Why have the negotiations been foiled? Are the authorities aware of their responsibility for what erupted yesterday in the governmental neighborhood? We tried to put these questions to our interviewee Serhii Kliuiev, Member of Parliament from the Party of Regions. For the day before these events, when we were recoding the interview, he was almost 100 percent sure that the situation would stabilize and practical politics would come back from the streets to parliament. He consoled himself that the law on amnesty was working and the international community saw progress. But, unfortunately, his cell phone did not respond, we could not see him in parliament, and his assistants said they were out of touch with him…
You have just come back from the US. Who did you meet? What did you speak about?
“I met a lot of congressmen, senators, and State Department officials, including Chris Murphy and John McCain, who had visited Ukraine in early December. I saw them then, too. We discussed the political situation. This was our second meeting. The main point we were discussing was how to prevent the conflict’s escalation and the use of force against peaceful demonstration.
“The president and the government are doing their best to find a peaceful solution of the problem. The proof of this is resignation of the Cabinet and readiness to negotiate the constitutional reform, as well as the law on amnesty – many did not believe in this, but we still adopted it. And I am very glad that we are having an interview today, not on Friday or Saturday, because I can already show you the result. We are very consistent and amicable in the course of seeking solutions and reaching a compromise.”
And what were you told in the US about these successes?
“I am telling you what I was telling them, I told them what the government and the president had done. And they approve of this very much. The US can see some progress.
“The hot heads are raising the question of sanctions. I will say this: after the sanctions have been imposed, all we will have to do is close the embassies and declare war.
But I do not think it is a constructive approach. In principle, I could understand the hot heads if we were pursuing a policy of aggravation and stirring up passions. But we are trying to meet [the protesters] halfway every day – we are conceding wherever it is possible and impossible. I think the question of sanctions is just out of place against the backdrop of this positive movement.
“I met public opinion leaders; former ambassadors; heads of political institutions; Dana Rohrabacher, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats at the House Committee on Foreign Affairs; Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Those meetings were of a rather high level. And I must note that they were all very well aware of the situation. I spoke to them not as to the Americans who only know the problems of Texas or Arizona but as to the people who knew what was going on and were worried over the events in Ukraine – each for his or her reasons.”
This is a compliment to them, not to us. You will agree that it is not to Ukraine’s credit that she has put the whole world on its guard and even overseas people have already in fact learned Kyiv’s toponymy…
“Absolutely right. It is one of the topics I raise. For example, I meet Republicans and Democrats – some in the opposition, some in the coalition. I say to them: dear colleagues, whenever you come to Ukraine, you always express an agreed-upon attitude to US problems. But why do we, Ukrainians, try to solve our domestic problems at the expense of someone else, wash the dirty linen in public, and show the world our differences, conflicts, and problems? We must be patriots of our country. You must do all you can to make sure that your country lives better, the living standards increase, social security and the economy develop, and the country is independent and adheres to democratic principles of social life. This is the main goal. We should travel outside Ukraine with one goal only: to determine what is useful for our country. Then we should promote this. For example, we are talking very much about IMF support – so let us promote this together, not the way it is now, when government representatives ask for aid but oppositionists behave by the principle ‘the worse the better.’ As a result, this hits ordinary people.”
ON A NEW CABINET
Will the new government work on maintaining the hryvnia’s exchange rate?
“It is a measure of today, while the overall goal is to develop the economy, take anticorruption measures, and carry out the reforms that will let this country integrate into the world community.”
Where shall we look for people to fulfill this kind of tasks?
“Naturally, in Ukraine. We have enough specialists who can cope with this. It is just necessary that everybody should clearly understand the strategy and the tactics and do his or her own business.”
Can you see this kind of specialists in the Azarov government?
“Some members of this government should stay behind and some should go. I would not like to name any names as far as portfolio distribution is concerned.”
Let us still discuss one name – that of your brother. His is tipped as a real candidate for the office of premier…
“We have seen an overt informational attack on Andrii Kliuiev lately. My family and I are also the targets.
“There were attempts to accuse Andrii of all the mortal sins: for instance, he was almost personally breaking up a crowd of the students who were in any case going to leave the Maidan a few hours later or he is an Austrian citizen and owns a castle over there. What a load of bull! They are maligning him purposefully so that he has to prove that it is not true.
“Andrii has visited Austria four times in the past ten years. Yes, we have a house. It is his and mine. And this real estate can be found in our tax declarations. All that we have is in our declarations.
“They say Kliuiev is a ‘hawk.’ Sorry, let’s look facts in the face. Once Andrii was told to chair the crisis solution group, what happened to the negotiations, where did Ukraine begin to move to? The talks assumed a constructive and entirely peaceful nature.”
ON PICKETS AND REPUTATION
By far the greatest mystery today is whether Ms. Tymoshenko recently met your brother in a Kharkiv hospital.
“Let me say honestly: I know nothing about this. I cannot possibly follow every step of Andrii. But, as far as I know, there was no meeting like this. Tymoshenko has also said so.”
And who needs this to be said?
“It is another wave of maligning Andrii. But even if they did, so what? Politics is a dialog. A politician is in a constant dialog with all the sides.”
Do you think tension will begin to defuse after February 17?
“I hope very much it will. But, first of all, we should begin to seek a compromise in parliament. The country should go forward. We and the opposition are just obliged to find the goals and tasks that can unite us. I think there is a way out of the current crisis.”
And does it not seem to you that the Party of Regions’ reputation has been somewhat tarnished in the last while? Do you feel this when you mingle with Europeans and Americans?
“No, there is serious dialog going on. I have already told you about my visit to the US. We had more than 20 meetings. It was a constructive dialog which showed respect for our party. But we were meeting people who in the know, so to speak. And there was a normal dialog with them.”
The media is one thing, but pickets all over the world are another. You must have seen the news programs that showed a picket in front of Akhmetov’s house in London. What impressions did this make on you, what is your attitude to this?
“There are lots of pickets everywhere. I take a calm attitude to this because my conscience is absolutely clear. I think that our political party and I are doing our utmost to find a peaceful and constructive solution of, above all, the political problems. And we will be doing our best to help Ukraine develop normally in terms of the economy and European standards. And whether or not I will be picketed won’t influence the way I work. One should not knock at an open door. But if it is about vilifying somebody’s name, it is an altogether different story and it is their choice. The whole point is what goal one sets to himself.”
And what goal did you set to yourself when you were running for a parliamentary seat?
“It is very important for us to find the points of contact with the opposition and rally around the same goal. We must seek a compromise to carry out the constitutional reform and do this in a lawful way. This will, as a result, stabilize the situation and the governmental bodies. On the other hand, we, politicians, should improve the culture of communication. For it is we who are to blame for rather a critical attitude to MPs – we deserve this. And I will not blame the media for this. Whenever there are brawls in parliament, it is bad no matter what you call this. If even the MPs stoop to this, what can you demand from our children and grandchildren? (I have three grandkids, and I am saying this with pleasure.) We must show them a different model of living in a society. The problems of a country and society should be tackled not on the streets and barricades but in the process of a political dialog in parliament or in the elections. These are the democratic foundations of societal life. And barricades have never done any good and have usually resulted in a failure.”
ON PARLIAMENT AND ITS POLITICAL CULTURE
What do you think about your brother’s chances to become the prime minister? Maybe, he does not want this at all? For being in the Cabinet today may result in a political death.
“If the party and the president offer him this post, I do not think Andrii will refuse. He is a responsible, experienced, and knowledgeable person. He is holding a very serious office and will do his best to have the country developing in the right direction.”
And will he manage to garner enough votes in parliament?
“The voting will show. I will certainly be voting for him.”
Do you agree that the revival of the 2004 Constitution may settle the political crisis?
“Not exactly. Many things have changed over this time. We have a different – first-past-the-post – electoral system. There are also a lot of other mismatches. If an attempt is made to ride roughshod, so to speak, and railroad the constitutional reform via barricades and parliamentary obstruction, this will be another unconstitutional action which can be easily challenged in any court of law.”
Please, tell us frankly: is it worth making a parliament, with a political culture that reigns there today, the main instrument of power in the country?
“Should the early parliamentary elections be called now, I do not think something will radically change after them.”
You saw that we had in fact had no parliament for six months. At best, it would assemble and go without making any decisions.
“But still we worked. And there is always an occasion to criticize the authorities. The democratic system has the right to exist. Even the current parliament confirms this. The point is that political relations should be brought into line with other, European and worldwide, standards.”
But are you, i.e. the Party of Regions and its parliamentary faction, prepared to work with not only the official parliamentary opposition, but also the street, the groups that have emerged on the Maidan?
“Our party is prepared to work with all the groups that represent the interests of society. We must make sure that the interests of all the strata of the population and all the regions are taken into account. But all this must be done in a lawful manner, for it is very hard to speak to people who wield baseball bats, wear balaclavas and helmets. But please note that we contrive to have a dialog and reach compromises even in this situation. I think representatives of these groups should understand that if we want to do good for the country and society, we should conduct an exclusively peaceful dialog.”
ON REJECTING THE IDEA OF FEDERALIZATION
Whenever the political situation in Ukraine is aggravated, the slogan of federalization suddenly emerges, as if by a command. Does this idea really have its advocates or these calls are only used to influence some other decisions?
“It is very important to have a well-balanced political and economic setup. The real situation is that some western regions are on a different level of development compared to some eastern ones. But residents of both Lviv and Donetsk are citizens of Ukraine with equal rights. So we must take a very cautious approach to the question of federalization: we must think it over 150 times, so to speak. We must not allow our citizens to suffer no matter where they live.”
The Party of Regions has managed to stabilize the situation in the Crimea by finding a common language with Crimean Tatars. But it is the Crimean parliament that is going to ask Russia for help, which can be in fact considered as separatism. But we have not heard the government’s reaction to these statements.
“It is the same question that we have just been discussing. Some turn to the US and Europe, others to Russia. But I would say to them all: my dearest, these are our own problems. And we must find the reserves of wisdom, political flexibility and self-sufficiency here, not overseas, to solve our problems. Neither Russia, nor America, nor Europe will think about the interests of Ukrainian citizens. They have citizens of their own, and they think about their interests first of all. It is an illusion that a certain foreign uncle will come and help us. Only we ourselves can make our people begin to live better.”