Yuriy Lutsenko: “I will definitely participate in the next presidential campaign”
The Ukrainian Week managed to obtain several answers from Lutsenko prior to his hearing in Strasbourg.
Ukraineis among the top four countries in the world by number of applications to the European Court of Human Rights. Some attribute this to the distrust Ukrainian citizens have for their country's courts, while others say that Ukrainians have finally grasped who they need to complain to. Both statements may in fact be true, but importantly, over two-thirds of all applications received by the European Court of Human Rights from Council of Europe member countries are rejected for various procedural reasons.
The case of Yuriy Lutsenko was accepted. On 17 April, the court heard the Lutsenko vs Ukraine case on a priority basis. The former Interior Minister challenges his detention and arrest which he claims took place “with violations, without procedural explanations and without the quick involvement of attorneys.” The Ukrainian Week managed to obtain several answers from Lutsenko prior to his hearing in Strasbourg. He speaks of life in prison, new court cases brought against him and the future presidential elections.
U.W.: As soon as a verdict was delivered in cases regarding the celebration of Police Day and the appointment of your driver, investigators immediately opened proceedings in another case against you over your instruction to put Valentyn Davydenko, Volodymyr Satsiuk’s driver (who was involved in the case of Viktor Yushchenko’s poisoning. – Ed.), under surveillance. How do you think that will develop?
From a legal viewpoint, this case doesn’t hold water. How can I be charged with illegal continuation of surveillance of the driver of former SBU First Deputy Head Satsiuk if the law says this can be done over the course of 15 years after the date when the case is opened? It was opened under Interior Minister Vasyl Tsushko in 2007. The Deputy Prosecutor General approved the request for surveillance, and the court issued the necessary warrants in line with law. In these circumstances, the charges brought by the Prosecutor General's Office are legal nonsense. Tellingly, when Davydenko saw all these documents in court, he himself declared that he did not consider himself to be a victim.
But evaluating legal arguments in political trials is a futile endeavour. Roman law has been replaced with the law of vengeance in contemporary Ukraine, and everything can be predicted by looking at the Presidential Administration.
U.W.: You spoke in several interviews about the need to suspend investigators, judges and prosecutors whose actions are ruled illegal by the European Court of Human Rights. How prepared do you think the Ukrainian parliament is to support this innovation?
A bill to make the necessary amendments to the law on the procedure of executing decisions delivered by the European Court of Human Rights has already been submitted by People’s Self-Defence MPs. I expect this mechanism of cleaning the courts and neutralising “telephone justice” in the Prosecutor General's Office and the Presidential Administration to become a component in the action plan of the united opposition.
It is my conviction that such competitive mechanisms need to show society that the opposition is fighting not to release just Lutsenko and [Yulia] Tymoshenko, but to free the entire country.
U.W.: Even if you serve a full four-year term, you will be free when the new presidential campaign kicks off. Are you prepared to participate in it?
I will definitely participate in the next presidential campaign, because it is a real chance to peacefully remove the current government, which is anti-Ukrainian in essence and gangster-like in its methods.
I will do my utmost to have the democratic forces nominate one candidate for president. If it's done in an honest and transparent way, together with civil society, Yanukovych will be left with perhaps the only option: surrender with a Maidan or without it.
I have not thought about running myself. I believe my place is in organizing a mass resistance movement against the regime.
U.W.: But the current opposition seems to be fairly weak…
True, it came across as non-competitive until recently. Not having Tymoshenko, it was twice as difficult for it to act adequately. But recent events in the democratic camp suggest positive trends. Union, purification and abstention from infighting are becoming the main objectives of the opposition.
The next important step is to develop an alternative programme for the country's development. If it gains traction in society, faith in the future will be restored in Ukraine, and in an epidemic fashion at that. We badly need a powerful injection of optimism to understand that everything is in our hands.
U.W.: Do you correspond with Tymoshenko?
Yes, we are in constant contact. I try to express both human and political support in my letters to her. I share my evaluation of events, suggest ideas and recommend interesting books.
Writing letters is of course a slow form of communication, but on the other hand, it demands a higher degree of openness. Moreover, [I am writing to] a woman with whom I have spent so much time under the same roof. :)
U.W.: In what direction – Belarusian or European – is Ukraine moving?
Ukraine’s path has a lot in common with the typical post-Soviet totalitarianism seen in Russia or Belarus. Adam Michnik is right when he writes: “The worst thing about communism is what comes after it.” Our version of this retro-totalitarian disease has a special, aggravating circumstance. The official union of oligarchs and the criminal world has come to pass in Ukraine.
Since 2010, we have seen how the following rule is realized: if laws are not enforced in a country, it comes to be ruled by “thieves-in-law”. Yanukovych’s authoritarian and kleptomaniac regime has developed a distinctive feature: members of the ruling clan violate the law – from embezzling the budget to killing citizens – openly and with impunity.
Delaying the replacement of this government poses both material and physical danger to the Ukrainian public.
U.W.: Would EU sanctions against Ukrainian officials, if adopted, become an incentive to change this situation?
I'm not supportive of the talk to apply sanctions to Ukraine. We must change our country ourselves. Western democracies can only diagnose our problems, but curing the country of them is our own homework. The government is doing everything possible to feed the illusion that changes can come from the inside, this belief in a messiah. It is important for the government that we do not act together and that all our efforts flow to the Internet and down the drain. We need to overcome the habit of passing the buck to someone else and society in general. We need to turn ‘I’ and ‘they’ into ‘we’. This is colossal work, but without it we will not be able to speak about true independence or being European.
U.W.: How often do you talk to your children? Have you mastered the method of “distance pedagogy” regarding your younger son Vitaliy?
I see my sons once a month in line with the rules. The problem is not that this isn't enough, but that I cannot pat them on their shoulders or give them a big hug and kiss them.
“Distance pedagogy” consists of two parts: the technical part is letters and the strategic part is recommending books. That seems to be working well.
U.W.: Have you received support from any unexpected sources?
I receive a lot of letters, and words of encouragement are extremely important for me and my family. It is especially rewarding to read letters from people I do not know but whom I have somehow helped, it turns out.
I am invigorated by letters that speak about the importance of what I am doing and saying today. I am a public figure, so it is important for me to know how others benefit from my public activity or position.
I have faithful friends, though not many. They are going through tests and trials with me. I am happy to have new friends. I was surprised to have received support even from sources from which I did not expect any help. I will need to do a better job of choosing my enemies in the future – some of them have turned out to be decent people.
On May 16, Ukrainian filmmaker currently jailed in Russia as a political prisoner went on a hunger strike. In a public letter he wrote that he would only stop the strike if all 64 Ukrainian prisoners jailed in Russia for politically-motivated grounds are released
The opposition in Ukraine is mostly reactive and it chooses actions that will be most useful for criticizing the current Administration or gaining the attention of a specific part of the electorate. What Ukraine needs most right now is a consolidating program and a party that could present its own alternative for the country