In his Christmas address to the nation, President Viktor Yanukovych said, among other things, the following: “We must go through all the trials sent to us by the Lord God, and make something to improve our life, the life of our children and grandchildren on this earth…” What challenges do you think await us in this new year of 2013, both in domestic and foreign policy?
“I believe the most we should do this year is give moral foundations to our life, politics, and administrative affairs. Unfortunately, it so happened that for 21 years the people, who were called elite in Ukraine, have been overcoming problems (or at least, they have believed they overcome them) so rapidly that they forgot that each one of them represented moral foundations. We absolutely must take time to talk to our conscience, historical memory, after all, to simply sit down and think about God. We simply must go and find time for this.
“Sadly, we have not achieved the level, the goal that we set before ourselves 21 years ago. We were stopped not only by objective, but by subjective factors as well: we were too much busy with some immediate technicalities, rather than with changing the way of living. This resulted in temporary (instead of qualitative) changes, which sometimes involved even worse consequences. I wish 2013 would become the year of moral and spiritual fulfillment of our lives. Moreover, we will mark the 1,025th anniversary of baptism of Rus’-Ukraine. I think it would be right to say ‘Let’s come back to faith, to morality.’ Missions will always be complex. The main thing is taking the right steps.”
You say we are often unprepared for challenges. Do you mean society or government?
“We are unprepared politically and morally. I cannot say that we are unprofessional. But when professionals from different political groups get down to one task, somehow they end up diametrically opposed to the Ukrainian state. Why? First of all, because of their corporate thinking. They do not perceive Ukraine, the nation, and faith as a whole. If five political parties start groping for their own path of development, this will lead to nothing good. There are fundamental things. You cannot do things, awkward for Ukraine, at every turning.
“I do not know a society where everyone would understand everything. This is why voters elect political elites for themselves, and believers choose spiritual leaders. When people see that this political elite has not left them behind, but lives together with them, they listen to it. Then the society lives in unison. But when the elite becomes isolated, and tries to detach from the people in its every step, then we have a reverse effect. This is a matter of high culture and political responsibility.
“When a person focuses on high matters, they will not be able to be so cruel and irresponsible. For instance, when someone takes an oath on the Bible that they will keep by the principles of a certain party, but denounces it next day, and this is not condemned by the people, this is one of the indicators of the society’s condition. Oksana Makar’s story is a well-known example. There was a special program on the subject. During the program the participants switched from the girl’s savage murder to the guilt of her mother, who had failed to properly raise her daughter. The mother’s responsibility is a separate subject. The cruel abuse of the girl is a fact, so this must be condemned.”
Today the Verkhovna Rada will convene for the first time this year. Judging by what we have already seen at the previous sessions, what kind of work do you expect of the new parliament? Is there room for the morality, honor, and dignity you have been speaking about?
“Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel said: ‘Every thing has its beginning, progress, and end.’ On each process we see the seal of our own destruction. I do not want to apply it to the Verkhovna Rada in the literal sense, but I know that when something achieves its utmost prime or decay, time X will come in any case. I am convinced that for the present parliament (and we know the troubled circumstances of its election) time X is coming. Nolens volens, they have to arrive at a realization of the fact, that they cannot fall any deeper. The previous parliament did everything to debase parliamentarianism and turn the Verkhovna Rada into a market place. If the new Rada fails to realize this, the Ukrainian parliamentarianism will meet its bitter end. But I believe that our parliament will come to its senses.
“By the way, even now I can see some symptoms in the speaker of the Verkhovna Rada. I trust this man. Maybe, he is not so brilliant in his rhetoric quests, but he is sincere in what he thinks and speaks. He is not showing off because this is no theater, where each speaker sports his powers, the mastery of his coiffeur, his suits, ties, or something else. This is a matter of Ukraine. You cannot drive around in six cars, with lifeguards at every corner, and live in total detachment from the society. You must stop somewhere. Somehow I believe that this parliament, given its composition, must cleanse itself.”
This year can be decisive in Ukraine’s relations with the Customs Union. Do you think it is up to Kyiv to sustain Russia’s pressure?
“Solving issues with the Customs Union is very hard because the CIS market, especially its Russian segment, is extremely important for us. Therefore, there will be attempts to find various options, like ‘3 plus 1’ mode or other more or less proven attempts, in order to stand our ground. It is not a matter of making a right or wrong decision. The main thing here is that Ukraine’s strategic interest must be unshakeable. What is the right thing to do in this situation? We must pursue European choice, moreover, this is stated in our legislative documents. If we give up Europe and turn to the Customs Union today, this will be the last step which will bury us under our problems even deeper. So the question should be put as follows: Europe is our choice, but we must settle those matters which can be settled – even if we have to pay a higher price for gas than the one paid by Belarus or Kazakhstan.
“All talk about the possibility of joining two unions simultaneously is empty. We must look for such contacts with the Customs Union, which would be necessary for Ukraine, but on condition that they are necessary for the other Customs Union countries. Interests must be harmonized and mutually profitable.”
You are well advanced in years, but you still remain active in public life. At the moment you are busy with constitutional issues. What comes next on your agenda? What else would you like to achieve in life?
“I am planning to propose a draft law on amending the Constitution of Ukraine. I would like to be understood by both oppositionists and power parties. I would like to see them stop arguing and together arrive at an understanding of what is good for Ukraine. We will do everything for the proposed changes to be relevant to Ukraine’s interests. Of course, we may fail to reach a perfect consensus, but in a democratic society we have the possibility to propose any amendments, based on the domestic and international experience. By the way, we enjoy the favorable disposition of the Venice Commission and PACE. An opportunity presents itself to hone any sentence or word in the Constitution to perfect clarity, to avoid ambiguity and discrepancy and, above all, to have this word accepted by the people. Our goal is to submit the draft law to the president in 2014. If I succeed in carrying this out, then, with God’s help, I will try to dedicate myself exclusively to writing memoirs.”
“I do not know a society where everyone would understand everything. This is why voters elect political elites for themselves, and believers choose spiritual leaders. When people see that this political elite has not left them behind, but lives together with them, they listen to it. Then the society lives in unison. But when the elite becomes isolated, and tries to detach from the people in its every step, then we have a reverse effect. This is a matter of high culture and political responsibility.”