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

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid