Af­ter the Orange Revo­lu­tion

The Washington Post’s Lally Wey­mouth ques­tions the Ukra­nian pres­i­dent at the Davos sum­mit

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK - lally.wey­mouth@wash­

Is Ukraine’s pres­i­dent un­der­min­ing democ­racy? That has been a con­cern for hu­man rights ad­vo­cates and U.S. of­fi­cials since Vik­tor Yanukovych took of­fice nearly a year ago. “We don’t want Ukraine to be­come Rus­sia,” said a se­nior U.S. diplo­mat.

The pres­i­dent’s chief op­po­nent, for­mer prime min­is­ter Yu­lia Ty­moshenko, is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and there are ques­tions about whether cor­rup­tion or re­venge lurks be­hind her case. Fol­low­ing are ex­cerpts of se­nior as­so­ci­ate edi­tor Lally Wey­mouth’s in­ter­view with Yanukovych in Davos, Switzer­land, this past week. An am­bi­tion of the pre­vi­ous regime was to join the Euro­pean Union. Is that still your am­bi­tion? How do you think it is go­ing? Some­thing you need to know is that the Party of Re­gions, which is the lead­ing party of the Ukraine to­day, which I still chair, in its very first po­lit­i­cal state­ment adopted in 1997, said that the pri­or­ity of the party is in­te­gra­tion of Ukraine with the Euro­pean Union. The other im­por­tant thing — for the first time, in May of last year, the par­lia­ment of Ukraine adopted a law which clearly stated that the goal of Ukraine is to join the Euro­pean Union. The law was the pres­i­dent’s ini­tia­tive. Some say that your govern­ment is mov­ing this coun­try closer to Rus­sia than to the E.U., and they cite the deal you made last April, when you ex­tended the lease on the port in Sev­astopol in ex­change for get­ting lower gas prices from Rus­sia. In ret­ro­spect, do you feel this was a good deal? Ukraine and Rus­sia have had tra­di­tional strate­gic re­la­tions. There was just one pe­riod in the his­tory of our coun­tries — dur­ing my pre­de­ces­sor’s rule — when those good re­la­tions de­te­ri­o­rated. Trade be­tween our coun­tries fell from 40 bil­lion U.S. dol­lars to 13 bil­lion dol­lars in 2009. The con­fronta­tion be­tween Ukraine and Rus­sia

led — at least two times — to the in­ef­fi­cient de­liv­ery of en­ergy through Ukraine to the Euro­pean Union. At least twice Ukraine vi­o­lated its obli­ga­tions to the Euro­pean Union when gas de­liv­er­ies from Rus­sia which cross Ukraine were cut down sig­nif­i­cantly, and Europe suf­fered. I thought Rus­sia cut the gas off? It was the con­se­quence of the fact that re­la­tions be­tween Rus­sia and Ukraine had de­te­ri­o­rated. We are speak­ing about the re­sults, rather than the fact. Ukraine’s pol­icy in 2010 was to im­prove re­la­tions with Rus­sia. And Europe is happy to­day be­cause it doesn’t feel [it has] any prob­lems with the nat­u­ral gas. Those de­vel­op­ments have led to more sta­bil­ity and an im­proved se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in the Euro­pean con­ti­nent. You won an elec­tion that was re­garded as one of the most free and fair. Since that time, there is con­cern in the West that there has been back­slid­ing on democ­racy in your coun­try. Ex­perts and of­fi­cials talk about whether the lo­cal elec­tions held in Oc­to­ber were free and fair. How do you see this sit­u­a­tion? Do you plan to do some­thing about it? I have pub­licly rec­og­nized that the Ukrainian elec­tion law has some prob­lems. I also tried to im­prove the elec­tion law on the eve of the elec­tions as much as I could . . . at the request of the op­po­si­tion. Af­ter the elec­tions, I launched a spe­cial work­ing group with in­ter­na­tional ex­perts. To­day this work­ing group is try­ing hard to de­velop a new elec­tion law in Ukraine. Your crit­ics also speak of se­lec­tive prose­cu­tions, and they claim that the cur­rent in­ves­ti­ga­tions [against politi­cians] are po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated. Why is your govern­ment only in­ves­ti­gat­ing the op­po­si­tion? I would strongly dis­agree with that sug­ges­tion. It is just not true. The U.S. govern­ment says it is true. In re­al­ity, one per­haps should pay less at­ten­tion to what is said by whom. One has to use the facts. I can give you some of these facts. The coun­try has started a broad cam­paign against cor­rup­tion and vi­o­la­tion of the law. It is not a se­lec­tive ap­proach based on po­lit­i­cal rea­sons. This cam­paign af­fects rep­re­sen­ta­tives [re­gard­less of ] po­lit­i­cal party. Has any­one in your party been in­ves­ti­gated? Yes, by all means. But the fa­mous names are for­mer prime min­is­ter Yu­lia Ty­moshenko and the for­mer min­is­ter of the econ­omy, Bo­hdan Danylyshyn, who fled to the Czech Re­pub­lic and was given asy­lum un­der NATO rules. Let me an­swer that. As ex­am­ples, a mem­ber of my party, the for­mer chair­man of the par­lia­ment of the Au­ton­o­mous Re­pub­lic of Crimea — and his po­si­tion to­day is an ad­viser to me — he has been de­tained on charges of cor­rup­tion. His last name is Hryt­senko. Get­ting back to the for­mer min­is­ter of the econ­omy — Mr. Danylyshyn — he had never been in­volved in pol­i­tics. He was a min­is­ter in the pre­vi­ous govern­ment. He is ac­cused of com­mit­ting some acts of cor­rup­tion against Ukrainian law. I be­lieve the Czech de­ci­sion to grant him po­lit­i­cal asy­lum was not based on any spe­cific facts that they re­ceived from Ukraine’s law en­force­ment agen­cies. What Mr. Danylyshyn should be do­ing is try­ing to use his own le­gal ex­perts to prove that he is in­no­cent in­stead of hid­ing and try­ing to avoid re­spon­si­bil­ity. But the U.S. govern­ment said that, with few ex­cep­tions, the only se­nior of­fi­cials be­ing tar­geted have con­nec­tions with the pre­vi­ous govern­ment. Do you plan to put Yu­lia Ty­moshenko on trial? It is a con­tro­ver­sial is­sue. With re­gards to the opin­ion of the U.S. govern­ment, it is an is­sue to be dis­cussed. We be­lieve that po­si­tion is not re­ally based on facts. I am sure that if ev­ery­body just tried to use the facts and the in­for­ma­tion that has al­ready been pro­vided by the pros­e­cu­tor gen­eral’s of­fice — the in­for­ma­tion shows that we are in the midst of a ma­jor fight against cor­rup­tion. Those peo­ple that you have re­ferred to have re­ally vi­o­lated Ukrainian laws. As an ex­am­ple, the mem­ber of my party, Mr. [Ana­toliy] Hryt­senko, he made those il­le­gal ac­tions back in 2007. So this is also a past deed. Only in 2010, quite a large num­ber of peo­ple have been brought to crim­i­nal re­spon­si­bil­ity for acts of cor­rup­tion. Many of them are ei­ther mem­bers of my own party or are mem­bers of other par­ties that are mem­bers of the gov­ern­ing coali­tion. This very fact proves that it is not a one-way road in terms of crim­i­nal per­se­cu­tion. Go­ing back to Yu­lia Ty­moshenko — are you plan­ning on putting her on trial? I am not plan­ning any­thing. There are laws, there is a code of crim­i­nal pro­ce­dures in the Ukraine vis a vis which ev­ery cit­i­zen of Ukraine is equal. Which di­rec­tions the in­ves­ti­ga­tors will take now, it is hard for me to know in ad­vance. Of course I very much want to see Mrs. Ty­moshenko prove that she is in­no­cent if she is in­no­cent. Peo­ple in the United States are also wor­ried about pres­sure ap­plied to civil so­ci­ety of­fices and jour­nal­ists in your coun­try. They say that they be­lieve the pres­sure is to sup­press any op­po­si­tion ac­tiv­ity. Is this fair? Per­haps you are aware of some spe­cific facts. What civil or­ga­ni­za­tions are we talk­ing about? What of­fi­cers? One jour­nal­ist dis­ap­peared, didn’t he? Many jour­nal­ists dis­ap­pear all over the world. That is some­thing to worry about. By all means that does worry us, but that was many years ago. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion is un­der­way. I was told that there is a lot of pres­sure by your se­cu­rity or­ga­ni­za­tion on civil so­ci­eties and hu­man rights or­ga­ni­za­tions. Free­dom House down­graded Ukraine from free to partly free. What’s go­ing on? I al­ways re­act very harshly to any vi­o­la­tions of hu­man rights. If I hear that any mem­ber of the govern­ment or of­fi­cial of the govern­ment is in­volved in any pres­sure, I look into the is­sue very care­fully, try­ing to find an­swers. I still be­lieve that in many ways, such al­le­ga­tions are an at­tempt to ex­er­cise pres­sure upon the govern­ment — the govern­ment which has started this largescale fight against cor­rup­tion. You are say­ing [the re­port] is an at­tempt to go af­ter this govern­ment be­cause this govern­ment is go­ing af­ter cor­rup­tion? Yes, I do think so. Let me give you an­other fact. To­day the level of con­fi­dence and trust of Ukraine is grow­ing in the world. Al­most all the credit agen­cies have up­graded Ukraine’s rat­ing to­day. Yet an­other im­por­tant fact, the United Na­tions has four cat­e­gories for coun­tries: the first group is the most de­vel­oped na­tions, the sec­ond group is for coun­tries with a medium level of devel­op­ment, the third group is the coun­tries with prospects, and the fourth group is coun­tries with a low level of devel­op­ment and all sorts of de­fi­cien­cies. In 2004, Ukraine ranked 70th, and it was in group three. In the past five years, the coun­try came down to the 85th po­si­tion. That is how we were ranked in 2009. Dur­ing the last year Ukraine climbed 16 po­si­tions up, so now we are ranked 69th. That was the high­est leap in the world in the course of one year. To­day Ukraine finds it­self in group two. That’s an in­ter­na­tional eval­u­a­tion. There is one other im­por­tant fac­tor that one has to take into ac­count when think­ing about Ukraine to­day. For the pre­vi­ous 20 years of its in­de­pen­dence, Ukraine prac­ti­cally did not mod­ern­ize it­self. No se­ri­ous re­forms were un­der­taken. Why? Be­cause through­out those years of in­de­pen­dence, Ukraine saw a fierce po­lit­i­cal fight. There was no sta­bil­ity. When the new pres­i­dent took of­fice in 2010, we fi­nally started global, largescale re­forms. We started the ju­di­cial re­form, re­form of crim­i­nal jus­tice, tax re­form, pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tive re­form. We are try­ing to stream­line and im­prove the pub­lic fi­nance sys­tem. The govern­ment’s pol­icy is for dereg­u­la­tion of the econ­omy and mak­ing the cli­mate for in­vestors more at­trac­tive. Clearly this process can­not be com­pletely smooth. Ukraine has never had a more sta­ble sit­u­a­tion than it has to­day. How do you see Ukraine’s re­la­tion­ship with the United States evolv­ing? Our re­la­tions with the United States are strate­gic, and on very many is­sues we are of the same opin­ion and we sup­port each other. All of the agree­ments that were reached last year in­clud­ing at the nu­clear sum­mit be­tween Pres­i­dent Obama and my­self are be­ing im­ple­mented al­most 100 per­cent. This is true for the highly en­riched ura­nium pro­gram. The same is true about the re­moval and de­struc­tion of mis­sile fuel and so on. We have a broad agenda be­tween our two coun­tries, and this broad agenda shows that re­la­tions be­tween us are good and sta­ble.


“On very many is­sues,” says Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych, Ukraine and the United States “are of the same opin­ion, and we sup­port each other.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.