"When we interfere with Ukraine in pressing issues — we help it, adding determination"

Viktor Mironenko — about post-election situation in Ukraine. Part 2

Photo: ukraina.ru

In the second part of the interview with Viktor Mironenko, the head of the Centre for Ukrainian studies of the Institute of Europe of the RAS, read about whether a lasting peace in Donbas is real and whether the softening of relations between Russia and Ukraine under the new president is likely. See the first part here.

"DNR and LNR is a huge mistake"

Mr. Mironenko, although many experts say that the main issues of interest to the Ukrainian voter are the economy and corruption, the issue of peace in the Donbas has not gone too far from them. Zelinsky says that, elected as the president, he will not lift the economic blockade of China and the LNR and the DNR, that is, the transportation of the same coal. Is this normal in relation to the territories that Ukraine considers its own?

What kind of blockade are you talking about? We are facing a separatist rebellion! Remember Dudaev's Chechnya as a part of Russia — was Russia importing a property there? No. The pensioners of Donbas are receiving Ukrainian pension if they can go for it, otherwise — nothing. Is it possible to conduct economic activity in Ukraine, if the DNR and LNR are having Grads, artillery and machine guns? Whether it is possible to conduct it if every day people are buried in all cities of Ukraine? I come to Chernigov and there is a half of the cemetery of the killed in this conflict.

Miners are very naive, and in this sense, they are like children, and not they, of course, are guilty of it — the separatist revolt of a number of persons, alas, was supported by Russia. Imagine if during the war in Chechnya Dudayev’s militants were supplied with machine guns and shells by President of Ukraine Kuchma — how would it be understood in Moscow? In general, the DPR and LNR is a huge mistake.

There are more and more talks that Donbass uncontrolled by Ukraine can turn into a second Transnistria — the conflict will be frozen for years to come.

It will be worse — it will be cancer in Europe. Donbass — it is mines, and in mines, there is flooding constantly. And even if they are closed, they still need to pump water, they need to be monitored. And if, God forbid, groundwater, in which the entire periodic table, rise to the aquifer, an environmental disaster in the Donbass will be such that Chernobyl will seem a child's trouble. A catastrophe will await the whole region. Therefore, the conflict should not be frozen, but thawed. The new president needs to immediately introduce control of peacekeepers and urgently look for money to prevent an environmental disaster of this magnitude. But for some reason, no one speaks about the likelihood of such a disaster!

"Donbass is mines, and in mines there is a flooding constantly. And even if they are closed, they still need to pump water, they need to be monitored. And if, God forbid, groundwater, in which the entire periodic table, rise to the aquifer, an environmental disaster in the Donbass will be such that Chernobyl will seem a child's trouble." Photo: pr.kharkov.ua

But Zelensky told that the Minsk agreements of 2015 should be forced to work through the introduction of peacekeepers and the involvement of the US and the UK in this process. Does it give much?

Now the work of these agreements depends not only on the Ukrainian president, but also on the Russian, as well as on Macron, Merkel and many other politicians. But I do not see a desire to extinguish this conflict on the Russian side. Russia has only a firm position of support for those people who are fighting there. By the way, it is necessary to understand whom we, Russia, support there, and I think we will understand it over time.

But it's not even the separatists! Zelensky expressed one very right thing, though for this he took political courage. He said that it is impossible to solve the problem of Donbass without the participation of those people who control the territory of the DPR and LPR. So, we need other formats. There are Normandy, Minsk, but we need a narrower format, that is, we must talk to people from the DPR and the LPR and understand what they want. In 2014, it was clear — these people wanted to go to Russia, and if we talk specifically — in a "new USSR", so the Crimea: in the old USSR, the miner's salary was more than the minister’s, the vacation was 2 months, and for their wives there were built confectionery and weaving factories, where these women became respected and were wearing orders and medals.

But people were deceived. "The new USSR", that is, Donbass in Russia, was a lie, and now they have nowhere to go. They have nowhere to work, nowhere to earn. I understand that Russia can't help Donbass any more, we have a lot on our plate. But let the inhabitants of these areas go their own way, let them think and decide. Don't bother them. And this approach can help Russia. Now, when we interfere with Ukraine with sore issues, we are helping and adding determination, adding the capacity to endure.

"Who is our propaganda intended for, for which such money is spent, if no one sees it in Ukraine?"

If Zelensky starts negotiations with the leaders of the DPR and LNR, will Russia's position towards Ukraine change? Yesterday we learned that the export of oil from our country to the neighbouring country is prohibited.

I do not see the possibility of changing this policy before the change of political leaders in Russia, before the change of political forces that are responsible for politics in our country. Now finally the point of view has triumphed that we need to interfere with Ukraine. This is very strange, because Ukraine and Russia are two countries that are doomed to cooperate, otherwise they will not get out of the crisis in which they are. But for the sake of justice I will tell that both Ukraine and Russia now begin to put spoke in wheels to each other. If I were a politician, I would introduce the following principle — if a political decision can cause damage to one of the countries, it is better not to do it, but both the Ukrainian and the Russian side do these nasty things to each other. Russia has enough detractors, and you can imagine how happy they are now!

"Why we, for example, supported Yanukovych? Nobody gave me a clear answer! I even asked many of my colleagues who held the opposite position: ‘What is your love for Yanukovych?’ They couldn’t explain." Photo: kremlin.ru

A couple of weeks ago there were talks about the possible non-recognition of these elections by Russia, however, then they subsided. Is it real?

I don't know. But if the Russian leadership has any real concerns about their country in mind and if there is an understanding of the true interests of Russia, then it will recognize the elections. And if there is no understanding, it means that they will do what they have done in relation to Ukraine since 2004. Why we, for example, supported Yanukovych? Nobody gave me a clear answer! I even asked many of my colleagues who held the opposite position: "What is your love for Yanukovych?" They could not explain.

Maybe it's the business, benefits that Russia could get for Yanukovych for sure and Yushchenko not?

It's much more serious and deeper. I don't turn on the TV and don't watch shows on the Ukrainian topic, because I know what is happening in Ukraine, because I happen to be there, and second, what Skobeeva and the rest are telling perplexes me. But I ask the Ukrainian experts who participate in these programmes and who come to me from old memory: ‘’Why do you go there?’’ and they say: "We are run out of money, Viktor Ivanovich — we need to go! They are paid 100-200 thousand a month for this hour standing." So — if such money is spent only on propaganda, which in Ukraine no one sees, then whom is this propaganda intended for? Obviously not on Ukrainians, but on Russian citizens — but why?

For our citizens did not try to be free and did not try to follow the example of the Ukrainian neighbours. This is the purpose of propaganda and the Russian authorities — fear, fear of letting go of the wheel of power, disbelief in their people, disbelief in their country, disbelief in the ability of citizens to live free. And Ukraine, accordingly, should be discredited in the eyes of Russian citizens in advance! What if it succeeds in economic and social growth. Then Russian citizens will ask the question: why can Ukrainians do something, but we can't?

I noticed that more often the object of criticism on Russian talk shows was not so much economic and political life in Ukraine in all its manifestations, as President Poroshenko. In Zelensky, many see a reasonable person, and this makes it difficult for Russian television to find a profitable and permanent object of criticism. Will the Ukrainian theme end on Russian TV?

I think it will end soon. The fate of Russia is the fate of Ukraine, this is a key issue. Remember when Russia became an influential empire. Under Peter I, but before him, it was the reunification of Ukraine with Russia. When did the USSR become a world power? After the Union Treaty of 1922! I am not advocating the restoration of the empire — I am advocating a positive understanding of the national interests of the country and the ability to serve those interests, not your pocket.

But Ukraine has to do something, too?

The Ukrainian leadership should open the border as wide as possible — let the citizens of Russia go and see what is really happening there! Yes, there is a really hard life, but life goes on, and in many respects even better — the products are better, the prices are lower.

"Let’s take Ukraine. In 1991, it gained full state independence and sovereignty, and the most massive movement in the country at that time was Rukh. But when Ukraine was already sovereign, Rukh and its leaders lost the election significantly!" Photo: commons.wikimedia.org

If Poroshenko's team uses administrative resources, the explosion will be stronger than in 2004 or 2014

Is there any growth of nationalism in Ukraine? After all, many consider Russia an enemy and with this approach, few will want to go there.

I have my own idea — reactive nationalism. Let's see what nationalism is. If ethnic, I will tell so: fools are everywhere — both in Ukraine and in Russia. But perhaps you also mean political nationalism.

Political nationalism is a legal political movement, which, however, was most common in the 19th century. It aims at the formation of a nation state with a predominance of people belonging to a particular culture who can decide their own destiny. Once this problem is solved, political nationalism loses all meaning — it has no purpose. Let’s take Ukraine. In 1991, it gained full state independence and sovereignty, and the most massive movement in the country at that time was Rukh. But when Ukraine was already sovereign, Rukh and its leaders lost the election significantly! Or let’s take 2014 when the president was elected – in Russia there was a lot of talks about Right Sector, Yarosh, Freedom political party, but how many of their candidates received votes? Two per cent! There is no ground for ethnic nationalism in Ukraine!

In Ukraine, as in any country, nationalism occurs only when a sovereign country is threatened by something from the outside. If this nationalism exists somewhere, it is generated by Russian politics. But even in 2019, there are twice as many people who have a positive attitude to Russia in Ukraine as in Russia to Ukraine! We gave birth to reactive nationalism. Let people live in peace! If we are talking about people with Russian culture and their problems, we must use all international arenas to talk about it, but not tanks, not howitzers. Probably, someone needed such Ukrainian nationalism.

Yes, in Ukraine there are people who make themselves a super-career in super-patriotism — professional Ukrainians, as I call them, but there are few of them.

Are there any possible difficulties for Zelensky-President before the elections to the Rada, which are to be held in October? After all, the government in these six months will not consist of his people.

My friend, journalist Dmitry Gordon told that it would be necessary to make at once full reset of the power — extraordinary elections to the parliament and local authorities. But current Prime Minister Groysman holds a normal position — loyal to the current president, but, on the other hand, he never expressed solidarity with him.

"Look at how wisely Yulia Timoshenko acted after the elections. There was information that she lost in the presence of electoral violations, but she said — the country is more important, and did not protest the results. This means that many Ukrainians have already grown up. And that's what makes them different." Photo: facebook.com/YuliaTymoshenko

Can we feel calm for Ukraine in the next 5 years? Judging by your observations and conclusions, is it possible?

I feel pretty good for Ukraine, although it has a very difficult path ahead. Following Merkel, I will tell that Ukrainians made much in the country, but before them still a long way to the creation of the developed state. Most importantly, do not interfere with the Ukrainians on this path, because for Russia there is no danger from Ukraine, and even vice versa: on the example of the neighbour, we can learn what to do in politics is necessary and what is not necessary. The risk of dangers, of course, is big — God forbid, Poroshenko's team will want to use an administrative resource, then there will be an explosion, and it is very dangerous. It will not be 2004 or 2014 — 100-200 thousand Ukrainians have already passed the war and many came with empty hands, so God forbid... But if Ukraine will begin serious conflict and division of the country, we will come off the worst.

I would like to hope that Petro Poroshenko also understands this.

I hope so. Look at how wisely Yulia Timoshenko acted after the elections. There was information that she lost in the presence of electoral violations, but she said — the country is more important, and did not protest the results. This means that many Ukrainians have already grown up. And that's what makes them different.

By Sergey Kochnev