One year after Maidan, activist Igor Procenko talks about war, fights between oligarchs, war as an excuse for the lack reforms and Putin.
armedpolitics: Sunday morning Feb 15 the cease fire officially started. What is your assessment of the current military situation and how would you evaluate the situation around Debalsteve?
Igor Procenko: I am firmly convinced that the hostilities in the south-east of Ukraine should have been stopped not on the February, 15th in 2015, but when it was already clear that there is not an anti-terrorist operation, which is going on in Ukraine, but the civil war. A lot of people among innocent civilians have been killed. And who ever is guilty in death of these people, there is an urgent need to negotiate with President Putin on possible options for a peace agreement. Currently, Ukrainian media constantly transmit information about the separatists (militia), who fires positions of the Ukrainian army. Is it true, I can not confirm. As for Debaltseve and other Ukrainian hotspots, it’s become much quieter there. Nevertheless, attacks by the terrorists have not completely stopped, although it’s become much less.
At what stage the cease fire must be considered as failed?
In my opinion, the failure can only be called the resumption of full-scale military action, as it was before February 15. I understand that to achieve the full cease-fire is not possible for today. There is a lot of uncontrolled groups of terrorists, whose purpose is not clear and they don’t want to obey to anyone. These are small groups that act independently.
What further military developments do you expect in the next few days?
This is a very difficult question. Some terrorists claim that they will fight until they occupy Kiev, Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Odessa, and so on. The others claim, that they’ll stop only when they grip the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. I’m sure only that the conflict in Ukraine needs to be resolved only by political means. The language of weapon is unacceptable!!!
In the past, Prime Minister Yatsenyuk and President Poroshenko had different views on Ukraine’s priorities. The communication of the Ukrainian political system was relatively uniform since the cease fire negotiations in Minsk.
Are those differences tactically (in order to include most opinions of Ukrainians and softening opposition to government actions) or is there a real rivalry within the Ukrainian elite over the country’s priorities and could this rivalry intensify again in case the cease fire is widely perceived as failed?
You should understand that Ukrainian politicians at all times were always protecting the interests of billionaire oligarchs. The extent of corruption among MPs goes over all reasonable limits. Nothing has changed after Maidan. New politicians have come, but they also represent the interests of those same oligarchs. There is not a word about any changes in the upper echelons of power yet. I do not see the concerted actions of MPs from the party of President Poroshenko and other factions. Constantly there is a fighting for influence and budget money. This same thing happened under President Yanukovych. Alas, I must say that there is a strong influence of clans (billionaire oligarchs who in the 90th has captured large state-owned enterprises of strategic value) in Ukraine. All that is happening in the Ukrainian political scene now is a fight between the oligarchs for power and money. There is nothing about any benefits for ordinary citizens of Ukraine.
You have supported the Maidan movement from the very beginning. Since corruption did not disappear, the goals of the movement have been achieved only partially.
Does the Maidan movement still trust the new political system? Or is the war in the east the main reason for the restrained critics of politics?
You’re right. The government explains all wrong political decisions by war. I guess that some politicians in Ukraine are interested in war to be continued. I can not speak for the entire Maidan, but the people I know are very disappointed with the result. Maidan had the purpose to banish the corrupted power of President Yanukovych and to provide the reforms in Ukraine, allowing to get rid of corruption and theft. Alas, after we elected a new President it has been done too little in this direction. On the other hand Ukraine is a former Soviet Union. Сorruption entrenched in mentality of our people. As an example, you can view the history of Singapore. For Asians corruption was and is the part of their life and it was very hard for the prime-minister Lee Kuan Yew to provide the reform. It took Singapore 30 years to get rid of this evil. Do not forget that the territory of Singapore is 718.3 km2, the territory of Ukraine is 603,500 km2. The population in Singapore is 5,469,700, the population in Ukraine is 44,291,413. It’s a huge difference!!! Achieving at least 50% of success will need not less than 20 years. And that is assuming that the war in Ukraine will be completely stopped. So, a very long way is waiting for Ukraine.
What are your priorities when you look at your country today: Consolidating the status quo (accepting the situation in occupied territories) and starting domestic reforms or would you rather focus on further military actions?
As I said earlier, the war should be stopped immediately! Only political negotiations and peace agreements, as a result. I do not mind if Ukraine loses territory where war fighting is taking place now. I do not mind if the President Poroshenko agrees with President Putin about the new “Berlin Wall”. Our country urgently needs peace now. It will help to stop the war between Ukrainians and Ukrainians, and allow to resolve inner political and economic problems as well. War must be stopped!!!
In Germany and other parts of Europe the conflict in Ukraine is increasingly perceived in a geopolitical context, fears of a new Cold War awake and some demand a less confrontational strategy towards the Russian Federation.
What’s your position on that?
I think that the problem of Ukraine, Germany, the EU and the rest of the civilized world is President Putin. President Putin has a status of a holy man in Russia and among Russian people, who is struggling with a Western imperialist world. This image has been created by Putin and his “pocket media.” He dreams of a great empire, as it was in the USSR, where he would rule until the last day of his life. As for some of the political forces of Germany, France, Greece and other countries, their position is clear to me. They were full of enthusiasm, when they only introduced the first package of sanctions, but it turned out as a trifle for President Putin. Putin’s rating in Russia is more than 70%, which is much greater than it was before occupation of the Crimea and the war in Ukraine. They don’t want to argue and fight with Putin. There is too big beneficiary for the EU from Putin. And at the same time they can not ignore his gangster tricks. It’s all a big game, where the hostages are ordinary people. Including EU citizens. Putin took as hostage the whole of Europe, not only Ukraine. He alone decides when there will be the final peace in Ukraine and at what cost.
Thank you and good luck!
Igor Procenko is 37, family business and estate agencies in Kiev and Odessa, Maidan’s activist and volunteer.
Zurich/Odessa, interview conducted online 17/02/15.