An­driy Paru­biy: ”E-dec­la­ra­tions should se­ri­ously kill the de­sire to run for the Rada in many folks”

«E-dec­la­ra­tions should se­ri­ously kill the de­sire to run for the Rada in many folks»

The Ukrainian Week - - CONTENTS - In­ter­viewed by Ro­man Malko

Verkhovna Rada Speaker on ide­olo­gies and in­flu­ences in Par­lia­ment, par­al­lels be­tween Ukraine’s strug­gle to­day and a cen­tury ago

The Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada on the main con­tra­dic­tions and temp­ta­tions of Ukrainian pol­i­tics, the ma­jor ide­o­log­i­cal camps in the leg­is­la­ture, the war, lob­by­ing, and geopol­i­tics

It's been three years since the Maidan. How much of what you imag­ined at that time has ac­tu­ally come to pass in Ukraine po­lit­i­cally?

— You can look at the Maidan from a num­ber of dif­fer­ent an­gles. Some say that, wow, the dol­lar used to cost UAH 8 and now it’s UAH 28, oth­ers say that Ukraine cov­ered a spe­cific ter­ri­tory and now part of it is oc­cu­pied, and they ask what the pur­pose was. For me, the point-of-view hasn’t changed from what it was on the Maidan and what it is now, and it cov­ers a much larger time­line than just three years. To­day, we mark 100 years since the for­ma­tion of the Ukrainian Na­tional Repub­lic. As a pa­triot and his­to­rian, this is the an­gle from which I look at ev­ery­thing. This war has been go­ing on for 100 years. The Maidan, the ATO and cur­rent events are merely stages of that war. If we look at it in greater de­tail, we can see many analo­gies be­tween that time and to­day. And if we com­pare them, it is a lot eas­ier to give a cor­rect as­sess­ment of what’s go­ing on to­day. I want to re­mind peo­ple that the first vol­un­teer sol­diers were in 1914. WWI had just started and the Aus­trian army al­lowed the first Ukrainian di­vi­sions to be formed. Thou­sands of our best, all our elite that was raised in Plast, Sich and Sokil (var­i­ous scout­ing and pa­tri­otic or­ga­ni­za­tions for young peo­ple. Ed.), all of them joined as vol­un­teers. One hun­dred years later, this same vol­un­teer move­ment ap­pears, those same peo­ple who have de­ter­mined the course of this war.

In the midst of the World War, an op­por­tu­nity ap­peared to es­tab­lish a Ukrainian state. One hun­dred years ago, when the Ukrainian Na­tional Repub­lic was de­clared in Kyiv, a bol­she­vik gov­ern­ment was formed in Kharkiv and it in­vited the Rus­sian army to Ukraine. Where did Yanukovych go af­ter the Maidan? To an assem­bly in

Kharkiv. And Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion forces were in­vited to en­ter Ukraine. For 100 years, we see the same sce­nario, the same en­emy, the same em­pire. It may have had dif­fer­ent names—Tsarist Rus­sia, USSR or the Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion—but it’s the same es­sen­tial em­pire. And its aim with Ukraine has not changed ei­ther: com­plete sub­or­di­na­tion to the em­pire.

The rea­son for the Maidan was not only protest­ing against the reneging on the agree­ment with the EU. It was far deeper than that. It was a mass pub­lic ac­tion that made it im­pos­si­ble to join the Cus­toms Union with Rus­sia, a de facto new colo­nial en­tity. The fail­ure to sign the As­so­ci­a­tion Agree­ment with the EU meant that in a very short time, Ukraine, just like Be­larus, would have be­come an ap­pendage of the Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion. And so for me, both the Maidan and the ATO are el­e­ments of that same na­tion-lib­er­at­ing strug­gle for state­hood. The lessons of 1917-1919 are key and pro­vide an an­swer to the ques­tion: Why did we fail to main­tain Ukrainian state­hood at that time and how to pre­vent the same mis­take from hap­pen­ing again to­day?

The main is­sue was the con­fronta­tion among Ukrainian lead­ers. So the first les­son is not to al­low for con­fronta­tion among the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship. In con­trast to our pre­de­ces­sors, we were able, even with­out an army or spe­cial forces, to re­build our­selves, to con­tain the ag­gres­sion and, above all, to coun­ter­at­tack and lib­er­ate a sig­nif­i­cant part of the oc­cu­pied ter­ri­to­ries. And now we are strength­en­ing our po­si­tions, step by step. That has been our suc­cess­ful effort. The oc­cu­pant did not make it to Kyiv, even though his tanks stood very close at one point—just out­side Ch­erni­hiv.

The sec­ond les­son is the army. A cen­tury ago, Ukraini­ans were un­able to or­ga­nize one at a high enough level. Bol­she­vik pro­pa­ganda de­mor­al­ized com­plete units. In our time, vol­un­teers formed the ide­o­log­i­cal foun­da­tion at the front and thus our army was com­pletely re­built on a new ba­sis dur­ing the course of this war. To­day, most of the com­bat bri­gades are al­most en­tirely new peo­ple who have gone through bat­tle. The mil­i­tary elite has all been changed, as has the mil­i­tary ide­ol­ogy. To­day, with­out any ex­ag­ger­a­tion, we have one of the strong­est armies in Europe, one that is bat­tle­hard­ened and knows mod­ern tac­tics, and this ex­pe­ri­ence is now be­ing adopted by NATO sol­diers.

The third les­son is in­ter­na­tional sup­port. A hun­dred years ago, we were los­ing com­pletely on that front. The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity was not on Ukraine’s side. We were un­able to per­suade them of our view. To­day, the civ­i­lized world has united around Ukraine. Who would have be­lieved it when all the EU mem­bers voted for sanc­tions? Ukraine has man­aged to achieve this much. Step by step, sanc­tions against Rus­sia keep be­ing ex­tended, al­though we were told that this would not hap­pen any more.

These are the key fac­tors that ex­plain why we failed 100 years ago. To­day, we’ve learned from those mis­takes and have held on to state­hood. We didn’t al­low Putin to carry out his ag­gres­sive plans. This is the only van­tage point from which I look at the events to­day—and at what needs to be done.

Some say a state is a mere for­mal­ity. I’d like to re­mind them: be­cause Ukraine lost its state­hood 100 years ago, we had the Holodomor in which mil­lions of Ukraini­ans died. State­hood is not a for­mal il­lu­sion. It means the se­cu­rity of ev­ery cit­i­zen and the pro­tec­tion of all Ukraini­ans.

How much does the cur­rent make-up of the Rada, which was elected six months af­ter the Maidan, re­flect the con­fronta­tion with Rus­sia's armed ag­gres­sion and the mood among Ukraini­ans?

For the last 25 years, there have been two camps in the leg­is­la­ture that con­fronted each other: pro-Ukrainian and pro-Rus­sian, to one ex­tent or an­other. Ini­tially, the pro-Ukrainian camp was small: Nar­o­dna Rada in­cluded all of 150 peo­ple. Af­ter the Or­ange Rev­o­lu­tion, the two camps be­came al­most equal. That’s prob­a­bly when the first bat­tle in this war took place: the Kharkiv agree­ments, when the pro-Rus­sian camp didn’t have the nec­es­sary votes and had to re­sort to pay­ing ti­tushky. Sym­bol­i­cally, this was a key turn­ing point: they were wear­ing their or­ange­and-black im­pe­rial rib­bons, while we wore blue­and-yel­low ones.

THE REA­SON FOR THE MAIDAN WAS NOT ONLY PROTEST­ING AGAINST THE RENEGING ON THE AGREE­MENT WITH THE EU. IT WAS A MASS PUB­LIC AC­TION THAT MADE IT IM­POS­SI­BLE TO JOIN THE CUS­TOMS UNION WITH RUS­SIA, A DE FACTO NEW COLO­NIAL EN­TITY

You were about the only one fight­ing…

Yes, that was my first fight in this war. And I’m very sorry that we were un­able to stop them then. To­day there are more than 300 deputies in the Ukrainian leg­is­la­ture who, to greater and lesser de­grees—that’s a mat­ter of some dis­cus­sion—be­lieve in pro-Ukrainian, pro-Euro­pean prin­ci­ples. And this is the line along which the Rada di­vides, not into coali­tion/op­po­si­tion. That’s why they vote on all mat­ters of se­cu­rity, eu­roin­te­gra­tion and the fight against cor­rup­tion re­gard­less of whether they be­long to the coali­tion or not.

So, does the Verkhovna Rada re­flect Ukrainian so­ci­ety? Con­cep­tu­ally, yes. It re­flects the gen­eral mood to­day.

Rat­ings are of­ten a mat­ter of de­bate, be­cause par­ties in power will al­ways be in the neg­a­tive there. Some­how, re­forms have to be un­der­taken across the board, but many of them are highly un­pop­u­lar. Poland, Czechia and Slo­vakia went through re­forms that gen­er­ally cov­ered the same ter­ri­tory as ours: in­creas­ing prices for nat­u­ral gas and other util­i­ties and rais­ing the re­tire­ment age back in the 1990s. Un­for­tu­nately, we have to take these same un­pop­u­lar steps right now. Of course,

they will never give those in power a boost in the rat­ings. Of course, plenty of mis­takes get made, es­pe­cially in terms of who is hired.

Mean­while, many of the old schemes are still very much in place. Are we fight­ing against them? Yes. We legally got rid of one oli­garch’s monopoly over petroleum, an­other one’s monopoly over nat­u­ral gas, a third one’s over elec­tric­ity. We’ve set up anti-cor­rup­tion agen­cies that are work­ing to elim­i­nate these old scams. We’ve es­tab­lished mech­a­nisms and or­ga­ni­za­tions that can do the job. We’ve been able to move to that level where it’s now pos­si­ble to dou­ble the min­i­mum wage. I think we’ve bot­tomed out and trends should all be to­wards re­cov­ery now. Ukraine’s econ­omy was on the verge of de­fault at one point and now it’s grow­ing again. Sure, it’s not hap­pen­ing as fast as we’d like. But what other coun­try has been at war and man­aged to re­cover its econ­omy while most of its pub­lic spend­ing was go­ing to the de­fense sec­tor?

What are the main po­lit­i­cal trends in the Rada now—not mean­ing fac­tions, but ac­tual po­lit­i­cal and ide­o­log­i­cal cur­rents that might be rep­re­sented in dif­fer­ent fac­tions? To what ex­tent is Ukraine's leg­is­la­ture just a club lob­by­ing busi­ness and for­eign in­ter­ests, es­pe­cially Rus­sia's?

My re­sponse con­tin­ues from the pre­vi­ous ones. For 25 years now, Ukraine has had to deal with two di­a­met­ri­cally op­posed forces, in­clud­ing in its leg­is­la­ture: the pro-Ukrainian and the pro-Rus­sian. This is a clash of civ­i­liza­tions and world­views. From the Rukh move­ment to Nasha Ukraina, which brought every­body to­gether. Peo­ple joined forces to stop Rus­sian in­flu­ence that kept un­der­min­ing us through the other camp. This has left Ukraine po­lit­i­cally amor­phous to this day. Per­haps this was the only pos­si­bil­ity, given that the coun­try was go­ing through a na­tion-lib­er­at­ing strug­gle. If Poland, France, Italy or Ger­many can af­ford to dis­cuss rais­ing and cut­ting taxes or health­care re­form with­out also be­ing en­mired in dis­cus­sions about the coun­try’s very ex­is­tence, we are only now get­ting close to that stage when we no longer swing but have 300 solid votes.

In the next Rada, there may well be more of those for whom do­mes­tic and for­eign pol­icy is­sues are iden­ti­cal: NATO, the EU, a Ukrainian state, and a Ukrainian iden­tity. In this sense, I think, we also saw a break in the evo­lu­tion of po­lit­i­cal cul­ture and po­lit­i­cal struc­tur­ing. Most of the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal forces are more eas­ily iden­ti­fi­able as be­long­ing to a camp than to an ide­ol­ogy.

Does the Rada in­clude mem­bers who clearly rep­re­sent oli­garchs? Yes, it does. The old schemes are still there. Are there mem­bers who are ori­ented to­wards Rus­sia? Yes. But this same Rada passed leg­is­la­tion cut­ting off the mo­nop­o­list oli­garchs. This gives us rea­son to be­lieve that, while their in­flu­ence may not be in­signif­i­cant, it’s noth­ing like it was prior to the Maidan. All the anti-cor­rup­tion leg­is­la­tion was passed by the cur­rent Rada, by the cur­rent pro-Ukrainian, pro-Euro­pean ma­jor­ity. Some in­flu­ence re­mains from the other camp, but they no longer have a de­ci­sive im­pact on key pol­icy de­ci­sions. Ob­vi­ously, po­lit­i­cal struc­tur­ing will take place. If noth­ing else, we have to rec­og­nize that the EU it­self is go­ing through a dif­fi­cult pe­riod now, where con­ser­va­tive ap­proaches are gain­ing in pop­u­lar­ity, and this clearly has an im­pact on Ukraine.

What kind of preven­tions do you see against busi­ness in­flu­enc­ing the gov­ern­ment? How might the in­flu­ence of fi­nan­cial-in­dus­trial groups be elim­i­nated? What do you know about the po­lit­i­cal and ide­o­log­i­cal views of these FIGs? Or are they strictly busi­ness?

There clearly are Rus­sian busi­ness­men who are try­ing to lever­age the sit­u­a­tion in Ukraine eco­nom­i­cally. They rep­re­sent the ag­gres­sor and are try­ing to mo­nop­o­lize cer­tain sec­tors and to work to­wards Rus­sia’s ob­jec­tives through busi­ness. Many oth­ers are in­dif­fer­ent: for them it’s all just busi­ness. And of course, there are those who have taken a stance on the side of Ukraine. Largely be­cause their busi­ness in­ter­ests are here, they un­der­stand that the con­tin­u­ing ex­is­tence of the Ukrainian state is a guar­an­tee of their suc­cess. All the more that they have seen what hap­pens to Rus­sian oli­garchs who felt the long arm of the Krem­lin even in Lon­don. But gen­er­ally speak­ing, clearly most busi­ness op­er­ates ac­cord­ing to the Laws of Manu and fi­nan­cial in­ter­ests will be the key de­ter­mi­nant.

To sep­a­rate busi­ness from pol­i­tics, we need a slew of mea­sures. Deputies don’t come from the moon, they’re elected. The po­lit­i­cal cul­ture of a so­ci­ety is an im­por­tant el­e­ment. When peo­ple com­plain, “Gee, so many of you guys in power are oli­garchs,” but then the oli­garch goes to his con­stituency and hands out UAH 200 be­fore the elec­tion and an­other UAH 200 af­ter if he’s elected to the leg­is­la­ture, hello? How did he get there any­way? This whole is­sue is com­pli­cated. I par­tic­i­pated in many elec­tion cam­paigns and saw some real horrors: peo­ple stand­ing in line to get that money, not see­ing any cause-and-ef­fect re­la­tion­ship, not want­ing to un­der­stand that a lot more will later be stolen from their pock­ets.

An­other is­sue is leg­is­la­tion. E-dec­la­ra­tions are a se­ri­ous blow that should kill the de­sire to run for the Rada in many folks. I know quite a few who are say­ing that this kind of pub­lic strip show doesn’t in­ter­est them any more. But more im­por­tantly, the role of the oli­garchs in Ukraine should be di­min­ished, thanks to com­bined ef­forts. I men­tioned the ex­am­ple of their be­ing cut off from mo­nop­o­liz­ing the mar­ket, which gave them enor­mous prof­its. A proper oli­garch in Ukraine should have some kind of rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the Rada, enor­mous fi­nan­cial re­sources and his own tele­vi­sion chan­nel. And of course own a foot­ball team as a sign of his pres­tige. Ev­ery anti-oli­garch move of ours went through a per­fect storm of at­tacks against those who ini­ti­ated them, es­pe­cially in the press. Where are those su­per prof­its from? From cor­rupt schemes. And

cut­ting them off from these means turn­ing them into sim­ply “busi­ness on­wers” or “en­ter­preneurs”. There won’t be any more wind­fall prof­its from all this cor­rupt skim­ming and kick­backs, there won’t be the money to pay for tele­vi­sion chan­nels, foot­ball clubs or po­lit­i­cal teams. By strip­ping and bring­ing down the old schemes, we can build up trans­par­ent re­la­tions across the econ­omy—and that’s how you change the sys­tem.

What real in­flu­ence does the Speaker have on the way the Rada works, or do you be­come hostage to all kinds of games while the real de­ci­sions are made out­side the walls of the ses­sion hall?

Of course, pol­icy is made in the leg­is­la­ture, some­times ac­com­pa­nied by re­ally ag­gres­sive de­bate. To get very dif­fer­ent groups to come to­gether around var­i­ous is­sues is im­por­tant and dif­fi­cult— and takes a lot of effort. If you’re ask­ing what this in­volves, then it’s a mat­ter of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and per­sua­sion. You can’t sim­ply break peo­ple. Forc­ing the ses­sion hall is im­pos­si­ble. If there aren’t enough votes, then they just aren’t there. The only thing that’s pos­si­ble, and I’ve done it more than once, is to de­clare a five-minute re­cess and ask the fac­tion chairs to get all the deputies who might be in com­mit­tee or in the cafe­te­ria or at an in­ter­view back in the hall. When I see that there are only 222 mem­bers sit­ting, I know that there are peo­ple who sup­port the pro­posed pol­icy but they sim­ply aren’t present and the only way to deal with this is to in­vite them. Once they are there, we can re­turn to the vote.

Need­less to say, when putting to­gether the agenda and in­clud­ing is­sues to vote on, I de­ter­mine the pre­rog­a­tives and con­sult about them. I think that when we bring pack­ages of bills for de­bate, the ef­fi­ciency and depth of the leg­is­la­ture’s work im­proves con­sid­er­ably. This is one of the many im­por­tant par­lia­men­tary re­forms that make it pos­si­ble for me to iden­tify pre­rog­a­tives and spe­cific di­rec­tions that could, in my opin­ion, be a pri­or­ity. It’s all about ne­go­ti­a­tion and per­sua­sion.

Of course, there are is­sues that I per­son­ally con­sider im­por­tant and I don’t hide that. For me this is se­cu­rity and de­fense. And yes, I bring them up for a vote sev­eral times and re­turn to them be­cause this is the ba­sis for the Ukrainian state to ex­ist and sur­vive. Some ac­cuse me of vi­o­lat­ing the VR Reg­u­la­tions, but this is non­sense. There is no pro­hi­bi­tion in the Reg­u­la­tions on re­peat­ing a vote. It’s a reg­u­lar stan­dard. As is a show of hands to see what the sup­port for a propo­si­tion might be. There is a rule and it does not state how many times this can be done.

The other fun­da­men­tal area for me is de­com­mu­niza­tion. I re­mem­ber the day we passed the last leg­isla­tive act on Kropy­vnyt­skiy (for­merly Kirovohrad. Ed.). I un­der­stand that we are mor­tal, we come and go, but this re­form is aimed against the psy­cho­log­i­cal and men­tal crip­pling that hap­pens when peo­ple are born and raised in a town named af­ter a butcher who killed their grand­par­ents, and will likely last for a cen­tury. It’s very hard to build a Ukrainian state living in a city named af­ter Kirov on a street named af­ter Lenin and to also vol­un­teer to go to the front.

The other is­sue is songs on the ra­dio and Ukrainian-lan­guage books. I have been work­ing on this very de­lib­er­ately and or­ga­nized meet­ings to come up with a pol­icy. It’s not a ques­tion of forc­ing some­thing through: this is a long prepara­tory process and con­sen­sus-build­ing. With the ra­dio quo­tas, we have al­ready held more than half a dozen very in­tense con­sul­ta­tions.

One more crit­i­cal is­sue was a let­ter to the Ec­u­meni­cal Pa­tri­arch Bartholomew about a Ukrainian na­tional church. I didn’t know how this might work, so I got to­gether all the heads of the pro-Euro­pean, pro-Ukrainian fac­tions, in­vited Pa­tri­arch Fi­laret to join us, and said: “Please bless us.” He blessed us and in the morn­ing I went, not know­ing what the Rada’s de­ci­sion might be. I was re­ally wor­ried, be­cause a neg­a­tive re­sponse would have had a very bad im­pact. But ev­ery­thing went nicely. This was ex­tremely im­por­tant for me.

How re­al­is­tic is it, in your opin­ion, that a new elec­toral law will be adopted so that the 2019 elec­tion re­ally takes place based on new, fairer rules?

The work­ing group I set up when I be­came Speaker has held many meet­ings where we re­viewed all the avail­able bills to change elec­toral leg­is­la­tion. My po­si­tion is clear. My sig­na­ture is on the first one un­der the Elec­toral Code that calls for changes to the elec­toral sys­tem, both for

IF POLAND, FRANCE, ITALY OR GER­MANY CAN AF­FORD TO DIS­CUSS TAXES OR HEALTH­CARE RE­FORM WITH­OUT BE­ING EN­MIRED IN DIS­CUS­SIONS ABOUT THE COUN­TRY'S EX­IS­TENCE, WE ARE ONLY NOW GET­TING CLOSE TO THAT STAGE

the Verkhovna Rada and lo­cal coun­cils: in­sti­tut­ing open lists with re­gional rid­ings. This means that in ev­ery rid­ing peo­ple will be vot­ing, not just for a po­lit­i­cal party but also for a spe­cific rep­re­sen­ta­tive. Each party has to present not just a sin­gle nom­i­nee but also a list of them and vot­ers get to choose which in­di­vid­ual deputy they’d like to see elected. Who­ever gets more votes moves up in the list.

Right now, this is all just at the level of dis­cus­sions. Some par­ties think that elec­tions should be based sim­ply on open lists or on pro­por­tional vot­ing. But half the peo­ple in the Rada to­day were elected in the FPTP sys­tem. They have their own rid­ings and they know this guar­an­tees that they will be elected, so they will never sup­port a purely pro­por­tional model. Well, in fact, some of them do sup­port such a sys­tem. I think the cur­rent pro­por­tional sys­tem with closed lists, com­bined with FPTP seats where we can re­ally see fi­nan­cial power at work is bad. Are there enough votes to­day to change it? Not at the mo­ment. The de­bate con­tin­ues. The group ad­dressed all the fac­tions with a propo­si­tion that they sub­mit their

own con­clu­sions about not just one but three bills to see which one gets the most sup­port. So far, not all fac­tions have re­sponded.

Why is it that Ukrainian politi­cians refuse to call this war that has been storm­ing for three years now a war, but keep com­ing up with all kinds of nice-sound­ing ex­cuses?

Declar­ing a state of war will put the coun­try in a com­pletely dif­fer­ent regime where many of the hu­man rights and free­doms in the Con­sti­tu­tion will be re­stricted and mil­i­tary ad­min­is­tra­tions are sup­posed to take over in the re­gions. This means a change in the very phi­los­o­phy of run­ning the coun­try. And let’s not even dis­cuss whether all the com­man­ders have the nec­es­sary ex­pe­ri­ence to head ad­min­is­tra­tions that are re­spon­si­ble for gov­ern­ing and mak­ing so­cial pol­icy in the re­gions.

Plus, you might say that his­tor­i­cally this has hap­pened and it doesn’t get in the way of en­gag­ing in mil­i­tary ac­tion right now. You know that I ini­tially fa­vored declar­ing a state of war when I was sec­re­tary of the NSC. I raised the is­sue es­pe­cially when the con­flict was at its most in­tense. To­day, this isn’t even on the agenda. Such a dec­la­ra­tion won’t of­fer the Ukrainian Armed Forces any more op­tions, while it could cut short a slew of pro­cesses that are al­low­ing us to carry out re­forms in the coun­try, in­clud­ing elec­toral re­form. If we de­clare a state of war, there won’t be any elec­tions at all— pres­i­den­tial, par­lia­men­tary or lo­cal.

What are the most press­ing tasks fac­ing Ukraine's state-build­ing forces?

To hold on. Not to wa­ver. This is the chal­lenge that we faced on the Maidan and in the ATO. Strange as it may seem, it re­mains the main chal­lenge to­day, too. Who could have fore­told how the Rev­o­lu­tion of Dig­nity would end or how the ATO would un­fold? Would they in­vade through Ch­erni­hiv or not? Our main task was to hold on. To stand on the bar­ri­cades and hold the perime­ter. Just like now. Of course, in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion is ex­tremely im­por­tant, as are re­form­ing the coun­try, es­tab­lish­ing an army and grow­ing the econ­omy. What’s more, we have to do this all si­mul­ta­ne­ously: de­fend the coun­try, de­velop it and make a mod­ern Euro­pean state with high stan­dards. This is ex­tremely dif­fi­cult when you are un­der at­tack, but this is our goal and we are mov­ing to­wards it.

This year’s bud­get is al­ready a growth bud­get. We’ve been able to in­crease spend­ing on the se­cu­rity sec­tor, on wages and on road-build­ing. This shows that the econ­omy has shifted into growth again. Of course, it’s im­por­tant to set pri­or­i­ties and this is what we are now plan­ning and dis­cussing. Agri­cul­ture, avi­a­tion, the mil­i­tary-de­fense com­plex, IT, and in­fra­struc­ture.

The is­sue of re­gional co­op­er­a­tion is very im­por­tant for Ukraine, so I’m also fo­cus­ing on: co­op­er­at­ing in the Baltic-Black Sea Union and in the Adri­atic-Baltic-Black Sea Ini­tia­tive. This year, I’m sup­posed to visit Lithua­nia, Poland, Croa­tia and Ro­ma­nia, to a num­ber of in­ter­par­lia­men­tary plat­forms for di­a­log, in­clud­ing on this theme. I think that, for Ukraine it’s crit­i­cal to have close re­la­tions in these re­gions. We have ev­ery chance of be­com­ing a re­gional leader in time.

How likely will these some­how be con­firmed in the near­est fu­ture?

There are a va­ri­ety of op­tions. Scan­di­navia does it at the par­lia­men­tary level. We have the Europe-Carpathi­ans plat­form where dis­cus­sion is about com­mon in­fra­struc­ture through­out the Carpathian re­gion, the way it was done in the Alps af­ter WWII, when the coun­tries in the re­gions put to­gether a joint in­fra­struc­ture pro­ject. Then there’s the Viseg­rad Four, which is play­ing an ac­tive role. We shouldn’t make a mis­take with the for­mats, so ev­ery­thing has to be care­fully thought through, thor­oughly dis­cussed and agreed be­fore com­ing up with a spe­cific de­ci­sion. But I think that in­ter­par­lia­men­tary co­op­er­a­tion such as North­ern Europe has is a quite ac­cept­able al­ter­na­tive and ap­pro­pri­ate for our re­gion. This could be in the form of an in­ter­par­lia­men­tary assem­bly.

What red lines do you see in the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal process that your state-build­ing forces will not cross: a snap Rada elec­tion? an early pres­i­den­tial race? or changes to the Con­sti­tu­tion?

Snap elec­tions would be used as a mech­a­nism to desta­bi­lize the coun­try. We have more than enough ex­am­ples of that, such as Moldova. They were in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion, with a con­fronta­tion be­tween pro-Rus­sian and pro-Euro­pean forces go­ing on for years. Fi­nally, the pro-Euro­peans gained a slight ma­jor­ity, and then it be­gan. Scan­dals, demon­stra­tions, and de­mands for a snap elec­tion. What’s more, two of the three op­po­si­tion lead­ers made no bones about the fact that they were trav­el­ling and re­port­ing to the Krem­lin. With the pre-term cam­paign, came a cri­sis, the IMF de­cided not to is­sue its reg­u­lar tranche, and then came a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in which the openly pro-Rus­sian can­di­date won.

We all un­der­stand that Putin has no need of the slice of Donetsk or Luhansk Oblast that he has to­day. Rus­sia’s plans to­day, just like 100 years ago, are to con­trol all of Ukraine. He can al­ready see that get­ting to his goal mil­i­tar­ily is not as easy as it was a cen­tury ago, and so he is us­ing other means to desta­bi­lize and change the gov­ern­ment in Ukraine to one that is loyal to him. For an early elec­tion to lead to a so-called ‘coali­tion of unity’ that says, “We have to stitch the coun­try to­gether and that means re­ject­ing NATO and the EU and declar­ing neu­tral­ity. As though there were no other op­tions for uni­fy­ing Ukraine. I un­der­stand that this plan is al­ready out there, to say noth­ing of the memos I’ve been able to read. I think we have to do ev­ery­thing to pre­vent this con­cept from tak­ing root, know­ing how im­por­tant this is for the de­fense of our state. This is the equiv­a­lent of preventing the bol­she­vik in­sur­gency in Kyiv 100 years ago.

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