Andriy Voloshyn: – I think Ukraine was abandoned from the beginning, when Russia annexed Crimean and started war on the East of Ukraine. There is Budapest Memorandum which was signed by Russia, USA and UK who guaranteed security of Ukraine. Russia violated it and other countries did not much to guarantee security of Ukraine, our country received only minor humanitarian help. We understand that while Obama is president nothing will change, but anyway I’m constantly raising this issue, and many American politicians, not only Republicans but also Democrats say that Ukraine should receive bigger help.
If Western powers are afraid that providing military help will escalate the conflict with Russia, then Ukraine can get big economical help. We need to have Marshall plan for Ukraine. As I see the funds can go for creating new jobs, new businesses, new housing for army veterans and IDPs (the number of which is more than 1.5 million). Then by raising economy we will strengthen our army and other areas. Ukraine managed to restore its army very fast with the help of volunteers and people’s support. Unfortunately the resources of volunteers and patriotic people are also limited. So while we had so-called ceasefire – it is good time to focus on reforms and economy.
Ukrainian topics are much less frequently are raised in EU media for 2 main reasons. First reason is that we have now low-intensity conflict, was is going on but the territory and scale of it is limited so media attention is much smaller. Second reason is another focus of problems EU is facing now: migrant crisis, terrorism, different problems of state-members.
– I said that the negotiations for the Minsk agreements were rather PR for political leaders than a real help given to Ukraine? What do you think ?
A.V.: – I think we can say so. For example Lukashenko, President of Belarus seriously improved his image in the West because of providing the platform for Minsk agreements. Also for French and Germany leaders it is a way to show their countries as strong conflict-solving powers, strong diplomatic leaders. For Russia Minsk agreements is a tool to integrate so-called LNR and DNR (terrorist states) into Ukrainian political system which will be like a huge disease for Ukraine. Can you imagine terrorists becoming regional leaders, taking money from Ukraine’s budget and blocking any Ukrainian incentives which Russia dislikes (for example joining NATO).
We understand stat many EU countries want sanctions on Russia to be lifted and they see Minsk agreements as the only way to do it. But Ukrainians don’t see how it’s possible to make election in the areas controlled by terrorists, it’s not right to give amnesty to those who killed and tortured Ukrainian civilians. So Minsk agreements can be considered as temporary ceasefire (which is violated all the time by terrorists) but it has not political future…
At the same time Ukraine feels support of some EU countries, such as Baltic countries, especially Lithuania, Poland, Romania, recently cooperation with Turkey increased.
– What is the most serious problem facing Ukraine at the moment?
A.V.: – Apart from Russia (aggressive neighbor which is permanent threat for security), we still have many old corrupted officials and their affiliates which use different corruption schemes, block new people from coming to power, block reforms. Big problems are in judiciary and law enforcement areas. Corrupted officials, thieves, traitors were not punished, and often we see trials against patriots on some fabricated or stupid accusations.
– What strategy could conceive Kiev to recover its influence on Crimea? There is sufficient domestic policy levers (i.e. conditionings, restrains of energy and transport infrastructure linking Ukraine and Crimea) or external (the cooperation with the Euro-Atlantic community, particularly Turkey) that can to help fulfill this objective?
A.V.: – I would call this strategy “Soft Ukrainization”. Ukrainian geopolitical thinker of XX century Yurii Lypa wrote that Crimea – is a key to Black Sea, the key which is necessary to have to dominate the Black Sea. So the geopolitical long-term goal of Ukraine is to return Crimea. Right now it’s hard to imagine that Crimea will be returned without military action, but in long-term when Russia’s economy and military power will fall – then it would be possible. By occupation of Crimea, Russia violated international law and challenged all civilised world by this action. On the international level I’m sure no states except Russian satellites will recognize occupation of Crimea.
I’m supporter of idea of Baltic-Black Sea Union so the question of Crimea should be kept all the time on regional agenda. Russia threatens not only Ukraine, but also other neighbours, especially Baltic states, relationships with Turkey are spoiled, so that would be good for Ukraine to increase cooperations with countries from Baltic-Black Sea space. Strategy of “Soft Ukrainization” should include informational, political, economical and cultural aspects of activities for the increase of pro-Ukrainian sentiments in Crimea. Right now many Crimean citizens are not happy with the situation. Many people thought that moving from Ukraine will bring some benefits, but tourism flows fell, prices increased and for most of people who are not in military or state services, life didn’t changed to better.
The big goal is also to make really successful and prosperous Ukraine, so people from Crimea will see how many opportunities they lost. But being realist, even if majority of people from Crimea would be for joining Ukraine, Russia as it is now won’t allow it. So weakening and destruction of Russia (separation into several states) should happen before Crimea can be returned to Ukraine. The fall of Russia might look impossible right now, but were there many people who predicted fall of Soviet Union?
– The Ukrainian parliament just approved yesterday the resignation of the Prosecutor-General Viktor Shokin, an close ally of President Poroshenko but seen by the Ukraine’s Western backers as an obstacle to tackling corruption. How do you comment the resignation of Mr. Shokin ?
A.V.: – It was not a surprise. Many members of parliament fought for this, also American ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt openly criticized him. More interesting is who will be next Prosecutor, there are candidacies supported by public opinion, and there are old bureaucrats, like Sevruk (deputy of Shokin, who is acting as Prosecutor-General now) who anti-corruption activists accuse as the one who blocked the competition for employment in Prosecutor’s offices, so almost no new people came to work there.
– Local elections in secessionist territories of Ukraine – according to German media – could be ideal pretext, if will be confirmed fulfill of the OSCE standards, for total or even partial lifting of sanctions imposed on Russia. What do you think ? In first, do you think that Kiev will allow local election in Donbas (June 2016) – it means fruitful negotiations with the separatists from DPR ?
A.V.: – I think everyone in Ukraine understand that it’s not possible to held such elections. I always make comparison with ISIS, can you imagine elections by OSCE standards there? The same is with DNR, LNR, terrorist organisations which are ruled by Russia (also in German press in Bild there was good material about Russian influence and rule over these “republics”). May be only Opposition block, which consist mostly of people affiliated to previous president Yanukovych) is interested in elections as they can increase their voter-base and there were rumors that their leader Yurii Boyko and oligarch Rinat Akhmetov can become leaders of these now ruled by terrorists groups. I think Russia can change leadership of the terrorists, it placed and removed people from there many times. But even if this happens – it’s not possible to make elections, most of people who live there now are scared and brainwashed. And what about people who had to run from there because they were in danger for their pro-Ukrainian position? After territory is clean from terrorists, there should be some period before the elections. It’s very strange when people say otherwise, it’s even possible to check other history of similar wars and anyway elections which are held under a gun – can’t be fair elections. While terrorists (separatists) are there – it’s impossible to make elections.
Ukraine had local elections recently under a new in all Ukrainian territories, including parts of Donbas which is not occupied. The bill on special status was voted on 16 September 2014, and was a part of Minsk agreements. The vote itself was un-constitutional, because the screen was black and it was not a personal vote like always, there is no information about who voted for it and who didn’t. This law was not and won’t be in action, it consisted many negative things such as amnesty for terrorists, also the date of elections there was set on 7 December 2014. The idea of special status for the areas which are now controlled by terrorists is very unpopular in Ukraine. So if any new similar bill would be prepared it can cause huge disagreement in Ukraine.
Regarding OSCE – many Russians work there and many pro-Russian people. Many times Ukrainian soldiers reported cases when OSCE visited them – after that they were under fire. For many people it might look strange facts that representatives of reputable organization is cooperating with terrorists, but lots of cases are reported, recently was popular case when OSCE celebrated wedding of one of terrorists. So the image of this organization is not the strongest among Ukrainians.
– What do you think about Russia intentions regarding Transnistria and Moldova Republic ?
A.V.: – I think Russia will do its best to keep Transnistria is the state which it is now. When Russia attacked Ukraine there were different options. I tend to think they considered to capture all Eastern Ukraine and Southern Ukraine, including Odessa oblast. In case they would succeed they could go further and annex Transnistria or make a fake referendum there like in Crimea. This scenario failed because Russia faced strong response from Ukrainian army, volunteer battalions and ordinary people. In case of this scenario Transnistria could be used as one of the sides from where Russian military would attack. Right now it doesn’t look so important for Russia in military terms, but in case Transnistria will start to decide its vector for future – Russia may also intervene. Pro-Russian forces are strong in Moldova and they along with pro-Russian forces can be used as tool for destabilization for the western integration of Moldova.
– Could be Crimea the pivot of some state constructed by Russia around/in Ukraine and Moldova region through consolidating potentially of the separatist regions (like Transnistria, Novorossiya)?
A.V.: – In his propagandist film about annexation of Crimea Putin said he made a fortress from Crimea. May be Russians considered scenario of annexation of part of Southern and Eastern Ukraine, then they could have land connection to Crimea. But this scenario failed firstly thanks to Ukrainian volunteer battalions and army and secondly because they ideas of “Russian world” and “Novorossiya” was not popular in these regions. Novorossiya is a failed project, and even many Russian expert acknowledge it, some of Ukrainian regions have pro-Russian people, but their influence is not significant, and is decreasing all the time. Also from the Russian point of view Crimea is Russia now, so they would not allow it now to become independent or become some part of other state. From the political point of view Crimea is on the periphery of Russia, economically it’s a burden for Russian budget, but from the military point of view (mostly navy) it can be used against Ukraine or against other state.
Novorossiya is not a region, it was a plan, failed plan, now we have annexed Crimea and parts of Donbass (DNR, LNR) which are not more than territories controlled by terrorists.
– And last but not least, what about PM Yatsenyuk resignation ?
A.V.: – It was expected after prosecutor Shokin resigns. Parliament met for session and voted Thursday to seat a close ally of the president, Volodymyr Groisman (ex-head of Parliament) as new PM. So now the presidential vertical of power would be strengthened as Groisman is conidered as his man, his career was promoted by Poroshenko. Its investment was received with reticence. We’ll see if he can do the necessary reforms.
Andriy Voloshyn is Ukrainian political scientist, writer and geopolitical expert. He is the author of ”Maidan and War in Ukraine. Geopolitical Thoughts” book. Also Andriy Voloshyn is co-founder of NGO “International Initiative to Support Ukraine”, adviser to Member of Ukrainian parliament, founder of geopolitical Center GRUNT.