On July 29, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk from Ukraine could be headed by the first President Leonid Kravchuk. On July 30 at 11:30 a meeting with Kravchuk began in the President’s Office on this issue.
Apostrophe journalist Dmitry Malyshko contacted Leonid Kravchuk an hour before the meeting and discussed his main theses in the negotiations and the vision of resolving the conflict in Donbass and ending the war with Russia.
— In your opinion, is there a way to resolve the conflict with Russia?
— I believe in what is. Because there was no such example in the history of mankind that the conflict was not resolved. It was very difficult, everything dragged on. Take the issues with Israel in the Middle East. We saw what the problems were, how many difficulties there were, but despite this, with the help of the country and with the help of the United States, first of all, this issue was resolved. I think if Ukraine mobilizes its resources in full, that it is, unites, then we can.
But now, unfortunately, we have such an unpleasant situation in society and the political beau monde that everyone cannot stand beside, unite and resolve issues that concern the nation, the people. Perhaps these are the consequences of the time where we were, how we lived before, the peculiarities of the historical development of Ukraine — there are many factors. But we are gradually, sometimes with great economic, social and political losses, moving forward and keeping Ukraine as a state for 30 years. I remember how at the beginning of independence we were told that your time is not long, Ukraine will not stand it, it will be divided into regions. These attempts were, perhaps, not completely disappeared from the political arena. But Ukraine lives on, we are trying to mobilize all resources. Therefore, I believe that the conflict with Russia will eventually be resolved.
— I apologize, Leonid Makarovich, but Israel has not resolved its conflict. For example, there is the Golan Heights, to which he claims, and now from time to time they are bombarded by both Syria and Iranian troops from the territory of Syria. Therefore, there is rather a sluggish conflict. By the way, in your opinion, is it better to freeze the conflict in Donbas or keep it in the same state as it is now?
“Of course it’s better to stop firing. One of our most important tasks is to end the war (judging by the further context, «war» means the armed phase of the confrontation — «Apostrophe»). When the war is over, further questions will arise — the organization of life, elections — everything that is needed for this region.
There, it will probably not be possible to automatically reproduce life as it was before. Some changes will need to be made, some adjustments, more freedoms, some peculiarities. I’m not talking about a special status, but about a special form of government. We must think and seek, but at the very beginning we must stop the fire.
If this ceasefire is considered a frozen conflict, so be it. Do not be afraid of this word. The main thing is to cease fire and begin to resolve issues that are acute there. But Ukraine and the states on its side must have an absolutely clear program so that this issue is resolved in the interests of Ukraine and taking into account the positions of the countries that communicate with us closer.
There is no need to hope that the ceasefire will immediately change the situation by 180 degrees. Everything has gone so far there and everything is so complicated that it will take time, effort and large financial and other resources.
— «Minsk Agreements» — isn’t it a program? Everything is written there. But the problem is, Russia interprets everything in its own way, and we — in our own way.
— Not everything is spelled out there as we would like. It says how to stop the fire. And then they wrote another thing that first the elections, and then security. That is, the border is not closed, the Ukrainian authorities are not there — but let’s hold elections. How can Ukrainian elections be held without Ukrainian government? I have not heard this yet and do not know.
But all this was done during an acute situation, there was a very serious attack on Ukraine — and under the pressure of the situation, a document was signed that does not meet the strategic national interests of Ukraine.
Now there is Russia, the OSCE, the conclusions we have drawn from this. And we need to sit down together and think about how to actually hold the elections. Let someone prove to me that it is possible to hold elections without the Ukrainian authorities, the Ukrainian flag — nothing Ukrainian, and the elections must be according to the law of Ukraine. Who will control them if no one is allowed there? These are serious things. You can’t do it like that, in the heat — we wrote it and let’s do it. It’s easier to write than to execute. And in order to prescribe everything correctly, you have to think about what will happen tomorrow. But, unfortunately, so far we have not always succeeded in doing this in the Donbas and in the Minsk format.
But why was Minsk created? In order to make proposals, to ensure the implementation of those decisions taken by the Quartet in the Normandy format. The heads of state make important, I would even say, historic decisions, and the «Minsk group» should propose mechanisms, conditions, time for their implementation — and act accordingly, and not independently resolve issues,
not considering what was accepted in Normandy. We now hear that the Normandy agreements are not being fulfilled. This is, first of all, criticism of the «Minsk group».
— But they are not being fulfilled also because Russia does not want it. They say — «and we are not there in Donbass, this is your own business.» Everybody gets out as best they can.
— But we must say — we must act adequately, we have the national interests of Ukraine and we want to ensure them. Let’s think about how to do it. We are ready to negotiate what concessions — but not unilateral, but concession to concession. When both parties are interested in resolving the issue. And not when one side makes concessions all the time, and the other does nothing. In international relations, this is no longer negotiations, but pressure, the use of force.
— What compromises are the most acceptable for Ukraine in your opinion?
— The kind of compromises that will lead to peace. So that Donbass and the people who live there — and there are millions of people there — could adequately exist within our Ukraine. One of the compromises is the creation of a free economic zone for this region. Maybe for others. In order to balance the situation after the losses that were there — both human, first of all, and material, destruction, devastation — to give people the opportunity to resume their lives, live a normal life, be treated and get everything that a person needs.
— What conditions would you never agree to?
— When it comes to borders, sovereignty, loss of independence or territorial integrity — these issues are not discussed. They are outside the brackets. We sit down at the table and know that we are negotiating on equal terms. If someone immediately starts talking about territorial concessions or the surrender of our sovereign rights and freedoms or territorial integrity, borders — that’s it, the negotiations end. I will never go to such negotiations. Negotiations are when, without preliminary prerequisites, we sat down to agree in the interests of both parties.
I admit that «the other side» has interests. Let’s sit down and talk about how to coordinate and coordinate our interests. If one side insists only on its own, then there will never be an agreement. We need to take a sober, realistic look at things. But giving in to the values that are the main components of international law and international relations is out of the question.
— You are leaving for the President’s Office today. On what conditions would you agree to participate in the TCG? After all, they will probably offer you something.
— Terms of TCG are already there. Ukraine cannot create others. And I personally. When it comes to how to ensure peace in Donbass, this is the main condition for me. There are no other conditions.
But if they tell me — you take up this business, and everything depends on you, I will say — no. When a question of such a scale as war, loss of human life and infrastructure, an explosion that can occur at any time, everyone must act. The Verkhovna Rada, the President’s Office, and local administrations — all must unite for this. And the «Minsk talks» are only in order to propose some mechanisms, ways.
It cannot be that we have agreed on silence … We have agreed? Signed by the representative of Russia, Mr. Gryzlov? Signed. On the second day, Mr Peskov, Putin’s press secretary, says Russia does not guarantee that conditions will be met and that silence will be respected. I ask the question — from whom did Gryzlov sign the document? From yourself personally? Or from the state he represents. Nobody — neither Kravchuk nor Kuchma sign on their behalf — I drink myself, I walk myself.
And if he signed on behalf of Russia, then what does this signature mean for us? Who will do it? Are we for Russia? If this signature means that we — Ukraine — are allowed (!) To resolve our internal issues, and they, outside the brackets, on the side, do not participate in the conflict, then we do not need such consent, we ourselves know what to do. But we ask you to withdraw your troops and weapons, your people, those who came to Donbass from other countries, because there is no one there. And some of them came to fight in order to earn money. The situation there is very difficult to take and decide. But your signature must be respected. This is my main condition.
But is this a condition? I want a normal protocol solution to international agreements.
— That is, mentally you are ready to join the TCG?
— What does it mean morally? Explain to me. Am I going to do something immoral there?
— Do you have the attitude, do you have the strength?
— Do you have the strength? Let’s do it — if I agree, then you don’t need to ask me. If you don’t agree, you don’t need to ask me either. I will be at a meeting today, we will decide there.
— The current acting Aleksey Reznikov, head of the Ukrainian delegation in Minsk, said that Ukraine must restore Donbass. In your opinion, is it fair if only we will do it? Perhaps it would be worth involving Russia as well?
— Of course, I am absolutely convinced of this. I spoke about a free economic zone, and I will add that a special Donbass Recovery Fund should be created. And this fund should include both the United States and Great
— The main thing is that President Zelensky has brought this issue to a high level. Let’s say conditionally, I become the head of the delegation. Tell me, which of those people sitting in Minsk has great powers? The powers of the highest level are with the heads of state. Zelensky is 100% right when he says — we must not just call, but sign a ceasefire agreement and implement it. Then it will be respect for their signatures and for documents that are accepted.
In the meantime, this is a platform for conversations. I don’t want to become a member of the «platform». I want to take part in the real provision of peace in the Donbass.
— But Zelensky called for this back on July 23. And neither Paris nor Berlin have answered so far. It should have been signed before July 27, the day of the start of the agreements, right?
— This is the everyday level of ideas about politics. And then — even in the family, if someone said, they cannot do it tomorrow. Sometimes time passes.