В інтерв’ю М.Кириченко, зокрема, інформував громадськість про актуальну ситуацію в Автономній Республіці Крим, наголосив на налаштованості української сторони до мирного врегулювання українсько-російського конфлікту, а також прокоментував ініціативу словенського керівництва щодо можливого посередництва у налагодженні діалогу між офіційними Москвою та Брюсселем стосовно України.
How would you comment on the statement of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia, Karl Erjavec, that Crimea de facto already belongs to Russia?
I would like to underline that Crimea is an integral part of Ukraine. Our Government is not going to give up any part of Ukraine’s territory.
The integrity of the Ukrainian territory and inviolability of the Ukrainian state borders is confirmed, among other international instruments, by the Budapest Memorandum of 1994. In this document the USA, Great Britain and Russia, reaffirmed their commitment to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine and their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine.
The same thesis was also stipulated in the recent Statement of the EU Heads of State or Government on Ukraine made on 6 March 2014.
Precisely that is why the EU member states have also confirmed that they consider the referendum planned be held in Crimea this Sunday, March 16, and its outcomes, unlawful.
Please comment on the initiative of the Minister Karl Erjavec regarding Slovenia’s mediation between the EU and Russia concerning the worsening of the situation in Ukraine?
We highly appreciate any initiative that could contribute to the peaceful settlement of the dispute. Having experienced something similar 25 years ago, Slovenia undoubtedly is the country, which understands well the situation in Ukraine. Common Slavic roots also contribute to the mutual understanding.
But I would like to point out a negative tendency surfacing in the position of the European Union: many countries put economic considerations above the fundamental principles, which are the basis of international law and the current world order, such as respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, the prohibition of the use of force and of noninterference with internal affairs. Of course, we understand that the economy is undoubtedly an important factor, which should be considered in building relations between states, as each country has to protect its economic interests. However, there comes a time when economic considerations become of secondary importance. Consider - what is the price of a country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity? This question should be contemplated by each of us.
I would also like to underline the importance of operating with objective, non-biased and reliable information in any effort to resolve and/or mediate a conflict. For instance, we all know the formal justification of Russian aggression in Ukraine – it is the protection of the rights of Russian speaking Ukrainian nationals. In this regard, I’d like to reiterate – no international organization or observation mission has ever confirmed that any of the Russian speakers in Ukraine were ever deprived from enjoying their rights in Ukraine. Unfortunately, along with its military invasion to Crimea, the Russian Federation is waging a media war against Ukraine. Kremlin has launched a propaganda campaign of unprecedented magnitude and intensity against Ukraine. Russia’s coverage of the situation in Ukraine is characterized and based on outright and shameless lies, a biased selection of materials, and a ridiculous twisting of facts. The aim of such media coverage is to mislead the uninformed audience into believing a fictional story about the oppression of Russian nationals in Ukraine and the threat looming over them in order to justify Russia’s military aggression on the peninsular with its subsequent annexation.
What caused the crisis in Ukraine?
It is a very complicated question. Unfortunately, lots of clichés about Ukraine circulate nowadays in the media. You will also hear dozens of theories on the causes of the crisis. One of the most popular explanations - Ukrainians wanted to join the EU but the former president refused to sign the EU Association Agreement, and this decision led to massive protests, the so called Euromaidan or Eurorevolution. One thing is clear - the reasons for the rise of the Euromaidan civil protest movement was the refusal of the citizens to accept the complete decay of state institutions, absolute corruption on all levels, the continued degradation of human rights and the taking away of fundamental freedoms.
Many euroskeptics, including some Slovenians, did not share enthusiasm of the Ukrainians about the EU. In this context I would like to underline – we are not dreamers, we are very well aware of the flaws of a single Europe. But there are so many advantages. You may not notice them and take them for granted: for instance, rule of law, democracy, civil society, respect for human rights, adequate public institutions. Many Slovenians may say – we are drowning in corruption and economic problems. I am not in the position to judge the extent of these problems in Slovenia, but trust me when I say that these problems can be so much worse.
It doesn’t mean that we want to join the EU immediately. This is rather a civilizational choice for Ukraine – we either move towards democracy or towards autocracy.
In my opinion, the current crisis was caused by the previous Ukrainian leadership whose main and only intention was the personal enrichment at the expense of ordinary Ukrainians, corruption and the malfunctioning of state institutions, which often functioned as subsidiary companies that syphoned off billions for state officials. The signing of the EU Association Agreement was the last hope of many Ukrainians for any possibility of a change for the better in the future. In the end, the desire to protect ties with the European Union turned into a greater civil movement to protect the human dignity of all Ukrainians. The determination and perseverance of the activists during the Euromaidan protest movement is what has made the signing of the EU Association Agreement a possibility again for Ukraine. I must mention that as of today, more than 100 activists have been killed in the protests, and thousands have been injured. Also, 11 police officers from among Berkut special forces and internal troops have died.
Who is currently in charge in Ukraine – the far right or the oligarchs?
The answer is very short – none of the above. In fact, at this moment in Ukraine’s history the Ukrainian people are very close to almost directly controlling the situation. And these are not empty words: the new Government was appointed due to the perseverance of the hundreds of thousands of protesters who demanded changes, changes for a just society. Many of the ministers in the new Government were appointed at the proposal of the Euromaidan (also called Maidan).
It appears that Your question also reflects what I have already mentioned – the Russian Federation aims to persuade the uninformed public that the current Ukrainian government is illegitimate. Russian information agencies continuously misinform on the situation in Ukraine with the aim of misleading the international community into viewing Russia as a true champion of human rights around the world, while labeling the just struggle of the Ukrainian people against dictatorship as “extremism”, “terrorism” and even “fascism”, “Neo-Nazism”, “anti-Semitism” and so forth.
Regarding the right-wing influence in Ukraine - one of the members of the new democratic parliament coalition is the “SVOBODA” Ukrainian Nationalist Political Party, which was also represented as an opposition party in the Ukrainian Parliament during the time when Yanukovych was still President. It is reported that against the wishes of the party’s leaders, some of the more radical youth from this party fought on the barricades of Maidan and several SVOBODA party members have also died during the protests. My understanding is that the leader of Svoboda, according to opinion polls, does not have significant support of the Ukrainian people and it is unlikely that he will decide to run for president.
You must have also heard of so-called “Right Sector”, which is a new formation on Ukraine’s political scene. This far right organization has played a significant role in the success of the Ukrainian revolution. Its leader has declared that the organization respects all nations in Ukraine. It is also important to note that the Jewish leaders of Ukraine confirmed that there have been no manifestations of anti-Semitism on Maidan. Most recently, its leader continues to stress that their goal is political and not ethnic or racial. In the days following the revolution they have not caused violence.
As to the oligarchs – it is true that some of them have been appointed as the heads of some regional administrations. But there is a very logical reason for this – these businessmen know their regions very well, as their business is situated there. They are the first people to be interested in the stabilization of the situation – both political and economic. One more well known fact in Ukraine – some of the above members of the new government as well as some heads of regional administrations are of Jewish descent. I think that this fact is the best answer to the allegations about a revival of neo-Nazism and anti-Semitism threats in Ukraine.
What is in Ukraine’s future – federalization or breakup?
Neither. Ukraine is a sovereign and indivisible state and must remain as such. We will protect its unity, sovereignty and the inviolability of its borders by all possible means. Once the crisis is over, we will start building a new society based on the democratic principles of freedom, independence, dignity, and a respect for the fundamental rights and freedoms of its citizens and all people.
Does the situation in Ukraine confirm the beginning of a new Cold War between the West and Russia?
I hope not. At the moment it is very difficult to make any predictions. We are very keen on resolving the conflict in a peaceful manner. But for that we need the decisive support of the international community. The West must be given credit for standing up in defense of Ukraine. Of course, the measures that the US, the EU and several western countries have declared may be taken if the Russian Federation will not cease aggression and the attempts to annex Crimea will definitely not contribute to friendship and fruitful cooperation between the West and the Russian Federation. And even if we presume that the conflict will be resolved by diplomatic means, I am certain that the fracture in the relations between the West and Russia will take time and a lot of effort to overcome.
Is there a possibility of an armed conflict in Ukraine?
The tension is very high. There is great psychological pressure on the Ukrainian military stationed in Crimea. There is also a constant risk of provocations from the Russian troops in Crimea and unidentified military forces, which are undoubtedly controlled by Russia.
As I have mentioned, Ukraine is committed to the conflict resolution by peaceful means. The Ukrainian Government does its utmost to avoid a military conflict. And we proved it with our deeds - Ukraine does not use force, it demands that the Russian government immediately withdraw its armed forces from Crimea and return them to areas of their permanent stationing in accordance with relevant agreements. But the Russian Federation openly continues to increase its military presence in Crimea, hypocritically claiming that its troops are not there and that instead these are local self-defense units. Kremlin has refused to hold bilateral consultations proposed by Ukraine. Therefore, the international guarantees of security provided to Ukraine under the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, in exchange for Ukraine’s nuclear disarmament, are now under question.
The use of weapons in Crimea will inevitably lead to victims from both sides. And there is nothing more valuable than a human life. And, as mentioned before, Ukraine has now lost more than one hundred valuable lives, with thousands more injured.
There is also the question as to how long Ukraine will be able to tolerate this aggression, and who can guarantee to Ukraine that the troops of a foreign state will stop in Crimea and will not continue to invade the whole country? We are aware of similar scenarios in the contemporary history of Europe.