The Ukraine question: Elections, sanctions, shelling of Donetsk on 11-03-2015.
Translated by Eugenia
BORIS KOSTENKO: Dear viewers. This is live broadcast of the show “The Ukraine question” on the television channel “Spas” (Spas – Savior; refers to Jesus Christ – translator’s note). In this show, we are discussing the events in Ukraine, obviously, in a certain context; naturally, in a certain light, which is, for the most part, conservative, traditional, and responsible. Ones of the most popular shows are the ones with the participation of Rostislav Ishchenko, political analysis, the head of the Center of the System Analysis and Prognosis. We are happy to see you here in our studio, Rostislav.
ROSTISLAV ISHCHENKO: Good evening.
KOSTENKO: At the beginning, in order to start our today’s conversation – in Ukraine the local elections have taken place. There are results, statistics, and there are also discussions and various interpretations of the results. On the background on the elections, several evens also have occurred, for example, cessations of the air travel between Russian and Ukraine, various statements in the governments as well as rumors.
Setting aside the rumors, the situation is moving in a not so good direction. You, Rostislav, have said many times that for the current power in Kiev war is the only way out. In spite of the weapon withdrawal or, rather, attempts to make Kiev to withdraw weapon (in reality not everything has been withdrawn), the shelling of Donetsk the other day demonstrated that not everything is well. The elections have shown that things are not good at all. Serious analysts have remarked that the elections in fact have shown that Ukraine is split. The split goes along the lines of the previous presidential elections – all those colored maps to show who voted for whom – and the present elections confirmed the same split. Most voters knew that there will not be any changes regardless of the outcome but there was still the demonstration of the division. What can we say about the conditions of the Ukrainian society based on the results of these elections?
ISHCHENKO: If we could just talk about the fact that Ukraine is divided, then the Ukrainian leadership should have been congratulated, because it would have meant that nothing has changed in the past 20 years. The elections have shown the division in the country 20 years ago, and 10 years, and 5 years ago. In reality, if these elections differed in any way from all previous ones, then it would be three things. Firsts, it would seem that the people refused to legitimize the local leadership via elections. Less than 50% participated, even taking into account that the authorities inflated that percentage in any way they could, so we don’t really know what the actual turnout was. Furthermore, the displaced persons did not vote, since the authorities have not made this possible. The part of Donbass controlled by the Ukrainian army also did not vote: in some towns, the elections were not planned in the first place; in some the elections were suspended for technical reasons but, again, the reason controlled by the authorities. So, this is the first point – the legitimization of the local governments and, via that, the legitimization of the central government (the same parties participated in these elections as in the parliamentary elections), has not happened.
KOSTENKO: In places where the elections have not taken place – what percentage of the total electorate of Ukraine do they account for? And I include the Donetsk and Lugansk Republics.
ISHCHENKO: Let us calculate. In Mariupol alone, where the elections were suspended, the population is half a million and about 300,000 voters. In essence, the entire Donbass has not voted. Before the war, the population of Donbass was 7.5 millions. On the territory, controlled no by DPR and LPR, the population before the war was 4 million; a part of it has left for Russia and a part moved to other regions of Ukraine – these are the displaced persons that did not vote. They number at least 2 millions plus to more millions living now on the Ukraine-controlled territory. Thus, we have minimum 4 million people that have not voted out of approximately 40, minimum 36, millions left in Ukraine. Therefore, approximately 10-13% of the population were denied the right to vote.
Speaking of the division of Ukraine, it may not be that important who voted for whom, because all parties permitted to participate in the elections are the parties supporting the current regime regardless whether they name themselves the Opposition Block of the Block of Petr Poroshenko. They cooperate in the parliament, and everything is all right with them. The problem is that Poroshenko, who tried to put in change of the regions “his people” in order to increase control of the central government over the regions, in essence lost the elections. He only managed to make “his people” elected in the central regions, but these regions are the poorest: they, unlike the South-East, do not have even the remnants of industry (e.g. Dnepropetrovsk could survive on income from its ore-enriching plants; Odessa – from its ports, etc); they also do not have the longstanding tradition of working abroad, unlike the Western Ukraine, where the population was leaving and is still leaving to find work abroad, approximately in equal parts in Russia and Western Europe, and where people maintain their families mostly on the money earned this way. Thus, these are the regions supported by the state budget.
In all other regions, the local elites claimed the victory managing to fight off Poroshenko quite effectively. Only the fight in Dnepropetrovsk is still ongoing where Vikul competes with Filatov and in Odessa Trukhanov competes with the protégée of Saakashvili Borovik. In reality, this is the same competition of Poroshenko with Kolomoisky. The very fact that these persons are pretty close, and Saakashvili, who actually lost, resorted to the open pressure tactics, is the evidence of the weakness of the central government. Even if they manage to forcibly drag their people into power both in Dnepropetrovsk and Odessa, the situation still shows that the local population as well as the local elites denied them the right to rule the regions. This only means that one way or another, via elections or via small-scale sabotage, the central Ukrainian government will continue to lose influence in these regions. Therefore, the South-East is lost, the West of Ukraine is lost as well, the South is lost; what is left in Poroshenko’s hands are those central depressed regions that he can support only by the Western loans. The West, however, is not giving these loans any more; the IMF postponed the next tranche of 1.7 billion dollars until December and unlikely to give it even in December, since the US still has to convince the IMF to change its policies in order to release this loan in December. The US promised 1 billion dollar loan guarantees in order to issue obligations, the same Eurobonds Ukraine is presently unable to pay back. But so far these guarantees have not been given. There is no certainty even that Ukraine can sell such Eurobonds considering the situation it is in, and, most likely, they will have to be sold at a serious discount. Thus, strictly speaking, there is no external financing.
Ukraine is not simply divided into the West and the East, or the West, Center, and South-East – Ukraine is beginning to split into the regions. Currently, the borders of the divisions coincide with the borders of the regions. A local boss could technically control two or three regions, but the borders of that fiefdom will still be drawn along the borders of the regions of the state. This indicates that the confrontation no longer happens on the level of the “civilizational choice” by the parts of the population. Such division could conceivably be ignored by Kiev that could attempt to use the support of one part of the population to suppress another. Now the confrontation is played out at the level of the regional elites against the central elite: the regional elites no longer need the central elite but rather views it as an obstacle. They still cannot openly voice such opinion – waiting who would dares to do so first to join in – but the last elections have demonstrated that the regional elites are refusing to support the center as well as refusing to accept its patronage. I believe that this is the most troubling revelation of these elections in Ukraine.
KOSTENKO: Do they not understand that in the situation when they could lose power, on the one hand, but have the responsibility for the region, on the other hand, the necessity to keep the region as their fiefdom that they derive their income from, have their businesses in, that they have to survive? Do they not see, even if we do not see it all from here, that everything is falling apart, and if they do not keep it together, no one will? Everything will go dust, and they will lose power and everything with it.
ISHCHENKO: This is an objective process. It happened naturally during the Middle Ages when the countries broke apart in the Western Europe in VIII-IX centuries, it was natural in XII-XIII centuries when the Russian state split into numerous smaller states, and it remains just as natural today.
KOSTENKO: You are scaring me with you comparison.
ISHCHENKO: It is not the point, which economic formation is prevalent, but the states broke down in the same way regardless – it happened in the Soviet Union in the same way – separatism was aligned with the administrative borders. The Ryazan separatism is no different from say, the Ukrainian one. It was just as “sausage-based” in nature. And now we are seeing the same process. Imaging that you are in change of any region of Ukraine, and I am sitting in Kiev as the central power. I am issuing orders for you to be implemented in your region. As long as I provide material resources to support these orders, as long as it is in my power to decide whether you remain in charge of the region or not, you agree to comply with my orders, because you receive your share of the common pie. Most importantly, the resources given to you by the center for the realization of its programs allow you to solve social problems for your own population.
Let us look at what is happening now. The socio-economic situation is getting worse – everybody’s living conditions are going down. The center can no long provide resources to the regions – it simply does not have them. But it needs the resources to exist, so it started to demand them from you attempting to extract additional resources from the regions by the way of extra taxes, fees, and such. So, when the center demands a certain policy to be implemented, for example, renaming the cities or streets, the introduction of a new curriculum in school, or something else – it is not even important whether the policy in itself makes sense or not. What is important is that it irritates the population and, furthermore, demands additional effort and expenses in the situation when it is difficult to explain to the people why the money needs to be spent on renaming the streets but not to pay for bread for the needy.
In such a situation, since you are closer to the people, they will come to kill you first and only then get to me. Then you start thinking: “I don’t need you; I will take care of my own myself somehow. And more, when you are gone, I will have more money left for me. So, I will close the borders and introduce a pseudo-currency: each grivna (the Ukrainian currency – translator’s note) coming from you will need a certificate from me to be valid on my territory. I have certain resources, things I produce and sell, I also have agricultural production – I calculated it all, and I know I will survive. I am not interested in how you are going to survive, since you are completely useless”. That is what the regional leaders are nor exactly saying but demonstrating to Kiev by their actions: “We don’t need you guys; you only cause problems”.
KOSTENKO: This is dangerous. We have a phone call to the studio. Please, introduce yourself. You are calling from Samara, right?
CALLER (man): City of Samara, Makeev Alexander Mikhaylovich, a member of the Russian Union of Professional Writers. I speak official Ukrainian but it has nothing to do with the language spoken, for example, in Ukrainian villages. Where did it come from?
ISHCHENKO: The Ukrainian villages have spoken their languages forever, and the neighboring villages could easily speak different languages. The will likely understand each other but the words will sound different. The same as Russian in Vologda is different from Russian in Astrakhan – these are different dialects. Every Ukrainian region and village has its own dialect. The official “literature” Ukrainian emerged some time at the end of 19th century. Kotlyarevski is considered the first to start creating Ukrainian but the language took its final shape in 1930th under the Bolshevik government. This standard Ukrainian based on Poltava dialect has been taught in schools but most of the country used Russian in everyday communications, and those who thought they spoke Ukrainian, like in Ukrainian villages or in the western Ukraine, did not use the standard Ukrainian but their own local dialects. That is why the standard Ukrainian was essentially unused, and that is the reason it could be so easily supplanted. The standard Poltava dialect-based Ukrainian was taught in all schools during the entire Soviet period, so one would expect the whole Ukrainian population to fluently speak that Ukrainian.
But when the authorities changes, and the power in Ukraine was usurped by the people from Galichina that started to force their own Galicia dialect as the standard Ukrainian, the population speaking Russian or local dialects known as “sourgics” (peculiar mixtures of Russian, Ukrainian, and some purely local words typical for the regions of the South-Eastern Ukraine – translator’s note) have not noticed any changes. So, currently the Galician dialect is considered standard, but nobody takes any notice.
KOSTENKO: This is interesting. We here have not noticed or understood that specifically the Galician dialect had been enforced as the standard Ukrainian language. I did not know that.
ISHCHENKO: Starting from the mid-1990s, the attempts have been made to change the standard Ukrainian, in 1992, for example. But at that time this was deemed inappropriate. But later it happened in an insidious manner: the television started speaking more and more in the Galician manner; the officials started to use Galician words; people speaking Galician have become official, appointed, intellectual leaders. So, slowly the official Ukrainian has been supplanted. As a result, people who in the past when I was graduating from school would have received an F grade for Ukrainian and would not have been able to graduate now teach others how to speak Ukrainian.
KOSTENKO: We have a caller from Pyatigorsk. I remind you that the main subject of our discussion today is the election. But, nevertheless, we are listening, Pyatigorsk.
CALLER (woman): Good evening. I am very glad to see Mr. Ishchenko in your studio. I trust his predictions very much and for this reason want to ask him: Please, tell us, do you that the Russian regions of Ukraine will ever return home, as Crimea did, or not? Or at some time in the future there will be a different transformation? I know that your predictions always come true, and I want to know what will happen. Thank you very much.
ISHCHENKO: Only God’s prediction always come true, and even the ways of God are unknown. So, we cannot know anything for sure. Unfortunately, my predictions not always come true; otherwise the Russian regions would have joined Russia already. I believe that the interests of Russia as well as the interests of Ukrainian population would be best served by all regions of Ukraine, Russian and otherwise, rejoining Russia. For Russia, the point is not just the reunification of the divided nation – in such case we would have been speaking of the Russian regions only – but also the restoration of the historic strategic and military balance as well as historical justice. As for the population of Ukraine, even for the population of Galicia, as the experience of many years have shown, it is much more convenient, comfortable, and profitable to live as a part of Russia than, say, as a part of Poland. No region of Ukraine is capable of independent existence, since even the entire Ukraine failed, and not for the first time, to survive independently. It is such a large country, reasonably rich at the beginning, densely populated, promising – and yet it failed. It failed due to the lack of the political culture in the elites and the lack of demand, so to speak, for this independent state. The elite treated its country as the source for lining up their pockets.
KOSTENKO: And now?
ISHCHENKO: Now there is really nothing left. Now it is time to think how to escape, not how to steal. Although, they are still trying to steal some more. The main question for the elites always was how best to sell everything, hide the profit and run away. Those somewhat smarter and not as greedy are already living abroad – Ukraine has already forgotten their names and when and what kind of ministers of the Ukrainian government they once were. Whereas most are still trying to pilfer anything they can. This is not the first time: the same happened in Hetman Ukraine; the same happened in Ukraine in 1918-1919 when the first attempt to create an independent Ukrainian state was made. So, these pseudo-Ukrainian regions, such as Galicia, will not be able to survive on their own, because their elites care about the state interests and have the awareness of them at the level even lower than that of the elites that had ruled Ukraine before them. For that reason, they had to organize the coup: they could not come to power in a democratic way, because they lacked the intelligence needed to convince the population of their merits. Thus, they would not be able to govern.
Therefore, the rest of Ukraine has a choice of joining Russia or attaching themselves to western countries, some to Hungary, some to Poland, some to Romania. I can say with certainty that the best option is to join Russian, because for Russia and the Russian this is the same nation despite distinct dialects and some alterations in the psyche, which could be cured, albeit with difficulty. For others, they will be aliens, just people living on the land that could be cleared of them. Poland, where in the pre-war and first post-war years Ukrainians accounted for a significant proportion of the population, is now a mono-ethnic country, with Poles comprising close to 99% of the population. So, the Ukrainians have been completely assimilated. The same could be expected if Ukrainian now attempt to get integrated into the Western world, with the exception that today there are numerous problems between Bandera-worshiping Western Ukrainians (Stepan Bandera – the leader of Ukrainian nationalists in the pre-war and war years; his followers are known as “banderovtsi” – translator’s note), the proponents of the nationalistic ideas, and Poles, more so even, than between “banderovtsi” and ourselves. That is why for some the result could be something other than assimilation – liquidation, perhaps. Obviously, the Poles will not be the ones liquidated. So, honestly, I am counting that there will be enough resources, power, and geopolitical luck to restore at some point the historic south-western borders of Russia. In the worst -case scenario, if we have to share with someone, that will not in any case be at the expense of the Russian regions.
KOSTENKO: Nizhny Novgorod wants to ask a question. Please, we are listening.
CALLER (man): Good evening. Alexander Vladimirovich, a question to Rostislav Ishchenko. As I understand, Michail Saakashvili failed to install his protégée as the mayor of Odessa. I would like to know your opinion as to what steps he is likely to take now. There has been information that he is training about 400 militants, so will he try to seize power via an unconstitutional coup?
ISHCHENKO: The problem of the Americans is that their policy is such that they have to work either with idiots or with jerks that are also idiots. This is exactly the problem with Saakashvili. Yes, he is obviously trying to change the election results in Odessa by violent means: he already blocked several voting stations and expropriated bulletins where he did not like the results, and his protégée claimed that the result was rigged. Any adequate person would have difficulty understanding: let us suppose you and I are competing in these elections, and you received 75% of votes and I 25%, or you 60% and I 25%, similar to the actual percentages in Odessa. At the same time, the governor is supporting me, the country is under military dictatorship, and I claim that the elections were rigged. Even in the most peaceful conditions, to falsify election for more than 10% is very difficult; even 10% is difficult – your would need to turn on the administrative resources full blast, which would be too visible and not possible everywhere.
When the administrative resources are working against the winner of the elections, it is even more problematic to speak of falsification. But most importantly, how do I know that there were falsifications? Am I the central election commission or even the local one? Do I have the data I could rely on? They cannot yet exist, since the elections have just ended, but I immediately announce that the results were falsified. Yes, Saakashvili is trying to force the desired solution to this problem. That is precisely how he ruled Georgia all the time. Theoretically, he could even succeed, although I think he would be better off recognizing the defeat, saving face, and trying to work with the winners, because a compromise is always possible. There people do not want to fight – they want to trade. If he tries to continue to use forcible means, he will meet with silent resistance, the “Italian” strikes, and sabotage of the officials. Sooner or later he will turn into the governor that decides nothing except what kind of the doorknob will grace the door of his office, the bronze or cast iron one. You cannot work in Odessa without the support of the local elites. That is why I think that regardless of how this confrontation works out, and Saakashvilli so far seems inclined to solve it in his favor by force, he has already lost in any case.
KOSTENKO: I have been to Odessa once when I was invited as an expert: at that time Bodelyan was the mayor, and some wanted to replace him, but at the end he outfoxed everybody and remained in his post. It was a convoluted and funny story. Odessa has always been a complicated city.
When our viewer from Nizhny Novgorod called, I thought of a metaphor: when during the Time of Trouble Minin (Kous’ma Minin, a butcher from Nizhny Novgorod, the Russian national hero, the leader of the militia that expelled the Polish and Swedish invaders from Russia in 1611-1612 – translator’s note) gathered the people’s army and took it to restore order in the split country, this was the demonstration of the political will and the national desire for unity. In Ukraine, on the other hand, it appears that everyone withdrew into their regions, and there is no leader who thinks on the national scale, either because there is no political culture or the nation is simply not at the level, as you have mentioned, to support an independent state given to them. Then the picture is quite sad, really, because, whether there is the external pressure or not, the disintegration continues, and this tendency is clearly negative.
ISHCHENKO: Given the tendencies that existed in Ukraine then, it was possible to tell as early as in 2004 that Ukraine is facing the possibility of the “hot” civil war. To see that, one did not have to be a scientist or particularly perceptive, because people that started this civil war and carried out the coup used to say even then that in order to create the “Ukrainian” Ukraine, as they used to put it, it would be necessary to restrict the rights of the “wrong” voters. If someone resists, it would be necessary to forcibly suppress that resistance using the military force. The phrase “Crimea either Ukrainian or depopulated” was born then. The idea to fence off Donbass with barbed wire also emerged at that time, and so forth. Thus, on the one hand, they used to say: “What civil war? What are you talking about? Everything is so nice in Ukraine, stable and quiet. There will never be a civil war here”.
And yet at the same time they themselves were using the language of the civil war. These people never understood that, yes, you could pick up a machine gun and come to kill completely defenseless people, but you would need to kill not 10 or 20 people, not 200 or even 2,000. They would have to exterminate about 60% of the Ukrainian population or, at least, 40-45%, to make the rest submit. That is, millions would have to be killed, but millions would not wait to be killed but will also pick up weapons and start killing. That is how a civil war starts. It is not important who wins, because the war is already going on, because it is going on in the minds. The Ukrainian elite and the proponents of the so-called “European choice” simply did not understand; they sincerely believed and still believe that, since they are supporting the idea that seems to them good and just, they have the right to break the law, murder people, force their way on others. For them, democracy is when their position is supported. In all other situations, democracy is detrimental. This is precisely the indicator that this state is unsustainable. After all, the state is the consensus of the population living on its territory that agrees to transfer the managerial functions to the government that will defend the interests of all.
KOSTENKO: So, there should be a common ideological base; there should be consensus in that area as well.
ISHCHENKO: At very least, the idea of comfort. At least, as they used to say: “Ukraine will live separately, and everyone will have more sausage”. OK, not sausage, but washing machines. Yes, people could be united on such basis as well. After all, they wanted to join Europe not because they understood how things work there; most of those who aspired for the EU membership, have never been to Europe and never will, and the leaders of the movement did not care, for they could move to Europe any time. The essence of the movement was the common perception of the future comfort. “We will be more comfortable there”. Or, “we will sign the association agreement, and then the Europeans will install the European rules here, and we will live comfortably, affluently and well”. “We will work as the Greeks, be paid as the Germans, vacation as the French, and have a sea like the Spanish”. In principle, even such approach could unite the population. But nobody tried to unite it even at the level of this “sausage patriotism”.
The population was told all the time that half of it is defective. Regardless how much of a patriot of your country you are, if I tell you every day over several decades that you and millions like you are defective, because you speak the wrong language, pronounce four letters incorrectly, celebrate wrong holidays, that you are “Sovok” (sovok, or trowel, a derogatory name for the Soviet Union; also used as a derogatory description of a person with Soviet habits and standards– translation’s note), you ancestors are defective, and so on, sooner or later you will understand that you are alien in this country, and this country is alien for you, and you do not need it. That is how the division in Ukraine was created. Why do you think the South-East has become so russophilic? Because they have been told and retold that they are defective Ukrainians and need to be reformed. And people quite sensibly decided: “If all of us here are defective, and there are millions of us but there are no good ones among us, then this is our land, and then, perhaps, the best thing for us to do would be to take our land and go some place where we will be good enough”. So, these Ukrainian pseudo-Europeans provoked the division in the country, the civil war, and ultimately, the destruction of Ukraine, because a state where half of the population does not need or want it cannot exist.
KOSTENKO: We understand that this state that goes today under the name “Ukraine” is moving towards the breakup into regions, and the reason for that breakup has nothing to do with the question of nationalities or with the “civilizational choice”. The power will be consolidated in the hands of the local elites, but these elites could also have different ideological leanings. If they mind only their own local business, then fine, but they all declare that Ukraine is above all and worship that nation that they themselves invented. It seems that a myth cannot produce anything viable, and the breakup process will continue, as you have been saying all along. Whether the scenario will be “hot” or not, whether it all will end up in the economic catastrophe or not, it is possible that at the local level people can find enough to eat but will it be enough for them?
ISHCHENKO: You see, all processes in Ukraine move in all regions through the same stages but at a different pace. For example, in Crimea the period between the presentation of demands for federalization, for more rights for the local authorities, and general non-interference of Kiev into the Crimean affairs, and the actual vote for independence and rejoining Russia was approximately two weeks. There is a good reason for this – the Russian Navy was stationed in Crimea. The situation there was quite different as compared to the rest of Ukraine. In Donbass, the process is still ongoing. It also started with the demands of federalization and broad autonomy. Today, Donbas is speaking only about independence. We are currently approaching the point when the rest of Ukraine will want federalization. It is clear what will follow – the center will try to suppress these movements. And it does have certain forces it could rely on. It is unclear how the volunteer battalions or the army will defend or attack their own regions. But, first, we do know that there are people from Donbass fighting against Donbass, so similar persons could be found in other regions of Ukraine. Second, not all regions will simultaneously rise against Kiev. In some regions, it will happen earlier, in some later. Kiev will maneuver attempting to suppress the movement in one region while relying on others.
But further movement towards the breakup is inevitable for one reason: in order to preserve the state, a certain amount of resources is necessary. The upkeep of any state costs money. If these resources cannot be found inside the country, they have to be found outside. If the resources can be found neither inside nor outside, then the state is doomed. Ukraine currently has difficulties finding resources inside or outside, and the difficulties grow greater and greater every day, because the restoration of everything ruined requires more and more money.
KOSTENKO: We have a call from Ekaterinburg. If you are still there, we are listening.
CALLER (woman): Good evening. I would like to ask you about the restitution on the part of Poland, Hungary, and Romania. Will it really happen, is this possible, and what will it lead to?
KOSTENKO: I know about Poland, but do the Hungarians and Romanians want that, too?
ISHCHENKO: Such attempts will without doubt be made. Regardless where you live, even in Russia, you have the right to bring a lawsuit in any court, be it the Ukrainian court, be it the US court – you can do it. Usually, people do it either in the location of the property or in the place of their residence. And they will likely win, because Ukraine has signed the association agreement that provides for harmonization of the Ukrainian laws with the European laws, which contain the restitution provision. So, Ukraine has already under these obligations automatically.
KOSTENKO: Has this been signed already?
ISHCHENKO: Everything has been signed. It comes into effect, all of it, from January 1st of 2016. The part we are discussing has come into effect in 2015 or even in 2014. There cannot be two opinions here: people will sue and win their lawsuits. Obviously, Ukraine will be in no hurry to return the properties, since this is not an easy thing to do, and Ukraine has no money to pay compensations for lost properties, which is roughly about $5 billions, and that is only what Poland calculated. Ukraine simply does not have that kind of money.
KOSTENKO: But there have been precedents in the Baltics where they have returned the properties to the former owners via restitution.
ISHCHENKO: First, you could return the property, but then you will have a riot on your hands, because in this case the whole Lvov would have to be returned to the Poles. Then where will the people that live there now go? What could be done with them? Expel them from the city? There are many cities like that. The properties in the whole cities would have to be returned to the foreigners. Thus, the only way is to pay compensations, for which money is needed. Ukraine has no money. The Baltics were given the money for that purpose.
KOSTENKO: True, there were grants.
ISHCHENKO: Besides, the Baltics were returning their own, the Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonian, while expelling the aliens. The Baltics were conducting a very focused policy of squeezing out the newcomers. But here it is different. The foreigners, the aliens, will be coming in, whereas the natives would have to be squeezed out. This is a significant difference for Ukraine. Naturally, the Ukrainian authorities would try to somehow escape from this trap. However, there is no way out, because the moment you stop implementing the court decisions, the Ukrainian properties abroad would be arrested. I am not sure if the value of the Ukrainian possessions abroad would cover $5 billion or even $3 billion restitution payments. Whether it is enough or nor, in any case there will be much more trouble than Ukraine has now from the unpaid loan of $500 millions in Eurobonds, or from the $600 million loan, which will not be repaid in November either, or from the $3 billion loan, which Ukraine also has no intentions of repaying. There in the relations between states, the political motivations could be used, or the help from the US could be sought, so that the US would restrain some of the creditors pressuring Ukraine. In contrast, here hundreds of thousands or even millions of private persons that will simply go to the European courts to demand justice, and the European courts will rule in their favor.
KOSTENKO: There is one resource in Ukraine that could always be sold – the land. But then the territories would need to be depopulated.
ISHCHENKO: Well, in order to sell something, someone has to buy it, for starters. In order for somebody to buy something, the value of the goods would have to be determined. Ukraine still does not have the unified land cadaster. The value of the real estate is determined by the method “floor-finger-ceiling” (Russian expression indicating that a measurement or figure is not based on any solid foundation, i.e. come essentially from nowhere – translator’s note). This is first. This is typical for Ukraine; possible to trade this way – not a problem. But who will really buy all this land for a more or less decent price considering that the country has an ongoing civil war, the state might collapse tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow a new country might appear on the ruins of this one? That new country would say: “We have nothing to do with the previous one and do not recognize the succession. Everything belongs to us, and all treaties concluded with the previous state have nothing to do with us. They were the enemies of the people. When we catch them, we will hang them. If you are interested we will send you the photos of the execution for your enjoyment”. And that is all.
Besides, indeed such an act would require the displacement of a huge number of people. For better or for worse, but in 2014 in Ukraine 14.5 million people lived in the rural areas. These were the people that earned their living directly on the land. Plus a certain number, perhaps 5 millions or 10 millions, or even as many as 15 millions, of their relatives in the cities were supplied food for their consumption by these rural dwellers and, most importantly, maintained close connections and contacts with the rural communities. No, the displacement of such a massive number of people off the land was possible in England under Henry VIII – they were simply hanged, and that was all, for vagrancy. Chased them off first, them caught them and hanged for vagrancy. But it is impossible today in Ukraine to hang 14 million people. Then where would they go? Force them into the cities? But there is no place for them to live in the cities and no jobs. To send them abroad – nobody is waiting for them there. So, this is a problem. It is not possible just to sell the land. Unless, of course, we declare these people to be serfs and sell the land with the people. But this is not comme il faut in the view of the European values.
So, personally I do not see an escape route here for the Ukrainian government from all these restitution demands coming from our western friends and partners. The fact that these talks of restitutions started now is significant, although honestly, they could have just as well started a year ago, but then the question did not come up, although the work of collecting the paperwork was already going on, – now the question of restitution was brought up, and the Polish politicians have made a number of statements about the need to liquidate the consequences of the “criminal” pact of Molotov-Ribbentrop. If Ukraine is a European state and condemns that criminal collusion of the two totalitarian regimes, then it would be good to return to Poland the illegally annexed lands. It is remarkable to see such mood in the Western partners of Ukraine, for Poland always positioned itself as the advocate of Ukraine, and in reality Poland was the most interested country in Europe to see Ukraine continue to exist in the same shape it was in before, because Poland considered Ukraine a buffer zone between itself and Russia. So, if Poland started to speak in this manner, it can only mean that it does not consider it possible to preserve Ukraine and is trying to stake its claims for the future bargain for who gets which part of Ukraine.
KOSTENKO: Yes, in contrast to us, the certainly understand the conjuncture and feel the moment. This is true.
ISHCHENKO: I do not think they understand the conjuncture any better; simply, our objectives are different. We need to preserve the whole mass of lands, probably, in the form a new federal Ukraine, but it is preferable to maintain the unity of the entire territory. Whereas, the Poles just want to grab a piece.
KOSTENKO: That is what I mean: to seize the moment and grab a piece.
ISHCHENKO: If we only wanted just to snatch a chunk of the territory up to Dnepr river or by the borders of the traditional Novorossia, we could have come to an agreement real fast. The Poles have no claims to these lands, and neither do the Romanians. The Hungarians least of all, and there is nobody else.
KOSTENKO: You have mentioned our foreign partners. But we do know what scenario they impose on others, like in Syria, for example – provoking chaos, whether we call it civil war or the fight against a hated dictator, whatever, the pretexts could differ. But then the chaos is created that leads to collapse, and then somebody has to fix it, and that somebody is usually the neighbors. The chief neighbor, that is us. The question was about the restitution. The talk about it continues, so the Transcarpathia is to go to Hungary, the Romanians have a claim, so what will happen?
ISHCHENKO: I think the Poles got so excited now, because the issues we talked about in this studio as early as a year ago became pretty obvious: Ukraine is moribund, and the question of its breakup is not the question of the principle but that of time. So, Warsaw decided that the time has come. Thus, they started to stake their claims well in advance, to mark certain territories, so that they would have the material to come to the negotiating table with. Why do they think that? Precisely because can see the beginning of chaos in Ukraine. Consequently, the civil war could potentially spread to the entire territory. And after that who have to solve the problem? The neighbors, naturally. Other can join in the negotiations, of course: what could possibly be done with out France, Germany, or the United States? But the actually problems will have to be solved by close neighbors, so the Poles announce their demands in advance, and will moderate them somewhat later, if necessary.
KOSTENKO: Yes, the neighbors have mobilized already and positioned their armed forces at the border. Do you remember (I mean the viewers, you know that, of course) the events in Mukachevo when the Right Sector was making trouble? What does Russia or the Donbass militia have to do with any of this? Nothing at all. Those are the lands that supposedly support the present day Ukraine. So, this is the example of increased chaos that you mentioned.
ISHCHENKO: Simply put, now due to the weakening of the central government and the loss of control over the regions, all subsequent processes could be calculated, and that calculation is quite simple. All civil wars and revolutionary disturbances develop according to the same scheme. The only question is when each stage starts. That is why I repeat: the fact that our Western friends got so excited indicates that they concluded that the next stage of the breakup has already started. Perhaps, it is not yet visible too well; perhaps, they are mistaken, and the final stage has not started yet; perhaps, it will start in a month or two. But they think that the process has been initiated, and the final stage has begun. Then the processes could be slowed down somewhat or the most negative consequences could be somehow ameliorated but nothing could be really changed. If the process has started, it has to go to the end. So, they act on the assumption that if the process has started it will finish eventually, and they are throwing the ball there, at the end of the process, when the bargain to divide Ukraine will happen. Thus, they no longer see this territory as an independent state. They are looking into the future, which Klichko (mayor of Kiev notorious for his bizarre ungrammatical statements– translator’s note) called on the Ukrainian people to look into, “particularly those that cannot”.
KOSTENKO: They see Ukraine in chaos; the country is in ruins; “makhnovchshina” (reference to the time of 1919-1921 when the militia led by “Bat’ka” (Dad) Makhno controlled a part of Ukraine; Makhno and his followers were anarchists rejecting any form of state; hence the term “makhnovchshina” as the synonym of anarchy – translator’s note) and all, half-starving population – and Europe and Russia are destined to receive this “gift”. Or only Russia. The population of 40 millions – what could we do with it?
ISHCHENKO: Europe as well, without a doubt. Our friends and partners in the EU, specifically the Germans and the French, they have dragged for a long time the question of the gas pipelines bypassing Ukraine. And now, even assuming the optimal speed, North Stream-2, which will bypass the Ukrainian gas transportation system and completely eliminate its value, will be operational, in the best-case scenario, in 2018. Even if the 5-year plan is accomplished in 3 years or even 2 years, then this happens in 2017. But we are now facing only 2016. No matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, it is impossible to build the pipeline any faster.
Let us imaging that makhnovchshina starts this winter – then they will simply start blowing up the pipes. They will be doing this not necessarily with the view of annoying Russia. They will be blowing up pipes because one gang leader quarrels with the gang leader from another village and would want to annoy the rival by blowing up the pipe on his territory, or the other way around. Most importantly, there will be gazillion of such “family” quarrels all over the country. This is not something that could be controlled. As long as we have been dealing, reluctantly, with the quasi-legitimate regime of Poroshenko, we, at least, could via negotiations regulate the gas transit through Ukraine and demand of him, as the “legitimate” President that is expected to control the entire territory of the country, to provide conditions for the transit. When the legitimate authority is lacking, who do you appeal to?
KOSTENKO: Our show is drawing to its end. Our stated subject was the Ukrainian elections, the development of Ukraine after these election but the main theme that emerged was that the country is approaching the state of chaos, and we can see the signs of this chaos such as the consolidation of the local elites. Unfortunately, our viewers do not often have the opportunity to hear the subjects we have been discussing with you here, because the chronicle of events supplants the discussion of the processes. Many popular shows are too emotionally charged to allow for a calm discussion. Our viewers appreciate that this show strives to offer a systematic and detailed discussion of political processes.
In conclusion, could you comment on many annoying stunts Ukraine has performed recently such as the cessation of the air travel or the threat to sue Russia for the unwillingness to restructure the Ukrainian debt? All of this is done very publicly. We have to separate here the publicity purpose and the real processes taking place in Ukraine, which are the ones we talked about today: the local conditions revealed by the local elections demonstrating the opposition of the population to the central power. The local population preferred local elites as opposed to the Kiev-supported outsiders, like, for example, in Odessa.
ISHCHENKO: As far as the latest stunts are concerned, about 1 hour before I set off for this studio I had read that Yuzhmash (Yuzhmash is a portmanteau that stands for Southern Machines. It refers to the A.M. Makarov Southern Machine-Building Plant located in Dnepropetrovsk; it used to manufacture space rockets, satellites and all sorts of equipment – translator’s note) (I am not sure who exactly, since there is practically nobody left there; the production has stopped; nobody works) supposedly demanded that Russia liberate all Ukrainian cities including Crimea and threatened that otherwise it would transfer all documentations on the Russian rockets to the Americans and NATO, which would irreparably damage the Russian defense capabilities.
I would like to say that, first, the rockets that Yuzhmash used to manufacture (a few of them are still operational) are no longer produced; second, the plant has not been working for the past year at all; third, during the terms of the four Ukrainian Presidents (Poroshenko is the fifth), everything the Americans might conceivably want from Ukraine they already got; and, finally, fourth, such a statement would have been, if not actually topical, but at least no so ridiculous 10-15 years ago. But after Russia has put in service hundreds of ballistic missiles that have nothing at all to do with Ukraine, because they have never been manufactured or serviced in Ukraine, such statements are not just fakes but something entirely ludicrous.
KOSTENKO: We always discuss the events in Ukraine with sad feelings. This sadness will linger in this studio and in our show for some time, unfortunately. We will be talking about Ukraine for some time to come, hopefully, with you. Thank you very much for today’s conversation. Dear viewers, thank you for your activity and the phone calls that came to the studio from all parts of our great country. Our show has ended. I wish you all the best. I will see you next time on the live talk show “The Ukraine Question” on the channel ‘Spas”.