I answered a few questions for a Japanese newspaper on Saturday:
(1) President Yanukovych and opposition leaders have just signed a deal that leads an early presidential poll by the end of this year. So how’s the situation in Kiev, especially at Maidan, just after the peace deal was signed? Is it getting calm there?
I would say that there is a very somber atmosphere here in Kyiv. People feel disappointed that people had to die for the politicians to come to some agreement. Maidan has become one big family. When I walk around there, on the streets, I feel like I am with my brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts. The people, and I include myself in that bracket, have many unanswered questions.
The protests began on 21st November and were organised and orchestrated by the people. The politicians have been playing catch-up ever since. They were slow out of the blocks and at times looked reluctant to support the people. Yesterday, funeral services took place for those gunned down by snipers. It was noticeable how the leaders found it hard to connect with the people. Klitshko was unable to speak from the heart about the tragedy, instead relying on notes and Tyahnybok only spoke about those members of his party that were killed.
(2) President Yanukovych sacked Ukraine’s military chief days ago. And several photos posted on Twitter hours ago show that “Berkut” officers started handing over their outfits to protesters. Does it mean that some (or many) in the army and the Interior Ministry are NOT that loyal to Yanukovych and his administration?
I believe that many now are considering jumping ship. It is clear that Yanukovych’s power base is crumbling and those Party of Regions officials, with a conscience, have an opportnity to help bring some peace and stability to this country.
I have watched police officials, on TV, apologise for the part they played in shackling their own people. It was also significant when law enforcement officials from Lviv declared they were going to Kyiv to protect the people at Euromaidan. In short, these police are normal people that want the best for this country too.
(3) Who were the protesters at Maidan? First I thought that the vast majority of the protesters were “ordinary Kiev citizens” who were outraged at the pro-Russian government’s oppression and corruption. However, latest news reports say that some of the protesters at Maidan were members of far-right political organizations such as Svboda. During Maidan Uprising, did liberal protesters and far-right protesters get along?
The protesters were from all walks of life, from entreprenneurs to street cleaners. There were those with a far-right leaning but their presence has been overstated. The vast majority are normal citizens of Ukraine. They are sick and tired of oppression and corruption. They want decent roads, health, a decent standard of living, a better quality of life and more opportunity.
(4) Considering the history of Ukraine, many analysts point out that the country is culturally divided, the western part and eastern part. Do you think this anti-Yanukovych movement can spread nationwide?
I think there’s every chance that the whole country can develop a political culture and civil society. It is important that society addresses the fears and stereotypes that have been allowed to fester. In the West and the East, they have constructed myths and stereotypes about each other and these have been used by politicians to maintain power and influence. At Maidan, I have met people from different parts of Ukraine. I have seen and spoken to people from Donetsk, Crimea, Lviv and Odessa. I have met Russian speakers and Ukrainian speakers, who all want to live in a better and more prosperous Ukraine. I have no doubt that they can realise shared future. Ukraine is a beautiful country with so much potential. When all its citizens realise that they are fighting for the same things, they will start moving, together, in the right direction.
(5) Now there is a chance that Yanukovych steps down. What do you and your friends there expect from post-Yanukovych Ukraine?
There needs to be a time of reconciliation. Politicians should fully engage in this healing process and not re-open old wounds. Although this is not going to happen overnight, politicians should not delay. The people of Ukraine have been waiting for over 20 years for «real» change. They do not want to wait any longer. People are hoping for economic wellbeing, social change and transparency. People will not hesitate to return to the streets to hold its politicians accountable should reform not take place.