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Ex-President of Ukraine castigates Kiev for abandoning cordial ties with Russia

Viktor Yanukovich stated that abandoning good-neighborly relations with Russia was the biggest mistake in the country's 30-year-long history of independence
Viktor Yanukovich Valery Sharifulin/TASS
Viktor Yanukovich
© Valery Sharifulin/TASS

MOSCOW, August 17. /TASS/. Abandoning good-neighborly relations with Russia was the biggest mistake that Ukraine has made in the past 30 years, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich said in an address to his fellow citizens dedicated to the 30th anniversary of Ukrainian independence, which is available to TASS.

"Ukraine’s first President Leonid Kravchuk stated not so long ago that he thought his biggest mistake was that he had put his trust in Russia. I’m surprised to hear something like this from one of the forefathers of Ukraine’s independence," Yanukovich said. "I am deeply convinced that the biggest mistake in our 30-year-long history of independence was not that Russia betrayed our trust, but that we abandoned good-neighborly relations with Russia," the former Ukrainian president stressed.

Viktor Yanukovich also said that he believes that the policy he was conducting in the capacity of the head of state was neither erroneous nor too soft and the political crisis and the government coup of 2014 that followed were results of the Ukraine as Anti-Russia project.

"We knew about this threat and were doing out utmost to prevent a catastrophe. We ensured freedom of speech even when this "freedom" encroached on the foundations of statehood. We did not interfere with the right of people in the western regions to erect monuments to those whom they considered their national heroes, even at the cost of insulting the historical memory of their fellow citizens in the southeast. We did not persecute the members of nationalist organizations, hoping that they would appreciate the tolerance of the state. We turned a blind eye on many things. I don’t think it was a wrong policy. The coup that took place in 2014 was not a result of our "softness." It was predetermined by the implementation of the project Ukraine as Anti-Russia. If we agree that this postulate is a reality, then everything will fall into place." 

He added that, as the head of state, he could not avoid some mistakes either, but during his presidency the Ukrainians’ standard of living was much higher. "True, under our government mistakes were made, sometimes quite serious ones. But at the same time, Ukraine lived peacefully. It was a country with the largest territory in Europe. Its citizens did not go abroad en masse in search of a better life and its population was not declining at a catastrophic pace. Ukrainians were free to use their native languages without the fear of being accused of violating the legislation limiting their constitutional rights. They did not lead a squalid life because of the exorbitant utility bills. That the people lived better under our government is a hard fact. And this fact will look even more eloquent, if we take into account the current impoverishment of Ukrainians," Yanukovich said.

He sees one of the reasons for the weakening of economic ties between Ukraine and Russia in the "Westernization of Kiev's foreign policy," which happened under pressure from part of Ukrainian society. The multi-vector foreign policy was a compromise between this tendency and the desire to maintain full-fledged cooperation with the Russian Federation. <...> There was simply no other way of ensuring the national security of our country at that time, and, as the subsequent years showed, it was the multi-vector approach that maintained internal stability. This situation lasted until 2014," he said.

Yanukovich led Ukraine from 2010 to 2014, when he was ousted in a coup d'etat. On November 21, 2013, the Ukrainian government paused the process of signing of an agreement with the European Union. In response, the opposition in the Verkhovna Rada blocked the work of parliament, and a prolonged rally began in Independence Square. During the three-month confrontation, dubbed "Euromaidan", aggressive nationalists seized a number of administrative buildings in the center of Kiev, set up a tent camp and created armed "self-defense units," which openly clashed with the forces of law and order. Later, Yanukovich and almost all members of the Nikolai Azarov Cabinet of Ministers left Ukraine. After the change of power, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office opened a criminal case against Yanukovych on charges of mass killing of civilians. The former president says it is political persecution.