Viktor Medvedchuk’s interview for Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita
Chair of the Political Council of the “Opposition Platform - For Life” party MP Viktor Medvedchuk was interviewed by the leading Polish media outlet Rzeczpospolita.
Rz: Throughout a few weeks, tension in Donbas and the Ukrainian-Russian border has been increasing. In Kyiv, there are daily talks about the threat of Russian aggression. What is happening in your opinion?
Viktor Medvedchuk: I cannot respond for the people in the highest echelons of the government who make decisions on the use of the armed forces by each of the parties. But a peaceful way out of this situation is only one. Ukraine should do everything possible today to fulfill the Minsk agreements, and first of all itself not to exacerbate the situation. First, it is necessary to restore the cease-fire regime, which had been installed by the Memorandum of July 22, 2020. Initially, it was effective, but in recent months, when a political will towards a peaceful settlement weakened, it was not respected by any of the parties. Second, in pursuance of the Minsk agreements (and Ukraine is doing nothing for this) it is necessary to adopt the law on elections, the law on amnesty, changes to the Constitution related to the special status, to implement the approved Steinmeier Formula. For Ukraine, a way out of Minsk agreements, non-fulfillment of these agreements means a path to nowhere. The path that can lead to the loss of Donbas and those people, citizens of Ukraine, who live there.
Rz: Or maybe for almost seven years of war, the tension between Moscow and Kyiv has already reached the critical point?
Viktor Medvedchuk: Such a feeling is a consequence of numerous political statements primarily by the Ukrainian leadership. This rhetoric of Zelenskyy is unacceptable, if it comes to the need to establish peace, same as unacceptable is the one of individual members of his team on certain plans including military seizure of Donbas. That is suicide for Ukraine. This threat, provoked by aggressive statements and actions of the Ukrainian authorities, is the most significant one for the national security of Ukraine.
Rz: But in conflict with Moscow, the entire democratic world stands with Kyiv. Leaders of many countries and heads of international organizations called President Zelenskyy to support him.
Viktor Medvedchuk: International leaders who supported Zelenskyy did the right thing. However, the United States are setting the tone in the choir of those who supported Zelenskyy. They want Ukraine on the border with Russia as a springboard for confrontation, which is beneficial to the United States. They do not want peace in Donbas; they do not want Donbas to return to Ukraine and Ukraine return to Donbas. That is why Zelenskyy is responsible for a peaceful settlement in Donbas, and he has to do everything possible to prevent the escalation of violence.
Rz: Recently Zelenskyy said that the only way to stop the war in Donbas is the Ukraine’s entry into NATO. Do you agree with that?
Viktor Medvedchuk: Absolutely no. First, there is no war in Donbas, but the ongoing fighting. Second, to stop it, you should at least fulfill the agreements reached from July 22, 2020. That is a primary task, and then you need to fulfill the Minsk agreements in full, and not to argue about joining NATO, which puts paid to the peace process, as this is not accepted not only in Donbas, but also by half of Ukrainians. WillUkraine be accepted into NATO tomorrow? It will not. It will not the day after tomorrow. Meanwhile, for the people living in Donbas talks about joining NATO cause rejection and only complicate the reintegration process.
Rz: Do you have a recipe for ending the war? Are the Minsk agreements and the Normandy format still effective tools to achieve peace?
Viktor Medvedchuk: There is no alternative to the Minsk agreements, and that is a worldwide-recognized fact. The Normandy format was established quite on the basis of the agreements achieved in Minsk, approved in the Declaration of the Normandy format states, and then in the UN Security Council resolution. Therefore, talks about outdated nature of the Minsk agreements and the need to search for some new formats are unreasonable. These agreements are enshrined by the UN Security Council decision, and the countries participating in the Normandy format support their full implementation, which, in particular, is reiterated in the Paris communiqué of December 9, 2019, signed by the leaders of all the four countries. For the implementation of the Minsk agreements, the congress of our party adopted a peace plan, which I presented in Strasbourg, in the European Parliament, and discussed with MPs from the Bundestag, the Senate of France, the State Duma of the Russian Federation as part of the “Parliamentary Dimension of the Normandy Format”, the purpose of which is the return of Donbas to Ukraine and of Ukraine to Donbas. But the key issue is that this plan was agreed with Donetsk, Luhansk and Moscow, which makes it a real instrument on the path to peace.
Rz: But official Kyiv says that representatives of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk republics are terrorist organizations that are fully controlled by Russia, and that they do not decide anything. Do you have a different opinion?
Viktor Medvedchuk: To call someone a terrorist, you need a court decision, which has entered into legal force. There are no such decisions in Ukraine with respect to representatives of certain districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions (ORDLO), which are uncontrolled by Kyiv. None! Neither the Verkhovna Rada nor the President with his decree nor the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine cannot illegally, as it is, unfortunately, being practiced in recent times, recognize a person a terrorist or guilty for terrorist activities without a court decision in force.
Rz: Nevertheless, the National Security and Defense Council and the President of Ukraine have recently accused you of financing terrorism, having introduced sanctions against several TV channels and you personally. How can you explain this?
Viktor Medvedchuk: Representatives of the government came up with the charges in financing terrorism to deprive my friend and a member of the Political Council of the “Opposition Platform - For Life” party Taras Kozak of TV channels and to introduce sanctions against us and our wives. If there are grounds for charges in financing terrorism, then according to the law it is necessary to undertake an investigation and deliver a court decision to enter into legal force. In Ukraine, according to the Constitution, the principle of the presumption of innocence is effective. The President and the National Security and Defense Council are carrying out illegal extrajudicial crackdown against myself, members of my family and representatives of the party, as well as the illegally closed TV channels. Of course, accusations in terrorism – unjustified and false – are needed only as a cover for criminal oppression of the opposition, the destruction of freedom of speech and the establishment of dictatorship in the country.
Rz: It means you have not supported separatists financially?
Viktor Medvedchuk: Of course not. Throughout all these years, I have had affairs with these people exclusively on the issues of exchange and release of people. No financial, economic or business relations, except negotiations within the framework of the Minsk agreements. My family and I had no business in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
Rz: In the Ukrainian media, information appeared that some Ukrainian businessmen continue to conduct business in these territories. Is that true?
Viktor Medvedchuk: I do not know anything about this. But even if any of Ukrainian entrepreneurs has business there, this does not mean financing terrorism, since in the rule-of-law state you have to prove it in court.
Rz: Your critics in Kyiv claim that you are too often visiting the “aggressor” state. Do you often go to Moscow?
Viktor Medvedchuk: I go to Russia, and for this I have enough reasons. The family of my daughter and three grandsons of mine live there. I have normal and friendly relations with the leadership of the Russian Federation. And meeting them, I always defend the interests of Ukraine and Ukrainian citizens, including as an MP. For this, according to the law “On the status of a Member of Parliament”, I have all legitimate powers. For example, at the end of last year I went to Moscow so that Ukraine could buy the “Sputnik V” vaccine. I met with Vladimir Putin to agree on the transfer of the raw materials to produce vaccines in Ukraine, in Kharkiv. If the government in Kyiv took necessary decisions, we could have produced our own vaccine already in April. As a result, official Kyiv lost the fight against coronavirus, as today already three times more people are dying than in the autumn. Besides, I met with the Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation Mikhail Mishoustin to achieve the withdrawal of sanctions from Ukrainian enterprises, and a positive decision was made on this.
Rz: Recently US President Joe Biden in reply to a journalist’s question, whether he considers Putin as a “killer”, answered “yes”. How could you describe the President of Russia? Who is he for you?
Viktor Medvedchuk: I do not agree with Biden at all and I believe that he, being the President of the United States, shoud not allow such statements about the President of Russia. I personally have great respect for Vladimir Putin. Our family is proud that he and Svetlana Vladimirovna Medvedeva became our daughter’s godparents.
Rz: There is a common point of view that after 2014 Ukraine will never have such relations with Russia as before.
Viktor Medvedchuk: I am confident that the Ukrainian and Russian peoples will not become enemies. President Zelenskyy once said that Ukraine and Russia had only border in common. I replied to him that it was him and his team to have one border, while our peoples are united by a thousand-year history, Orthodox faith, common Slavic roots, millions of relatives living in the two countries, and a Great Victory in the most bloody war in the entire human history – Great Patriotic War.
Rz: Do you believe that your party can win the elections and form the government? Some Ukrainian journalists often call your political force the “fifth column of Russia”. Is this true and who is financing the “Opposition Platform - For Life” party?
Viktor Medvedchuk: “Opposition Platform - For Life” is being financed by members of our political force, including myself, and also in accordance with the law, the budget of Ukraine. Support from citizens allows our party to be among the front-runners in the ratings of political forces based on the results of sociological surveys. At the end of the past and the beginning of this year, we were running first in the ratings. We are not wagging or flirting off and on with the people from different parts of Ukraine, instead we consistently and openly implement our position, do not incite hatred, but fight for the preservation of the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Therefore, more than anyone else we have the right to be called a pro-Ukrainian party. And the rest, who perform the orders of the State Department, EU officials, George Soros organizations and pursue personal interests, can decide how to be called, based on the labels they are trying to attach. I believe that we can win the elections and come to power, and if necessary, form a coalition with other parties and, most importantly, build a successful state in Ukraine.
Rz: In 2019, Volodymyr Zelenskyy was elected the President of Ukraine – for the first time a person who was never in politics before. How do you assess almost two years of the rule of Zelenskyy?
Viktor Medvedchuk: As a complete failure. All that Ukrainians got is the colossal increase in communal tariffs, the growth of unemployment, the fall of GDP, total impoverishment and, most importantly, the absence of peace.
At the same time, the Zelenskyy team unfolded real repression against its political opponents, attacks on freedom of speech and fundamental principles of democracy in the country. The head of state himself openly ignores the norms of the Constitution and the rights, introduces illegal sanctions against Ukrainian citizens, bans the Ukrainian media, in an extrajudicial procedure seizes property and destroys businesses. Economic decline, lawlessness and arbitrariness – that is the “achievement” of President Zelenskyy on his post. The country did not get the promised peace in Donbas, there are no exchanges of retained persons, the debt of Ukraine is growing, Ukrainians keep on leaving the country looking for earnings, in order to somehow feed their families. From poor under Poroshenko, the country turned into a beggar under Zelenskyy.
Rz: As a veteran of Ukrainian politics, do you feel responsible for the current situation in the country? You used to be the Head of Administration of President Leonid Kuchma.
Viktor Medvedchuk: Yes, sure. Undoubtedly, I have said this many times and openly.
Rz: 7 years have passed since the Revolution of Dignity on the Maidan and the annexation of Crimea. How has Ukraine changed since then?
Viktor Medvedchuk: Compare yourself what has happened in 7 years, since 2013. According to official data, following those events:
- we have a drop in GDP and exports by 15% and 22%, respectively;
- the country’s national debt increased by 337%;
- foreign direct investment decreased from USD 67 billion at the beginning of 2014 to USD 48.9 billion at the beginning of 2021;
- tariffs for housing and communal services for the population (gas, heat, electricity, water supply) increased by an average of 840%, while gas – by 1160%, heating – by 1223%, and the population’s debt for housing and communal services has increased by 578.5% since 2014;
- the cost of living and the minimum pension decreased by 47%;
- wage arrears increased by 327%;
- the consumer price index increased by 274%;
- meanwhile, during this period, the average wage increased by only 6%.
Rz: What about Crimea?
Viktor Medvedchuk: Crimea is Ukraine in accordance with the Constitution of our country. I have always adhered to this position and consistently defend the territorial integrity of Ukraine within my political activities.
Rz: Ukraine has not bought gas from Russia since 2015, replacing it with reverse gas supplies from Europe. What do you think about this?
Viktor Medvedchuk: Ukraine is overpaying, consuming the same Russian natural gas, but using the scheme of its import on a virtual reverse, allegedly from the German gas hub (NCG), using the corruption formula “Dusseldorf+” and allegedly supplies from countries that do not produce natural gas at all.
Therefore, experts say, according to this formula, Ukraine additionally overpays USD 38.5-42.5 per thousand cubic meters of imported gas. This money goes into the pockets of corrupt officials, and ordinary citizens pay for it.
What could be more profitable than direct deliveries of Russian gas from the Russian Federation? Representatives of our party held a number of meetings in Moscow and reached an agreement that Ukraine would receive a 25% discount on Russian gas. But official Kyiv in this matter is guided not by economic feasibility and the interests of its citizens, but by dubious political motives, and therefore our initiative was groundlessly rejected.
Rz: What is your attitude towards Nord Stream 2? Do you agree with the opinion of the Ukrainian government, which, like many EU countries, sees this project as a threat to security and energy stability?
Viktor Medvedchuk: How does diversification of cheap energy supplies threaten EU countries? As a citizen of Ukraine, I have always wanted to use in full the opportunities from the gas transportation system of my country, but this is only possible if a gas transportation consortium is created with the participation of Ukraine, Russia and the EU. I have been consistently defending the idea of such a consortium for many years, but it is being rejected by the Ukrainian authorities for rash political reasons. Meanwhile, that would be the very way to lead to the observance of the interests of Ukraine, Russia and the countries of the European Union.