The former president does not think Ukraine will be able to get Crimea back. Here is a full quotation: “Earlier, shortly before the end of my presidency, I said I would like to see Ukraine without Kuchma. That was a popular movement at the time. We can also see it today. We have lost Crimea, and I think it is unrealistic to get it back, for Russia has gone for broke. There is no way back for it. It will never give it back. There is in fact a war going on in Donbas. And the main challenge for the new president will be to keep Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts as part of Ukraine. For the loss of territory is the worst of all things.” The Western media have already willingly picked up Kuchma’s statement on Crimea.
This country is now going through difficult times, also because of the occupation of Crimea. We must rally together all the healthy national forces to resist the war of sabotage and terror and the entire special operation Russia is carrying out against Ukraine. The country needs support in word and in deed. And now the former president has said a word…
The legacy of Kuchma’s presidency is a constant here. “Former president Kuchma once told me that all I had to know was that all the great political figures (Viktor Yanukovych, Viktor Yushchenko, Pavlo Lazarenko, and even Yulia Tymoshenko had worked in his administration,” said Bruce Jackson, president of the Washington-based Project on Transitional Democracies, in his lecture “Post-Soviet Semi-Darkness” in Vienna (Den, No.89, May 28, 2013). Kuchma’s two terms left a lot of traces: the building of an oligarchic clan system, spread of corruption, the “training” of cadres, the Gongadze-Podolsky case, an attempt to defy the Constitutional Court and be unlawfully reelected for a third term. This resulted in the first Maidan.
Kuchma’s statement has triggered a stormy reaction and indignation in social networking sites. “Yes, it is he and his sidekicks who pulled all kinds of Pashas, Yulias, and Vitias from seedy collective farms and garages (given a bright cluster of talents and professionals in this country) and laid down a system based on cynicism, large-scale embezzlement, contempt for the law and the people. This list is all too long. By all accounts, it is these ‘figures’ that projected the image of Ukraine as an unreliable country of criminals and women of easy virtue. Ukraine became the talk of the town abroad due to Kuchma-time corruption scandals. So it is very difficult to underestimate LK’s ‘contribution’ – later, all this went rolling down a track well beaten by these brazen, greedy, and uneducated (despite numerous diplomas and degrees), and shameless louts,” Olena Tikhonova writes in Facebook.
Why on earth did Kuchma begin to speak about Crimea? Here is the version of Oleksandr Yeliashkevych, an MP of two convocations: “I wonder who the property of the Kuchma family, his chief of staff Lytvyn, another chief of staff and, concurrently, Putin’s distant relative Medvedchuk in Crimea belongs to now? Has Russia nationalized it or these lands still belong to these gentlemen? Our citizens, including those residing in Crimea, must clear this up. Does this statement of Kuchma perhaps follow from his desire to keep his property intact? It seems to me this is a clear answer to why Kuchma is making statements like this.”
In the abovementioned statement, the former president advises president-elect Petro Poroshenko “to keep Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts as part of Ukraine.” And there was an immediate response from Facebook. “What a brazen type! It is he who gave Donbas into full ownership of Akhmetov and Co. in exchange for support in the reelection campaign of 1999. He also gave my native Sumy region to Shcherban, the former chairman of the oblast administration. These territories were almost free of Ukrainian laws, for the oblast head’s word mattered much more,” says Yaroslav Nechaev.
“Kuchma’s signature is affixed to the Constitution, at least to the articles that remained unchanged irrespective of the editions,” lawyer Hennadii Druzenko says. “The first chapter, which may not be changed without a referendum, says clearly that the crucial function of the state is to ensure territorial integrity of Ukraine (Article 17). What Kuchma said amounts to high treason. Ukraine’s territorial borders can only be changed by the Verkhovna Rada which has never done and is not going to do so. Moreover, until the people has been asked and has answered about territorial integrity, anyone who speaks about somebody else’s Crimea is subject to prosecution under the Criminal Code.”
“If we had a more effective Security Service, it would hold Kuchma responsible for a suspected crime against the state. All the more so that the former president is saying this,” Druzenko continues. “Even though it is clear that it will be impossible to restore Crimea’s status quo either today or tomorrow, a public statement like this can be clearly considered a legal offense. Instead of taking part in debates, this kind of people should be dealt with by security bodies. It was not in the competence of Mr. Kuchma even when he was a president with broad powers, it is in the competence of the Ukrainian people. Polls show that 60 to 70 percent of our citizens believe it necessary to keep territorial integrity intact. That Crimea is part of Ukraine must remain an indisputable axiom.”
The leader of the Crimean Tatar people, Mustafa Dzhemilev, also says this all the time. The Day asked him what he thought of Kuchma’s statement. “I am stunned with Mr. Kuchma’s pessimism,” Dzhemilev says. “There is nothing unreal. There can only be a question of time – from several months to several years. We have no doubts that this occupation will come to an end – it is just a matter of time. This is a challenge to the entire world order, and it is a case of 21st-century international banditry. And if the international community chooses to tolerate this, very sad events may be in store for the entire world. I do not think the Putin government will last long. This will be in favor of the Russian people themselves.”
While Ukrainians are speaking of Crimea’s inevitable return, Kuchma in fact gloats over the situation, comparing it with the period of his presidency. “He’s a great president who planted all these time bombs in the state, and now they went off at the present time,” Anatolii Marchenko writes in Facebook. Another comment from Anatolii Andreiko: “Kuchma has realized the Italian mafia’s dream in Ukraine. And it will take more than one Maidan to wipe this out. The exposed registers of property are shocking the entire world, not only Ukraine.”
The current authorities ought to think twice when they invite Kuchma as moderator of the national roundtables they organize – especially after his “consolatory” statements on Crimea. The initiator of previous Euromaidan-time roundtables, where Kuchma was one of the moderators, is now in Russia’s Rostov-on-Don. An important indicator for the newly-elected president and the government as a whole will be the Gongadze case. This long-suffering high-profile case must at last be put a juridical end to. Petro Poroshenko once said during his election campaign: “The trial of Yanukovych will not be secret and behind the closed door; it will be held at Kyiv’s largest stadium because there will be very many of those who will want to attend this trial. The entire world must see what this criminal has done, for he contributed to the annexation of Crimea and issued orders to kill hundreds of people.”
But, according to Yeliashkevych, Yanukovych should not be the only one in the Olympic Stadium dock. “I hope Poroshenko will keep his promise, but Kuchma should also sit next to Yanukovych. Instead of making out-of-place profane statements, Mr. Kuchma and his apt pupil Yanukovych must keep a low profile and not stick out their necks – perhaps in Sardinia in the case of Kuchma. But, seriously, they should be convicted for the crimes they committed when they were in power. Kuchma is responsible for his own crimes as well as for the crimes of the people whom he brought to power and gave the levers to go on practicing lawlessness. This also applies to the mass-scale killing of our people on the Euromaidan. Two maidans opposed Kuchma and Yanukovych, but they continue to lecture the country. The trial of this couple should be held in the Hague, not in Ukraine – the sooner the better for the cleansing and revitalization of our country,” he says.
“THIS COMMENT IS OUT OF PLACE, TO SAY THE LEAST”
Oleh LEONTIEV, Lviv-based lawyer, former military prosecutor, Colonel of Justice (Retired):
“How come a former president of Ukraine is saying such things about an occupied territory of his own country? It is an aberration. This comment is out of place, to say the least, for Kuchma has not yet been held responsible for the death of Gongadze. Besides, he has not been brought to justice for the corrupt practices he was always involved in.
“By this comment, he may be putting to the test the government and the law-enforcement bodies which have not yet shown their new, cleaned-up, face. The prosecution service continues to deal with Pshonka’s cases today. Secondly, in all probability, Russia has some problems with this – so the Kremlin has pressured Kuchma into saying these words. This may be connected with Kuchma’s property in Crimea. Rights of ownership are being granted in Crimea now, and the self-proclaimed government begins to reregister all that it considers ‘ownerless.’ Kuchma is currying favor with Russia to retain the property he has in Crimea.
“Incidentally, some Moscow lawyers have already moved to Crimea to set up their own offices and declare themselves assistants in the re-registration of ownership rights to this ‘ownerless’ property. This business of theirs is now in full swing.”
“SOONER OR LATER, UKRAINE WILL REGAIN CRIMEA”
Tagir IMANGULOV, PR consultant:
“As a citizen of Ukraine, I think this statement of the former president Kuchma is not only out place, but also one that impairs this country’s security. A former president is supposed to know like nobody else that the problems of Crimea have been accumulating for decades, including the time he was in office. It is the inability and unwillingness of all the previous heads of our state to develop Crimea as part of Ukraine that prompted its residents to easily yield to anti-Ukrainian propaganda from a neighboring state, while Russia took advantage of the Ukrainian government’s weakness in the transitional period to carry out an illegal annexation of some of our country’s territory. I hope Mr. Kuchma said this phrase in a fit of temper, without being aware of the grave consequences of his words. Taking into account broad international support for Ukraine and non-recognition of the annexation, Ukraine will sooner or later regain Crimea – there should be not a shadow of a doubt about this. And former presidents should weigh up every word, especially when aggression is being committed against our country.”