Last weekend the Ukrainian media were strewn with such headlines as “Medvedchuk visited Putin and Medvedev,” “Medvedchuk advises getting used to new relations with Russia,” and with photos showing Viktor Medvedchuk, leader of the Ukrainian Choice movement, in the company of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev, and Russian Premier Dmitry Medvedev. Moreover, a photo taken last Saturday at the international professional sambo tournament in Sochi was posted on the Russian president’s website, and the impression was that Medvedchuk officially represented Ukraine in this quartet. Maybe, the Kremlin’s boss already regards the former chief of the Ukrainian president’s administration, who is trying to draw Kyiv into the Customs Union, as the next leader of our state.
“It is a strong masculine friendship as a variety of nepotism. But, seriously, it was just a sambo [judo-type wrestling. – Ed.] tournament, where Medvedchuk positioned himself as in fact the main sponsor of the Ukrainian national team. I think this tournament was conceived to hype Medvedchuk – otherwise, he would not have sponsored it. And the fact that he found himself in the company of two presidents and one prime minister and represented Ukraine shows that it was not just a sporting event.
“And, as the event was not a mere coincidence, it is symbolic that Putin puts Medvedchuk in the same line with himself, Nazarbayev, and Medvedev – it is his circle of contacts in the post-Soviet space. All this is only supposed to mean that the trolling of Yanukovych continues. It is difficult to think of any other insinuations in this case.”
Does Putin seriously hope that Medvedchuk, who has no support in Ukraine, will help him draw Ukraine into the Customs Union?
“I do not think that the sambo tournament was organized to draw Ukraine into the Customs Union. In all probability, Putin is playing up to Medvedchuk in terms of symbolic capital. As far as I know, when Yanukovych once complained to Putin about Medvedchuk’s activity, Putin rushed to defend him. Aware of some danger to Medvedchuk on the part of the current Ukrainian leadership, Putin has been trying, since the Crimean supper, to symbolically defend Medvedchuk by placing him in a safe space around his body. He personally visits and patronizes him. It even seems to me that Putin is defending Medvedchuk from Yanukovych. It is a case of family relations.”
Does everybody correctly understand and interpret this event and this media picture?
“These are subtle hints to none other than Yanukovych because all this is occurring at a time when the Russian leadership is waging an undeclared trade war against Ukraine and, at the same time, is hugging and caressing Medvedchuk. This is the only way you can read this picture.”
And what can you say about Medvedchuk’s statement that if Ukraine opts for an associated relationship with the European Union, it should get used to new customs-clearance rules with Russia?
“In this case, Medvedchuk positions himself as the other side’s player. It is not the words of a Ukrainian politician. It is the words of a Russian figure who is shaking an accusing finger at his own fatherland because she won’t listen to his whims and advice and refuses to give in to pressure.”
Incidentally, last Saturday the Ukrainian media made public a document titled “On Comprehensive Measures to Attract Ukraine to the Eurasian Integration Process,” in other words, to force Ukraine to join the Customs Union. What do you think of this?
“On the surface of it, this looks like an analytical memo in the shape of a request that the Kremlin allow seizing power in Ukraine, so to speak. I do not think it was written by some serious Russian special services. All this seems to have been devised by some research centers or analysts – not necessarily Russian at that. In all probability, authorship belongs to the Ukrainian Choice milieu and the analysts who cooperate with them. I do not think this plan will be carried out word by word or step by step, as it is written there. In my opinion, it is a rough copy of the real plan which Russia is mapping out and will be executing against Ukraine.”
To what extent successful can this rough copy be to force Ukraine into the Customs Union?
“I don’t think it will succeed. Frankly speaking, when you read this plan, you hardly believe that it is realistic and can be fulfilled. Rather, this arouses grave concern over the fact that there is a thing like this and opinions like these. This makes you tense, but, as far as fulfillment, content, and result are concerned, this only provokes a grin and skepticism.”
The Day’s FACT FILE
Nepotism (from Latin “nepos” – “family-related,” or “nepotis” – “grandson,” “nephew”) is favoritism granted in politics or business to relatives regardless of merit. The term originated with the assignment of nephews to cardinal positions by Catholic popes and bishops. Nepotism is found in the fields of politics, entertainment, business, and religion.