Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
Interview with the Ukrainian political figure and people’s deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine of the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th convocations Oleg Tsarev.
Oleg, have you finished your political career? What are doing at this stage of life?
“Today I live in the Crimea, I work and provide for my family.”
Do you continue to conduct a political line, or have you distanced yourself from politics for a period of time?
“A politician is a deputy, a head of party, or a head of some social movement. So in this sense I am not involved in politics.”
Wikipedia still says that you are the speaker of the parliament of Novorossiya…
“It is the same situation as with A. Zakharchenko’s prolongation as the head of the Donetsk Republic. The parliament of Novorossiya was created, but it hasn’t been retired. The Constitution of Novorossiya was adopted via the decision of the parliament in Donetsk and Lugansk, the parliament of Novorossiya was created, but in connection with the signing of the Minsk Agreement, the activity of the parliament of Novorossiya was frozen. That’s why it is possible to say that at this moment in time it doesn’t function.”
The signature under the Minsk Agreements was appended by Mr. Zakharchenko, who died as a result of an explosion. Can the death of the head of the unrecognised Donetsk People’s Republic result in a military escalation between Kiev and the DPR forces?
“I think concerning this fact specifically – no. Full order reigns in the Republics, and all attempts to attack will be stopped by the Armed Forces. I am sure. It’s also not worth hoping that anarchy and a certain chaos reigns there, which the Ukrainian authorities can use. Aleksandr Zakharchenko’s murder only resulted in the fact that if earlier Moscow took the wishes of partners in the Minsk process into consideration and didn’t appoint re-elections of the heads of the Republics, then now A. Zakharchenko’s murder is considered as a gross violation of all agreements. Security guarantees for participants of the Minsk talks are documented in the Minsk Agreements. Now elections have been appointed in the Republics.”
What is life like for Novorossiya today?
“What we meant by Novorossiya is now mainly under the control of Kiev. And there are only two Republics within the framework of a part of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, they lead an independent life as unrecognised republics.”
What options for solving this problem are most viable? Federalisation? Or everything will remain in the status quo?
“Everything will strongly depend on results of presidential and parliamentary elections in Ukraine. If the authorities in Kiev will be replaced, then the people who will come to power will aim to fulfil the obligations under the Minsk Agreements, and Russia will put pressure on the unrecognised republics for the purpose of fulfilling these agreements and the further integration of them into the structure of Ukraine as autonomies. If Petro Poroshenko remains in power, or an even more radically minded politician will replace him, then it will be physically impossible to implement the Minsk Agreements. In this case the Republics will remain either independent or will become a part of Russia.”
In your opinion, does Petro Poroshenko have chances of winning in the upcoming presidential elections?
“Today Petro Poroshenko is one of the richest people in Europe. He is for sure the #1 oligarch in Ukraine. He has financial and media resources. Most likely, P. Poroshenko will also have a very convenient sparring partner in the person of the representative from the ‘Opposition Bloc’ against which he can win elections. The main task is to bring the representative of the ‘Opposition Bloc’ into the second round of voting. This is quite possible. As far as I understand and know, the ‘Opposition Bloc’ will propose a single candidate. Most likely, Yury Boyko will become such a candidate. I am practically sure of it. Boyko has every chance of reaching the second round of voting. In the second round Petro Poroshenko will win against him. The main intrigue lies in who will enter the second round of voting along with the representative of the southeast: Poroshenko, Tymoshenko or, for example, Gritsenko. If it is Tymoshenko who will enter the second round, then she will easily win against Boyko, and if it is P. Poroshenko who will enter the second round, then it is he who will win against Boyko. Nevertheless, leaning on the votes of the southeast and central Ukraine, Boyko has every chance of entering the second round. And all scenarios of victory revolve around a convenient sparring partner for everyone. Tymoshenko, like Poroshenko, now have a terrible anti-rating [the opposite of an approval rating; a measure of social dislike towards a politician – ed]. And so a sparring partner from the southeast will be very convenient for them. In such a case they will be able to consolidate their electorate, which will vote for the lesser evil.
I think that it is precisely for this reason that Poroshenko chose for himself the scenario of meeting Boyko in the second round. It is precisely for this reason that people were absolutely quietly allowed to celebrate the holiday of May 9th. It is precisely for this reason that the broadcasting of oppositional TV channels is allowed in Ukraine, as well as the speeches of oppositional politicians. Poroshenko is interested in ‘inflating’ the approval rating of opposition forces. This will give him the chance to consolidate his electorate and will create the illusion among the pro-Russian opposition of the possibility of victory, and this will ensure their participation in elections. It is approximately in this same way that Yanukovych, back then, hoped to behave when he ‘inflated’ the approval rating of Tyagnibok.”
Can you rank Ukrainian politicians in terms of their level of influence?
“Poroshenko, certainly, is number one. After him there is a small and disputable gap – Akhmetov, Kolomoisky, Avakov, Tymoshenko. The last politician is named not for his level of influence, but for his prospects. But all previous persons are named in terms of their influence.”
Will external players – the US and the EU – shape internal political processes around elections?
“A defining role will be played by the US. If we see that Soros and Clinton’s team have determined what they want, then, most likely, Gritsenko or Vakarchuk will suit them. Today it is difficult to say who the State Department will place a stake on. If they place a stake on Tymoshenko, then the US will have two candidates on the territory of Ukraine. Here the situation can be such that representatives of the American establishment will start trying to find out who from them is more influential on the Ukrainian political field.”
What impact can Russia make?
“There isn’t a lot of political influence.”
“Russia is still the largest investor in the Ukrainian economy. The volume of commodity turnover with the Russian Federation, in my opinion, grows, and doesn’t fall.”
What prospects are there in Russian-Ukrainian and Ukrainian-western relations? Is there a need to contradistinguish them?
“I consider that events will start to develop proceeding from what influence over Ukraine will be exerted by the internal political situation in the United States – the race for power. And Ukraine is used as a place where two teams will start to measure their forces. For Trump it is extremely important to link the plundering of American means assigned to Ukraine to personnel from the Obama administration. Thus, Trump could strike a rather serious blow on his political enemies. For Clinton it is very important not to allow it.
In general, I believe that in all the former Soviet space events that depend on two factors will begin to develop. The first is the negative influence that arises in the US. This is connected to their economy and political crisis. The second factor – the US will try to snatch the post-Soviet space so that it isn’t dragged into China’s orbit, which promptly gains steam, and to deprive it of possible allies – Kazakhstan, Russia, and other Asian Post-Soviet countries, which, having united, could strengthen China. Such process will become defining, but everything depends on speed. If the negative phenomena in the US economy starts to grow quicker than their opportunities to blow up the situation in Russia, Kazakhstan, and other countries, then it will be one scenario. Then all of us will be preserved and we will have prospects. If the policy of sanctions and colour revolutions is successful, then not the best of times awaits us.”
In Georgia irreversible processes are also ongoing. In Armenia everything isn’t so smooth too. And Central Asia in several years, I think, will be under the influence of China.
“I believe that the Kremlin understands those processes that are happening and all existing threats very well. It is quite probable that the chosen tactics – evading head-on clashes – so that the US finds other enemies for itself, is to some extent justified. The fact that Russia doesn’t respond to sanctions, avoiding a standoff, is, maybe, not the worst option in today’s situation. Stalin, at this time, did exactly the same thing, when he delayed the beginning of the big war, using time to finish the modernisation of the army.”
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