Vitaly Portnikov: “Russia is not interested in Eastern Ukraine and the destabilization of Kiev”

Journalist and politician Vitaly Portnikov last week came in Portugal, to deliver a lecture “Ukraine and the new world order”. DN talked with him about the situation in the country: from economic and political problems, and ending with national security issues.

Diário de Notícias: are the terms of the agreements, which in 2014 in Minsk was signed by Ukraine, Russia and Pro-Russian separatists to end the conflict in the East of the country?

Vitaly Plotnikov: I never believed that these arrangements will work. In one of the paragraphs talked about the ceasefire, but it is not in the interests of Russia, since Ukraine provides the possibility of stabilization. Moscow does not need it. Under the control of the separatists is an important part of the East of the country is a serious problem, undermines the Ukraine. The continuing conflict, human losses, insecurity — all of this undermines the activities of the government, and the support. Russia would never accept the contract. The only effective measure — the introduction of sanctions against Moscow.

— What about the control of Eastern Ukraine?

— Russia is not interested in Eastern Ukraine, but destabilizing the government in Kiev.

— Rapprochement with NATO and enhanced cooperation with the EU can somehow affect the development of the conflict?

— I have always called for NATO membership, since 1991. This did not happen, and we were under attack. Only then people realized what was at stake, recognized the reality of the situation. But it was too late. We want to cooperate with NATO and to defend their sovereignty. We want to maintain good relations with Russia, but to establish good relations with Ukraine is not in Russia’s interests.

— What cooperation with NATO, You mean?

— Let me tell you a story: in 2014, close to the Kremlin, people told me that the real war will begin that day, when the Ukrainian territory set foot on the first NATO military. So I understand the limitations of NATO’s and our own. However, some form of partnership is still possible. We need to modernize our armed forces, and we’re going to do it. To make our enemies understand that we don’t want war with them, but prepared to defend itself. We can’t afford to have stolen territory.

— What Ukraine can expect from the presidency of Donald trump?

Personally, I wish they adequately respond to the challenges and had a real idea about Russia’s influence on current international crises. And speech here goes not about the history of Ukraine, but about the history of Europe. If trump appropriately responded to these challenges and I believe that it is in his power — Ukraine and would not need verbal expression of interest from the United States.

— Ukraine is still much to be done in the field of reforms and fighting, for example, with the corruption and inefficiency of the economy?

Yes. We must remember that embarked on serious reforms just three years ago, leaving behind the post-Soviet economy, and our economic structure poses challenges different from those facing other countries in Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic States. Our heavy chemical industry is in need of deep transformation, we need to modernize agriculture, moreover, unlike other countries in the period of socialism we did not have any varieties of private ownership of land or running a small business. In addition, it is important to change people’s worldview. And there’s another serious problem: a large part of our economy controlled by a limited number of large companies.

— By Your words, you need to change the Outlook and legislation. Which sectors should be given preference?

— Survival of only the economy that provides profit and is not dependent on energy. I don’t think that traditional industries, such as metallurgy and coal industry has a great future, but believe that we can modernize agriculture and to increase exports in this area. Of course, you need to rely on new technologies including in the field of information. Ukraine already operates a number of European companies in these sectors. On the other hand, it is impossible not to recognize our difficulties with investments, which are due to three issues: the existence of monopolies, corruption and war. But we should not forget that we managed to preserve our democracy, we have not become, for example, in a new Kazakhstan.

— This type of problem cannot be solved in a short time.

— It’s true. People understand it. Here we must mention another feature: many people we treat Ukraine as if it was not their country as if they lived in a foreign country. Fortunately, this attitude is changing now: many have come to realize how important it is to participate in social life, to have a proactive stance and make public cases of corruption or improper functioning of justice.