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An Interview with Leonid Makarovych Kravchuk
Leonid Makarovych Kravchuk is a former Ukrainian politician and the first President of Ukraine, who served from 5 December 1991, until his resignation on 19 July 1994. He is also a former Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada and People’s Deputy of Ukraine serving in the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine faction

– Hello Leonid Makarovich, I am glad to welcome you. -Hello.– Today we are going to talk about your point of view on the issues that are currently happening in Ukraine in the international arena. The issue of land in Ukraine is very topical. In 2019, you are a member of the National Homeland Rescue Headquarters. What is Ukrainian land for you? How do you see land relations between citizens and is there a place for foreigners?

In fact, for me, land is the cradle of nation. It is not just a commodity, as some authorities and society want it. To believe that this is a product that can be put on competition to buy or to purchase according to the laws of the market, according to the laws of competition. In my opinion, this is not in the interests of the people, because if the land is a commodity on the free market, it will somehow be lost to a person who cannot buy it first. Second, if the relations in the countryside are not regulated by the state, it will mean that the element of the market will absorb the land and not only the land. So for me the land is the foundation of society and as long as a person stands on his land, he is a member of the nation, and when a nation stands on its land it is a nation,  that the people are united not only by ideas, it is very important but also territorial principles.

Therefore, land cannot be freely released to the market. This is the first position, the second position – the land transactions should be regulated, that why it is impossible to release the land. Hence, the regulator should be a state, on behalf of the people. Since land has such value and plays such an important role in society, it must be the basis of the internal and external policies of the state. It is not just a matter of one land, but in general, the internal and external policies of the state must be based on the importance and role of the land in society.

To say the third and the last in this regard, we cannot allow the land to be released in such a way that foreigners can purchase it. Because you can seize land in two ways – either military or to purchase. It is also one of the ways of seizing the land. There are many examples in the history as Madagascar; this is such a bad experience for people. They were like us, allowed freely selling and purchasing the land. Foreigners, mainly South Koreans and Italians, purchased the land. Now Madagascans live on the beautiful island, but not on their land. Therefore, this question is a fundamental and my position is that the land should be regulated, and in order to finally determine how to deal with the land it is necessary to put this question to the people, that is, to an all-Ukrainian referendum.

– You have already had experience of holding a referendum and the only one in the history of independent Ukraine. Is it possible to hold a referendum on this issue in Ukraine today?

– I would say so – if a pure, factual and legal referendum is not needed, because the Constitution clearly states – Articles 13 and 14 of the Constitution stipulate that land is national property, that land is the greatest, most valuable wealth of the people and that this value is protected by the state, not literally, but essentially so states in the Constitution.

The Constitution does not have the term “lord” is the term “steward”, that is, a person can dispose the land, according to the Constitution. Thus, in order to put all dots above the “i”, it is necessary that if one wants to sell and buy land, regardless of whether you are a citizen or not, you need to amend the Constitution. If we want to sell land at once, and more than two hundred thousand hectares, in the European Union, the most that can be bought and sold is 500 hectares. In Germany, 500 hectares. In Poland, 500 hectares. All.

  • The issue of war and peace is the Norman format of the meeting. Imagine that you are now a tete-a-tete talking to Putin. How would you decide today in the East of Ukraine what you would personally say to him and what you would have agreed with him today?

– Well, I would start with “Vladimir Vladimirovich, I respect the Russians, I respect your laws, your Constitution regardless of how I treat to them. I believe that this is the principle of respect the people, for the constitution. We have such a big common border, it’s hard just not be realistic. He may say, “I do not respect your authority.” He might say, well power is elected by the people, so the main force in society, the main subject of society always, the source of power is the people, of course.

And once so then I will say “Unfortunately, the Minsk agreements that were adopted at a difficult time, very difficult for Ukraine, when there were aggression and troops, including Russian ones, were already in the territory of Ukraine, and this agreement was adopted, the protocols of Minsk are not it is not in line with the laws or the constitution of Ukraine, it is not in accordance with the will of the Ukrainian people.I would say – article 9, look, there is written the DNR / LNR, these entities hold elections, and then Ukraine took control of the border. That Ukraine has adopted the law on elections for the occupied territories in Donbas, but it no more plays the role there: no control, no media, and no parties.

And who will hold the CEC or not the CEC? What role do they play is unclear. That is, we pass a law, legitimize what the DNR / LNR want to do, and we do not know what they want, we can only guess, so I would ask you to Vladimir Vladimirovich, let’s start by changing some provisions of the Minsk agreements in accordance with the Ukrainian legislation. Then we can move forward. So let’s agree – to move forward. To finish the war, to rebuild the Donbass, so that people can live peacefully there.

That those people who are in Ukraine, these people 1 700 000, people who left their homes because of the war, return home, live in their homes, in joy, in kindness and harmony.

– Tell me, how would you return Crimea?

– Crimea and Donbass are different issues. I can tell you one thing – as a student – it was a very long time ago, in 1953 … went to Crimea, via Odessa – And what I saw there was just horror. Those who came to Crimea, as a rule were immigrants from Russia, the Crimean Tatars were evicted and resettled there, and they did not know how to operate in the Crimea, because the conditions there are quite different from the Kursk or Orel regions. I had seen this, then studied, then worked in the Central Committee, and when the reunification of Ukraine with Russia was celebrated in 1954, the issue of Crimea became very acute, and this sharpness was constantly growing and growing and growing.

In the end, they concluded that Russia could not cope with Crimea for the reasons I have already said. And then a decision was made by the CPSU Central Committee, the Political Bureau of the CPSU Central Committee, which duplicated the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR and the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and Crimea moved to Ukraine. Therefore, the decision was made in Moscow, with which Kiev agreed. After that, Crimea began to develop because Ukraine took it under its control, under its care of Crimea and put there crazy money, held a canal, water and so on. What I want to say is that Crimea moved to Ukraine because Russia could not give it order, even during the Soviet Union.

I believe in it, I believe that the time will come when Crimeans, citizens of Ukraine who live there, will understand that they can live freely well only within Ukraine. But this one topic is very important. The second is for Ukraine to show that we are living better than Russia – not only democratically, freely, but also financially and spiritually. That is, when we rise up the economy and rise up our standard of living to a level close to the European standards at least, then everyone in the Crimea will also understand that they are better here – more freedom, more democracy, and more rights and financially secure life.

– Ukraine produces different types of energy and if you touch the gas issues, what should be done to make Ukrainian companies feel free to work with them, what policies should be put in place, what to do for them?

– I think we just need to take on the experience of Europe and the world. Gas and companies are purely commercial issues. Remove gas from the gas – the pipe cannot be a source of conflict. I give one interesting example – I came to visit the United States of America, it was March 1994. I’m greeted by journalists right on the ramp. Only I got off the plane and they asked, “Mr. President, have you known that Russia cut off Ukraine’s gas?” I said “Sorry I haven’t known” because then there was no way to talk on the phone, we did not even have a mobile phone then. They said, “Yes they did, Yeltsin made the decision to block the gas pipe.  “It was cold, winter time, just then March was cold. The pipe had always been used for political purposes. Therefore, to remove from the pipe, from gas policy and to transfer this energy problem is very painful, very important for Ukraine in the framework of commercial relations of the European model.

The second is to find, and we have such opportunities, more to produce gas from Ukraine. Third, more use of the so-called “green energy” is wind, sun, water and so on, which, as the network experience shows, can occupy a very big place in the balance of Ukraine’s energy power. Thus, such opportunities are, and the experience of the world is, it is not only the desire, of Russia to transfer it into a purely economic problem.

There is no desire, and it is no coincidence that when Ukraine sued to the Economic Court of Europe, it won the court completely and there are opportunities and next steps, Russia has to consider, I mean in court, to prove once again that Ukraine acts under the laws of a fair, marketable economy in this case and does not want there to be politics.

– International politics. What is the role of Ukraine in the world in your opinion. What would you say about Ukraine-America relations? What would you say to Trump? About Trump?

– Trump is one of those, I would say, brave presidents of the United States of America. He stated from the outset that for him the national interests of America were above other interests. He says he will protect America, not think about what is happening in other parts of the world. It was such an emotional statement because after that, the President of America was in North Korea, other regions of the world, where he realized that the global world has its own laws of development and therefore America cannot be without participation in this global world.

Because one of the first countries in the world, the first country in the world I would say, would suddenly not participate in global political processes, but he said this in order to understand the world, to the world to understand that, the interests of America are of paramount importance to him. This is a very important statement and what is happening in America now despite these impeachment attempts, Trump is being questioned, very actively discussed and unfortunately they have found some place for Ukraine too, I think not very comfortable if we take it politically…

 – And why did Ukraine get there?

– It got there during the Clinton-Trump vote. It was obvious that some high-ranking and middle-class political figures were trying to influence the election in some way, and as I understand it, they supported Clinton. So Ukraine decided, I did not take part in the glory of God, not only because I was not in power, not even anyone was interested in my opinion. At least I would say that it is the business of the American people, not the Ukrainian, as it is the business of the Ukrainian people, not the American to hold elections here. And not Russian, it is our Ukrainian national law. Therefore, Americans – do not need to intervene where you are not invited.

Today, I would say to the Ukrainian authorities, considering such a position of Trump, considering that we are already lit up there, and not always in terms of American politicians and Trump himself as we would like them, and not always as we can, because we have more desires than opportunities and if those opportunities are needed in the whole case, I would say that we need to establish relations with the United States of America in the framework of agreements of an international nature and within the framework of the agreements identified as partners of the two states – the United States and Ukraine.

I would say one more thing – that in December 1994 a document was adopted in Budapest called “On Ukrainian Atomic Disarmament”, to say the least. For some reason, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France have forgotten about this document. Russia in general has declared that it will not execute, because, supposedly, in Ukraine the power is not as they would like.

Well, I would say that the Ukrainian authorities should, at the slightest opportunity, when it comes to any international documents of an international nature, remind to all states that have signed the memorandum of ensuring Ukrainian independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. And it is clearly stated that these states will not use any weapons against Ukraine and will not take actions that could be interpreted as economic pressure. That is, everything is painted quite clearly there. I would like to remind you that relationships should be built not on telephone conversations, not on different searches for influence of someone, for some reason and somewhere, but purely on documents signed and in respect of each other.

  • How do you evaluate Ukraine-France (Zelensky-Macron), Ukraine-Germany (Zelensky-Merkel) relations?

Well, with Germany and France, we need to remember history. Those two countries are tied to Russia. We all read War and Peace. We know how many interests and what level of interest, and to what extent, were French in Russia, and Russia in France, and in Germany as well. Thus, the roots of Russia-Germany and Russia-France relations are very, very deep. To say that suddenly they can be, well, let us say they are the same, the same depth as the Ukrainian ones; it would be a great exaggeration.

However, the last meeting on December 9 in Paris, the Normandy format, in my opinion, I can exaggerate but it gives me the right to say that both Germany, Mrs Merkel and France, President Macron, were sympathetic to, and did not hide it, Ukraine and President Zelensky. That is, they proceeded in this case not from the personal interests of the past, but from the state in which the world is today, the state of Ukraine and Russia, and what the consequences could be not only for Ukraine, but for the whole world, if not to regulate some hot spot that is today in the world. The world is so united, so united by interests, that if any one, seemingly far away, smoldering fire, it can quickly grow into a flame.

They know it and see it as smart, far-sighted and experienced politicians. They want to do whatever these problems, which are today: Ukraine-Russia and the conflict in the Donbass, to solve in general, globally, and towards the interests of Ukraine, and of course, without any pressure undemocratic or not legitimate in Russia, but we did not do this and we do not.

  • Leonid Makarovich, passed the Norman format, did it pass for Ukraine positively? – I think so. I rate it as positive. Why?

Because the previous three years were not going up, there were a lot of issues that had to be solved and we were on the verge of somewhere, maybe even stopping the Norman format. Thanks to the systematic and consistent will of the Ukrainian people and, in this case, President Zelensky, two issues were resolved, namely: Dilution of troops, you know what was an acute issue for Ukraine, but we solved it, and the second question – we adopted the Steinmeier formula.

These were two conditions that depended on whether the meeting would be held in Paris or not? Ukraine had  decided and the meeting took place, the position of the President of Ukraine was clear, and those fears that I had seen in Ukraine, meetings, rallies, “horror stories”, they had no reason, we see, there was no reason it happened in the interests of Ukraine, in the interest of protecting the national interest of Ukraine.

  • Ukraine’s position in relation to Syria?

Place here in Russia, America. – You know, I was personally in Syria, being the president, then again, I liked this country with accurate and understandable standards of living. Not everything is understood to me as a European and as a person of Orthodox faith, but what is there is clearly defined there. I think that the politics of Syria, the last two presidents, father and son, they would, so to speak, aggravate the situation, because the world did not take into account the interests of this country, and the country did not take into account in what environment, in what global situation this country was living and didn’t take into account what influence Royal Russia had and still has Russia there.

That is why Ukraine, speaking so, has no influential place there, a place as an observer. And to influence the situation in Syria, where Russia and the United States are, I think Ukraine should not even take that, we just have to deal with Syria declare and act in strict accordance with the norms of the United Nations.

– December 20 will be Diplomacy Day. Gennady Udovenko started such a tradition that on this day all diplomats, ambassadors from other countries return to Ukraine for such a meeting. How do you assess today’s diplomacy? Is it worth continuing? Communicating with the President – How does this affect international politics, international relations?

– Well, in fact, you know, diplomacy, like money, love silence.

When the question arises, it must first be resolved in the silence of the offices, and then to make public. To publish when you are firmly convinced that the position is in accordance with international norms, international law, and the fundamental interests of the people you represent. I do not admire public meetings that there is something can be solved.

There you can talk; you can look openly to each other, say something, make a joke, and share your thoughts. By the glass of good wine, one can speak more openly, but nothing can be resolved at such meetings. The preconditions for a possible solution are being created, so I will not say it or should not, if it is started and does not have a negative impact, and I know that it does not affect it, then it should continue. However, to hope that this formula or form can bring Ukraine success in diplomatic relations would be an exaggeration.

– Then what will help Ukraine strengthen its influence? …

– It will only help to understand our position, do not be shaken as we have chosen the European choice, so it must be the European choice, this is the first. The second is the unity of the Ukrainian people, because if we have three positions on one topic of international character, it should be seen that Ukraine is not the only one. Let’s say during the time I was president, we did a sociological survey of how many people support NATO in Ukraine – 14%. I am asked – Leonid Makarovich, why have you not determined a solid consistent course to NATO?

Now it is over 50% and that is just because of the war. People have come to understanding that to defend oneself in this not easy international situation where one country, even a large one, seeks to join forces, well, say, NATO. Germany is a big country, but they want whatever it is to be a common umbrella that protects the interests of each state, then, of course, Ukraine cannot protect its interests on its own. So not a random question – but how can we be? And can neutrality be introduced? I think that a country like Ukraine, given its role, size, transport location, and natural opportunities, well, let’s say the same land and so on, cannot be neutral. Neutrality can be very expensive for it. We have to find a way to NATO.

– Activity of the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky – how do you estimate?

– Today, I evaluate positively. I watched his speech yesterday on the “Right to Rule channel”. He was sincere, direct, outspoken. By the way, just like in Paris. And this frankness, the desire to bring peace, harmony to Ukraine, to fulfill the obligations that he gave. A cautious, but correct from my point of view assessment of those events that are taking place in Ukraine, including the Normandy format, meetings, I conclude that I appreciate positively. Because Ukraine has gone so far in some issues

Well, let us just say that poverty is one of the poorest countries in Europe. Corruption is one of the most corrupt countries in Europe, and not only in Europe. War, loss of territories, annexation – temporary, but loss. They give reason to say that to overcome it all, it is necessary to make such a major overhaul of everything that even the basics of the real thing may not remain. The basics need to be changed, and it takes time, incredible effort, willpower and peace of mind.

I can see it today for the time being President Zelensky. I do not fully support everyone in the team of Vladimir Alexandrovich, it may be a subjective point of view, and I am very careful in that. Why I am very careful because I do not know these people personally. The English people say something about a person; you need to eat a pud of salt. That’s 16 pounds. I have not eaten even gram with them.

– Maybe the question now is whether the horses need to be changed for the crossing, or what should be done to keep the government alive for another 5 years?

– I always approach so – if the horse has already fallen on the crossing, then it must be spun and thrown away, and take a new one. Because to wait for it to die itself and not allow people to cross this crossing, it is wrong. They say – “don’t change the horses at the crossing”. And if the horses are bad? Change is necessary. No need to be afraid to change. The main thing will change correctly and will change for the best. This is already art. And if they change each time bad to the worse then we will not agree on anything, then the question arises, and why to change?

– Ukrainian embroidery is a national tradition. Maybe Zelensky needs to uphold these traditions when he goes to international meetings abroad, or will it be “wildlife”, so to speak?

– You know, we will go from Europeans a little to these eastern peoples, where they go to meetings in their eastern countries, I do not know what they are called, but it is their right, they have made their foreign policy and diplomatic relations, meetings for them at the highest level, they come in their clothes. It is their national clothes, national pride and their traditions that have been around for a long time. We are Europeans somewhere, and I think that all in Ukraine are embroideries, embroidery holidays are good, but at the international level, it will probably look from the side of foreigners as something that has deviated from European traditional norms.

– The law of Ukraine on combating terrorism is quite sshameful today. How to deal with this law?

– Law is law, and terrorism is terrorism. There can be a law without terrorism, and there can be a law with terrorism. It depends on the level of terrorism in society. To what extent people confess or allow terrorist groups to act, which punishments, what rules are envisaged and how to warn not to allow terrorism.

Well, let us say if you take our neighbor Russia, you know that even in the United Nations there is already a question whether this country does not act on the methods of terrorism. Such statements were already appropriate. Ukraine has not been told so yet, but 40 US congressmen have called the Donbass regiment a terrorist group. That is, the world is watching what is happening in Ukraine. That is why I look at the law this way – the law may be good or bad, but if it is adopted it must be implemented and implemented so that no one can suspect Ukraine that we have elements or manifestations of terrorism. It is the only way.

– Today we have a claim in the UN International Court of Justice, the issue is being considered by Ukraine-Russia, the UN International Court of Justice has recognized jurisdiction over this issue, how do you treat it, will it really be considered, will Ukraine withdraw these claims?

– Well, Ukraine had grounds to make such a claim. Because the problems that exist in the east of Ukraine and the Crimea today regarding the Crimean Tatars and not only, they give us the right, and they documented with the facts and documents that there are manifestations of terrorism there. And official statements of the Crimean Tatars in Ukraine and in the world claim that there are moments of terrorism, so we cannot withdraw the lawsuits. If we withdraw the claim then we will say that we were wrong, it is not like this.

– There are such opinions that it is expensive for Ukraine to continue considering the case…

– I think in this case the price is already wrong to discuss. We have applied on the basis of facts and documents. Official statements of people and organizations. Crimean Tatars, they have many public organizations, they have stated this and confirmed it with specific documents, as well as in Lugansk, Donetsk and other regions, so we must be patient, calm. Once the documents have been submitted, the process must be completed. How it ends … Well, it depends not only on us. – The court will decide.

– We have moved smoothly with you to the issue of national minorities, Crimean Tatars. There are Russians in Crimea, there are Ukrainians in Crimea. What is Ukraine doing to support the Ukrainians currently in the Crimea, Donetsk, Luhansk?

– Unfortunately, access to the Crimea today is very limited to the Ukrainian authorities, the Ukrainian media. We are talking only about the latest opportunities through the Internet, television is direct, direct mass media.

Paper resources are very limited. And so, I think this was and remains an important question for Ukraine – how do we get to the mind, to the hearts, to the thoughts of those Ukrainians who live in the Crimea, because there is massive Russian propaganda. Moreover, qualified, for big money, there is no such opportunity in Ukraine and brainwashing is so difficult to get into the gap for Ukrainian influence. However, it does not mean we have to watch. We must look for opportunities; use the experience that exists in Ukraine and in the world to reach every Ukrainian and not only a Ukrainian in the Crimea, to speak the truth honestly and frankly.

– Do you think that the issue of Ukrainian propaganda should be included?

– I think that counter-propaganda is very important today. How to eliminate this lie, innuendos different, manipulations used to distort the opinion of the people who live there, we need counter-steps for this. This is important today. However, along with the counter-steps, we will see how the situation unfolds there, adding influence through accurate, clear and relevant information.

– The issue of ecology – today Ukraine is preparing to pass a law, submitted bills that must comply with the norms of the European Union. We have both polluted air and polluted water issues. How to accelerate, start implementing environmental security measures?

– I think there are two possible questions here. The first question is opportunities that we have economic success or have not. Today we can say more failures than successes. Do we have enough money never separate the environmental theme from the economic and industrial theme, broadly based on the needs of Ukraine and international experience?

Because often to reduce the cost of construction, whether factories, whether drinking water or sewage, go down the line. Savings due to ecology, because it is not visible. But when we look at the rivers, especially in some regions, I visit Kyiv often, there are simply places where you can not go. The air is full of such smells that it’s just hard to be there. Already the water is green, blue, red, which you want.

The air is the same. Here I know from what I read, let’s say how much a person needs oxygen per day? Our lungs work 24 hours a day. These are 21 oxygen cycles. Bread – 500 grams. Meat – well, 400. That is, oxygen is required many times more than food, water and so on. Do we notice this? No. It seems to us that we live normally. But we breathe bad air and our illnesses often arise due to this. We drink bad raw water. Therefore, all the possibilities must be used – the same Kyoto Protocol.

– Already Parisian.

– Use at full power, intelligent under control, because our Ukrainian masters want to make money even on the Kyoto Protocol. We have learned to steal during the years of independence, although they had stolen before, but during the years of Independence, the thefts became very widespread. Therefore, there are control issues, responsibility issues, linking the budget, industrial development, development of the agrarian sector, recycling everything with environmental issues, and as far as energy is concerned, I have already said, to apply the experience that is available in the world.

The air, the sun, and the water, I see how much they have already shown in Ukraine, some private farms, just residents, build houses, and their roof already takes in solar energy and this is enough for heating, for cooking and so on.

– What do you think Ukraine is in 2050 – what is it?

– I will joke – I once asked a question when I studied in Moscow, the academician was our teacher, at that time I was very young, I had such rainbow dreams, thoughts, I still had thought that we could have ever build communism. Once we were sitting with him, I forget his name and middle name, saying, “Please tell me what communism will be like in 20 years”. “Well I’ll tell you” – he says, very simple and clear, because he says, “I will not be then”, and he was 70 “And I am responsible for what I told you I will not bear.”

Therefore, I can say here that in 2050, I will definitely not see the world we are talking about, and therefore I can fantasize. But I definitely believe that Ukraine, I will not talk about the world, it is far, and about Ukraine I believe it will be a rich, peaceful, happy country. It will no war, and if somebody is poor, this only who doesn’t want to work will be poor. There is always such a part of people. There will be no confrontation, children will be born happy, joyful, and there will be fewer divorces, so there will be no reason for such, now we have 40 percent of divorces.

Where there are no children, it is even more or less, and where there are children, they are victims of such behavior by their parents. That is, things will be completely different and the world will change for the better. But whether or not it depends on the people. It depends on how we act tomorrow. That is when we start tomorrow, not to wait for 2050, but to build Ukraine today. If there is no war, no such cruel poverty, no corruption it is all in our power, then today we will lay the foundation for what we are saying about a possible world in 2050.

– Thanks

The Levant

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