News / Europe

Q&A: Former Ukraine President Says Only West Can Resolve Crisis

FILE - Ukrainian ex-president Leonid Kuchma, surrounded by journalists, in Kyiv.
FILE - Ukrainian ex-president Leonid Kuchma, surrounded by journalists, in Kyiv.
RFE/RL
Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma believes that Western mediation is the only way out of Ukraine's current crisis.

In an exclusive interview with Dmitry Volchek of RFE/RL's Russian Service on April 12, Kuchma, who held office from 1994 to 2004, discusses Crimea's annexation, the chaos in eastern Ukraine, and discord between Kyiv and Moscow.

RFE/RL: There is much speculation about Russia's next step regarding Ukraine -- whether Russia would opt for intervention, whether it would move to annex more Ukrainian regions. As a person who knows Russian President Vladimir Putin quite well, what is your prediction?

Leonid Kuchma:
I don't think we should expect [military] intervention from Russia. We gave up Crimea very easily without firing a bullet. Ukraine could have done a lot to prevent the situation we have today.

As for the next step, we can see that Russia is trying to create mayhem in southeastern Ukraine. To some extent Russia is succeeding in its goal, because there is not only an ideology and the protection of Russian-speakers behind it, but also very big money is involved here -- there is no doubt about it.

Many political experts believe Russia will do everything it can to destabilize the situation in Ukraine's southeastern regions. Keeping a large contingent of military forces near the Ukrainian border is part of that effort, and it is having an impact.

RFE/RL: What's the way out of this situation?

Kuchma:
It can only be resolved with the help of the West and the United States. Russia does not recognize the legitimacy of the current government in Kyiv and will not negotiate with it. Ukraine has no chance there.

Ukraine could have taken concrete steps in this direction in the beginning but we didn't do that. For instance, a delegation of lawmakers could have gone to Moscow and told the Russian side: "We are here to talk with you. If you don't want to talk to us, it means you don't want to have anything to do with us." Now we see that [U.S. Secretary of State John] Kerry has agreed with [Russian Foreign Minister Sergei] Lavrov, and a third side -- the European Union -- to sit at the negotiation table to try to find consensus.

RFE/RL: Can Ukraine get Crimea back from Russia?

Kuchma:
I don't think it would happen given the current circumstances. Putin wouldn't go for it because such a move would mean acknowledging total defeat. As for the international community, there are dozens of examples in the world in which, at the beginning, everyone makes noise about but then Americans don't want to get involved and most importantly they don't want to waste their money. They all have promised to defend Ukraine's interests. But when it comes to introducing tougher economic sanctions, no one is going to do that. Because they all have their own financial interests in mind.

RFE/RL: Has it surprised you that Russia went so far as to violate Ukraine's territorial integrity?

Kuchma:
To analyze Russia's actions, you have to try to understand Putin's point of view. Russia has always feared having NATO right under Moscow's nose. If Russia had such fears, it could have [proposed a] resolution at the [UN] Security Council saying Ukraine was a nonaligned country that could never join NATO. But instead, Russia chose another way -- it chose to put economic pressure on Ukraine, as we saw it in recent years.

It means Putin never trusted Ukraine, especially its government. He always assumed that one day someone would come to power in Ukraine that would ignore the Russian-Ukrainian friendship, and Ukraine would join the European Union and NATO. I think Russia has had this scenario in mind all along, and planned accordingly. One of the plans to defend Russian interests to a great extent was the annexation of Crimea -- and it has been executed spectacularly.

RFE/RL: Among Ukrainian presidential candidates, who is best positioned to rescue Ukraine?

Kuchma:
Unfortunately, I don't see any candidate who enjoys enough popularity to unite Ukraine. Because -- plainly speaking -- they belong to the so-called "Orange" government. The future leadership should include representatives of all regions in order to unite the country. If it consists of only half of Ukraine, there will consequences in the other half of the country.

I don't have any rosy expectations that a new government could come to power and do something drastic to resolve all the problems. However, I do like Prime Minister [Arseniy] Yatsenyuk's actions. He is trying to convey to the regions what policies the government is considering. Today everyone needs to go to the east [of Ukraine] to tell people there what your thoughts are, what you are planning to do. Because there is mistrust of the central government and of western Ukraine there, and it won't be easy to win back their trust.

You May Like

US States Where Women Work for Free

Women earn less than men in all 50 states More

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

At a recent even in Seoul, border communities promoted benefits of increased cooperation and North Korean defectors shared stories of life since the war More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows Fight to Death Against IS

In wide-ranging interview, Fuad Masum describes new type of fight that will take time to win More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs