7 months ago


4 No.15 MARCH 6, 2018

4 No.15 MARCH 6, 2018 TOPIC OF THE DAY WWW.DAY.KIEV.UA By Valentyn TORBA, The Day Four years ago, Ilya Ponomarev was the only member of the State Duma of the Russian Federation to vote against the annexation of Crimea. We emphasize: he was the only one out of almost 450 members. After such a step, he had no place in Russia anymore. On April 30, 2014 leader of the A Just Russia party Sergey Mironov demanded that Ponomarev resign his seat. In the summer of 2014, he left for the US, and shortly after that, a Russian court issued an order for his arrest. Ponomarev lives in Ukraine now. A few days ago, he visited the editorial office of The Day. ● “THE FATE OF EUROPE IS NOW BEING DECIDED IN UKRAINE, AMONG OTHER PLACES” You lived in the US for two years, and have been living in Ukraine for two years already. Did you have any connection to Ukraine before? “Absolutely none.” But we are now talking in Ukrainian. During these two years, you could observe both the Ukrainian society and the Ukrainian political class in particular. Have you ever felt any discomfort here as a Russian? “It has been absolutely the opposite. I am not saying this for the sake of cheap dramatics. I really am very comfortable in Ukraine. Perhaps these two years were the happiest in my life, because I get a lot of emotional pleasure from my life here. Of course, I am indignant at the sub-optimal pace of reforms, the obvious mistakes that are made at the top, but at the same time, I feel a very powerful emotional upsurge.” Where does it come from? From a sense of freedom, security? “No, I do not feel secure in Ukraine for objective reasons. It was clear that I was going to live in a country at war. But people often feel happy precisely at war because they are involved in historical events. Without any doubt, the fate of Europe is now being decided in Ukraine, among other places. Ukraine faces major issues in its state-building process, but people are wonderful here. And the fact that Ukraine has survived in spite of everything, and the Ukrainians feel themselves to be a nation – that fact proves that these entities have deep roots.” You were the only member of the State Duma of the Russian Federation to vote against the annexation of Crimea. Alone against the whole Duma, against Putin, against the government, effectively against everyone else. What motivated you? “An MP’s job is to vote and argue for a specific position that they consider to be correct. That position should get voters’ approval as well. I made my first principled decision in 2002 when I decided to leave business and go into politics. Sometimes it seems to me that I should not have spent these 15 years of life doing politics. But speaking of politics, the Crimea vote was not the only one where I was alone against everyone. The Crimea vote was a principled decision because it could not end without consequences for me. At the same time, as I have already said, I did not ignore the opinion of my voters. I held special meetings with the public in Novosibirsk, asked questions and conducted my own Crimea polls among them.” What were the results? “The vote split in half.” That is, it was not 90 to 10, as we are used to thinking due to the Russian media. Ilya PONOMAREV: “The longer Putin will be in power, the more likely it is that Russia will collapse, but it will bring nothing good to Ukraine” “Exactly so. Of course, a majority of Russians believes that Crimea is Russian. But when you come up with arguments about the implications of its annexation for us, then people’s thoughts begin to diverge.” Prior to the annexation of Crimea, Russian propagandist Vladimir Solovyov declared precisely that, saying that Russia did not need Crimea, because getting it would mean war with Ukraine. He could not speak this way without getting his position pre-approved by his employers. So, why did the rhetoric change dramatically later? “Believe me, only Putin is to blame for this. It was his personal decision, and all others were already automatically on his side. Of course, many wanted to take Crimea, but, I repeat, there was always a question of the price that we might have to pay for it. There were many possible scenarios to minimize these risks. It was possible, for example, to hold a referendum there, to recognize Crimea’s independence, and then, after a certain time, when it would be recognized by others, accept it as an ally. It was possible to maintain influence there with the help of capital flows and thus avoid getting hit by any sanctions. But Putin decided to intensify the process. His motivation was the desire to stop the Maidan movement from spreading. When Viktor Yanukovych fled, the Kremlin had to create some very powerful story to prevent such processes from developing in Russia. Thus, Putin got his approval rating on the rise, and propaganda did everything to make the Russians to perceive the Maidan as a threat.” ● “THE KREMLIN TOOK ADVANTAGE OF THE MAIDAN” You said on a previous occasion that Putin attacked Ukraine as a result of the Maidan and that his decision was spontaneous. In turn, I would like to remind you the notable tweet posted by Dmitry Rogozin on December 3, 2013, when he returned from Ukraine to Moscow. He wrote that “Skies are cloudless above Kyiv,” echoing a phrase known since the reign of Francisco Franco in Spain. So, did the Kremlin take part in the processes and bloodshed that occurred during the Maidan? “It is clear that Russia participated in the Maidan. The only question is, in what way. Of course, there was a group of advisers who used the Russian experience of combating protest gatherings. But they were advisers, not decision-makers. I have no doubt that if Putin was in Yanukovych’s position, he would have coped with the Maidan. More so given that the Maidan repeatedly lost steam, and if not for certain individuals from the Presidential Administration fomenting it again, everything could have turned out completely differently. Therefore, I believe that the violent dispersal of students on November 30, 2013 was not done on the suggestion of the Kremlin. It was the same with the approval of the draconian January laws. It was ‘local’ leaders wanting to show their strength and authoritarianism. And the Kremlin took advantage of it.” On the other hand, who were these “locals”? I would like to remind you that people holding Russian pass- Photo by Mykola TYMCHENKO, The Day ports and Russian state awards were at the helm of the Security Service of Ukraine and the Ministry of Defense at the time. “I am convinced that for them, these passports were just guarantees of escape routes being open just in case. Yes, of course, a whole network of Russian agents worked in Ukraine for a long time. But believe me, as far as I know the Russian political class with all its complexities, nobody there had a serious long-term plan to seize foreign territory. I cannot believe it now and I will never be able to believe it.” Perhaps the real issue is not about territories, but rather about other forms of expansion, then? The Donbas, Abkhazia, Ossetia, Nagorno- Karabakh, and Transnistria are all local conflict spots, which the Russian Federation has entered, enabling it to keep the situation there in a state of constant tension and, consequently, dependency. “I can say that Putin does not need to control the Donbas as such. He needs Ukraine as a whole, in any form. Certainly, he simply does not consider Ukraine as a separate entity. This is a fact. Ukraine has been a priority since the day he came to power. This is his mentality, his psychology, his personal perceptions. As for the rest of the Russian elite, they think in a quite mercantile way. Of course, they benefit from hryvnia devaluating due to the fact that there are troubles in Ukraine, because it enables them to buy the assets on the cheap here. For them, Ukraine is a semicolony. But at the same time, the war has created many problems for them, and therefore it contradicts their pre- vious strategy. This elite group was content with undermining Ukraine and at the same time taking no responsibility for it.” But Russia did reach for Crimea before. There was the Meshkov story in 1994 and the Tuzla Island story in 2003. An aggressive strategy can be traced from these facts, after all. “All this is true. But one must understand that the Russian elite group is not homogeneous. If not for Putin, nobody would attack Ukraine and take its territory. Historically, Yuri Luzhkov was involved in the Crimean problem. This was his domain. Yes, he found his segment of the electorate with it. At the same time, Putin tried to destroy the Luzhkov-Primakov group in every way, since they were a serious threat for him. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), in turn, long filled the slot of the opposition to the regime. But at the same time, the CPRF included a certain group of mad White Guard imperialists, such as Alexander Prokhanov, Igor Strelkov, Eduard Limonov, Alexander Dugin, Sergey Glazyev, Konstantin Zatulin, Sergey Baburin, Alexander Borodai, or Dmitry Rogozin whom you have mentioned, and these people positioned themselves as an opposition as well. But what all of them have in common, above all, is the fact that they actively speculated on the Crimea theme. At the same time, they could do nothing in real life. Putin, therefore, simply took advantage of this electoral configuration. But, I repeat, the seizure of Crimea was contrary to the main line of the Kremlin.” And this line has changed... “Yes, when it became advantageous for Putin. And I associate this with the fact that he started sensing a ghost of revolution. Today you are the president, and tomorrow a young, strong opposition leader may come, and the people will recall things they were not happy with under Putin. The Crimea story showed Putin’s personal paranoia about the Maidan. Plus, he was influenced by the fact that world leaders who were mediators in the talks with Yanukovych did not come to the Olympics. All this created the general emotional picture that Putin saw in that situation. Thus, instead of playing chess, he decided to start throwing pieces around.” ● “A BONAPARTIST REGIME HAS BEEN BUILT IN RUSSIA” Previously, many said that Putin was not an independent figure, that he was only the facade of the regime, and that decisions were made collectively behind this cover. Was that really so? “This picture is both right and wrong. A Bonapartist regime has been built in Russia where a particular politician stands in the center and the functioning of the whole system depends on them. Institutionally, this system is in ruins. Boris Yeltsin, for all the peculiarities of his rule, tried to ensure that some institutions of power in Russia functioned, at least in defective form. Under Putin, these institutions and rules of subordination and division of responsibility were being destroyed from the very beginning. But Putin has not become an autocrat. Rather, he has turned into a spider who sits in the center of a web of sorts. At the same time, he balances universally. There are really groups of influence around him, and he does everything to prevent any of these groups from starting to dominate. And this system of balance is in fact the biggest threat to the statehood of the Russian Federation. As soon as the central element disappears (and it will disappear in any case, sooner or later), then this entire system will begin to split up. Meanwhile, institutions, as I have already said, have not been built, they are not independent.”

WWW.DAY.KIEV.UA TOPIC OF THE DAY No.15 MARCH 6, 2018 5 Joseph Stalin had great troubles finding a successor. It was even psychologically difficult for him to do, because he saw a threat in every worthy leader. Is Putin able to find a replacement? “I think he is not. But Putin himself, I believe, thinks he is. I am convinced that the next presidential term will be his last, and therefore the question of succession will come into sharp relief. The bureaucracy needs a specific ‘big boss’ who they can bow down to and thus solve issues. As soon as this ‘big boss’ disappears, chaos will come. Putin will be unable to explain that this leader is for real.” You were a member of the CPRF. Why did you leave it? “I left the CPRF when A Just Russia was created. Then I thought that the latter party would unite all the left-wing forces. The CPRF had a very pronounced penchant for statist-nationalist policies, which A Just Russia never had. It is very important for me, because I am a very consistent internationalist. Therefore, I suffered greatly while in the CPRF from the fact that they were left-wing, but at the same time imperial nationalists. Truth to be said, there were not only people like Prokhanov there. That is, there were two wings, and Gennady Zyuganov balanced between them.” Did Yeltsin use Zyuganov for his political objectives? I mean the 1996 election, when Yeltsin’s tiny support was markedly increased against the background of the “red threat.” “Yes, this is a rather well-known technique, which was used in your country as well later, during the 1999 presidential election. And the Communists were content to go with it. This was a very big problem. I can recall the CPRF having several chances to come to power almost unopposed. But they did not do it, because they did not want to get set up, did not want to take responsibility. And I agree that some Communists used the said techniques as an income source. Of course, not everyone did it.” Did Zyuganov make money out of this? “Zyuganov does not know how to make money. He is such a man. He does not make money. He just had a nice living standard. Zyuganov is very similar to a typical Soviet-era party functionary who was well-todo, had a state dacha, a car, an office, and so on. He could shout ‘Down with the anti-popular regime!’ and nobody did anything to him. Putin likes to use the following phrase: ‘He is not a Robespierre.’ See, Zyuganov is not a Robespierre at all. If the presidency could have been obtained by meritorious service, then he might have obtained it. But he never wanted to really fight for this position.” ● “AN ALTERNATIVE TO PUTIN IS THERE, BUT THIS ALTERNATIVE IS NOT POLITICALLY ACTUALIZED” Is there really a worthy alternative to Putin now? “Russia is a large country, and there is a lot of money in it, though the people are generally poor. Therefore, there is always an alternative to Putin, and I know at least 10 such people. But this alternative is not actualized because our political system does not provide for political competition. Putin never said that he was the best, because he knew that he was not. But he did say that all the others were even worse.” It is a typical technique: “Petro is a good person, but Vasyl is just as good, and not a thief to boot.” “Yes. ‘My underlings are robbing you, but others will be even worse robbers... Yes, there is corruption on my watch, but others will extort you even more.’ In our political system, these techniques simply weed out others who are not necessarily worse and may be even better. It is difficult to fight this when there are no free quality media in the country. As soon as a worthy figure appears and begins to gain political weight, the pro-government media start slinging mud at them. In this situation, people no longer understand who is in the right and who is in the wrong. People think that all politicians are shit, and any change will bring no real improvement.” Is Ksenia Sobchak is a real opposition figure or a technical, formal candidate? “She is not a technical candidate. Sobchak is an absolutely independent figure. Of course, she is not a revolutionary and has no desire to change the system as a whole. An opposition politician needs not to be a revolutionary. There are no revolutionaries in the group that is currently running in the presidential election. But this does not mean that they are all technical candidates. They just have no chances in this race.” Putin and Sobchak have one link in common, I mean her father. “Yes.” Does this indicate some sort of Putin’s obligations to the daughter of his former patron, whom he owes so much? “The fact that Sobchak is allowed to take part in the election confirms this. Otherwise she could have been imprisoned. And as regards Putin’s obligations to Sobchak, then there is a moral aspect. And I have to say that Putin has many flaws, but still exhibits a great deal of loyalty to those people who have helped him. He adheres to some kind of a criminal code of honor.” But what about his treatment of Boris Berezovsky? “Putin was very loyal to Berezovsky. Even when Berezovsky began to harshly attack him and use his media to hit the president, Putin allowed Berezovsky to leave the country with his money intact, even though he could have grabbed everything right away.” What do you think, did Berezovsky commit suicide or was he “helped”? “I do not know. Maybe he is still alive. This story is mysterious.” You lived in the US for two years, which is a genuine federation. How do you see the future of Russia? Does not it seem to you that Russia is not a genuine federation and the only path to survival is for it to turn into a genuine federation? “Personally, I think that Russia has a lot in common with the US. If we start applying a lot of US principles, this will only benefit us. All those laws that we have borrowed from American experience work well in the Russian Federation. Meanwhile, those we have borrowed from European experience work much worse. Precisely in terms of the territorial structure, the Russian Federation should borrow it from the US. Each state enjoys a high level of autonomy there, but at the same time no one encroaches on the integrity of the entire federation. However, the longer Putin will be in power, the more likely it is that Russia will collapse, but it will bring nothing good to Ukraine. You will have to live with a dozen nations around you, who will think quite badly of you and want to fight you. Moreover, they will also fight among themselves, and you will receive a flow of refugees from a nation that has already committed an act of aggression against you.” How many peacekeepers are needed in the Donbas? By Boris SOKOLOV There has been more and more talk in the world lately about the possibility of deploying UN peacekeepers in the Donbas. In particular, Iryna Lutsenko, representative of Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko in the Verkhovna Rada, says that the UN peacekeeping mission force in the Donbas may comprise 30,000 people, including 20,000 “blue helmets” and 5,000 policemen. But it is not quite clear who the remaining 5,000 peacekeepers will be, for they are neither “blue helmets” nor policemen. In general, Lutsenko’s information repeats the proposal of NATO ex-secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen who said in Munich that it is necessary to send 20,000 peacekeepers and 5,000 policemen to the Donbas. Let us ask first of all if this number is sufficient. A lot of factors should be taken into account here. The population of the occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts is about 4 million. At a most conservative estimate of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, the so-called “people’s militia” numbers 20,000 men in the “DNR” and 14,000 in the “LNR.” And, according to Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, the strength of the “L/DNR’s” two “army corps” was 35,500 men in the fall of last year. They have modern tanks, self-propelled artillery, field artillery, air defense systems, armored personnel carriers, reconnaissance vehicles, and other heavy weapons at their disposal. Conversely, Donbas peacekeepers will, by all accounts, have no heavy weapons, except for armored personnel carriers armed with machineguns only. Even today, the assumed strength of peacekeepers is 4 to 5 thousands men less than that of the two self-proclaimed republics’ armies. But, according to Ukrainian military journalist Yurii Butusov, Russia’s Ministry of Defense took measures as far back as March 2017 to increase the armies of Donbas separatists from 38,000 to 50,000 men. In all probability, this decision has been fulfilled now – by hook or by crook. In this case, there will be 1.7-times as few peacekeepers as the Russian-separatist troops, and if we take into account only the 20,000- strong military component of the peacekeeping force, the superiority of Russians and separatists over the peacekeepers will be 2.5-fold. Besides, at the most optimistic estimate, there will be a gap of at least 6- 10 months between the UN Security Council’s political decision on deploying peacekeepers in the Donbas and their arrival at the now occupied territories. What will hinder Russia, which will still be in full control of border with the occupied part of the Donbas, from transferring additional contingents of troops – be it 10 or 20 thousand – with standard weapons and hardware? Besides, the armies (“army corps”) of the “DNR” and the “LNR” in fact consist of either Russian servicemen or local residents taught in Russian training units and serving under the command of Russian officers. Now let us see which peacekeeping forces are deployed in Europe now. The first example is Bosnia and Herzegovina. The republic’s population is 3,862,000 people, i.e., in fact as much as in occupied part of the Donbas. The Bosnian army proper numbers 10,500 men who represent the three main peoples of Bosnia – Muslims, Serbs, and Croats. They are armed with 45 tanks, 20 APCs, as well as man-portable air defense systems, self-propelled antiaircraft artillery, etc. Under the Dayton Agreement, a EUROFOR (European Rapid Operational Force) contingent is stationed in Bosnia on the basis of a 313- strong Austrian company and battalion headquarters and a 234-strong Turkish company. In addition, there are 255 servicemen from 17 countries and 28 OSCE observers. At first glance, it is not much, and, in comparison with these figures, a 30,000-strong peacekeeping force in the Donbas looks gigantic. But one should not forget that the war in Bosnia ended 23 years ago and the Slobodan Milosevic regime, which rendered generous military aid to the Serbian regular army and Bosnian Serbs, has fallen since then. And, immediately after the Dayton Agreement was signed in 1995, a 60,000-strong NATO stabilization force (IFOR, later SFOR), with Americans accounting for a half of it, was deployed in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Incidentally, there was also a Russian brigade there, but it did not play a key role. The stabilization force had a broadranging mandate and was abundantly equipped with modern weaponry and hardware, including warplanes. So, to establish effective control of security in a region comparable with the Donbas separatist republics in terms of the population and territory, it was considered necessary to deploy, immediately after the actual cessation of hostilities, an international military force equipped with up-to-date heavy weaponry with a strength double that of the contingent that may be deployed in the Donbas. Let us now turn to the Republic of Kosovo with a population of 1,883,000, which is half the population of the occupied part of the Donbas. The Kosovo security forces number 2,500, i.e., 20 times fewer than the troops of Donbas separatists and their Russian allies, and they are armed with small arms only. As the hostilities in Kosovo stopped in June 1999, about 50,000 KFOR (Kosovo Force) servicemen, also armed with all kinds of heavy weapons, entered the republic. Taking into account bitter enmity between Kosovo Albanians and Serbs – even more bitter than it was in Bosnia and Herzegovina – and the proximity of Serbia which is hostile to Albanians, it was decided to deploy almost twice as large force as the one in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Now the strength of the KFOR contingent has been reduced to 4,473, excluding OSCE observers, because Serbia is striving to join the European Union and is not going to attack Kosovo. But in the conditions when Putin’s Russia is always there, peacekeepers should be deployed in the Donbas on the Kosovo pattern – about 100,000 men, i.e., 3.5 times more than Poroshenko’s inner circle is suggesting now, and peacekeepers should be vested with the right to use heavy weapons. An understanding seems to have been reached that the future peacekeeping force will not include member states of military blocs. It is for this reason that, for example, Belarus was sifted out, although Lukashenko was eager to be a peacemaker and even asked for a handsome quota of 10,000 soldiers for his country. Taking into account that it is approximately the strength of all the Belarusian land forces, this raises a suspicion that Russian soldiers might as well come to the Donbas in the guise of Belarusian peacekeepers. But NATO countries are also barred from taking part in the peacekeeping mission. It is doubtful that affluent European neutrals, such as Sweden, Switzerland, or Austria, will let their soldiers go to the Donbas. In all probability, peacekeepers will be sought in Asia, Africa, Latin America, or Oceania. The fighting capacity of their troops is much lower than that of the Russian army, and they will feel as if they were hostages of separatists, rather than peacekeepers, in the Donbas. This is why I am still skeptical about a UN armed mission in the Donbas. It is unlikely that a mutually-acceptable 30,000-strong, let alone a 100,000- strong, force will be recruited for this mission. REUTERS photo

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