Situation in Eastern Ukraine continues to be unstable. The government has launched a counter-terrorism operation. On May 3rd it started a comprehensive attack in Slavyansk. Before it, Ambassador of Ukraine H.E. Mr. Oleg Dyomin gave an exclusive interview to Phoenix Online.
Oleg Dyomin said that Ukraine is seeking the ways to establish an open economic system, and get rid of corruption of oligarchs. Mass demonstrations against corruption that started in February eventually led to resignation of the former President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovich. The corrupted government oficials and oligarchs are mainly from Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Later many of them escaped to Russia, they “organized and maintained the situation that is happening now in the Eastern Ukraine”. Oleg Dyomin accused Russia of being involved in this.
Oleg Dyomin said, that the anti-terrorist operations in Eastern Ukraine will continue until we have thoroughly stopped terrorists' action, until all of them are captured.
Oleg Dyomin was born in Russia, his father was Russian. He said that among all of Russians living in Ukraine, less than 10% want to be a part of Russia. “Let’s assume that in the city with one million people, there are one hundred people who gather on the city square and announce plans to set up their own republic or seek help from the Russian government. For the Russian government, this is a very good reason for aggression”. Oleg Dyomin said that people in western and eastern Ukraine do not have any reasons and conditions to begin the war. Ukraine can solve all the problems by own forces and doesn't need other countries’ interference.
The situation in three regions in Eastern Ukraine
Reporter: After the Crimean situation, in three regions in Eastern Ukraine – Donetsk, Kharkiv and Luhansk started a large-scale public demonstrations, and now the situation continues to be unstable, why does it happen?
Oleg Dyomin: This is a question of integrity in Ukraine. The main reason is that Ukraine in recent years is seeking ways to establish an open economic system, hopes to get real independence and international status and get rid of corruption in economic system.
In recent years, Ukrainian economy is seriously affected by the corruption, and corrupt politicians mainly come from Donetsk and Luhansk regions. In February, mass demonstrations on Independence square in Kiev were against this problem of corruption. As the result the previous government had to resign. Former President Viktor Yanukovich escaped to Russia, with a large number of others. Now they are overseas, using their relations and other ways under Russia's command created the situation in Eastern Ukraine.
Russian government supports these people. Moreover, Russia doesn't want Ukraine to develop international cooperation, they want Ukraine to work only with Russia. Therefore, the Russian government not only supports separatists in Ukraine, but also sends armed groups, including so-called terrorist groups, to take part in terrorism activities on the territory of Ukraine. These are the main reasons of unstable situation in Eastern Ukraine.
Reporter: Mr. Ambassador said that Ukraine tends to build an open economic system, does that mean becoming closer with the EU?
Oleg Dyomin: Now Ukraine needs to have mutually beneficial cooperation with all countries, including the European Union, Russia, China, etc. We hope to be like China, and keep friendly and mutually beneficial relations with all countries.
Reporter: You have mentioned the continued unstability of three regions in the east. Putin and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov deny Russia’s being involved, what do you think? Is there any evidence?
Oleg Dyomin: To answer this question we need to mention the situation in Crimea. At that time when the part of separatists occupied the main building in Crimea, Russia's President and their government denied that those militants are from Russia. After the referendum, when Crimea was joined to the Russian Federation, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that these people were professional soldiers sent by Russia. I think over a period of time, Russia will also admit that they sent those soldiers who occupy now the three eastern regions.
The Ukrainian government has evidence to prove it. Security Department of Ukraine has captured 25 military people from Russia's intelligence agency. In addition, those soldiers, who occupy the office buildings in the three eastern regions, are using Russia's most advanced weapons. These weapons Russia did not sell to any foreign country, they are used only by Russian soldiers.
Counter-terrorism operations against separatists
Reporter: Mr Ambassador called those armed forces as separatists. The new President of Ukraine has announced the launch of a full-scale military program against terrorism. Why is it determined as counterterrorism operation? Who is it fighting with? What is the purpose of the operation?
Oleg Dyomin: Separatism is the purpose of these people. They want to achieve this aim using terror. They use weapon to occupy the office buildings of government, also kidnap and kill people.
Reporter: Counterterrorism operation is mainly aimed at separatists, but will not include peaceful demonstrators, is that right?
Oleg Dyomin: Of course it is not against these peaceful demonstrators, but separatists may use those demonstrators. When office buildings are occupied, the city becomes insecure, people can hear gunshots in the evening. It all brings threat to life safety. In this case, the government must take action to ensure safety.
The Ukrainian government is launching anti-terrorism operation first of all to guarantee the life safety of residents. But the terrorists know that the government would attack them, so they take women and children as hostages and put them in front, in order to prevent the government from using weapons on the occupied buildings.
Reporter: Ukraine's government is facing a very tough problem now?
Oleg Dyomin: Yes, in the city where residents are everywhere, it is very difficult to carry out counterterrorism operations.
When the Crimean crisis happened, Russian president Vladimir Putin said at a press conference in the Kremlin, that their troops will put in front of them local women and children, to look whether Ukrainian soldiers will start fire at Russians. Using ordinary people as hostage, is an approach using by the Russian government.
Reporter: How long will the antiterrorism operation last?
Oleg Dyomin: Until we thoroughly stop terrorists' action, until all of them will be captured. If the Russian government can order these people to stop their acts and return to Russia, the operation may take two or three days.
Reporter: Both Mr Putin and Russia’s foreign minister expressed their determined attitude and even didn’t eliminate the possibility of further military actions in Ukraine. How does Ukraine's government respond on that?
Oleg Dyomin: Russia is looking for some excuses to send troops to enter the territory of Ukraine. Let’s assume that in the city with one million people, there are one hundred people who gather on the city square, and announce plans to set up their own republic, or seek help from the Russian government. For the Russian government, this is a very good reason for aggression.
The same situation appeared on the east of Ukraine, for instance, twenty people got together and invited some Russian media, and claim for independence. These actions can not be called normal. But some people will consider it as a real situation.
On March 1st, the Parliament of the Russian federation has authorized Russian President Putin to send army to Ukraine. The reason is to protect the safety of Russians in Ukraine. They said there was a Russian killed in Crimea. Later they announced that it was not true, but the permission for invasion was not cancelled.
Less than 10% of people want to join Russia
Reporter: Three regions in Eastern Ukraine had demonstrations demanding to join the Russian Federation, how many people are these? Whether all Russians in Ukraine want to be a part of the Russian Federation?
Oleg Dyomin: Nearly for one month has been conducted a social survey made by some Ukrainian and international organizations. According to it, less than 10% of people really want to join Russia. These people include elderly people, who still recollect the Soviet era; another part are those, who think that they can rely on the Russian government that will provide money to sustain their life.
Reporter: Mr. Ambassador you were born in Russia, what are your feelings towards Russia? After the situation with Crimea, has you attitude changed?
Oleg Dyomin: There are so many Russians in Ukraine, also in the Russian Federation there are many Ukrainians. We also have many marriages between Ukrainians and Russians. My family is the example of it, as my father is Russian, my mother is Ukrainian. I was born in Russia, but I live in Ukraine.
I know Russians who live in Ukraine, they do not want to join to Russia, they want to live in independent Ukraine, and maintain good relations with Russia.
Being Russian and living in Ukraine, I have an attitude to the Russian government and another attitude to Russian people and Russian culture. These attitudes are separated. I think some of these Russian politician, who organized occupation of Crimea and adopted those measures in three Ukrainian regions, these all have been done because of their personal interests and own ideas. Such situation Ukrainian and Russian people don't need.
Life of people after Crimean referendum
Reporter: Local people don't need that.
Oleg Dyomin: No one needs. In fact after Russia occupied Crimea, it affected the life of local people. The economy suffered losses, and Crimean prices doubled, but their salaries didn’t rise. The Crimean economy relies on tourism. Every summer it received tourists mostly from mainland Ukraine and as many as five times the number of the population of Crimea. Crimeans mainly rely on that income to maintain their life during the whole year. And this year the situation directly affected their income and prices have doubled.
Repoter: Will Crimea return back to Ukraine? Although the Ukrainian government does not recognize the results of the Crimean referendum, but in fact it has lost Crimea?
Oleg Dyomin: Similar with China's Hong Kong, that eventually returned to China. Although this situation is not the same, but I think it (returning of Crimea) will take some time.
Reporter: You really believe that Crimea will in the end return to Ukraine?
Oleg Dyomin: If the Ukrainian government improves greatly the living standards of the Ukrainians, Crimean people will eventually want to reunite with the mainland. From the geographical point, Crimea relies on Ukraine. Food and drinking water is supplied there from the mainland. All enterprises are also Ukrainian, and three-quarters of the tourists are Ukrainian.
Russia has fleet in Black sea in Sevastopol. They also announced plans to expand the size of military forces to make Crimea a large military base. And also put forward gambling industry development in Crimea. What kind of life will people have while living around a large military base and a large gambling center?
The United States and Ukraine have cooperation in various fields
Reporter: Mr. Ambassador mentioned that there is evidence to prove that Russian armed forces entered the border of Ukraine, but it seems that the Ukrainian government hasn’t found right response on those actions. Will Ukraine seek help from the United States?
Oleg Dyomin: We will seek international support. Besides, Ukraine's situation is more complex because Ukraine wasn’t prepared for the war with Russia, didn’t have this kind of strategic plan.
For Ukrainians, Russian actions look like a fight with the brother, when one of the brothers stab a knife in another’s back. The new government has just been starting its work, it does a lot of mobilization preparation work, but Ukraine needs help. Ukraine's government has put forward the request to the western countries, such as assistance of some military technology, weapons and some related communication equipment.
Ukraine's government and Ukrainian people rely on themselves to maintain their own country, because only we ourselves can maintain our homeland.
Reporter: What help does the Obama administration offer Ukraine? Are you satisfied with its actions?
Oleg Dyomin: The first thing to point out is that the United States is a big country, therefore, when the U.S. government announced its support for Ukraine's independence and territorial integrity, that was very important for Ukrainian people.
The U.S. government also provided a very important economic support for Ukraine. They had already provided assistance on the question of natural gas, and their influence on the international monetary fund is also very big. They also provided a very important help to the cooperation between Ukraine and the international monetary fund.
In addition, in the realm of foreign affairs they also provide very important support. In the process of negotiation between the Ukrainian and the Russian government, they have played a leading role, as Russia is not willing to communicate directly with the Ukrainian government.
The U.S. government also has cooperated with Ukraine in the field of counter-terrorism.
Another important part of cooperation is energy security. Ukraine largely depends on energy, while the United States through its EU partners helps Ukraine, by supplying their natural gas to Ukraine.
Also we carry out cooperation against corruption. Corruption in Ukraine has been a big problem and now anti-corruption is a strategic policy for Ukraine. One of the reasons for Ukraine's economic problem today is that the previous government stole around ten billions of dollars. How to find this money? And return it back? The government of Ukraine and the United States also has been discussing the related solution to this question.
Evaluation of Nikita Khrushchev, Mikhail Gorbachev and Vladimir Putin
Reporter: I would like to ask Mr. Ambassador to make evaluation of several Russian political figures, such as Putin, Khrushchev, Gorbachev, especially Mr Putin?
Oleg Dyomin: I want to evaluate them through the most important events that happened during the time they governed the Soviet Union and Russia, and these events have connection with Ukraine.
Khrushchev had joined Crimea to the Republic of Ukraine (editor's note: in 1783 Russia had officially included the Crimean peninsula on maps; in 1954, to celebrate the "the 300th anniversary of alliance between Ukraine and Russia " the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave the Crimean peninsula to Ukraine as a lasting symbol of friendship between two countries). Many Russians often blame Khrushchev for that. I want to say, if he did not make this decision, the Crimean peninsula would be a desert now.
In 1944, Soviet soldiers send the Crimean Tatar people to Central Asia and Siberia, but when tartars were living in Crimea, they led a very prosperous life. In 1954 Crimea joined Ukraine, as a result of Tatar exile, no one lived there, it became a desert.
Crimea is a peninsula, that was connected to the Republic of Ukraine. And only the Ukrainian Republic had power to develop Crimea. After Crimea joined the Republic of Ukraine, Ukraine's government had started to develop Crimea, launched the first large-scale project to build water supply pipeline, as Crimean drinking water resources are very limited; the second large scale project was bringing electric power; each later industry was relying on the development from the Republic of Ukraine.
During governing of Gorbachev, the Soviet Union ceased to exist. When did the dissolution of the Soviet Union start? What country was the first to declare its independence? The first was Russia, and we can say that the collapse of the Soviet Union began after Russia’s announcement for independence.
Concerning everything happening today, Russian and Ukrainian people are on the edge of starting a war. The Russian government through its own media, describes Ukrainians as their enemies. I think over a period of time, history will eventually give a fair evaluation of all events.
There is no need for interference from outside
Reporter: If the situation in the East Ukraine continues to evolve, Ukraine will face the danger of being divided? Moreover, whether there will start the direct military conflict between Russia and Ukraine?
Oleg Dyomin: Crimean joining the Republic of Ukraine, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the recent events, the reason for all these comes from Russia, rather than Ukraine. Ukraine has never taken the initiative to do these things, the responsibility lies on the other country.
Concerning what you said about the possible civil war between east and west, I don't think it is possible. People of western and eastern Ukraine do not have any reasons and conditions to start the war. Ukraine's domestic problems, we can completely solve by our own. There is no need for interference from outside.
Reporter: In May there will be presidential election in Ukraine. Do you think it will go smoothly? Can it turn the present situation into better?
Oleg Dyomin: The presidential election will help to stabilize the domestic situation. It also can be a good sign to the international society. Elections in Ukraine will not only provide conditions for effective development of our own country, but also will be very important for the international community to provide the basis for cooperation.
But from the current situation as you can see, Russia doesn’t want a peaceful development of Ukraine, doesn't want Ukraine to have a smooth presidential election. They will set obstacles for Ukraine's election, and they probably will not even acknowledge the results of presidential election. They don't want Ukraine to be independent.
Ukrainian military cooperation with China will not be affected
Reporter: Chinese Internet users most care whether the current situation in Ukraine will influence the military cooperation between two countries, especially the export of weapons?
Oleg Dyomin: I think Internet users shouldn’t worry, because all areas of cooperation with China, including military cooperation will not be affected. It will continue its steady development.
Reporter: What role does Ukraine hope China can play in the current political situation?
Oleg Dyomin: We expect that China will continue to respect and stand for Ukraine to pursue its independence and territorial integrity. We hope that Russia won’t be able to interfere into our strategic cooperation and it will continue to develop smoothly. We also hope that the Chinese government will not support pro-Russian separatist activities in Ukraine.