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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid