Vitaliy Klitschko is improving his rhetoric, but fails to give clear answers to crucial questions regarding the nation’s development
WU: You stated that you do not take part in the Rise Ukraine! campaign in person because the vacation season has begun, therefore there is no point in holding them at this time. So, what tactics do you propose for the struggle against the government during the summer period? Or do you prefer to do nothing?
If we do anything, the event should give maximum effect. On the one hand, summer is vacation season. On the other hand, many Ukrainians are working on farms. Political activity is low. Therefore, it makes no sense to hold events in late June, July and August if we want to achieve a maximum result. Of course, this does not mean that political activity should be halted altogether. But as for rallies… It will be strange to employ a lot of human and organizational resources at rallies where there will be a low turnout. This is why the format of communication with people should change in summer. And work should continue.
UW: Yuriy Lutsenko recently stated that voters should unite around a programme of changes in the country rather than a leader. UDAR’s election platform contains many reasonable provisions but it is not very specific, and has no algorithm for accomplishing the goal. This may be enough for a platform, but does your party have a step-by-step programme for the transformations that the country needs?
I don’t entirely agree with Lutsenko. A programme is very important but look at the platforms of, say, the Party of Regions or the Communists. You will find well-written reasonable things there. Any party can have a nicely-written platform. But the most important thing is the people implementing it. Unfortunately, there is a huge gap between the declaration and implementation of intents in Ukraine. Of course, we do have specific steps for transformations that we shall implement.
UW: Are you ready to name ten members of your team who could take the top offices in the country if your party comes to power?
First of all, it is too early to talk about this now. We have two more years before the presidential election. Secondly, I believe that we should nominate a single candidate from all opposition forces in the presidential race. This should be someone who stands the best chance of winning against Yanukovych. Thirdly, My team is made up of people who meet three key criteria. First, they must be hard-working; second, they must be professional, and third, they must possess moral qualities.
UW: You mentioned the oligarch-controlled economy that hampers the development of society and throws the country into regression and poverty in your speech today. What are you planning to do with oligarchs? How do you intend to restrict their political and financial impact?
I don’t want to run too far ahead. Let’s remove the “ifs”. As I said today, oligarchs also want to have rules that don’t change. That’s the first point. Secondly, we shouldn’t struggle to eliminate rich people, as was the case in the past. We must take reality into account. People who work in Ukraine should pay taxes rather than transfer funds to offshore accounts, but create new jobs. They should be socially accountable. Unfortunately, Ukraine does not have this today. The financial means of people are currently being depleted at an alarming rate.
UW: Should the EU sign the Association Agreement with Ukraine if the government does not release Yulia Tymoshenko?
Let’s think about it together. The Association Agreement includes provisions whereby Ukraine undertakes to implement judicial reform. Let’s imaging that the agreement is not signed and Yulia Tymoshenko is in prison in a country where no one puts pressure on the government, or insists on reforms, or says that there should be no political prisoners… And another option: the government has not released Yulia but has committed to implementing reforms, particularly of the judiciary and a profound reform of law enforcement as crucial elements, by signing the agreement. Both opposition forces inside the country and foreign observers supervise and control these transformations. Let’s choose the course that is the least painful both for Ukraine and Yulia Tymoshenko.
UW: If the mayoral election takes place in Kyiv, what could force you not to run? After all, this would significantly improve the chances of a pro-government candidate.
First and foremost, we demand that the mayoral and city council elections are held simultaneously in Kyiv. With an illegitimate Kyiv City Council, the mayor will be forced to sign illegitimate decisions. This is a matter of principle. But the government does not want to hold the Kyiv Council election simply because anti-government sentiments among city voters are at a critical level, and opposition deputies in a new council would comprise 90%. The government knows this and categorically opposes holding the election.
UW: Do you think that the opposition, including UDAR, would support Petro Poroshenko in the mayoral race? He is not really an opposition politician, is he?
Let me reiterate: we have to choose a candidate before we can support one. Meanwhile, we don’t have the election but already have a crowd of candidates. First, the designation of an election, then we can talk about candidates to support.
UW: You said at the conference today that Ukraine lacks independent and unbiased judges. How do you propose to ensure the independence of judges?
They must be elected rather than appointed. The Ukrainian judiciary is currently a closed clan; life-long judges and appointments through administrative leverage. This must be changed.
UW: Both UDAR and you yourself have spoken against the language law passed last year. Have your MPs drafted a bill to abolish this law?
We will do our best to abolish laws that run counter to the interests of society, moreover split it. Currently, the issue of the language is not the top priority. Ukrainians are first and foremost interested in employment, salaries, high prices, social standards and pensions… The language issue is not quite so acute. However, some politicians are deliberately fuelling animosity to gain political dividends. This fractures society.
UW: Do you think that this law should be abolished?
I believe that this law could be abolished.
UW: Have you ever heard questions about UDAR’s cooperation with Svoboda in conversations with Western politicians? The Ukrainian government’s lobby has shaped a pretty negative image of it in Europe.
I haven’t been asked such questions. We are united in a struggle against the current regime. We are different political forces and we have different programmes, platforms and voters. However, we are joining our efforts to reboot the power system in Ukraine.
UW: Do you support Tymoshenko’s idea of three opposition candidates running in the 2015 presidential election? Or do you think that the opposition should nominate a single candidate agreed upon before the first round?
I believe that the issue of nominating a single candidate in the first round is still on the agenda. I think we will have an opportunity to decide on this in spring next year and opposition forces will be able to nominate one. Who exactly? The politician who stands the best chance against Yanukovych. We have to think about this, about a change of government in the country. Therefore, the person with the most electoral support should be the candidate. This is the only and most logical criterion.
Senior Fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security on the way American political establishment sees Ukraine today, the stance of the Obama Administration on Russia and expectations of the NATO Summit in Warsaw