When did the revenge begin?
– Attempts of revenge have not stopped since 2014. But it is not important whether they were, but to what extent they were successfully implemented. During these five years Azarov, Portnov & Co obviously pursued anti-Ukrainian policy. It was clear that these people would do their utmost to bring the country back to the pre-Maidan times. However, the present moment has created favorable conditions for their stay in Ukraine and the deployment of their activities here. A striking example is filing lawsuits against the Maidan by Portnov. For instance, they try to accuse me, as Commandant of the Maidan, of organizing unauthorized rallies, of Odesa events on May 2, 2014, in fact, of those actions that were aimed at preventing Russian aggression. Today, hostile saboteurs are operating freely in our territory. The decision of the Taras Shevchenko National University to restore Portnov has clearly signaled the official establishment that the old times are coming back. The reaction to this was my appeal to the Verkhovna Rada and the students’ protests. Society and mainly young people are ready to resist the revenge. Active citizens are ready to show that they will not allow steps aimed at devaluing what once made people fight for at Maidan.
Portnov’s return and other significant events took place under the Prosecutor General Yurii Lutsenko. He is still in office. Why did the PGO (Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine) not take any noticeable measures?
– I cannot speak on behalf of the Prosecutor General’s Office. The Verkhovna Rada’s position has remained unchanged all these years. My recent application about ZIK channel, and similar statements and appeals about NewsOne and 112 Ukraine, which appeared before, aime at necessity to check their work and law compliance. Today, immediately after the new president’s inauguration, shadows of the past have begun to feel more freely and behave more aggressively.
Hennadiy Kernes is a shadow from the past that has not disappeared from Kharkiv for all these five years. We see today his initiatives to return Soviet names to the streets, obviously, we will witness other revanchist moves. Were such compromises with Kernes and his likeminded for the past five years really so necessary?
– No, these compromises were not necessary. My position on this issue is unchanged: people with anti-Ukrainian views and activities must face the consequences. But I will repeat myself: the implementation of Kernes’s initiatives has become possible right now. You mention the legal aspects, but apart from them, there is a general political atmosphere in the country that favors revanchist steps, when anti-Ukrainian forces allow themselves to check how far they can go and how much they can hit our basic values. I have repeatedly stressed that the basis for the construction of the state is the question of national identity. This question nobody will solve for us. In this cadence, we adopted a number of fundamental decisions: the recognition of the UPR (UNR), Carpathian Ukraine, OUN and UPA members as Heroes of Ukraine, recognition of the participants of the Resistance Movement and granting them the status of combatants, the decommunisation, the autocephaly of the church, the law on language, quotas on radio and television. And just at these achievements the attack is now being directed. Today, we both – I, as the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, and citizens of Ukraine – should show that in the event of an attempt to revise these legislative acts the revanchists would feel in hot water! During these five years the state has finally become Ukrainian, when we have restored historical justice; therefore our task is to keep these achievements from neglecting.
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A tool of revenge is the courts. Could the current situation have been averted over the last five years?
– Judicial reform is one of the most difficult. Courts are a separate branch of government, and protection of each judge is not only an internal matter of Ukraine but also pan-European. Let me remind you that some of the dismissed judges were reinstated in office precisely through the European Court. It was extremely important to update system of justice. We began to change from above. I am proud to be directly involved in the creation of the Anti-Corruption Court, which we have been shaping according to the best European models, with the involvement of foreign experts. The High Council of Justice is also an important step for updating the system. Of course, at the lower level there are still many judges who were appointed at the times of Yanukovych, which are a big problem and a great warning. Reforming has not reached this link yet, and there has not been a massive upgrade of personnel. That is why the courts today can use the forces of revenge in their interests. We must demonstrate our own position and apply convincing arguments. De-Sovietization is the law that any Ukrainian court must consider. Our activities should be convincing at the level of public and political actions; these should be the basis for politicians, social activists, and journalists to unite.
One of the most popular memes of the current election campaign is the abolition of deputies’ immunity, as if such a decision should restore justice in society. But in reality it is what the judicial reform is aiming at, is not it?
– I have always been in favor of abolishing deputies’ immunity, at least in order to satisfy this public demand. I will remind you that the parliament voted for Petro Poroshenko’s draft law on the abolishment of immunity twice. But few people know that the Constitutional Court, which must give an assessment of such a decision, determined that this initiative itself contradicted to the requirements of the Constitution. It is possible that the subsequent attempts to abolish immunity will have the same result. In most countries parliamentarians have some immunity, but if the Ukrainian society demands the abolition of this immunity, let it be so. As the Maidan showed, the parliamentary mandate does not protect from the Berkut’s truncheons, that is, in the event of the unfolding of high-level repressions in the country, immunity will not protect the deputies.
Was it possible to finish off with the fifth column without going beyond the limits of democratic methods?
– Our war takes place in several dimensions. We must simultaneously resist Russian aggression and move towards NATO and the EU. Would our actions be effective if we could not have mobilized the entire civilized world for sanctions against Russia? Therefore, we cannot afford to act in a non-democratic way; this will mean a break with the Western world with all the relevant consequences. When we banned Russian TV channels or social networks, we heard a lot of criticism in our address. But you should not fall back on abuse of police measures, because it can eventually lead to breaking of cooperation with the civilized world. Perhaps if we had acted as rigorously as possible, violated human rights, we would have gained stronger public support, but then we would have failed to have progress in our foreign policy. Our war against Russia is the war of two civilizations, we must demonstrate qualitatively different approaches compared to those of Russians. As our Western partners say, when one dictatorship fights against the other, they will not be able to find arguments for their citizens, why they should support one of the parties in such a conflict.
We are forced to resist Russian technologies to destroy Ukraine from the inside every day. One of them is the complete discrediting of the Ukrainian authorities, the encroachment between power and society. We are reaping the fruits of it now.
What are the main mistakes of power over the last five years?
– It was an unpleasant moment for me to vote for the initiative of declaring incomes by public activists. I myself did not vote, because I consider this step to be erroneous, in fact that spoils our relations with the western partners. We should have taken greater pains to prevent Medvedchuk from controlling a large share of Ukrainian media, since the occupation of the information space is no less a defeat than the loss of part of the territory.
The presidential election revealed one paradox: many of our citizens simply do not notice the war. Is it due to the fact that it does not significantly affect their welfare?
– It is a direct responsibility of the authorities to care on the well-being of their citizens. During the years of war, we have built more roads than for the whole previous period of independence; we have achieved though not a rapid but quite noticeable economic growth. It was crucial for us to show that we are a successful European state. During the war it is very significant. But the citizens’ awareness of the fact that the country is still at war is not a matter of well-being, but of information influence.
There is a substitution of notions, for example, to the foreground comes not our defense capability, but the fight against corruption. It reminds me of the century-old events – Liberation competitions. At first, Ukraine had remarkable successes: Bolbochan held the eastern front, controlled the Crimea, agreement on the entry of Kuban into our state on the rights of autonomy was signed, and the Western Ukrainian Republic united with the UPR. What was Russia’s reaction? It changed information agenda. They said, the Ukrainian state was not important, the scrooge-landlords treat cruelly the peasants, so it was not Russia they should fight, but against the “bourgeois”. Socialists in the Ukrainian government have played along with Russians: it was not necessary to fight the Bolsheviks; it was better to wage class struggle. Thus, the paradigm of a successful Ukraine then was destroyed.
What is happening now? We hear: “Well, there is some kind of war there, but it's not the main thing, but the fact that new faces have come to power, because the old ones have completely discredited themselves.” And who are the old politicians? This is Rabinovich, Medvedchuk, Dzhemilev and Shukhevich at the same time. What do they have in common? “Young Regional” Dmytro Razumkov, Kolomoyskiy’s lawyer Andriy Bohdan are the new faces, and those veterans and volunteers who were in the current convocation of the Rada are the old, aren’t they?! And the main conflict we have turns out to be, according to some TV channels, not the conflict with Russia, but the domestic one, between generations of politicians. We have quietly approached the moment when Medvedchuk’s pro-Russian force have had more than 10% of support, and the most popular political force is indifferent to it, moreover, it has the former regional as its first number. If they cooperate, albeit ad hoc, we will face a direct threat of revenge.
Is parliament's upgrade a challenge or chance?
– After the 2014 elections, the parliament was upgraded by more than 50%. The next convocation will be updated by about 60%. But that’s not the point! If 300 young regionals enter the Rada, should we rejoice with such “new faces”? Significanct is not the age, but the presence of the pro-Ukrainian group in the parliament and its quantitative representation. It is necessary to have if not the majority, then the critical amount of deputies, enough to hold back the revanchists. And this question is to the voter.
The current division into “old” and “new” is the new Bolshevism, an illusion. For some reason, in public policy now there is a big demand for some elements of show business. This is a global trend, but in Ukraine it has a tangible peculiarity: behind all those parties with showmen, the oligarchs are at the head.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy says that his initiatives the men in the street will lobby if the Rada does not support them. However, we do not see this lobby, but the men in street, as the events at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv showed, are on the side of the pro-Ukrainian forces. Will it continue?
– There is a lot of virtual in Zelenskiy’s policy. At first they conducted a propaganda campaign on the president, now they are attacking the Rada. There is a huge information resource for this, and it is at their disposal. But let's remember, who stood at Maidan? Sensible and energetic people, it is them who can become the force for change. They are not subjected to zombifying by TV channels. The protest of students against Portnov is a phenomenon of the same order as the Maidan. Therefore, the men in the street will continue to be an effective tool for protecting against revenge. However, they solely will not solve anything (let’s recall the Kharkiv agreements and Kivalov-Kolesnichenko's law), for it a sufficient number of anti-revanchist forces in the parliament are needed.
Playing democracy is also extremely dangerous. First, all dictatorshipsat some stage played withthe tools of direct democracy. Secondly, referendums are whatMedvedchuk and militants constantly insisted during the negotiations in 2014. Thirdly, two-chamber parliament is the way to federalization and legalization of the LNR / DNR within Ukraine.
We know about the project of European Ukraineandthe model of the “Russian world”. Sometimes there is the so-called third variant: Ukraine as “liberal Russia”, which “simply stops firing”, where the language questionis bracketed out. There are forces in the West, which would be satisfied withsuch a Ukraine, they seem also to be among Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s coterie. How do you feel about thisproject?
– There is no such option. Ukraine will either be Ukrainian or become part of the Russian Empire. The third option you mentioned is just the transitional stage before returning to the colonial state. At first, we hearthat we should not seek membership in NATO, they say, there are wonderful examples of neutral countries we should look up to. But this is only a preparatory stage for further merger. If Moscow now explicitly states that it wants to join Ukraine, there will be few supporters in our country, but a lot of people will stick to the tales of neutrality. We have an example of Belarus, we should take it into consideration. Today it is extremely difficult to resist full assimilation.
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Does the president understand this? Are there people in his teamwho can explain him how dangerous it is?
– When I met Volodymyr Zelenskiy, I clearly outlined those red lines that can not be crossed. Isaid: “Iseethat you want to stop the war, and I know that you will be offered in Moscow to give autonomy tothe LNR / DNRwith the right to veto the issues of European and Euro-Atlantic integration. To accept such conditions will mean absolute surrender. It will be toutedas follows: well, we have decided to wait with the EU and NATO, but in fact it will be the first step towards returning to the colonial state. The next will be the steps towards cultural, economic and political rapprochement with the Russian Federation. Such processes will be strengthened bythe fifth column inside the country and a large number of indifferent citizens: they will not actively defend anyposition, and therefore will notresist revenge. There are three basic points: national identity, because it is self-preservationissue;cooperation with NATO, because it isnationalsecurityissue,we confronta very strong enemy, and the North Atlantic Alliance is today the most effective military alliance;and European integration, because it is the issueof our prosperity, economic development, social standards. These things must remain inviolable.”
What was the president’s reaction?
– “I will do what the people want” – this was the answer.
Andriy Parubiy. Ukrainian politician, the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada since April 14, 2016. He previously served as Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council. From December 2013 to February 2014 was a commandant of Euromaidan. He was a coordinator of the volunteer security corps. In the July 2019 Ukrainian parliamentary election Parubiy is placed second on the party list of European Solidarity.