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Ukraine: Parliamentary Speaker Says Russia Still Strategic Partner

Volodymyr Lytvyn (file photo) (epa) RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service interviewed Ukrainian parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn in its live "Evening Liberty" program on 28 December. A Ukrainian transcript --> of the entire interview is available. Below are select excerpts.

RFE/RL: I'd like to start with the main pressing topic -- the gas dispute [with Russia]. There are just a few days remaining until New Year. It looks like Russia is firmly set to stop gas supplies to Ukraine [as of 1 January]. Russia and Russian political elites are unanimous in their views, but this cannot be seen among Ukrainian political elites. The Ukrainian side either remains silent or speaks in different voices. Why is there no consensus among Ukraine's political establishment and state leadership?

Volodymyr Lytvyn: Because Russian politicians speak from the position of Russia's national interests, while Ukrainian ones for the most part represent their own political interests or interests of their political parties. Struggling against each other, they overpower not their opponents but Ukraine. This is a feature of Ukrainian politics and Ukrainian politicians.

RFE/RL: Mr. Lytvyn, you are a state leader. Why have you not made a clear-cut statement on this issue so far? Some think that Ukraine should firmly respond to Russia with reviewing [the accord on the deployment in Sevastopol of] Russia's Black Sea Fleet or [accords on] other Russian facilities in Ukraine. Others are convinced that it is necessary to show servility and make some concessions. What is your position?

Lytvyn: In this specific case, the entire negotiation process [with Russia] is limited to government structures. To shout out my own statements without knowing the essence of talks and without knowing what the Ukrainian side proposes would be, pardon my saying, an acme of impertinence or a demonstration of my wish to show myself off in favorable light during the [parliamentary] elections campaign. Moreover, I hope that the president of Ukraine will finally fulfill his promise to hold a conference to discuss this issue with the participation of the Verkhovna Rada head, among others.

RFE/RL: Have you not been invited so far?

Lytvyn: Unfortunately, such a conference has not been held yet. Because for Ukrainian leaders, including the leader of the government, it is simpler to visit [Ukrainian] regions or other places, more or less faraway from Ukraine.

RFE/RL: Mr. Lytvyn, who in your opinion has provoked this problem, this scandal? The Ukrainian side or Russia? Many now say that Russia is simply a blackmailer. Is Russia a strategic partner or a blackmailer?

Lytvyn: Russia is a strategic partner, and Russia should be a special partner for Ukraine. I think that under such critical circumstances, or even catastrophic circumstances, it is counterproductive to ask who is to blame. It is necessary now to return to the starting points and try to make these points closer to each other in order to adopt an appropriate decision.

RFE/RL: Do you think it is possible to make a deal with the Russians?

Lytvyn: We are destined to make a deal. Otherwise, public sentiments will grow against someone else [other] than Ukrainian politicians. Such is reality. [Politicians] will say that the reason [for Ukraine's troubles] is that Russia does not supply gas. When a man has no heat [in winter] and no possibility to secure a more or less normal existence, it will be easy to point to where his enemy is. I wouldn't like Ukrainians to assess the Ukrainian-Russian relations as bad. It is not late yet. It's necessary to continue negotiations.

RFE/RL: There are just a few days left. What is your prediction?

Lytvyn: I think that it is necessary to use the rule that is applied in the budget systems of both Ukraine and Russia. If a budget is not adopted, state expenses are financed on a monthly basis with a sum equal to one-twelfth of last year's budget expenses. If we fail to find a [price] formula until 31 December, we don't need to sign a document that could resemble a surrender of one of the sides.

RFE/RL: Will Ukraine not have to surrender its gas transportation system? [National Security and Defense Council head] Anatoliy Kinakh thinks that it is necessary to make some concessions to Russia regarding the [creation of] a gas-transportation consortium in order to alleviate the gas problem. Do you share this opinion?

Lytvyn: I'm categorically against making concessions. I'm in favor of adopting mutually advantageous resolution.

(Translated by Jan Maksymiuk)