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2 May, 2010 06:38

Previous Ukrainian president damaged Russian-Ukrainian relations – MP

The Head of Russia's State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachev told RT that Ukraine’s previous leader destroyed relations between Russia and Ukraine. Now, Viktor Yanukovich is repairing the damage.

RT: President Yanukovich recently signed an agreement with Russia about the presence of the Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine. His opposition called it a “betrayal of national interests” and called for PACE to give an evaluation of this deal. What do you think that evaluation will be?

Konstantin Kosachev: I do not believe that there is any space for that type of analysis and evaluation in the assembly because the issue of the Russian Fleet in the Black Sea as well as our agreements on energy supplies are purely bilateral issues for Russia and Ukraine. So this is another attempt of the opposition of Ukraine to use any possibility to create further problems for the current government of Ukraine. I am sure that, one: the actions of Mr. Yanukovich were completely legal, in accordance with the Constitution of the country, and secondly, I believe that what he has done corresponds 100% with the national interests of Ukraine. Ukraine, as a national economy, will simply not survive without proper economic cooperation with Russia, as with many other countries, of course, but one should not exclude the other. The mistake of Ukraine’s previous governments, I believe, was that they were trying to develop their relations with the West, excluding Russia out of this composition.

RT: Russia has offered unprecedented discounts for gas supplies to Ukraine. Why?

KK: The relations between Ukraine and Russia have been artificially damaged, destroyed by the previous president. What Mr. Yanukovich does is not specifically pro-Russian; he just repairs the damage which is present there in many areas. And the gas deal between Russia and Ukraine is mutually beneficial, to my mind. Ukraine will get a discount, and this discount is made just to hold this construction with the fleet alive. There is a certain connection between these two issues, but of course if Russia would give any discount to anybody. Russia needs to understand why this discount is to be given. We have to have certain explanations for our own people, our own taxpayers.

The revenue of Ukraine is $4 billion a year, approximately, in terms of the current volume of gas being delivered to Ukraine, but these $4 billion damage the Russian budget.

It’s lost money, which Russians will never receive, so for us, of course, it’s also important to understand why we will lose $4 billion annually. Money which we could have got rather easily from Ukraine, but, unfortunately, creating more and more problems for the Ukrainian economy. This is not our interest, we are very much interested to have Ukraine as a stable economy, as a stable democracy, and for that we need agreements like that.

RT: And the voting on Holodomor in Ukraine. The report was changed. What were those changes and why are they not acceptable?

KK: This story has a long history. It was initiated a couple of years ago by a certain group of Ukrainian parliamentarians representing Mr. Yushchenko – the former president of Ukraine, and as you remember Mr. Yushchenko was very much in favor of presenting this tragedy as a separate tragedy of the Ukrainian people and to declare it as a genocide towards Ukrainians.

Already at that moment, when this initiative was presented to the Assembly, we objected, and we insisted on changing the title of this report. It has been changed. It’s not a report on Ukrainian Holodomor any longer, it’s a report on the mass famine on the territory of the former Soviet Union, which makes a big difference, I believe.

And under this title we have definitely no problem to discuss this tragedy has taken place. And the former Soviet authorities – the Stalin regime – are definitely responsible for this tragedy.

And I have no doubts that the Ukrainian part of the Soviet Union was affected most dramatically by this tragedy, and we have no problem recognizing it. The problem starts when somebody tries to keep it separately from the common tragedy of the former Soviet Union, which is not fair, simply.

RT: The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly refused to vote on the resolution assessing the humanitarian consequences of the war in South Ossetia. Why?

KK: Well, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe makes its fifth – I believe – the fifth approach to this conflict. And the previous discussions have been somehow blocked by the two radical conclusions made during the initial phase of this conflict when everything was presented in a very simplified manner, like big and aggressive Russia taking over small but free, liberal and democratic Georgia. This time we got a new rapporteur on this issue, one of the two has been replaced and the new one, which is Mr. David Wilshire from the United Kingdom, tried to take a different look at this conflict and how we can proceed, how we can make progress. And he presented an alternative version, which was not compatible with the traditional one, so to say. And this is how we were facing the two alternatives, and there was no way to combine them, to merge them, to make them as a single version. That meant we did not have a single text and could not proceed with any amendments or anything like that.

RT: How were those reports different? What did they say?

KK: I believe that major difference between these two versions is that Mr. Eorsi, who is the author of the first version, the traditional version, he describes this situation as a conflict between Georgia and Russia.

And there’s nobody else, and people in Abkhazia and people in South Ossetia simply do not exist in terms of his draft.

While Mr. Wilshire tries to speak in terms of the four parties to the conflict – Georgians, Russians, Ossetians and Abkhazians. And he speaks for better dialogue – direct dialogue – between all these involved parties, which is a good start at least.

RT: Recently, Russia and the United States signed a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. How difficult will it be for the two countries to ratify it?

KK: It’s much more difficult for the American side for one simple reason: Mr. Obama needs a qualified majority with two-thirds in the Senate, which he does not have. He needs eight additional votes in the Senate and after the November elections to the Senate maybe he will need more than that.

The Russian president, Mr. Medvedev, enjoys his own majority – we need a simple majority by the way to ratify the START treaty – and he has this majority. Here in Russia we will have hard discussions – yes we will have them because we speak about very serious issues related to the questions of national security of Russia.

But again it’s much more difficult in the US. That is why we want to synchronize our procedures and we will start working on that ratification as soon as these documents are presented to the State Duma and the Senate, as far as I understand that will happen sometime in the nearest future, in the first half of May, and we will start working on that. My prediction is that we will come to the final end of this story not earlier than the first months of autumn – September, October, something like that in the best case.