As Yulia Latynina wrote, “Putin has at last found a new national idea for Russia. It is its Palestinization. Turning it into a country which is surrounded by enemies on all sides.” What is Putin guided by? Is this an imitation of the Kremlin’s imperial policy? Khakamada thinks everything is much more complicated.

“Vladimir Putin was different. In 2000, he was an absolutely pro-Western leader, who was going to carry out closer cooperation with the European Union, up to NATO,” Khakamada thinks. “But the West was very indifferent about it, and then an escalation of NATO expansion started there, up to the inclusion of the Baltic States. This is the first offense. Besides, endless loitering over shifting of missile defense supposedly for fighting Iran, but then near Russia’s borders.

“The second problem in Russia is recession. Economic problems are aggravating, and the president does not really want people to start paying attention to them. The third problem is the fear of a revolution in Russia. Ukraine is a large and influential country, it borders Russia and the two nations have a similar mentality. If a revolution takes place in Ukraine, it is natural that Putin and all his entourage become afraid that the revolution might spread here as well,” believes Khakamada. “There was no such fear in case with Georgia, because Georgians are not as close to Russians, not as popular, and not as mixed. This fear was absent in Transnistria and the Baltic States, they were always considered to be pro-Western, they even were considered to be a different world during the Soviet time. But as I remember, this fear was present during the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. The whole government elite here was feverish.”

So, in Khakamada’s opinion, the reason for Putin’s actions today is resentment against the US and demonstration of his power (also with the help of Crimea), mobilization of the society, so it does not notice economic problems, and the fear of the outbreak of a revolution in Russia.


In 2008 Khakamada left politics and explained she was not satisfied by the situation in the opposition, which lacked integrity and a strategy. That is why she decided to become involved in bringing up free youth. But how is the opposition doing now? What has changed in the past six years?

Khakamada tells that there was a rise at the Bolotnaya Square, when different opposition representatives, leftists (i.e. young communists), nationalists (no matter how strange it sounds), the middle class, and the so called urban creative class, united. They did not like the way the election had been held. They were angered by the fact that Putin and Medvedev switch places and it is some sort of an endless game for two. There was consolidation back then.

“And then this consolidation expired, and the opposition is mixed again,” Khakamada says. “Besides, Udaltsov is under house arrest, Navalny is basically under house arrest too. Liberal democrats, Yabloko, remains of the Union of Right Forces, PARNAS, Nemtsov, Prokhorov – none of them agreed about anything with anyone. And Ryzhkov left PARNAS. So, the situation has not changed. That is why I left. I cannot work constructively without figuring out the relation, who is more liberal, who is more honest, who is less honest, but just change something, considering there was some degree of popularity among the creative class. So far, this was impossible to achieve.”


The sentiments regarding war in Russian society vary greatly. There were such actions as the March for Peace against war, which demonstrated a united position. But there were other cases, when common people supported war. Do Russians want a war? And if so, what is their motivation?

“I can frankly tell you that Russians do not want a war,” Khakamada assures The Day. “That is why an anti-war rally I participated in gathered quite a lot of people, around 50,000. All other aggressive rallies, if you mean those with people wearing read and headed by Kurginian, it is the execution of an ideological order of the state. No attention needs to be paid to it, since it has nothing to do with Russians.”


Khakamada sees no initial conditions for a revolution in Russia: “It is impossible. This is stated by all the experts. And the president should not worry that much. He can leave Ukraine alone after negotiating for it to not join NATO in the future and let it quietly move towards the European Union. He has nothing to be afraid of.” However, in Khakamada’s opinion, “everything will explode in Russia if Russian troops enter Ukraine and a brotherly war starts between two very similar nations. Then the horror can begin, and events will become absolutely unpredictable.”

Khakamada thinks the whole Russian nation bears responsibility for Russia’s regress into the past, including the opposition. “Every nation is worth its government. Ukrainians bear responsibility for yanukovyches and the like, and Russians for Putin and the like.”

Khakamada comments the situation mentioned above regarding the “question to Putin” in a following way: “I did not change my view. I wanted Crimea to obtain extensive autonomy and gain its rights. But the whole Crimea sent people like me to hell. And now we face the fact. That is why it was very important for me to bring my opinion to the president for him to stop. A conversation with the president is not a debate, it is not a demonstration of one’s views. He knows my views perfectly well. I was aiming at having him hear. And stop right there. That is all.”

Khakamada has been to Kyiv, Crimea, and eastern Ukraine many times. And perhaps she knows Russians are not discriminated there: “I have always felt perfectly fine in Ukraine.” But she continued to say that the situation was complicated enough and she warned: “I have been to Lviv, Vinnytsia, Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Kyiv. The situation with the sentiments is very diverse. If it was a small Estonia, it is one thing, but Ukraine is a large country. When Yanukovych escaped, it became clear that Euromaidan won, negotiations with Crimea, South and East should have been started immediately.” But negotiations with who? Criminal gangs and saboteurs? There is no declared war, but the undeclared one has been going on for a long time. Putin lacks zeal to say: “I am going to attack you.” Russia dealt a blow at the moment when the country was at its weakest, without an army, and a revolt at the Crimean parliament took place. It was shut down and surrounded by the “green men,” women and children became a live shield for them, so Alfa could not free the parliament. It is pointless to deny this, because there is evidence.


“If Ukraine claims it has responsible politicians, they should have taken care of negotiations with Crimea right after Maidan instead of prohibiting the Russian language,” Khakamada thinks. In her opinion, it was a terrible mistake. But for some reason, Russians forget that there were three official languages in Crimea. And the language draft law proposed by Iryna Farion was never passed and it had nothing to do with Crimea anyway.

However, “do not forget that Yanukovych is still in Russia and he is interested in winning Donetsk back,” Khakamada warns. “There are oligarchs and presidential candidates who play an obscure role. That is why the strength should be gathered to hold the election and stabilize the situation.” Khakamada says she does not know what is coming next, but “the situation is aggravating.”

Khakamada wishes Ukrainians not to live in a revolutionary mood, not to look for culprits, but to do their best to preserve Ukraine integral even without Crimea. “I wish you victory, peace, and freedom,” Khakamada says at the close of the interview.

By Olesia YAREMCHUK, The Day