''Handing over the Kuril Islands is hara-kiri for Putin''

Political forecast from Leonid Radzikhovsky. Part 2

''Handing over the Kuril Islands is hara-kiri for Putin'' Photo: kremlin.ru

In the final part of the interview to Realnoe Vremya, journalist Leonid Radzikhovsky predicts how in the end Vladimir Putin will resolve the Kuril Islands dispute, whether we should expect surprises from the gubernatorial elections, and also tells why Russia and Belarus will not unite and Yulia Tymoshenko will not win the presidential election in Ukraine.

''The Kremlin has its own difficulties with the ethnic republics — they are afraid to offend ethnic feelings''

In September, the next gubernatorial elections are coming in a number of Russian regions. Is a repetition of Primorye 2018 possible, with a gross interference in the elections of some forces, where the opposition won, their cancellation and pushing for a stronger candidate in the new elections? Or the government will do everything to prevent such a scenario?

Yes, in the autumn of 2018 we observed a live election process in Primorye, even despite that Kozhemyako was elected in the end. I think that now in the Kremlin no one would be against the same live election process — the people cannot be always fed only with Ukraine and NATO agenda (because this topic is already everywhere), they need other entertainment. But the end result for the government will be what it needs. Listen, let's say they elected in Primorye not Kozhemyako, but Communist Ishchenko, do you really think he would refuse to carry out the same pension reform in the region or to collect taxes, to broadcast the first and second federal channels? What completely different would he do? How is this Ishchenko different from Kozhemyako? In no way! Now in the country there are governors-Communists – do they really conduct other policy? No.

What is the governor effectiveness? Street cleaning? The absence of gas explosions in houses? Clean water in pipes? No one in the Kremlin is interested in such things — the Kremlin is only interested in the political activity of the governor and everything is fine here: we do not have opposition governors, we do not have a separate political line of governors, so a governor from the Communist party will do the same as a governor from United Russia. But if we talk about elections, then, of course, we should not forget that there is a departmental, bureaucratic point of view — it refers to the management of internal policy of the presidential administration. This office must somehow report on its work — and it does report: in particular, it reports on how many governors is elected from United Russia, which means that in 2019 it will work to ensure that the maximum number of governors is elected from United Russia, although now this party is no different from all the others. Therefore, I believe that the department of internal policy will achieve its goal, and if there will be noise in the elections, so it is much better — people will have fun.

Is this elective noise possible, for example, in Bashkiria, where, although still small, but there are doubts that the current acting head of the republic, Radiy Khabirov, will easily win in the first round?

The Kremlin has its own problems with ethnic republics — they are afraid to offend ethnic feelings. So, there will be their own games. The authorities will act more rudely there, they will interfere in the elections, and if for interference in the elections somewhere in Kostroma Oblast it is the governor who is accountable to the Kremlin, then in respect of the ethnic republics, teh Kremlin will do nothing. The Kremlin believes that if there is still strong local, ethnic human resources, then it is impossible to step on their toes.

''How is this Ishchenko different from Kozhemyako? It is no different! Now in the country there are governors-Communists – are they really conducting other policy? No.'' Photo: zavtra.ru

''The pseudo-state of Russia and Belarus is just an ethnographic ensemble for solemn meetings. And for siphoning money from Russia''

The main event of 2019 in the former USSR, the outcome of which bothers the Kremlin, is the presidential election in Ukraine. Recently, there have increased the chances of winning to showman Vladimir Zelensky, so I would like to ask you — can Ukraine elect this ''fresh man'' as its leader?

It is meaningless to guess now — it is two months before the election in Ukraine. But I think that if Poroshenko passes to the second round, he will win, and if he does not, then, apparently, Zelensky… or not Zelensky. Zelensky is an abstract figure for us in Russia so far, so we'll see.

Why do you think that Poroshenko is more likely to win than the leader in the race Tymoshenko?

For Poroshenko the only problem is to pass to the second round. But I have no doubts that Tymoshenko won't be the president: she has karma the same as Hillary Clinton does. There are people who all their lives strive for power, but do not seize it, because they strive too badly. Besides, in Ukraine Tymoshenko is the most hated person, even more hated than Poroshenko is. The majority of the population perfectly understands the price to its populist promises therefore she won't be elected as the president and there are a lot of scandals behind Tymoshenko, as well as thefts.

The aggravation in relations between Moscow and Minsk at the end of December, the statements of some officials about the need for greater integration of Russia and Belarus – can all this indicate something serious? Or this is another stage of Batka's (''father of the nation'' from Belorusian, refers to President of Belorus Alexander Lukashenko — editor's note) discontent with Moscow?

Of course, this is nothing more than the next stage for Batka, and it is connected with the fact that Batka also has no money and it is already difficult to ''hang in there'' for him. And because of this, Lukashenko hints to Putin that if Russia does not want to lose the last ally, then do not stop paying me. But there is nothing to pay — it is not enough for ourselves.

The relations with Batka, that is, with Belarus, have two aspects. The first is that these relations are built on lies: there is allegedly a kind of joint state, which, on the one hand, is a state, but on the other hand, not a state — those states that are part of it are separate independent states. But here is the other trouble — this ''state'' is already more than 20 years, and it does not even closely resemble the European Union. The European Union has done a great job over 20 years: it has expanded, they have prepared the introduction of the single currency, they have unified laws, but nothing has been done in the pseudo-state of Russia and Belarus, it's just an ethnographic ensemble for solemn meetings, kisses and hugs, and for siphoning money out of Russia. Let me remind you — over more than 20 years, Belarus has siphoned more than $100 billion from Russia, and in return we have nothing at all, except that Batka allegedly provides geopolitical security to Russia — holding back the ''tank divisions of Merkel'', which are ''seeking to reach'' Smolensk, beating them with a faustpatrone and Molotov cocktail. ''The tanks'' didn't break — it means, not for nothing we gave them 100 billion dollars.

''Batka exploits the bonds and 'deterrence of NATO', but now it is becoming increasingly difficult to exploit — Russia gives less money, respectively, a scandal after scandal''. Photo: kremlin.ru

In general, on the one hand you see mockery, impossible in any other country — everyone feeds their allies, but not in the same volumes, but on the other hand, there are the same bonds — they say, we are the united people with Belarusians, as before with the Ukrainians, and it is impossible to break these bonds and say that, for example, we are different states, because it turns out that the union state — it was a lie. Batka exploits the bonds and ''deterrence of NATO'', but now it is becoming increasingly difficult to exploit — Russia gives less money, respectively, a scandal after scandal. Russia has nowhere to go — it cannot break this ''brotherly'' chain and say ''Enough!'' to Batka too, because all this scandal will fall on Putin, and it turns out that it is particularly him who destroyed the alliance with Belarus, our only ally. Will Putin do this? No, no.

If we talk about the option of joining of Belarus into Russia, then Batka replied: ''Never!'' like any country in the world, Belarus will never give up its independence, its sovereignty — only on equal terms. The conclusion — impossible to break, impossible to include, and what remains is to drag it out, and that means that every year there is going to be a new scandal.

''Handing over the Kuril Islands is hara-kiri for Putin''

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe flew to Moscow for talks. The decision on the Kuril Islands, which, of course, will be discussed at his meeting in the Kremlin, has already been made by the same Putin. Or will it be postponed for a few more years?

Formally, the decision will be postponed, but in fact, there is the decision — the islands cannot be handed over.

Editor-in-chief of Echo of Moscow Aleksey Venediktov expressed an interesting idea that Putin can hand over two islands, conclude a peace treaty, which will really put an end to the Second World War. Let it be the formal end, but it gives Putin the status of involved in the victory.

The Venediktov's opinion is a complete and absolute nonsense. What end in the World War II? That's nonsense!

But the peace treaty with Japan has not been signed, it is a fact.

So what? Are we being at war with Japan? There is no war, but there are diplomatic, trade and humanitarian relations. What end, what war? Who in Russia are interested in this stupid formal end, this legal procedure, this piece of paper? Yes, the television will trumpet about this end put by Putin to the Second World War, but our people is not moronic.

Imagine — we have a piece of paper that does not change anything, but for that Russia hands over two islands. Yes, for the Japanese, these islands and fish around them have some value, but for the Russian man this has one value — a symbol.

''Most likely, in the Kuril region, a special economic zone will be created in the Far East, there will be no customs duties, visa-free trips to and from, and the Japanese can even get control of many enterprises. But it is impossible that the islands will belong to the Japanese.'' Photo: kremlin.ru

Why everyone went crazy about Crimea? Didn't Russians have the opportunity to go on holidays there, wasn't the ruble accepted in Crimea and didn't they speak Russian there? They did, and what now — has something changed? It has — sanctions appeared and much more. Crimea is a pure, one hundred percent symbol of the fact that we are a great Russia, which is seeking to return one that have been stolen, and all pathetic attempts to rationalize the return of Crimea (such as ''if not we, there would be Americans'') are intended for very much mentally retarded people.

Lets' go back to the Kuril Islands: are we Russia or a public thoroughfare? Are we a sovereign country or we trade our territories? The Kuril Islands were conquered as a result of the victory — apparently, as a result of Putin's victory, if he is at the head of the ''Immortal Regiment'', so does that mean that we can do anything with this territory — sell or hand over? These things are so obvious and evident that no one — television, Echo of Moscow or propaganda of any kind — can say anything here. Everyone will see that not Russia, but Putin personally sold our land, the land that was won by grandfathers as a result of the victory. How can one object this? What about the peace treaty, fish trade, economic relations? There are things that are not exchanged for fish or some economic benefits! And if exchanged, then let's sell the graves of soldiers!

Putin has two pillars, which he has carefully cultivated — the economy, which works in the interests of the oligarchs, and military policy — Putin, they say, raised Russia from its knees, returned us to pride, made us sovereign. If Putin hands over the islands, it means that in one blow he destroys everything that he has been seeking as a result of his foreign policy or, if you like, his hype around foreign policy. He is also destroying the victory, and hence himself, doing a harakiri on these islands. He will never be forgiven for that. Of course, this decision will not mean that people will take to the streets with a protest, but the current attitude towards Putin will be finally killed — after a blow with the pension reform it will be the final blow to the head.

The question is — doesn't Putin understand this? He perfectly does. Does he has the urgent need to make these deals with the Japanese? No, he does not. Consequently, he is not going to make this deal and no islands will be handed over to Japan. Why he decided on this thing and why these stupid and pointless talks about nothing have been started — that is unclear. But I think that all this comes from the same fatigue of Putin — fatigue from the fact that he has been in semi-isolation in recent years, and so he was happy to meet with this Abe. The Japanese has grabbed, he is demonstrating that he respects Putin. It is unpleasant for a friend to say that Russia will not hand over the tslands, so they played for time, well, they played to the fact that Abe is already swearing on his father's grave, if not dancing. Putin cannot hand over these islands — it is, as I have said, a symbol.

Most likely, in the Kuril region, a special economic zone will be created in the Far East, there will be no customs duties, visa-free trips to and from, and the Japanese can even get control of many enterprises. But no way the islands will belong to the Japanese.

By Sergey Kochnev