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    BRAMA News and Community Press

    BRAMA, Nov 8, 2004, 9:00 am ET

    UPDATED Nov. 12, 2004, 1:00 pm
  • Part II. Foreign Policy
  • Part III. Ukraine and Family
    УКР   ENG   POL

    The right to a European choice
    Interview with Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko

    Interview conducted by Waldemar Piasecki, New York-Kyiv. Filed November 4, 2004.

    The following is an unofficial translation from the original Ukrainian interview conducted by Waldemar Piasecki (WP) with Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko (VY). A Polish translation was published in the newspapers 'Nowy Dziennik', 'Przeglad' and Chicago's 'Dziennik Zwiazkowy'.


    І. Elections

    (WP) 1. The whole world awaits the outcome of the second round of voting in the presidential elections of Ukraine, which will take place on 21 November. The era of Leonid Kuchma, accused of involvement in a number of criminal activities including the destruction of political opponents is nearing an end. Your main rival is Kuchma's chosen heir, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. This past spring, you said, "I believe that this coming fall the Ukrainian nation will finally begin to live a life of prosperity and fortune, that the government will serve the people and not just its private interests; that Ukraine will become a member of a strong and united Europe." You have also said that your life has been threatened repeatedly. Do you fear for your life? Will you live to see the elections?

    (VY) – I intend to live and work not only until the elections, but also beyond them -- in order that a democratic and affluent Ukraine becomes a reality. As you see, the attempt to remove me during the pre-election stage failed - I survived, and now I am filled with renewed energy and determination even more than before. My health has returned to normal. As of 10 October I actively rejoined the election campaign, and within 3 weeks visited 12 regions of Ukraine and met with tens of thousands of voters. Although the attack on me was severe, and I would prefer to feel even better than I do now, but I survived - thanks to the support of my family, friends, and millions of Ukrainians who wished me well. I am sure that we will find out who and what were behind my illness, why someone tried to remove the leading candidate during the most active phase of the race for president. But the plan failed. And I fear nothing. I am prepared to pay any amount for the sake of one thing - for Ukraine's future.

    Victory in the presidential election is not an end in and of itself, but only the beginning of a truly great task. Ukraine today needs systemic changes in its economy, in legal procedures, and in the social sphere. All of this requires time and effort. The support and astuteness of the people who come to our meetings (I bring together from 20-100 thousand supporters anywhere in Ukraine) provide encouragement and assurance that Ukraine has a unique chance. I am positive that we will seize this chance and together we will build a new Ukraine.

    Kyiv, Ukraine. October 31, 2004.
    Viktor Yushchenko, holding his son in his arms, after casting his ballot on October 31. Mr. Yushchenko's facial features were dramatically and suddenly altered last September by the effects of a "chemical poisoning", as described by various sources from Ukraine. The investigation of the alleged poisoning has not produced any conclusive findings so far, although the opposition (Yushchenko's campaign) has drawn parallels between this case and several other high profile mysteries in which the current administration has been implicated, including the death of popular politician Vyacheslav Chornovil in 1999 and journalist Heorhiy Gongadze in 2000.


    (WP) 2. Presidential candidate John Kerry emphasized the threat to Ukraine's democracy. President George Bush also expressed concerns about the course taken by the election campaign in Ukraine. Later, Member of Congress Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), speaking passionately about the effort to poison you, called it the "Ukrainian political kitchen." Are these American voices heard in Ukraine?

    (VY) – The Ukrainian election in the end is undoubtedly a matter for Ukrainians themselves. But our neighbors - and the voters themselves - cannot ignore the lack of democracy in the current election campagin, the many broken laws that are being noted by international observers and the non-governmental organizations. In particular, one of the main problems on election day was the absence of voter registrations and the manipulation of voter rosters - entire buildings and streets were missing! Of what value is the tally of votes by the CEC, which "is not able" to have the ballots counted even 5 days later?

    By becoming a member of the Council of Europe, Ukraine took the responsibility upon itself to adhere to democratic principles. The position of our partners is also understandable - they want to conduct business with a democratic Ukraine. But the current administration pretends that it doesn't hear the calls of the international community.

    The present administration does not react much to the calls of the West regarding Ukraine's progress in democratization, protection of the freedoms of speech, human rights and liberties of its citizens. The oligarchs are not concerned by the obstructions to integration of Ukraine in the EC or NATO. They fear other things - travel restrictions, frozen bank accounts and property abroad. Almost 40% of Ukraine's exports, among them are products of businesses owned by oligarchs, are in fact shipped to the West. To ignore the opinion of the West threatens the loss of partners for the Ukrainian business-elite. Therefore the status of international cooperation becomes another factor for running an honest and transparent election.

    Viktor Yushchenko on the campaign trail before his chemically-induced illness.


    (WP) 3. Describe your electorate. Who will vote for you, and who will vote for your rival? It is widely believed that Ukraine is deeply divided into two parts: pro-Moscow eastern Ukraine and pro-western west Ukraine. Can this factor influence the election results?

    (VY) – There is no division of Ukraine - even the results of the first round show that central Ukraine, Western Ukraine and the northern oblasts supported my candidacy. I became convinced that Ukraine is united while interacting with people during the regional campaign tour. Both in the East and in the West, people are concerned by same problems - employment, wages, pensions, a good education for children, medical coverage, and good relations with their neighbors. People need economic stability and social guarantees.

    It was the administration that tried to artificially divide the country by employing the formula "divide and conquer!" I, however, am confident that the Ukrainian nation is united, that the Ukrainian in the East is the brother of the Ukrainian in the West, and vice versa.

    The attitudes of Ukrainians show that they want change. People are tired of of the daily encounters with corruption and injustices of state officials, and having to go abroad to earn a living. Many of them are prepared to change the current administration, which has not fulfilled its obligation to them.

    * * * * *

    Headline: The right to a European choice
    Interview with Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko
    Interview conducted by Waldemar Piasecki, New York-Kyiv. Filed November 4, 2004.

    ІI. Foreign Policy

    (WP) 1. Whom do you see as Ukraine's strategic partners around the world?

    (VY) – The lines to Ukraine's strategic partners are drawn. These are, without a doubt, the EC, Russia, the United States, Poland. These are the countries to which there are hundreds of historical, economic and cultural threads tying Ukraine. These are the countries where the national interests of Ukraine lie. They are the ones where international organizations offer us support, and are prepared to work with us honorably and equitably.

    Ukraine's foreign policy can be neither "pro-Western" nor "pro-Russian." It can only be "pro-Ukrainian." Undoubtedly, while building our foreign policy, we will include the interests and positions of our strategic partners, but the key issues remain Ukraine's national interests. Our goal is to become a transport state, guaranteeing energy, shipping and communications, and resolving security issues. This ties in with our interests and those of the European Union, the Russian Federation, and the U.S. The realization of mutually equitable projects will dictate further cooperation with our strategic partners.

    Viktor Yushchenko with U.S. Senator McCain.


    (WP) 2. How do you envision the role of Russia? You acknowledged that the wealth of historical, political, economic, and cultural ties are very important. Russia and Ukraine are very close. A large sector of Ukraine's population identifies itself with the culture and language of Russia. How should bi-partisan relations between your two states take shape?

    (VY) – Russia is our eternal neighbor. The well being of our citizens and the stability of Europe are dependent on the success of bi-lateral relations between Ukraine and this Russia. We are going to build relations with Russia based on the principles of responsible and open cooperation, transparent and honest policies.

    It is essential that that the relations with Russia become truly international rather than inter-clan (inter-oligarchic) relations…to create a trustworthy public foundation, to form stable channels of cooperation between political parties, social organizations, and business circles.

    I wrote an open letter to the Russian elite and personally to President Vladimir Putin in which I proposed making a few steps towards meeting one another. The first step - to close the book on the story of "Our motherland - the USSR". The second step - to take account of our agreements from the point of view of the mutual national interests of our two countries. Third step - clearly define the format of cooperation in politics, economics, and culture. Fourth step - implement concrete acts and decisions in all aspects of international relations. Here we start with the creation of a free trade zone, assist each other in joining the World Trade Organization, resolve border disputes, and the cancellation and prevention of any potential for discriminatory measures being taken against citizens of both countries.

    Russia's choice - is to build relations either with a Ukraine in which the regime does not have national support and does not fulfill its commitments and obligations, or with a Ukraine that is a reliable, steadfast and prudent partner.

    (WP) 3. How do you see the role of Poland in the political and social life of Ukraine?

    (VY) – Relations between Poland and Ukraine are somewhat more than just relations between strategic partners. I would say that they are warmer - truly friendly. We are concerned for each other. We are always ready to support each other in difficult times and share joy in happy ones. And, what is important is not to avoid discussions about tough questions, but to refrain from politicizing them and using them for domestic goals. Over and over again, I recall the words of my (Polish) friend, Jacek Kuron: "It is the thought that evangelical truths do not apply to reciprocal relations between nations which is un-christian and against the spirit of the Gospel." I am convinced that only forgiveness and the constant striving for dialog lend themselves towards stimulating our relations.

    We comprehend the important role played by the Polish intelligentsia and the Ukrainian Diaspora in establishing new relations between Poles and Ukrainians. We do not forget the sent to the nations of Central and Eastern Europe after the 1st Solidarity convention, led by Lech Walesa. Nor do we forget the efforts of the Polish democratic opposition, as remembered by the words of Jacek Kuron, "without an independent Poland, there cannot be an independent Ukraine, and without an independent Ukraine, there is no independent Poland". And this is symbolized by the fact that Poland was the first country in the world to recognize the independence of Ukraine.

    Poland has demonstrated on more than one occasion that she is a strategic partner for Ukraine - by all criteria. Removal of visa restrictions between our countries allows Ukrainians to travel to Poland with minimum difficulties. As to the euro-integration of Ukraine - Poland is putting even greater effort toward this end than even the present Ukrainian government. And the Polish president Oleksandr Kwasniewski plays a leading role here.

    (WP) 4. You are a proponent of a rapid withdrawal of the Ukrainian military from Iraq. This is supported by a majority of Ukrainians. Is it known why the military is in Iraq? Many Ukrainians in American believe that it is only a ploy by Kuchma to save himself - having absolved himself of compromise by placating the White House [Explanatory note: President Kuchma's commitment of Ukrainian troops to Iraq is viewed as his way of buying U.S. silence regarding the alleged irregularities in Ukraine's election and several unresolved scandals such as the death of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze].

    (VY) – We support a hard-hitting fight against terrorism and securing stability in Iraq, but we are not prepared to pay for the development of democracy in Iraq at the cost of democracy in Ukraine. We cannot leave our military in Iraq as insurance against the indulgences of the current Ukrainian regime and its antidemocratic actions.

    Our position regarding the withdrawal of the Ukrainian contigent from Iraq is based on recent changes that occurred in this country. We will be withdrawing our contingent having confirmed our actions with our strategic partners and the new government of Iraq.

    * * * * *

    Headline: The right to a European choice
    Interview with Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko
    Interview conducted by Waldemar Piasecki, New York-Kyiv. Filed November 4, 2004.

    ІII. Ukraine and Family

    (WP) 1. Continuing with the American theme, let's ask a few personal questions. Your political enemies never tire of discrediting your wife - Katherine Yushchenko-Chumachenko. Because she was born, educated, and had an established career in America, she is called a spy, whose assignment is to manipulate you. Has she succeeded?

    (VY) – (Laughing) Any woman, even the most powerful one, that has 3 small children on her hands, can only be concerned about household problems. There is no time or energy left for anything else. I have a beautiful wife who is truly the guardian of our home, where we have a wonderful family atmosphere, which allows me to rest and forget about politics.

    My family has become my greatest source of strength after becoming ill. Katherine along with our seven-month-old son Taras did not leave my side in the Austrian clinic [where I was treated]. Taras alone, without realizing it, aided me with just his presence and good humor. At the hospital, his first tooth started growing in and he started sitting up. I thank God and value every minute that I can spend with my children, mother and wife.

    V.Yushchenko with his mother Barbara, wife Katherine (born in Chicago, IL, USA), and children: 5-year-old Sofia, 4-year-old Khrystyna, 9-month-old Taras in the arms of his mother, and children from his previous marriage, 23-year-old Lina with 21-year-old Andriy.


    (WP) 2. Can you tell us about your family and the family of your wife? Your parents? Children? What is your family like?

    (VY) – My father was my hero - my main teacher. He fought during World War II, was wounded early on and was taken prisoner by the Nazis. He attempted to escape from the German concentration camps seven times, the last time from Oswiecim (Auschwitz). It's a miracle that he survived. After the war, he spent a lifetime as a village schoolteacher. My mother was also a teacher. Since father died, my mother has categorically refused to travel to Kyiv - and through today lives in our hometown Khoruzhiv. Actually, my mother has been in the hospital for the last 2 months - after watching Ukrainian television, she became afraid for my sake, and suffered a stroke.

    The fate of my in-laws was also difficult. My mother-in-law, Sofia Yukhymiv, was only 15 when the Nazis took her from Ukraine to work as a slave-laborer in Germany. There she met her future husband, who as a soldier in the Red Army during World War II was captured by the Nazis and sent to a concentration camp. They married in 1945. Both wanted to return to Ukraine, but my father-in-law, Mykhailo Andriyovych, contracted a virulent form of tuberculosis. Katya's (Katherine's) parents obtained an invitation to emigrate to the U.S., where her father spent the rest of his life working as an electrician in a small town. He always dreamed of returning to his native Ukraine, and is now buried in Kyiv.

    I am the very fortunate father of five children, and a grandfather. My oldest daughter Vitalina already has a family of her own - she is expecting her second child. My oldest son Andryi is a student. The younger girls - Sofia and Khrystyna - are mother's biggest helpers right now, helping to raise little Taras. There is far too little time that can be spent with my family, but we always spend holidays and birthdays together.

    The candidate places flowers on the grave of his father, Andriy Yushchenko, who was a prisoner in Aushwitz and other concentration camps.


    (WP) 3. As president, will you pursue an investigation into the Gongadze case and other opposition cases, as well as the case of the Mykola Melnychenko tapes?

    (VY) – Opening the Gongadze case is a question of honor for the government of Ukraine, for today, this remains a failed test of democracy by the administration. I am convinced that sooner or later the public will learn the truth about the death of Heorhiy, and that all of those who ordered and executed this crime will be punished. To open this case, Ukraine needs an honest court system and honest law enforcement institutions. My greatest assignment will be to organize these areas.

    Only after reorganizing our courts and power structures can we talk about independent investigations, among them being the "tape scandal" [Kuchmagate] and the disappearance of Heorhiy Gongadze. To do this should the current administration be preserved - is impossible.

    (WP) 4. What would you say to those Ukrainians around the world that want to take pride in Ukraine not only because it has achieved 13 years of independence, but also dream about Ukraine as "a place to live."

    (VY) – I would tell them that dreams do come true. Of course, this will require a great deal of work and concentrated effort by all those who yearn for our Motherland. We chose our path and will stay the course through the end.

    I am a believer. I believe in our nation. I know what needs to be done for Ukraine to flourish. I am sure that we will overcome all obstacles and will build a democratic, powerful and successful Ukraine.

    * * * * *



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