Response of the first president

Leonid KRAVCHUK: The president cannot be tied to the chariot of some political force

The ex-minister of internal affairs, ex-companion of Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko, and “field commander” of the Maidan Yurii Lutsenko recently made an unexpected statement. As it turned out, he had previously found comfort hoping that Tymoshenko’s party Batkivshchyna can unite the opposition, but this was no longer the case. The leader of People’s Self-Defense even voiced his uniting formula, explaining that one should not look for uniting leaders inside the party ranks, but rather choose an outsider. Lutsenko believes that Leonid Kravchuk should be this person. “In my opinion, Kravchuk not only has the moral right to unite the opposition, but this is his duty, as the first president, to protect independence and democracy in the country,” stated Lutsenko and added that he was waiting for Kravchuk’s response.

In his interview to The Day Leonid Kravchuk answered not only this question, but also commented on the “Gongadze case” and spoke about the factors preventing Viktor Yanukovych from becoming a uniting president for all of Ukraine.

Mr. Kravchuk, what is your response?

“Indeed, there was a conversation regarding the problems of the opposition, which everybody is well aware of. The opposition did not even form a united organization. Whereas earlier we were talking about the necessity to approve the law on the opposition in the parliament, which would define its tasks, functions and so on, now even that is off the table. Because, according to the old-new Constitution, the opposition is not defined, there is simply a majority and a minority. But this doesn’t mean that there are no different political forces in Ukraine. There are ones that are democratic, and others that are less so. However, in my opinion, one should distinguish between the notions of ‘opposition’ and ‘democratic forces.’ Why? Because I am not inclined to think that the whole opposition is made up of democrats, and not all in governing majority are undemocratic.

“The problem of structuring Ukrainian political society exists and is not yet solved. The opposition (or the forces that lost the elections) is formed in a slovenly force with no unity, common philosophy, and no shared ideology. The opposition, as well as the government, must have an ideology. And still in Ukraine neither the government, nor the opposition has a fundamental ideology. Parties? Perhaps. The nationalists, for example. But again, not all of them are classic nationalists as we imagine them. They are rather nationalist fighters. In this case all this acquires a different content and an absolutely different character. The same goes for the government. It does not have an ideology. What government is it, what is its ideology? Liberal-monetary, liberal-authoritarian, democratic? I guess the government is on the way to some ideology. If we consider this government specifically, then, in my opinion, it is between moderate liberalism and authoritarianism. But there is no ideology and philosophy of the government per se. The opposition is also a government, with their tasks and powers. In this case one can speak about watching over the current government, producing alternative documents, and providing sound competition.”

Do the current government and the current opposition realize the need for the formation of an ideology in the basic sense? By the way, at the recent Batkivshchyna congress Yulia Tymoshenko somewhat raised the qualification standard, do you agree?

“You know, based on what I saw, heard and read, I can say there are other motives. If earlier Yulia Tymoshenko was an irreconcilable fighter, now her message is a bit different. For example, it has the ideas of a ‘Ukraine of the Third Millennium,’ establishing a council on developing a new Constitution, and many other things. One can see a different motivation here, one that is more constructive.

“On the whole, of course, there is a need to unite democratic forces into one organized democratic force. A force which would offer society the best options for today: in building society, managing economy and so on — a vision of our lives and objectives. Let us consider 10 European countries with the same (with some nuances) parliamentary regimes. Peoples live differently with similar regime.

“How so? Because the regime is important, but, in my opinion, the people’s confidence and support are more important. Today people see that the government is not able to sustain the level of life it promised. There is much disappointment. But I, for example, know it is not easy. If we do not carry out reforms for 20 years (and this is the sad truth), it is impossible for President Yanukovych to undertake reforms and achieve success right away. First, a lot has to be done. Second, the team should be changed.

“Today I’m looking for uniting motives, which would allow society to involve the government and the opposition together. Of course, it does not mean the opposition must be obedient and should not criticize and control the government. However, the opposition must act for the benefit of society if it is endangered.”

Is it realistic to find these motives given the discord among the opposition forces?

“In this case we should return to what Lutsenko spoke of. He shared his meditations with me. What did I answer? First. I am not in the opposition. Second. Let’s assume I entered this path and agreed to unite democratic forces in Ukraine in one ideological platform. Then a question arises: ‘How?’ Do the ill-assorted forces want Kravchuk to head this uniting process? Take Tiahnybok, Yatseniuk, Hrytsenko, Kyrylenko and ask them. I am sure each of them will tell you he is the best candidate for the uniting role. Let’s continue. Let’s assume they did agree. Again a question arises: ‘how can one constitute it?’ Shall I come out and say here I am, despite my age, look how handsome I am, and I still have a lot of strength and so on? They will say you are an interesting man, but we don’t want you (laughs). What do I mean? If, for example, Lutsenko’s words make sense, if I was heard and they still want to hear me, it is not obligatory to unite people through an organization. I can express my opinion. For example, now I talk to you, and those who want will hear me and will make their own conclusions. What I mean is that we must unite people around a solid ideological position, based on a real view on things, not protecting and humiliating anyone, but saying: ‘Today, in my opinion, it is better to do so and so for Ukraine.’ If the president, the Verkhovna Rada, and the opposition do not see any ill intentions in such a position (that is that I defend someone and so on), then I may have a role to play. To be honest, today I do not see myself in the role of a referee or a defender. I see myself in the role of a person who, possessing a huge political experience, having the experience of working at all posts in Ukraine (and not only in Ukraine), will tell the truth and will be responsible for his words. And I will be responsible for all words regardless of whether someone likes them or not. I know: not everyone likes what I say. And if I said now that yes, I want to do it, you would see the torrent of complaints and criticism. Kravchuk is this and that, he was there, then there, he also betrayed someone and so on. In a word, they will accuse me of everything. Why will they accuse me? Because they would be scared. The people afraid would be the ones that do not want me to go to Yanukovych and tell him the truth. For example, I will tell him that today, not defending TBi, I know that around him there are people who want to appropriate this channel. Those who have these intentions will not like it. I will be on the way to the room, and they will be already sitting in the reception to tell Yanukovych their ‘truth.’ But I will do what I do today, by not dealing with any political force. I do not intend to be a candidate for parliament or anywhere else. I have only one goal — to help improve the situation.”

The goal is noble, but will it find response?

“I am not saying that my words are the ultimate truth. But I will speak relying on my own experience. Trust me, I know what covert processes will start when I make up my mind to do something based on the suggested initiative.

“Why? Because, right now, negative political forces dominate in Ukraine. There are about 80 percent of them, and 20 percent of those that can be considered positive. These 80 percent appeared on the wave of negative processes and totally sold themselves out to the business elite, which supports and feeds them. Of course, they don’t want to change the situation. But if the president wants to change the situation, I will do my best to help him. I will not do it for myself, believe me, I don’t need anything personally. At the same time, if I can help the opposition (at least by means of forming a new political platform where everyone would find their place), I will do it. I will be very glad if they are standing together on one platform, even if they are not shoulder to shoulder, even if they are standing around the edges.

“I’m not saying that Kravchuk knows everything. But I will say what I know. For example, we must understand that a person that entered big politics can always have small and big problems, in particular, of a personal character. I remember a case. Ten years ago I was asked: ‘Do you believe that Kuchma could order the murder of Gongadze?’ I answered: ‘No, I don’t believe it.’ Knowing Leonid Kuchma, his impulsive character, and also that he likes to party, I can imagine that he could say during an event: ‘Shut him up!’ He could say this, but I will never believe he meant it in that way.

“It happened so. He did not want this, but he felt like saying it. However, the point is that he shouldn’t have said it. He should not discuss the journalist’s behavior in the circle of friends. He shouldn’t, because he should have understood that everyone might take actions using his words as an excuse, manipulating them for their political purposes. The president must know this. Actually, he even cannot have close friends. He is the president and that’s it. This means that any president in any circle or any banquet must not discuss the behavior of those who criticize him.

“But not only Kuchma got into this trouble. Lytvyn did as well. He knows this, why then does he undertake the role of an all-Ukrainian teacher? Do not preach if you cannot live up to your message. Sit quietly in the corner and stay there until you can leave this corner and take the righteous path unspotted. Someday there will be a trial, I hope. I want to stress once again: even if a person is not guilty, even if his guilt is not proven, he should be removed from the government when people cast doubt on you. Otherwise, you will see, the government in this composition will not be able to carry out reforms. I don’t mean to insult anybody. I don’t suspect anyone and don’t label anyone, but I repeat: if people speak about it, the conclusions are obvious. By the way, did you notice the people’s reaction when they wanted to blame everything on Kravchenko?”


“That was a very serious sign. It means that people have a solid opinion and will never follow those who are not authorities for them.”

Earlier you spoke about the necessity to change the team. Could you please specify?

“Recently I heard a speech by Korolevska (people’s deputy from the Bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko. – Author) who said it was necessary to dismantle the existing government and bring in a new one. And I say: ‘No, it is necessary to change the team.’ One should remove from the team all those whose reputations have been tarnished, even if only by rumor.”

Let’s assume Yanukovych decides to do this. In your opinion, who would you bring in?

“Recently in the broadcast of the Svoboda Slova on ICTV I heard two women — Akimova and Korolevska. I would like to see more of such people. They do not carry the burden of the totalitarian past. They are not corrupted by Stalinism. By the way, The Day published a material about de-Stalinization. I read a lot of interesting thoughts there.

“This Stalinism has existed in everything, in each step of our government for all 20 years. And if we think: let’s force everyone and everyone will follow us, we shall never create a democratic society, where people will want to move forward by themselves. People do not want to move forward today, and we see this from our own experience.

“So I speak about the necessity to change the team. What does it mean? That the president, relying on the old-new Constitution, should create his own team. The way it is created is also important. If he creates it by means of competition, through free elections, democratic measures, relying on the opinion of local bodies and people — this is absolutely normal! But if he does it in a thuggish manner… By the way, just yesterday I received a letter from Kherson: ‘Mr. Kravchuk, what should we do, all our mayors and deputies were removed from their posts.’ Yanukovych said that if he heard about local governments’ interference of this kind, he would remove them. It’s high time to remove them!”

But he can fail to hear this or someone can “help” him not to hear. There are millions of Ukrainians and the president is just one person. And though he promised to listen to everyone, this is physically impossible, especially when gripped by electoral fever.

“Exactly. That is why I say that now Yanukovych has all the reasons and possibilities to create his own team relying on the old-new Constitution. This team, as it is known, was created based on quotas. That is the president at that time was a hostage of what he was offered. It is good he has normal relations with the prime minister, otherwise… In a word, we remember the relations of ex-President Yushchenko with his prime minister. You’re right when you say the president will do nothing alone. He needs his own — relatively clean — team. However, I do not know who is clean out there today, because there are ‘evil spirits’ everywhere (laughs). But still there are forces not involved in the worst affairs.”

According to the present Constitution, the president appoints the prosecutor general and the head of the Security Service of Ukraine, not just recommends a candidate to the parliament as it was before. In view of this and other nuances, do you think there is a chance that with Yanukovych the best cases will be submitted to the court?

“Yes, I think there are chances.

I am confident that sooner or later Yanukovych must do it. Do you see that President Yanukovych as a candidate and Yanukovych today are two different persons? He participated in the elections with a political force that supported him, and also a general idea about Ukraine. And now he sits in Bankova Street, and all Ukraine is in front of him. And he must know he cannot be tied to the chariot of one political force because this political force protects its own interests, and he is the president of all Ukraine. And he understands this! I know it from my own experience because the same happened to me. And though I participated in elections with some experience, I didn’t realize what this truly meant. But when I entered the room and realized that the fate of Ukraine depended on my decision, I started thinking in absolutely different categories. He must refuse from those who surround him, those who praise him all day long thinking solely of their own interests. And he will do this if he really wants to become the president of all Ukraine.”