I only know who won`t be the prime minister - Yushchenko

I only know who won`t be the prime minister - Yushchenko

The political majority will probably be formed with the positions of three political forces taken into consideration. Some other may decide to join the coalition...

[The parliamentary election in Ukraine will take place on March 26. President Viktor Yushchenko discuses the campaign situation, the chances of his party, his own plans for after the election, and Russian-Ukrainian relations.]

      Question: One frequently hears speculations in Russia that the "Yushchenko era" in Ukraine is drawing to its end. There is the widespread opinion that the triumph of Viktor Yanukovich`s Party of Regions is a foregone conclusion and that it will put an end to the Orange Period in Ukrainian politics.

      Viktor Yushchenko: I`d say that this is an erroneous assumption, or rather a deliberately cultivated myth. A legend if you prefer that doesn`t have anything to do with the actual state of

affairs.

      Yesterday is gone for good. Ukraine will never return to the lawlessness of shadow economy, to the criminal regime, to the decisions quietly made by oligarchs in the halls of power...

      The processes that are taking place in Ukraine are approved by millions.

      Question: But democracy doesn`t necessarily mean democrats in the halls of power. You will surely admit that Yanukovich may win and become prime minister again.

      Viktor Yushchenko: I only know who won`t be the prime minister... As for who will be in the Cabinet, the answer to this question will be given on March 26. I`m convinced that a harmony  of interests will be found. Extremes will never promote the public interest.

      Question: Results of opinion polls show the Party of Regions ahead of all other political forces. Do you accept that this party could form a coalition? Or will Our Ukraine provide the nucleus, no matter what?

      Viktor Yushchenko: Let`s put it this way. The political majority will probably be formed with the positions of three political forces taken into consideration. These political forces I`m talking about are Our Ukraine, Party of Regions, and Yulia Timoshenko`s Bloc. That`s all by way of the nucleus. Some other political forces may decide to join the coalition, the ones that will have been elected into the parliament.

      The coalition should promote the policy of national interests, both domestically and in international affairs.

      That a coalition will be formed is I think clear. What forces may join it is immaterial at this point. In my view, there may be up to six combinations. I`d prefer a renovated Orange Team of course. I hope that the talks over establishment of the coalition in the wake of the election will be successful.

      Question: What do you think Yanukovich`s party owes its high rating to? Split in the Orange Camp?

      Viktor Yushchenko: Of course. And I would like the architects of this split to understand it.

      Question: And who are they?

      Viktor Yushchenko: Those who were dismissed. Some people dramatically changed as soon as they found themselves in the halls of power, and that was the worst conceivable strike at the Orange Revolution and the camp of Independence square supporters. I mean the people who stood by my side on Independence Square. I considered it my duty to elevate them to the positions of power. I hoped that they would be as faithful to Ukraine and ideals of the team as they had been before the election. I thought that national interests would be their first priority in everything.

Unfortunately, devaluation of these values began practically at once.  Personal gains, personal aspirations, plans, and business ventures  moved into the foreground. Consider the Nikopol Ferrous Alloys Plant,  here the conflict was fomented by intrigues. Unfortunately, it was not  just an isolated episode. There were others as well. Dismissing them all was the only means of preventing devaluation of the team and decline of national economy left me.

      Question: You thought you might be at the top of Our Ukraine`s list of candidates, until late summer. You changed you mind afterwards. Why is that?

      Viktor Yushchenko: I didn`t rule out this possibility, but I never said it was decided. We still had some time before the election in the middle of 2005. We knew we would have to decide one way or another closer to the election. As for me personally, there is only one thing that concerns me. I want the upcoming election to solidify the victory the forces of democracy scored in 2004. Ukrainian democracy is still fragile... So, I gradually decided against having my name at the top of Our Ukraine`s list.

      Question: But you are a party member!

      Viktor Yushchenko: I`m president and therefore put as much distance between me and parties as possible. As for Our Ukraine, I have trust in it. It already changed Ukraine and (I know) it will do a lot for Ukraine yet. I decided nevertheless that having my name on top of the list of candidates would be a collision with principles of democracy.

      Question: Has anyone on your team ever proposed using administrative resources?

      Viktor Yushchenko: The matter has never even been proposed.

      Question: Do you think someone might go ahead and use them anyway?

      Viktor Yushchenko: I can`t rule it out, of course. First and foremost, the matter concerns local government bodies. Free and fair elections are like a new culture. It is understood and accepted by 80% while 10% more need to think it over yet and the remaining 10% do not want anything but what life was like two years ago. There is only one way of winning elections. That is winning voters over to your side. At the very least, it is necessary to invoke the hope that the country is moving in the correct direction. The administrative resource will only bring harm here. Tactically, it may actuate victory. Strategically, however, it is always more damaging than helpful.

      Question: What if some political force finds itself disappointed with the outcome of election? What if it sets up tents on Independence Square again, accuse you of tampering with the election, and demands cancelling the election result. What will you do then?

      Viktor Yushchenko: Protests on Independence Square require a motive, and evidence that the election was rigged. You have my solemn promise that there will be no such motive.

      Let us consider what was improved since a year ago. We revised the work with voters lists. First and foremost, we completed their inventory and run them by registries to update the lists. In short, I believe that in the upcoming election we will have the most precise lists of voters in the history of Ukraine. I`d say that this is a guarantee of democratic nature of the election.

      Question: Many problems have arisen in Russian-Ukrainian relations: gas supplies, the Black Sea Fleet, cheese, lighthouses. What do you think all this means? Moscow`s vengeance for your

2004 triumph?

      Viktor Yushchenko: Relations between Ukraine and Russia have never been simple. On the contrary, the legacy of the my team included a host of unsolved problems. A number of bilateral treaties and documents weren`t even functioning, but raising that issue was taboo. In my view, the time has come to bring up all these matters and - more importantly - finally resolve them.

Ukraine is being run by a team of pragmatists. Where foreign policy is  concerned, we are guided by quite simple and understandable principles.  They boil down to promotion of national interests of Ukraine, to honesty, predictability, and responsibility to partners. Ukraine has proclaimed Euro-Atlantic integration as its strategic objective.

This course remains unchanged. I always emphasize meanwhile that Ukraine`s rapprochement with European structures doesn`t mean friendship against someone else. On the contrary, Kiev has always stood for advancement of mutually beneficial, equal, strategic relations with all its neighbors and primarily with Moscow.

      I disagree with the assumption that 2005 was a bad year for bilateral relations between Ukraine and Russia. On the contrary, the Yushchenko-Putin panel was set up and its committees are already working. The committee for the Black Sea Fleet has already met.

      As for economic matters, we abandoned the practice of barter deals in the gas sector, and that`s fine by us and an important achievement. The trade turnover between our countries rose 12% in 2005. Not bad, but not nearly as good as it could have been.

      Question: Has Moscow tried to exert any influence on the parliamentary election in Ukraine?

      Viktor Yushchenko: I`d say this will be the first parliamentary election in Ukraine whose outcome depends solely on Ukrainian voters. It is here that the outcome of the election will be decided - not in Washington, Brussels, or Moscow. If I my say so, our neighbors understand it too.

      Question: Your opponents criticize the authorities for the gas accord with Russia that makes RosUkrEnergo, a dubious structure at least, a monopolist. What is the purpose of  RosUkrEnergo?

      Viktor Yushchenko: You`d better ask someone else. Somebody has been given a monopoly on gas transit across Russian territory. Why? I don`t know why! I cabled the prime minister and requested another appeal to Gazprom and Reifferizerbank for an official explanation.

These aren`t Ukrainian companies! We approached the third entity, saying that we want to know what this company is and its history. We want to know who its shareholders are, and so on. Had the matter concerned a company registered in Ukraine or partly Ukrainian-owned, I`d have perceived some logic in it, perhaps. And you are asking me now why this company handles Russian gas. Is the gas Russian? It is.

So go ask Gazprom, or some other entity.  

The article was monitored by The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service, Morgan Williams, Editor.

INTERVIEW: With President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine

BY: Mikhail Zygar, Mustafa Naijem, Sergei Sidorenko

Kommersant, Moscow, Russia, March 23, 2006

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