Yulia Tymoshenko Exclusive VOA Interview – English Translation
Zoreslav Baydyuk: Speaking here in Washington, you have been emphasizing that the goal of your visit is to, primarily, present the opposition’s point of view on current events in Ukraine. So, what exactly did you discuss with Vice-President Richard Cheney, the influential Senator Richard Lugar, and what topics did you cover with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice?
Yulia Tymoshenko: There were two main topics. The first one dealt with the political situation in Ukraine as well as our concerns that today, as never previously during the past 15 years, there exist dangers to Ukraine’s independence as a country, as well as risks that we may forever loose out on opportunities in the energy sector as concerns the diversification of energy supplies not only into Ukraine, but also into European Union countries. Therefore, I laid out all the facts that today give cause for concern, because it is important for us that all democratic countries world-wide that stood by Ukraine throughout all the events of the  presidential elections, that supported and continue to support Ukraine in her efforts to strengthen democracy – that they have at their disposal information about events taking place in Ukraine from multiple sources. We are concerned that power in Ukraine today is being monopolized by one political force – the [Prime-Minister Viktor] Yanukovych team that promotes its own reform strategy for Ukraine - one that is diametrically opposed [to ours] – both in the area of domestic policy as well as in foreign policy strategies. We are concerned that today among Ukraine’s assets that are being [voluntarily] relinquished is her capability to develop her own closed nuclear fuel cycle. We are concerned that our uranium deposits have been handed over to some unknown joint company of which Russian corporations are part. We are not happy that today certain amounts of surplus electricity that is being generated but not consumed in Ukraine somehow end up in the hands of certain companies affiliated with RosUkrEnergo, and are exported not by Ukraine, but by these not very transparent companies, which are active also in the Ukrainian gas sector. For us, all of these things are signs that Ukraine, first of all, is clearly sliding away from [its goal of] European integration, and secondly, sliding in a direction that will compound [existing] energy problems.
Zoreslav Baydyuk: In your speeches you have suggested early [parliamentary] elections as a way out of the [current] political crisis. The United States, generally speaking, is a country that cherishes stability. Don’t you think that your suggestion could alienate the US government, and particularly US businessmen and investors that have already grown tired of the constant instability in Ukraine?
Yulia Tymoshenko: If anyone would want to describe the current political situation in Ukraine as stable, it certainly wouldn’t be me. I think that particularly the signs of a deep constitutional crisis that manifests itself in the confrontation between different branches of government – a rather radical confrontation, one might add – a crisis, in which two branches of government that have been popularly elected profess two different strategic directions for Ukraine, then I would say that this can’t be characterized as stability. And the sooner we find a solution, an exit strategy for these intractable problems, the sooner Ukraine will have its stability. And Ukraine needs political stability as much as man needs fresh air. But [this stability] needs to be created. Today it is absent. And we think that early elections are a democratic procedure that has been employed already by almost all countries. Early elections are known as something foreseen by the Constitutions of many countries, and I don’t see anything out of the ordinary here – other than it being a vehicle through which stability can be achieved.
Zoreslav Baydyuk: During your visit to the Unites States you have met with civic and political leaders. What are your expectations?
Yulia Tymoshenko: First and foremost, [for them] to understand Ukraine. Because there is plenty of information that is currently being deliberately disseminated out of Ukraine. There are those who claim that there are wonderful changes occurring in Ukraine today – changes that lead, as you say, to stability and that bring results in terms of domestic and foreign policy. We, however, think that the situation is, in fact, quite different. And our primary hope is for leading policymakers to understand [this] and to formulate their policies vis-à-vis our county accordingly. Secondly, we are hoping that decisions will be made – decisions that are important for Ukraine today – for instance in the implementation of the “Millennium Challenge” program. This is a very powerful and broad-based program conducted by the Government of the United States through which grants are disbursed to countries for the purpose of improving conditions within those countries. And we expect for Ukraine to be an active participant of this program, and rejoice that a small African country has received 550 million [dollars] in grants, and think that Ukraine can also become a participant in such projects and a recipient of such financial assistance. I think we also hope that US officials will thoroughly analyze everything that takes place in our region as pertains to energy security. Because we think that the growing monopolization that we see there is challenge not only for Ukraine. Growing monopolies that provide energy resources to European Union and post-Soviet countries are a problem worthy of discussion at international forums and diplomatic meetings, and, therefore, we focused our attention on it.
Zoreslav Baydyuk: So, does the situation that arose when Russia cut off gas and oil supplies to Ukraine and Belarus sending shockwaves throughout Europe, does it present an opportunity for Ukraine to forge new partnerships for herself in Europe and across the Atlantic?
Yulia Tymoshenko: I’m currently working on consolidating our partners in the United States and the European Union with the intention of creating a type of pool that would help formulate energy policy in the region. And the projects that Ukraine is currently developing involve not only Ukraine. This and the issue of creating, together with European countries, a new transport corridor for natural gas is being met with endorsement both in Europe and in the United States. This pipeline would be capable of transporting gas from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan to Europe through two seas and via Georgia and Ukraine. We are also very hopeful that we will be able to enlist European countries in a project that would create part of a closed nuclear fuel cycle, which would provide Ukraine with alternative nuclear fuel. And we think that Ukraine today would have a lot to offer in a unified EU energy system. What would be needed are sizeable investments and a pooling of efforts on the part of various countries. Ukraine, also, is capable of producing more electricity than it needs for its internal consumption. All of these are projects that are of interest not only for Ukraine. I found that they are being supported on the highest levels of the United States Government.
Zoreslav Baydyuk: During your meetings you have called on Americans to invest capital in Ukraine. At the same time, during a meeting with the Ukrainian-[American] community, you indicated that in Ukraine – you cited Crimea as an example – there is a predominance of Russian investments. The average [person] might ask why US investments should be considered better than Russian investments.
Yulia Tymoshenko: The fact of the matter is that sizeable financial injections, of which we heard from Moscow mayor [Yuri] Luzhkov, to the tune of three billion dollars in two years, with which they plan to better the lives of Ukrainian citizens in Crimea, in our view, are nothing else than a huge political stunt aimed at getting Ukrainian citizens, Ukrainian citizens in Crimea, to look more favorably toward Russia, to look at Russia as a country that is capable of offering some additional bliss. But all of this is undoubtedly intended to have political consequences, which are the very purpose of such investments. I would call upon investors – not only American investors, but investors throughout the world – even though [many] large global corporations are concentrated and based in the United States, I would call on them not to waste time, but to initiate projects in Ukraine, because the current government with all of its nonsensical behavior is only temporary and we perceive it only as such. Therefore, no time should be wasted. Ukraine needs investments as soon as possible.
Zoreslav Baydyuk: Speaking of the government and returning to the subject of early elections that you are proposing – you have said with certainty that the democratic or, let’s say, the “orange” forces would prevail, if early election were held. What is your conviction based on? Don’t you think that the so-called “orange” voter is disaffected [with what has happened in Ukraine]?
Yulia Tymoshenko: My prognosis that the democratic forces would again prevail during early parliamentary elections are based on [my] familiarity with the mood structure within Ukrainian society. Yes, Ukrainian voters hold a bit of a grudge against democratic parties, against the “orange” forces, because many mistakes have been made. But they will never accept a concept for the development of their country other than [the pursuit of] a European perspective and far-reaching reforms of our internal order that would be based on the rule of law, equal opportunity and government transparency. Therefore, it won’t matter in which configuration the democratic forces will prevail – some democratic parties will get more votes, others less, and, maybe, some new ones professing a similar development strategy for Ukraine will appear – but what’s most important is that together they garner a majority of votes. Such is the mood in Ukraine today. On the other hand, pro-Russian moods and tendencies as well as a longing for the re-establishment of the Soviet Union in some new form are shared today by no more than 30% of people in Ukraine.
Zoreslav Baydyuk: In the event of a victory – where do you see yourself?
Yulia Tymoshenko: We have signed a coalition agreement with the political forces aligned with the President – an agreement that is not intended only for the time-being. It is intended for the long term. In the event of a victory our team will work in the power structures to ensure that a proper development strategy for Ukraine is implemented.
Zoreslav Baydyuk: Do you think a victory is realistic in an atmosphere in which power and money games are played?
Yulia Tymoshenko: I’ll tell you even more than that. The “wheelers and dealers” of the Party of Regions are constantly saying that they will not allow for early elections to be held, that this time around they will not be as “soft” as they were in 2004 during the Orange Revolution, that they’ve been battle-hardened and are ready to bring in the armed forces. But in reality they know that their "wheeling and dealing" will not stand the test of time, and they are too cowardly to undertake such unconstitutional actions. And I am convinced that the [pro-]constitutional forces will prevail in early elections.
Zoreslav Baydyuk: What is your general impression from your visit to the United States?
Yulia Tymoshenko: First and foremost, I have a very positive impression, but I would like to set the record straight about some rumors that are circulating -- that the democratic world is disillusioned with Ukraine, and that some other questionable emotions are being expressed, but this is far from the truth. Ukraine is being viewed as a leading democratic catalyst among post-Soviet countries, and Ukraine she has not lost this special status. Ukraine is [also] being viewed as a very important [partner] in the formulation of a balanced energy policy in the entire region. Ukraine is not [synonymous with] disillusionment. It is [synonymous with] hope. And this is the sentiment I heard along with expressions of support for democratic forces in Ukraine as well as support for our aspirations for Euro-Atlantic integration.
Zoreslav Baydyuk: I have been wanting to ask you this question for the past 10 years now. Why do you bother with all this? Why struggle against this giant, seemingly invincible machine, why endure prison sentences, worries, loss of health?
Yulia Tymoshenko: Every person throughout his or her life tries to pursue some kind of ideal. Everybody sees different ideals. Some want to make big money. Others want to make a career in science hoping to make a unique discovery for mankind. My lifetime ideal is to see a Ukraine that is beautiful and a worthy member of the European community, a country that can offer the world unique beautiful standards in the establishment of its social order. This is my personal dream, my driving force. And nobody can make me alter my course or take this goal away from me. This can't be achieved through prison sentences, repressions or any type of extraordinary measures that one would choose to take. Simply put, this is my purpose in life. And I will pursue it. Besides, being familiar with the politics in Ukraine, I ask myself: “Who can make this happen, if not our team?”
Zoreslav Baydyuk: Have you never woken up in the morning thinking “what do I need all these troubles for?”
Yulia Tymoshenko: It happens. For about five minutes until I’m fully awake. And things get to me sometimes, because like anyone else I, too, feel disillusioned at times. And then there are the insults... But I can endure all these things if there is a goal that is much higher than engaging in some kind of personal vendettas. Even exhaustion I can endure.
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