Euromaidan 2013: Russia Clings and Struggles but Does not Win

Joint Internet press conferences with leading experts from different countries on the topical issues of the modern times are organized within the framework of the project, entitled "Enhancing knowledge and understanding of ‘the other side’ by Armenians and Azerbaijani through Alternative and First-Hand Information". This project, implemented by Region Research Center (Armenia) and the Institute for Peace and Democracy (Azerbaijan), is supported by the British Embassies in Armenia and Azerbaijan.   

 
 
David Stepanyan, "Arminfo" news agency-www.arminfo.am (Armenia)
 
1. According to some analysts , the decision to refuse signing the agreement with the EU , was made by the President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych already a few months ago . That is, this development was almost entirely predicted, and the negotiations that were going on all these months , reduced to monetary bargaining for Yulia Tymoshenko’s freedom.  Do you think this interpretation is right? If not, please share yours.
 
- According to the information that we have, the financial issue hardly came up , because now , European politicians and diplomats are in such a shock. Because if you want this question could be discussed for 18 months. The relevant issues were: the release / treatment Tymoshenko , the law on the Prosecutor’s Office, the election law, the fight against corruption . Tymoshenko’s issue was a bit more complicated, not limited to the matter of financial compensation. Some politicians are afraid of letting her free, so the negotiations were mainly devoted to the topic of how to prevent her from being nominated in 2015 elections.
 
2. Based on the recent events in Ukraine and Moldova, we can assume that Russia wins the confrontation with Europe over the zone of influence of the former Soviet Union and persistently moving towards what many call the USSR -2. What is destined to Ukraine in these processes?
 
- I think that the recent events in Ukraine and Moldova only prove that Russia is struggling, but is not winning. Look at the progress in the negotiations in Chisinau on the visa-free regime. Look at the demonstration in support of European integration in Chisinau since November 3, at what is happening in Ukraine on Euromaydan. The thing is that not only the population, but also the politicians in these two countries do not want to be part of a sort of the USSR. Even the supporters of closer cooperation with Moscow will not see this as a revival of such a level of integration and control, because it will automatically lead to the loss of their own power.
 
3. Is the threat of separation of Ukraine into western and eastern parts a bluff or does it have real grounds and prerequisites? What role does the Crimea issue play in the negotiations between Moscow and Kiev? 
 
- The issue of dividing the country is an idea that has been constantly abused by those who benefit from the destabilization of the situation in the country. This does not mean that there are no differences between these two parts of the country. As in any large country regions differ, moreover, regions that have been a part of different states throughout the history. Some have witnessed a larger scale of resettlement of the indigenous people, for some this process was relatively weak. Plus, there are various dozes of targeted propaganda. But, if you will pass through small towns and villages in Donbass and listen around, you will hear a creole  but in which much more Ukrainian than Russian, unlike centrally positioned Dnipropetrovsk , for example. Today students in Donetsk and Kharkov have stepped out onto their own Euromaydans.
 
The Crimea is a really painful subject . And there are two issues here: the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation and the Crimean Tatar population. Formally, the Crimean issues have been moved beyond the frames of other issues on the relations between the two countries. The Crimea is hardly Russian, as it has been presented by the pro-Russian radical parties. Most Russians appeared there only after the deportation of the Crimean Tatars after World War 2. When I say that we must give away the Crimea to Russia , I always suggest to give it to Turkey or even better to Greece – these two ruled there for a longer time period.
But seriously, today the Crimean Tatars went to Kiev to support Euromaydan and Mejlis approved this decision.
 
Armen Minasyan, www. panorama.am (Armenia)
 
1. Is Ukraine’s suspension of negotiations on Association a consequence of pressure from the Kremlin, or is it due to the pragmatic economic calculations by Kiev?
 
- I am sure that this is a consequence of Russia's position. If we were talking about pragmatism, the agreement would not have been initialed in March 2012. Or maybe then they did not know its conditions? It is another issue that Moscow hoped until recently that Ukraine would not be allowed to sign the Agreement  because of the failure to comply in terms of ensuring reforms, including a law on the prosecutor's office, Tymoshenko’s issue and so on. If you look at the chronology of events, it is only when the Ukrainian parliament began to pass the last required laws, that active work began which by the way was not at all objectively economic in its nature – the illogical introduction of new customs regulations, a ban on the import of products, inspection of goods at customs, an active information campaign and so on. In early summer, all this was not observed. Moreover, when in 2008, Moscow blocked the signing of the Action Plan on Ukraine’s NATO affiliation, Russian politicians actively stated that NATO was a threat, but they would not block Ukraine's European aspirations. Currently made statements show the opposite.
 
2. How has the domestic political layout in Ukraine impacted on the decision of the authorities?
 
- It's hard to say. The official anti-European stance has traditionally been limited to the communists only. The Party of Regions together with the government and the president has many times, including official documents, stated about Ukraine's European choice. It is a different matter that not all politicians in Ukraine clearly understand exactly what it mean , and not being ready for preferences, are not ready for reforms, transparency and accountability , which are an integral part of this process .
 
3. What should be expected after Vilnius? Is it possible in the short term to resume the dialogue on the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement?
 
 - The EU has left the door open for Ukraine. This is the position European leaders constantly repeat. Moreover, until the morning of November 29 the prospect of signing it in Vilnius remains possible. As for the future, some European politicians and functionaries say theoretically signing the agreement is possible even after Vilnius, but in practice, let's talk about it in the May 2014 elections to the European Parliament , that is, in the near future there will simply be no one to deal with this issue. And a question arises: what else remains to be discussed if Ukraine has already initialed the text? Actually it is only bargaining, and will the EU give more money, in addition to those that may come to Ukraine as an investment and promised financial assistance?
 
4 . Many Russian analysts consider the Eastern Partnership program a geopolitical project to build a so-called buffer zone along the Russian borders and to prevent the expansion of Moscow's influence. How justified is this position?
 
- This position exactly fits the overall concept of Russian foreign policy. Why should we all – the six Eastern Partnership countries necessarily be perceived as a zone of influence, or even worse a buffer zone? Why can’t we be seen as equally independent partners? I am not a big supporter of the Eastern Partnership; I myself have many questions open on this program. But the problem is the "anti" label automatically imposed by Moscow on the projects it does not initiate and the lack of attempt to understand the essence. After all, Moscow is also invited to join.
 
5. Do the protests in Ukraine reflect the majority opinion?
 
- Euromaydan reflects the majority opinion of those who will make decisions tomorrow and who care about the future. Ukraine's problem is that we have too many of those who care and are interested in what’s going on. The support of Russia by a number of people is based only on the knowledge of the Russian language and what they remember about Russia, but do not know what is happening there now. Euromaydan is not so much for the EU itself or against the current government. It is against the conditions that have been established, the decisions that have been imposed. Yesterday the activists forced the political parties to bring down their party flags, because these actions are not political, but social. There, people with different views and positions have come together. But many came here because they felt that they were deceived. A week ago, all the screens told them of the agreement to be signed in Vilnius, and suddenly an absolutely incomprehensible decision was made by the Cabinet. For the people who are currently on the Maydan is not a choice between the EU and Russia, we do not oppose one to the other. This is not 2004; it must be very well understood.
 
6. Why was Europe unwilling to "pay" for the association with Ukraine? After all, the Ukrainian authorities have repeatedly hinted at their expectations of financial assistance from external partners for the modernization of the economy.
 
- To be honest, at first I want to ask another question, and why should the EU pay for it? Did they force us to sign the agreement driven at Association? Or was it a conscious choice by the Ukrainian state, due to the numerous studies that have shown the benefits, including the economic ones that Ukraine would receive from the Association? Yes, those will not be short-term benefits, some of them will be seen only in a few years, but it is time to start to think strategically, rather than in the categories of short-term gain. The loss of Ukrainian enterprises can only be due to their own laziness and unwillingness to modernize and raise standards. But they have been talking about it in Ukraine for many years, regardless of the issue of European integration. As it was well said by the British Ambassador to Ukraine: "The European Union is not an institution to close the budget deficit .... It always amazes me when people talk about compensations for businesses that do not want to be competitive." Moreover, the amount of compensation, by the way, is not known, as the sums voiced by various members of the government differ almost twice and have been circulated only in the last week or two. At the same time, the EU offered 610 million Euros of aid.
 
7. One of the main reasons for suspension of EU Association, offered by Ukrainian authorities, is the need to modernize the economy and raise the competitiveness of Ukrainian goods in the European markets. What industries are primarily in need of modernization?
 
- Didn’t these industries require upgrading two years ago when the agreement was initialed? Many Ukrainian businesses have been exporting to the EU and are familiar with their requirements. Some business leaders are actively investing in businesses that are located within the EU. Those industries require upgrading that are dependent on energy resources, because receiving gas at a lower cost for 20 years, they have been unwilling to switch to energy-saving technologies, introduced all over the world. But it's their choice. How come "Interpipe" was able to put into operation a modern factory? So it is not a EU problem, but has to with the traditions of doing business in the former Soviet space. These reforms and the modernization of Ukraine are needed, regardless of what the foreign policy of Ukraine is. As for our agriculture, why are all the markets confined to Europe or Russia. Most Ukrainian grain is exported to the Middle East and Africa. We even signed an agreement to export pickles to Iraq, as funny as it may sound. There are markets available, but it requires hard work to access them. Recall the situation with the export of Georgian wines. Painful, isn’t it? But instead, they began to stir and work, and improve. Whereas you prune the vines in the spring to plentifully harvest in summer? And the same is true for the economy; perhaps sometimes it is necessary to appear in crisis, so that one starts to change things for the better.
 
Aydin Kerimov, "Novoye Vremya" newspaper-www.novoye-vremya.com (Azerbaijan)
 
1. In your opinion, what is the primary cause of the official Kiev’s refusal to sign the agreement in Vilnius?
 
- See the answer above.
 
2. Is it possible to have the agreement signed in Vilnius?
 
- I would like to remain optimistic; human nature is inclined to believe up until the last minute, regardless of the facts around. Wisdom, unfortunately, is not always the hallmark of our politicians, but I hope that there are arguments from bold advisers and people in the team, as well as statesmen who will think about the future.
 
3. How will the events, related to the protests develop, if the Association Agreement does not get signed?
 
- Today, this issue was raised at Euromaydan . It is clear that all those who are there do not even want to believe in the possibility of an alternative. Otherwise they would not be standing there. This wave will definitely be followed by peaceful protests. But the demands may be harsher. Today the students started a strike to warn. And more and more universities are joining the demonstration.
 
Rashad Rustamov, "Zerkalo" newspaper-www.zerkalo.az (Azerbaijan)
 
1. The supporters of the European integration are now holding actions on the Maydan. How do you think these actions will end?
 
-See above
 
2 . Yanukovych is commonly known as a pro-Russian politician. How do you think that is why he changed the foreign policy course as President of the country?
 
- I would not call Viktor Yanukovych a pro-Russian politician. Yes, he was inclined to closer cooperation with Russia, but rather because, firstly, he feared the European attitudes since the 2004 elections, and secondly, he understood the Russian realities and promises better, the latter by the way not being fulfilled at all.  Thirdly, do not forget about the serious pro-Russian lobby in his team. However, the European integration has always been on his agenda. Moreover, many analysts believed that if he signed the Agreement in Vilnius, followed by the agreement on the visa-free regime, many voters would forgive him for some of his past mistakes and would vote for him in 2015.Therefore, one can hardly speak of shifted landmarks. But we can talk about the shifts in the emphases. And they are primarily conditioned by Russia’s and its President’s behavior, ranging from moments of personal disrespect and overt pressure to refusal to negotiate the revision of gas agreements to virtually null effect in the Kharkov agreements.Very many in the country would like to think of and see Viktor Yanukovych primarily as a pro-Ukrainian politician.
 
3. Do you admit the possibility that the protests may subsequently spread to the CIS countries, including Azerbaijan?
 
- I do not suppose there is such an option. In Chisinau, the decision has already been made. In Armenia, a sharp change of course was much calmer perceived by the population, but this is possible to explain by the much less level of cooperation with the EU. Azerbaijan today has a different situation with his domestic and foreign policy. We are driven by different motives. For Baku closer cooperation with the EU does not mean a civilization choice, but only economic diversification.
 
Natigh Javadli, "Bizim Yol" newspaper-www.bizimyol.az (Azerbaijan)
 
1. What factors served as a ground for the government's refusal to sign the Ukraine Association Agreement:  the arrest of the ex-premier Tymoshenko or the failure of the EU to provide Ukraine with necessary assistance?
 
- The Tymoshenko factor is rather symbolic than real. And today, this issue is almost removed from the agenda, as she wrote that she asks not to prioritize her factor, since the European integration is much more important.
 
For other arguments see above.
 
2. What are the prospects of the current situation in the country? Will the power take into consideration public opinion or will it succumb to the Russian pressure?
 
- Unfortunately, I cannot give you a definite answer to this question. Also because we do not know the reasons behind Russia's pressure. We receive varied information. The Prime Minister says that Russia promised to revise the gas contracts, immediately Moscow colleagues react, saying that no such promise has been made and the issue was not discussed whatsoever. Moreover, the public still do not know what the two presidents discussed in Sochi in early November. The individual experts believe that is not only pressure on the country and individual enterprises, but some personal arguments are being used against decision-makers.
 
It is obvious that the government is afraid of the developments in the country; by this we do not necessarily mean the President or the Prime Minister, but also the reaction of City Mayors and some other officials. Why do they turn away or switch off cameras on the Euromaydan squares if these devices have been there for years now?  Why is the Internet cut off? Why are mailboxes and social network pages hacked? Why do individual teachers forbid their students to go on a strike, scaring by expulsion? Look at the students marching in Kiev, and this is broadcast by Radio Liberty. We should feel proud of them. This suggests that they have their own position. That they are not afraid.
 
Taran Kyazimova, "Turan" news agency-www.contact.az (Azerbaijan)
 
1. How will the current events in Ukraine impact on the foreign policy orientation of Ukraine?
 
-
 
2. What are the overall prospects for the future development of Ukraine? What are the possible scenarios for the development of the situation? In the light of resolving the dilemma between Russia and the EU, will it be possible to preserve the unity of Ukraine? How likely is the split of Ukraine into two parts – the Eastern and Western parts?
 
-See above
 
3. Has Yanukovych retained the trust of the West, after the notorious Cabinet decision to suspend negotiations with the EU on the Association Agreement?
 
- Trust issues arose not from the decision of the Cabinet of Ministers, and a little earlier. About a year ago, when negotiations were to determine Tymoshenko’s fate. However, what you call the West, on the one hand, is but pragmatic, on the other hand, they still believe in the sanity and logic of decision-making, and also see the mood of the Ukrainian population. Therefore, negotiations are continuing, although many European leaders would have long given up.
 
Artak Barseghyan, Public Radio of Armenia-www.armradio.am (Armenia)
 
1. What would threaten Ukraine if it signed the Association agreement with the EU?
 
- Nothing, except that Russia promised actual “blockade." Is that a lot or a little? This blockade would counter Russia's obligations in the framework of the CIS, the WTO, and the Budapest Memorandum according to which the three countries, including the Russian Federation, promised not to use economic leverage and ensure our safety. But apparently that did not bother Moscow. All the rest are not threats, but rather challenges, however, challenges that Ukraine should have started to address a long time ago. Modernization of the economy, improving the quality of goods. Would you like to buy a good car at a lower price? I think so, and you do not care where it is made, if the plant in your country does not want to make quality products.  Do you want to have a real struggle against corruption in the country?
 
2. What are the expectations from the summit in Vilnius?
 
- All the happenings are about something much broader and deeper than just Vilnius. The summit will only act out the statements, the rhetoric. The expectations are rather from Kiev.
 
3. Do you think that the Polish-Swedish Eastern Partnership initiative was a fiasco? If so, is Brussels to blame?
 
- I do not believe that this initiative was a fiasco, as it includes not only Ukraine and not only the pursuit of the Association Agreement. We can see how successful the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum is. EU funding for the implementation of cross-border projects in the framework of the EaP will start in January. So the process is underway.
 
Gagik Baghdasaryan, "News Armenia" news agency-www.newsarmenia.am ( Armenia)
 
1. Many experts believe that Europe needs Ukraine as a consumption market, and the deepening of European integration will lead to the destruction of industry and devastated villages. Are such judgments justified? Can Ukraine enter the European market in the foreseeable future?
 
- See above.
 
2. Do you think the scenario of Ukraine breaking down to several parts (East, West, and South) realistic?
 
- See above.
 
3. Is it now possible to change power in Ukraine through the "maydan"?
 
- The demands of those who are today on the Euromaydan range from the mere signing of the Association Agreement to a change of government, but not the President. The resignation of the government is demanded only because it does not legally have the right to take such a decision, which in principle does not make any sense. If the goal was to sabotage the signing of the Agreement, it could have been done differently. Today, many people say the Cabinet has exceeded its authority. Moreover, the President proposed optional ways out of the situation: the resignation of the government, the signing of the Agreement, and in that case there would not be anyone on the square putting forward any conditions.  At that no conditions were put forth as to who the new Prime Minister should be: the latter could be anyone from the Party of Regions. I do not think there will be any change of power through the “Maydan”, as the goal is not the change of power, but the signing of the Agreement.

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