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21 August 2017
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Yushchenko speaks of Ukraine`s future

Viktor Yushchenko, President of Ukraine and hero of the "Orange Revolution" in 2004, comes to Canada for a three-day visit beginning today. In an interview with the National Post`s Diane Francis, he speaks about his country`s future...

Viktor Yushchenko, President of Ukraine and hero of the "Orange Revolution" in 2004, comes to Canada for a three-day visit beginning today. In an interview with the National Post`s Diane Francis, he speaks about his country`s future and its difficult relationship with Russia. Ms. Francis covered the landmark 2004 Ukrainian elections and is a director of the Canadian-Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce.

Q Why does Ukraine want to join NATO even though Russia is very much against it?

A We consider Ukraine`s full-scale integration into NATO to be the best possible way to guarantee independence and state sovereignty in today`s geopolitical realities. If Ukraine wants to feel safe, then joining this system is the most adequate alternative. And all the interested parties should easily accept it.

Certainly Russia`s resistance is not constructive since it is based on the irrational motivation. Ukraine sees Russia as a reliable partner and does not aim at creating any threats to its security. We are ready to give all the possible guarantees to satisfy our partners. Furthermore, Russia`s resistance cannot be a decisive argument when speaking about national security of Ukraine.

Joining NATO is a long-term process. However, on the Bucharest NATO summit the Alliance clearly declared that Ukraine and Georgia will be granted full membership one day. We shall do our best to make it happen as soon as possible."

Q Is Russia`s position toward Ukraine equitable in the controversies over energy?

A Supplying Ukraine with energy is one of the crucial problems for our country, that is a matter of national security. Ukraine is trying to protect efficiently its national interests in gas supplies. Our Russian partners for their part are trying to get the best conditions for selling gas and using Ukraine`s gas-transferring capability. That is the fundamental contradiction in Ukraine-Russia gas relations.

This problem can be resolved by the negotiations process. However, there remains a less obvious problem. Ukraine cannot be trapped in the situation when Russia can use the gas factor as means for pressure to achieve its political goals. We have been asking our colleagues not to mingle politics and economics. Unfortunately, there has been no progress in it yet.

I want to emphasize that Ukraine has never derailed the plans of gas transfer to European consumers. Russian officials have not once declared that we are not fulfilling the co-operation conditions. But this is not more than just an informational campaign aimed at keeping the pressure high. Another goal obviously is to force Europe to support quite expensive Russian projects of constructing new gas pipelines to bypass Ukraine. We believe this is very much an inequitable approach that worsens our bilateral relations. But I still hope we shall come to an agreement on these issues in future."

Q What is the strength of Ukraine now?

A The main strength of Ukraine now is Ukraine itself, its territorial integrity, independence, the irreversibility of the democratic processes. Ukrainian history has a lot of tragic pages. We were moving toward independence for centuries. The generations of Ukrainians were fighting for democracy. And today we can finally say we got what we wanted - the sovereignty.

The main strength of Ukraine is in its people. It is a big and invincible nation that been fighting for its independence, chose the democratic path and defended it. I am sure Ukrainian people will not turn off the road of freedom, democracy and a European choice.

We are a young nation on the European map but we are deeply rooted genetically, historically and spiritually into Europe. There is no doubt Ukraine will finalize all the procedures and will become part of the new modern Europe economically and formally. Politically and mentally we are ready for that already."

Q What do you see as the main challenges for Ukraine now?

A Ukraine has only recently chosen the true path of democracy. Less than four years that have passed after the Orange Revolution is a very short period of time for the history. We are rebuilding the state and the society, creating new mechanisms of co-operation between the branches of power, between the authorities and the business sector, between Ukraine and the world, step by step we are also moving toward the creation of a civil society.

Freedom first of all means responsibility. Ukrainian authorities, political forces are only learning to be responsible and mature. It surely cannot happen in one day. Unfortunately, a lot of political forces are only concerned with the next elections and forget that their mission is to build the country for the future generations. But this is a temporary process, the problem of development. I am sure we shall have true political elites that will be driven by the national interests in their work. It is the transparent and responsible politics that is expected by the Ukrainian society and the world."

Q How can Canada help Ukraine?

A I would like to remind that after the collapse of the USSR there were a lot of concerns about the possible negative effects of it. And Canada signed the Declaration about the relations between Canada and Ukraine a few months before [our] referendum on independence. Thus Canada was the first among the Western states to recognize Ukraine as an independent state. We are very much grateful for this and appreciate it.

Canada has also been very active with promoting support to Ukraine from the international community to fight the consequences of the explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear power station and shut it down.

Recently Canada took a very principled stand about Ukraine joining the Membership Action Plan during the Bucharest NATO summit. Canada also provided political and technical support for Ukraine to join the WTO.

I want to mention specifically the Ukrainian diaspora in Canada. I am very grateful to the Ukrainian community for its active position to keep its national identity. Thank you for the patriotism, faith and internal strength, for preserving Ukrainian language and national traditions. We highly appreciate the role of the Canadian Ukrainians in the development of the Ukrainian state and reconstruction of its history.

I have no doubts Ukraine and Canada will keep on extending bilateral relations and co-operate constructively on the international arena."

Diane Francis, National Post 

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