Russia’s ambassador to the EU has hit out at Brussels for ‘systemic blunders’ over its handling of the crisis in Ukraine.
Vladimir Chizhov, in an interview with euronews, said the EU supported the opposition in Ukraine without knowing who they were.
Chizhov also criticised the opposition in Ukraine, for failing to deliver on an agreement with the government on February 21.
He added Ukraine was in a deep economic and political crisis and that the Kremlin was keen to preserve the rights of the country’s Russian-speaking population.
euronews: “Your excellency, what is your assessment of the EU’s recent diplomacy towards Ukraine?”
Vladimir Chizhov: “Well, I’ll be quite frank with you. I believe that the European Union has made a series of systemic blunders as far as Ukraine is concerned. First it tried to pull Ukraine into an association without actually taking into consideration the complex nature of Ukrainian society. The Ukrainian society, for different reasons, including historic, linguistic, even confessional, has never been a homogeneous society.”
euronews: “But what was wrong with a harmless agreement?”
Chizov: “It was actually not so harmless.”
euronews: “Why not?”
Chizov: “Because an Association Agreement would have entailed Ukraine adopting a number of wide range of elements (the acqui communitaire) of the European Union into its own national legislation. Introducing norms, regulations, policies and so on, that would have created a certain difficulty, I would say, to put it mildly, in the economic relations between Ukraine and Russia and, of course, other members of the customs union – an immediate neighbour of Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan too. So, those would have been the implications. Our economies were part of a single economy for decades and still they are closely-linked. An association with the EU would have gone far beyond just free trade. Free trade is okay, but…”
euronews: “Where would it go?”
Chizov: “It would have brought Ukraine well into, I would say, the circle of inference of the European Union.”
euronews: “So, it is a quarrel between Russia and the EU over: ‘I want this, and you say no, I want this’?”
Chizov: “No, it’s not a quarrel. It’s just there was a need to give the Ukrainians, the government and the public opinion, a clear picture of what they should expect. And that picture was given by the Russian side, but not by the European Union. And that, of course, resulted in those spontaneous protests that started back in November in Kyiv. Now, the EU, after that, supported the opposition without actually taking serious note of who those people are.”
euronews: “Who were they?”
Chizov: “It started as a spontaneous protest I would say.”
euronews: “By the people.”
Chizov: “By the people. You know, in the beginning TV channels, including your own, were showing people demonstrating under EU flags, but gradually it evolved into something totally different. There were no longer EU flags on the square, but rather those red and black flags of the ultra-nationalists. And people appeared well-equipped with steel helmets, flak jackets and ultimately with firearms that they stole from ransacked police stations and even military units. So that was totally different. But the EU followed that line of support for the opposition as if nothing had changed. Now, we come to 21st February, that agreement that was signed by President Yanukovych and the leaders of the opposition and witnessed with signatures by three EU foreign ministers. That would have allowed a way out. Though Russia had some doubts at that point, that’s why the Russian representative did not sign, because we were not convinced that the opposition leaders would be able to deliver – and they didn’t. It was President Yanukovych who delivered on his side by not introducing the state of emergency, by withdrawing the police and the special riot squads, by agreeing to constitutional reform and early elections at the end of the year.”
euronews: “But the people were not happy with it. It was the will of the people.”
Chizov: “Come on. The will of the people, as you see today, is very different. There is the will of Maidan which is practically controlled by ultra-nationalists and extremists. And there is the will of the majority of the population who live in the eastern part of the country, who do not recognise. But let me finish the sequence. That agreement of 21st February, could have provided an instrument for overcoming the current political impasse. But the opposition did not deliver. They were supposed to disarm, hand over the stolen weapons, dismantle the barricades, vacate the administrative buildings, agree to constitutional reform and elections and, above all, create a government of national unity. They did nothing from that list. Instead, one of the leaders, one of the signitaries, the boxer, Klitschko, he went to the Maidan and apologised for having signed the agreement, for having shaken the hand of Yanukovych. And the EU immediately said, the next day: ‘Well, this has been overtaken by events’, which of course is not fair and is not serious. And the next step, I think, the next blunder, was to immediately recognise those new authorities, that came to power, as a result of an armed coup.”
euronews: “But the parliament was also involved, the parliament voted for that.”
Chizov: “Yes the parliament voted for that. I do not question the legitimacy of the parliament – though: you know, a parliament, where a large group of members switched sides – they were elected on a different ballot, on a different political programme and they switched over. Okay, it was their choice. The parliament never convened in full, because many members did not participate, but anyway, they had a quorum, i don’t… so, when they elected a new speaker, Mr Tudschinow, that’s okay – but not when he was made acting president. Because, whatever constitution is taken onboard in Ukraine, the 2010 one, the 2004 one, or whichever, every single constitution has a chapter related to procedures of terminating presidential powers. There are 3 options: 1, a president dies, Yanukovych is still alive. Secondly, if a president resigns – but he hasn’t. And thirdly a special procedure of impeachment, which was never employed. So in our view, Yanukovych, whatever one thinks of him, whatever WE think of him, of all the mistakes he made, and, I will put it straightforwardly, the betrayals that he committed, but he is still the legitimate president of Ukraine.”
euronews: “The fact remains, your excellency, a new government has been elected, recognised by the EU, the situation is at it is – what do you want to do about it?”
Chizov: “I think the EU was wrong to recognise it.”
euronews: “Still, it’s done.”
Chizov: “Well, the majority of EU members recognised Kosovo, that doesn’t make Kosovo an independent country.”
euronews: “So you don’t recognise it?”
Chizov: “The government, no. We do maintain day-to-day working contacts, because we believe we should not turn our back on Ukraine and the Ukrainian people, but they shouldn’t expect political recognition. You know, they promised to create a government of national unity, instead, Yatsenyuk comes out, in the parliament, and says ‘we are a government of winners’, which immediately puts the question: who are the losers? And the losers seem to be people from eastern Ukraine, and southern Ukraine, who, if you look at the demographics, constitute the majority of the population…
…and the majority of the voters.”
euronews: “What is your current position vis-a-vis Ukraine? And Crimea?”
Chizov: “We’re seriously worried over the situation in Ukraine. The country is in a deep political crisis, and above all, in a deep economic crisis. I think that is not disputed by anyone. so we want to assist in a political solution of that crisis, without interfering in the internal affairs of the country. On the economic side, we’re prepared to work together, with the IMF, with the EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) and other international financial institutions to provide assistance. Of course looking into the modalities and conditions.”
euronews: “What do you want in return?”
Chizov: “Well, we want stability. We want protection of human rights in Ukraine. We want the violence to stop. We want the rights of the Russian-speaking population to be preserved, not by voting for a change in the status of the Russian language or the latest decision to switch from the Cyrilic alphabet to the Latin alphabet. Why not hieroglyphs?”
euronews: “And if your demands are not met, what happens?”
Chizov: “Then Ukraine will unfortunately… It’s not demands.”
Chizov: “It’s our expectations, otherwise the crisis will only be prolonged. Because, we are not in a position, the EU is not in a position to convince people in eastern Ukraine to accept the so-called ‘new realities’ in Kyiv.”
euronews: “Your excellency, thank you.”
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