Leonid Kuchma: “I’m Still With You, Ukraine”

KIEV, Ukraine -- After the election campaign of 2004/2005 the second president of Ukraine rarely gives interviews. He made an exception to Komsomolskaya Pravda journalists whom he met in the office of fund Ukraine, chaired by him.

Leonid Kuchma on the cover of his book - "Ukraine is not Russia"

Leonid Kuchma came to meet them in a light striped shirt, without tie. He gave a sincere smile, shook hands. Having noticed the camera, he put on a jacket and offered them to sit down on a couch: “Well, shall we start?”.

Ukrainians didn’t become richer after my retiring

During the second stage of presidential elections of 2004 you told you wanted to “look at Ukraine without Kuchma”. So, do you like it, Ukraine without Kuchma? What are the chances, in your opinion, of the current administration?

First of all, Ukraine hasn’t lost Kuchma. It had, has and will have me at its service. I live and work in my country and won’t go anywhere. If to talk about Ukraine without president Kuchma, I think I shouldn’t make any comments concerning the current administration.

After 10 years in power I can see the processes deeply, i.e. I see the root of the matter. People might find my comments too pessimistic.

I don’t want to be blamed for malignity and gloating over new authorities. Besides, too little time has passed to make any comments.

Are you trying to duck out?

Nothing of the kind! If you insist I’ll answer as an ordinary Ukrainian citizen, not like an ex-president. An ordinary citizen doesn’t make complicated analysis, he just assesses obvious and evident things.

Recently one of informational channels has informed that China decided to slowly revalue its currency – yuan. Absolutely correct decision. What’s more important is that’s done slowly.

You shouldn’t be too rough and destroy everything. Both the people and the country suffered from the USD rate drop. The main reserves of the National Bank of Ukraine are in USD. 60% of the national produce is export…

Export-oriented economics might be seriously damaged and its recovery will take a long time. So, the decision to revalue the UAH was premature.

By the way, I seriously doubt that such an experienced specialist as Stelmakh (NBU head) suddenly took up the decision at night and stated his position in the morning. I’m glad Yushchenko gave the right evaluation of this decision.

Finding enemies is another matter. Like they needed a scapegoat during the gasoline crisis. The price of gasoline in Russia is the same. Before prices increased, gasolien was more expensive in Russia and Belarus. Russian doesn’t enhance the price but excludes profits from petroleum refining companies: the prices abroad are increasing, so why should the country suffer? Such a decision would be taken up by every country.

So, you don’t have to look for enemies both abroad and in the country, just look around. The pipe line Odessa-Brody keeps counter functioning; there’s no Caspian oil. The United Economic Space doesn’t contradict national interests any more. Believe me, I can keep talking further and further.

It’s not reproach but rather food for thought: maybe president Kuchma wasn’t always wrong? As to the prospects, we’ll see. If the new authority doesn’t ruin everything done by the predecessor I think both the country and the authority itself will profit from that.

Is the country changing?

It’s difficult to give a definite answer since little time has passed. I think there are no fundamental changes.

Dnepropetrovsk clan is a myth

According to Dnepropetrovsk natives who aren’t presently in power, they can’t forgive you and Valeriy Pustovoitenko for demolishing the “Dnepropetrovsk team”.

President Victor Yushchenko said he wouldn’t let the Dnepropetrovsk clan reign Ukraine. Did it ever exist? I’ve got an impression that when somebody has nothing to talk about he talks about the Dnepropetrovsk clan. It’s a fact of common knowledge that the conscious mind of soviet and post-soviet people is pretty much influenced by myths and tales.

Dnepropetrovsk clan seems to be one of these myths. Although, myths never appear without certain reasons for that.

Maybe we should talk not about clan but about Dnepropetrovsk personnel phenomenon which can be scientifically accounted for. The thing is that the Dnepropetrovsk region was a specific territorial unit both in the former USSR and in the independent Ukraine.

The enormous industrial, scientific and educational potential is concentrated here, as well as qualified personnel, technical and financial resources. The city has strategically importance. All of these factors make Dnepropetrovsk the leading city.

No wonder that back in soviet times Dnepropetrovsk became the main center supplying personnel, since the city represented a country in miniature. So, experience in this town was really appreciated.

That’s why Dnipropetrovsk inhabitants (but mostly those who worked or studied there) were always larger in number in government, as compared with representatives of the other regions; percentage wise.

The fact that these people, as a rule, knew each other and soon found a common language doesn’t mean that we’re talking of a team here, not to mention the word “clan”.

By the way, when I picked up personnel, I tried not to hire compatriots. I was afraid people would say: “Look, another one from Dnepropetrovsk”. Obviously we might talk about the Dnepropetrovsk school of personnel. For example, the construction department “Yuzhnoye” and “Yuzhmash” always had natural selection at their service.

Lots of specialists came from all over USSR, and everyone had the chance to move up. The best got to the top. The Dnepropetrovsk region gave the country brilliant managers of the highest rank. You should respect that.

Now let’s talk about status of this region. Well, we helped a couple of times, that’s true. For example Leonid Brezhnev sponsored the construction of a highway to the regional center. The city possessing one of the largest metallurgical plants in Ukraine didn’t have a decent road…

Concerning the demolishing of this “team”…I won’t speak for Valeriy Pustovoitenko, I think he can give a decent answer to the “clan” himself. As for me, I think you can’t destroy anything non-existent.

But Dnepropetrovsk still remains a “personnel center”?

Now Verkhovna Rada is the “personnel center” . The Soviet system of training personnel, which wasn’t that bad, declined. Under that system a cook never ruled the country. The new system hasn’t been established.

What we do have ia a Verkhovna Rada consisting of regional representatives. It became the school of personnel. Economics, brilliant specialists and creative processes are born in the provinces.

Talented people do not necessarily come from capital. It’s a fact. No one thought about that before. But the personnel problem still exists. And it badly needs to be solved.

”Yuzhmash” is different and I’ve have changed

Do you have more free time now?

Plenty. To be quite serious, there is always enough work to be done.

Have you ever though of running “Uzhmash”?

You know, ancient people said: “You can’t enter the same river twice. It’s not about my desire or reluctance. It’s about new realities which appeared in course of time.

I understand them well enough not to have any illusions. The plant is different now, and I’ve changed. Although, sometimes I think that period of life was the the happiest in my life. Presently, I’m worried about the rocket and space branch in Ukraine.

What does you fund Ukraine deal with?

Mostly with charity, cultural and educational projects. It’s everything declared a strategic task for the country but never given proper financing. We get a lot of letters with requests.

We do everything possible to help people. Now we are dealing with village libraries…


Leonid Kuchma:”We’ve got a purely Soviet attitude to our history: “Everything done before is wrong. We’re good guys and we’ll rebuild everything”. The new General Secretaries came and defamed their predecessors. I think it is an utter fallacy.

We need qualitative analysis to take everything positive and to eradicate negative. But we’ve got Soviet symptoms instead. It doesn’t promote a normal psychological climate in the country. When people are in high spirits their attitude towards the job is different. They do their job without thinking who might blame them and who they might be labeled.

Parting with Leonid Kuchma we presented him our trade-mark T-Shirt. Having seen its color (it was orange) he wasn’t embarrassed. We’ve got this color before Yushchenko’s staff got it…- we started to explain.

Nice color, - Kuchma smiled. – I’ll give you the book.

He took a heavy volume from the bookcase, sat at the table, and signed it. The book was “Ukraine is not Russia”. – Read it!

Source: Ukrayinska Pravda


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