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News ID: 3307
Publish Date: 12:23 - 26 January 2014
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, facing massive anti-government protests in Kiev and regional capitals, has agreed to re-shuffle his government and amend controversial new anti-protest laws. The Voice of Russia talked to Fyodor Lukyanov Editor-in-Chief of the "Russia in Global Affairs" journal.
During the recent talks between Ukraine’s President Victor Yanukovoch and leaders of the Ukrainian opposition, the President suggested to one of these leaders, Arseny Yatsenyuk, to occupy the post of the Prime Minister. Do you think Mr. Yatsenyuk may accept this proposal – and if yes, may this help to stabilize the situation in Ukraine?

I think that for Mr. Yanukovich, this step was an attempt not only to calm down the situation, but also to sow discord within the ranks of the opposition. At present, at least three people in the Ukrainian opposition are pretending to be its leaders. The most popular of these three is probably Vitaly Klichko. However, Mr. Yanukovich offered the Prime Minister’s post to another opposition leader. This may lead to rivalry between Mr. Klichko and Mr. Yatsenyuk, and this rivalry, if it does take place, is likely to weaken the Ukrainian opposition. In fact, Arseny Yatsenyuk is now in a situation which he probably finds very complicated. If he accepts the President’s proposal to become Prime Minister, many of his former rivals will probably call him a traitor. If he does not accept the proposal, this, in fact, would be equal to an acknowledgement that he is starting an open fight against President Yanukovich, in which the both sides may resort to using force. In fact, neither of these tree persons who are pretending to be the opposition’s leaders has enough authority among the protesters in the streets to fully control their actions. If any of these three leaders agrees to a certain bargain with the government, the protesters in the streets will most likely totally turn away from him. On the other side, by offering the Prime Minister’s post to an opposition leader, President Yanukovich, in fact, is acknowledging that his position has weakened. And the fact that the President’s position has weakened so much that he has started to make concessions to the opposition may only inspire his opponents for more active struggle against him.

President Yanukovich has agreed to make some changes in the Ukrainian constitution. What will these changes be like? And do you think that Ukraine needs these changes at all?

As far as I understand, Mr. Yanukovich wants to bring Ukraine’s political system back to what it used to be before he became President. Before his presidency, Ukraine was a parliamentary republic. After his advent, the role of the President has strengthened and the parliament’s role has weakened. Now, it looks like Mr. Yanukovich is trying to be less autocratic and to again empower the parliament with broader authority. However, I am not sure that this is what Ukraine really needs now. Before Mr. Yanukovich’s presidency, the system of a parliamentary republic did work. At that time, it helped to defuse the situation, because it gave the opposition some opportunities to defend their interests by parliamentary means, not by street protests. Now, I believe, the situation has changed. In my opinion, at present, Ukraine rather needs a centralized authority. A multi-polar political structure would only make the situation more chaotic. And I don’t think that the policy of bargaining with the opposition would have been the right choice for the Ukrainian President at the moment. However, I am not sure that President Yanukovich is really intending to make these changes in the constitution. Probably, he is promising this just to gain some time. Well, let’s wait and see what happens next.

First Deputy Head of the Ukrainian President’s administration Andrey Portnov says that the government has agreed with the opposition that the latter will gradually lessen the number of protesters in the streets, and the government, in its turn, will decrease the number of the police cordons controlling the streets. Do you think this is possible?

This situation may show us whether these people who are pretending to be the leaders of the Ukrainian opposition can really control all these protesters in the streets. However, too many things are speaking of the fact that these street protesters are just ignoring these "leaders”.

Voice of Russia
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