Igor Lutsenko: "We've got two options: either grenades or elections, no other alternatives" 12/02/2015 04:23:13. Total views 1385. Views today — 0.

On August 31 the Verkhovna Rada voted in first reading for amendments to the Constitution in terms of decentralization and "special status" of Donbass. On the same day there was a bloody provocation near the Parliament, resulting in the deaths of three Ukrainian soldiers. After that there was a split within the coalition: Radical Party of Oleg Lyashko left the coalition and went into opposition. In general, three (out of five) coalition factions: Batkivshchyna, Samopomich and Radical Party were against the new Constitution. Pro-government factions (Petro Poroshenko Block and Narodnyi Front) had to get more votes with the help of Opposition Block and individual deputies.

At the same time, despite the apparent conflict within the coalition, it continues to exist, although many of its members do not hide the fact that this is only a formality.

On the background of inner political strife there has been a significant reduction in hostilities in the east of the country: for two weeks headquarters of ATO report that the Russian-terrorist troops almost perfectly keep to the ceasefire. Some attribute this to voting for amendments to the Constitution, saying Russia in this way indicates that "Ukraine is on the right path" (but "right" for Russia), some say that it could be "calm before the storm", and others say that Russia is simply tired of pouring money into Donbass, and thus wants to "pass" the region to Ukraine but by making it an agent of influence.

OstroV talked to the people's deputy from Batkivshchyna, a social activist Igor Lutsenko about amendments to the Constitution, the situation in the ATO area, the Minsk Agreements, and what is happening within the coalition".

- On Monday, August 31, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine voted for amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine in terms of decentralization. Batkivshchyna voted against, although the last time (it was “for” the administration to the Constitutional Court). What is the reason for such a decision and why did the party change its position?

- I abstained from taking to the Constitutional Court. In fact, if we had the Constitutional Court, I probably would have been "for", because it is basically a procedural matter and it would be interesting to hear their opinion on this matter. From the very beginning, our party did not accept that model of decentralization, which is actually the centralization of the power. We discussed that clearly at the expert meetings.

- On the eve of voting for amendments to the Constitution the position of Batkivshchyna was not clear and was kept in secret. How was the meeting of the faction in which the final decision was adopted?

- The meeting was very       consistently. Yulia (Tymoshenko Ostrov) came and asked, as it should be, what we thought about that. And we began to speak out clockwise. There was nobody "for", all offered either to "abstain" or vote "against". In the end, it was decided to vote "against".

- Why did you decide to vote against the amendments to the Constitution? What are the arguments for this?

- Firstly, it’s the so-called "special status", which nominally isn’t called like that, but, in fact, it is a special status. Sergey Vlasenko (PD from Batkivshchyna OstroV) explained what, in fact, the status means. This is a set of obligations and rights. Accordingly, if one people have one set of rights and obligations and the others have a different one, this is a Special status. Another status, unique status, no matter how you call it, the essence does not change.

Secondly, we voted against the prefects. I do not know any other country that has such an institution where general supervision is conducted in such a rigid form. We used to have the prosecutor's office in the Soviet Union, and now it is in Ukraine, the major function of which is general supervision, which means that in any case the prosecutor's office goes to the court. And now they want to make sure that the prefect may just stop (the powers of local councils OstroV) and then you have to go to prove your innocence. The presumption, that the prefect is right, is wrong, this is imbalance of the state.

A separate argument was the fact that the people who live in the areas adjacent to the occupied territories and the people who went away from occupied Donbass, they are also categorically against this so-called special status.

- Did you feel any pressure on voting for amendments to the Constitution?

- No. I was far away, it was difficult to press on me. I know that there was a meeting at the Presidential Administration of those who are against the Constitution. Someone was invited, someone was phoned. I do not know whether I was invited because I had the phone off then. Some people from us (Batkivshchyna – OstroV) were present, but it was not the pressure, it was an attempt to convince, a quite civilized one. But it is interesting that before voting for the Constitution (meaning before voting for taking the Constitution to the Constitutional Court -OstroV) there was pressure on faction fellows (people from embassies called, persuaded very strongly to vote), but this time there was no such rush from the embassies. Maybe they knew it would be exactly 226 votes, or urgency has disappeared, I do not know.

- Will Batkivshchynal vote for the Constitution in the form it is today in the second reading?

- It is logical that if we did not vote in the first reading, then we will not vote in the second.

- Was there a conflict in the coalition after your voting against the Constitution? Did you talk about this?

- But what conflict may be within the coalition? Firstly, we are not out of the coalition, which already shows that if there was a conflict, then it is solved, formally. Secondly, in fact, there is no coalition. It's my personal opinion. We, as a fraction, pretend that the coalition exists, but it does not. In serious matters we have the Opposition block + ruling party (Petro Poroshenko Block + Narodnyi Front). And it’s so for a long time. We don’t care of the coalition agreement any longer. What is a coalition? This is factions who signed up for the execution of the coalition agreement. Then we forgot about this agreement. Therefore, I believe that at the moment when we forgot about the coalition agreement, the coalition stopped existing.

- Should the coalition exist, in your opinion, at least formally?

- I do not see any point in it.

- If the coalition falls apart completely, will the President be able to announce early parliamentary elections...

- Yes, I am for early parliamentary and presidential elections. Thus, re-elections will cost us less than activity  of our present authorities and simple observing, for example, all those schemes in public enterprises, where people continue to steal following Yanukovych style ... We've got two options: either grenades or elections , - there is no third alternative.

- Let's talk about the Minsk Agreements. Do they work, in your opinion? What have they given us?

- It is clear that they don’t working. The course of events at the front does not depend on the signing of some agreements, it depends on how one or the other party uses military power. For example, the militants seized Debaltsevo not because there was Minsk, despite Minsk. Nevertheless, they seized Debaltsevo with huge losses and next times militants acted very carefully and, in fact, after that they could not do anything serious. We took from them such a fee of blood in Debaltsevo that next time they will have to think 25 times before they go further. And Minsk is generally not important here. Therefore, the situation at the front determines how many guns, trained soldiers, and drones we have got ... There will be as many shellfires as we were able to build a defense against attacks on the outskirts of Mariupol.

- Recently, your colleague in the coalition, Yuri Lutsenko said that the Minsk Agreements weren’t feasible for Russia and Ukraine knew about it. Do you agree? Why do we need them then?

- Let's be honest, nobody accomplishes the Minsk Agreements. If we consider specific points, such as a ceasefire, of course, from our side more goodwill in ceasefire is demonstrated than by separatists, because we have 0.1%  of fighting people from the Right Sector 0.1% and they’ve got 55% of fighting people from Right Sector, I mean the charged people who want to fight. The degree of control they have is different, that’s why they have to kill some of people and give the other part to SRFs (sabotage and reconnaissance forces, - OstroV) and so on. To control these people is for them a huge amount of political work. Yes, they can kill all of them, but it can cause confusion among voters of Donetsk. Accordingly, they will replace Purgin to Pushilin and so on. They need to work hard to cope with their Right Sector. And now they started to seal with it seriously.

- And why do we need Ukraine the Minsk Agreements?

- Oligarchs are interested in ending the war by any means to run their business. It doesn’t matter what is happening to the territory. Simple motivation, as we can see.

- Is there an alternative to the Minsk agreements, in your opinion?

There is always alternative. Firstly, we need a good line of defense with the appropriate equipment. Generally speaking, if there is a breakthrough, then we know how we will eliminate it, if there is shellfire, then we know how we prevent or how to respond (punish). It is a system that is an alternative to the paper agreements. We just have to say that we do not attack, but in the case of ceasefire violations, on the other hand, we will not be silent. Thus, we urge forward peace.

- Well, what should we do at the legislative level? Now there is a law on the peculiarities of the local government in some areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Do we need an alternative law?

- Peculiarities are needed, but they shouldn’t come from the government theory. If there is a fact of aggression and seizure, respectively, there should be a law stating some kinds of implications. For example, Mukachevo is captured; there should be some legal implications. We should not only look at the fact that there is eastern, Russian-speaking, Tatar, Ukrainian, it does not matter. The region is occupied or not. There should be some programme of de-occupation.

We must understand what we will after liberation of the areas, and it’s the most important thing. Now we just have to give them the status of the occupied territory.

- But there should be a plan of what to do after the liberation of the occupied territory. Is there?

- The main problem is that now I am not prepared pledge my word for the state, so that when it returns there, it will be able to cope with this region adequately. In the present circumstances there is another argument why we should not hurry liberate the area as we are not ready to do that. Population there is like zombies. But let's see how it all started. It started because we’ve got a bad government. Those people, like us, are not happy with the judges, the police and so on, but for some reason they connect that with Ukraine. We fought against all of that in the Maidan, and they just did not understand it. When I was kidnapped, taken to the forest and started to be beaten, I told them that I was against judges, cops and prosecutors, that I didn’t care of Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk. And I saw that they were thoughtful. One of them, when the others went away, even said that he understood me.

You need discuss the situation competently with them and explain everything. And I'm not sure if Yura Stets (the Minister of Information Policy of Ukraine - OstroV) cans explain it in this situation. So, you need to prepare for this, but I'm not sure if we can do it in the current regime. If we begin to sacrifice everything, and then return and screw up, we’ll lose again and all the sacrifices will be in vain. We should come there with a clear decision when our state is already fine. But it needs some time. I do not think there is a need to hold elections in the next few years. I do not think that this will be the best option with such a degree of zombified population. We need a very serious information work. The police must arrest all the criminals and only after that it is possible to hold elections. But certainly not now, as it is suggested. This will be clearly defined civil war. Then they will have legitimate representatives, and we will have to skirmish "legitimately" with them, because I cannot imagine how I can live with that Zakharchenko and so on. It turns out that if I skirmish with Zakharchenko, the whole world will say that we have a civil war.

Moreover, I have a feeling that we'll return Crimea faster than Donbass. Indeed, there are almost no people who can be relied on as executives in the occupied Donbass. Yes, there are sympathetic to us people, but they have already left the territories. In Crimea there is also Ukrainian and Tatar underground, and in Donbass it’s scorched land.

- And what kind of policy should we now hold in occupied Donbass?

- Unfortunately, we are building the border now. The fact that we are actually building the border means that we abandon any short-term (at least) claims for the territory. This is a mistake. Building a full, comfortable border is a mistake. There should be a clear system of protection against them, nothing more. Perhaps, with splashes of international humanitarian aid to the people who are suffering there. If now, we will continue to supply electricity, heat, money (in exchange for the coal), and so on, it will be just feudalism in the center of Europe, which still lives at our expense. It is not right. Or the logistics centers that have recently appeared at the checkpoints: you must take into account the peculiarities of the local population, it is not very mobile, thus, mainly businessmen will come. These logistics centers will not be a showcase of Ukraine. People who hate Ukraine will continue doing it.

Equipping the border in such a way means that we're going the wrong way. I support the idea to fight not by military means, but, above all, economic arguments. We supply a lot of electricity there and if theoretically we stop doing it, we can save a lot, and the money we save could be used to help those migrants.

- How do you feel about the idea of ​​the economic isolation of the occupied territory of Donbass?

- It already exists, but it is somehow partial. If we do have an economic blockade, it means that we must prepare for the abandonment of coal, and it had to be done in the spring when the season ended. A state program of the Donetsk coal abandonment should function. The world market, fortunately, makes it possible. And we are relying on Rinat Akhmetov that he can solve all the problems with his Vostok (Vostor brigade of DPR - Ed.).

And at the level of the food it is generally a Klondike for corruption among border guards and the National Guard. Ukrainian military engaged perform an unusual function, they catch smuggling. In peacetime they catch smugglers, such tasks are posed to them. This is a complete nonsense. It turns out that neither the Security Service nor the National Guard, nor the border guards or the Ministry of Inner Affairs can act. So, only soldiers have to search for smuggling and get trapped.

- Why do you think the issues of smuggling isn’t solved?

- You know, it was such a wonderful time when we developed the ability to influence authorities on some specific issues through public opinion. But now the authorities started to ignore us. You say that there is smuggling, but you can’t make authorities blush. Public opinion shouts, yells, but they realize that it doesn’t affect them, because in this area they hold a monopoly and they know that nobody can pick them off. Avakov and the President control their verticals and nobody can pick them off, you only need to raise the Maidan, and everybody understands that nobody will raise the Maidan.

- The military are also said to control smuggling...

- Of course. It all depends on the military unit. There are units that do it, but there are that don’t. The military are engaged in other, for example security functions. There are battalions that are created with a specific purpose, and very few people have heard about them, they go to the enterprises the owners of which have debts, and they sit there and "guard" them.

It should be understood that the system can be broken only with the principle based on "punishment of the perpetrators". Once it is clear that punishment will follow illegal actions, then the whole system stops working the way it used to. We do not have it now.

In any case, I believe that war is not dependent on the situation of smuggling. The war continues as long as there are people willing to shoot at the risk of being killed.

- How can you characterize the situation as a whole in the ATO area? Recently inactivity has been reported, militants almost perfectly adhere to the ceasefire. This is a good trend or isit the calm before the storm?

- The willingness of people to fight in Donbas is declining on both sides. These are parallel processes. There are areas, for example, near Donetsk, where there is a          hot-tempered war. But now I see that everything is going to decline. The willingness of people to fight, the desires of people to take risks and be killed gradually fade. When viewed on a quarterly basis we can now see "decline". In Luhansk, for example, it is clear that the people do not want to shoot just because they fully understand that there will be a respond.

- Do you associate this inactivity in the ATO area with voting for the Constitution? Maybe thus, Russia wants to show that, by adopting these changes to the Basic Law, Ukraine will get peace?

- We must understand that this is an argument of terrorists. In this case Poroshenko comes down on the side of the terrorists. They say that either we change the Constitution or they will kill us all, but this is purely a terrorist approach. And we need to ignore this argument not to be killed. There should be only one strategy towards terrorists: if you try to kill us, we will kill you too. And so we see that the Constitution is more beneficial for Russia than shooting us. Let's finally do things that are less beneficial for Russia and are more favorable to us. In this case armed confrontation is better than this constitution, because the new constitution could lead us to the armed confrontation, and many other horrible aftermaths. Therefore, it is another reason to vote against the amendments to the Constitution. This is purely a terrorist operation to change our Constitution. We should ignore it. We must fight against the terrorists.

- Should we negotiate with the militants in Donbass, in your opinion? It is necessary to conduct a dialogue with them?

- Negotiations are constantly conducted. Even at the battalion level. Those who face each other, they know each other. Negotiations are a multi-storey process. At the highest level, we do not, thank God, negotiate, as far as I know, we do not legally recognize the other side. It makes no sense to conduct negotiations with them, because they are the puppets of Russia. I would negotiate with those who are on the other side about certain things: the exchange of prisoners, and so on. But to negotiate, for example, about the Constitution, also with puppets is a double mistake. Our main mistake is that we connected the Constitution with the cessation of hostilities, we shouldn’t have done that.

- Recently one of the leaders of  "DPR" Denis Pushilin said that if the munition of caliber up to 100 mm was assigned from the contact line, it is, in fact, would mean the end of the war. What should we think of such a claim? Are we moving towards the end of the war?

- It sounds as it sounds, they have achieved their goal. Now it is the minimum program for them, which, as they believe, they have reached (meaning voting for amendments to the Constitution - Ostrov).

Interviewed by Vladislav Bulatchik, OstroV