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The President of the Freedom House David Kramer: The time has come for Yanukovych to make the right conclusion and resign

Today the president of the Freedom House David Kramer is a member of the informal «situational group» engaged into preparation of proposals to the American government on how to react to the current events in Ukraine. Kramer is a former Assistant of Secretary of State on Human Rights to Condoleezza Rice. He also worked at the Department of the European and Eurasian Affairs at the American State of Global Affairs. As a member of the team of Bush-young he has more radical views than the current administration. However, the proposals he makes eventually find their implementation in the actions of the current American government. Kramer was the first who called upon sanctions implementation already on December 3 of the last year, and in a month and a half, the government of the USA announced about first restrictions for the Ukrainian officials. Besides, the institute chaired by Kramer prepares yearly reports on freedom in the world that the US authorities use in their public argumentation of their policy on “problematic” countries. In his interview to “Ukrainska Pravda” David Kramer makes his forecasts on next steps of the American government regarding Yanukovych and gives his advices on whom Washington has to focus its pressure on as soon as possible.

– Mr. Kramer, how does Washingon perceive the President Yanukovych these days?

– Yanukovych is perceived very badly, due to what is happening here. He looked badly when he decided to stop in integration with the EU, he looked badly when used force first on November 30, and then on December 9. He looked badly during all the latest months.

Now he starts looking as a leader, who will make anything to stay in power. Use of force against protestors is unacceptable. However, when we tell in the West that something is unacceptable we need not to accept it but to do something about it.

I think Yanukovych has lost trust of the West, and he missed any chance to sign the agreement with the EU. Now the question is whether Yanukovych is ready for engagement into the dialogue with aim to resolve peacefully the conflict or we must apply pressure on people around him with aim to try to dismiss him from power.

Dismiss peacefully, without riot. I am inclined to think that negotiations will not work however much I would like that. I think too much blood was shed, too much violence was used. Therefore, the question is if this is the time to put pressure on his entourage.

–          Not on him personally?

–          On him as well. I would start from people around him, very close to him, his relatives. Then only amplify pressure.

–          Did he achieve the point of no return?

–          I think yes.

–          What does it mean?

–          In 2010 Yanukovych legitimately won the elections that most of the supervisors including me considered as democratic. I was there during both election rounds. Nevertheless, win of the legitimate elections does not mean to be legitimate until the end of life! I would say, today Yanukovych’s behavior made him lose this legitimacy.

Just from the beginning of the events in Ukraine my institute was in favor of Yanukovych’s resignation and early presidential elections rather than his overthrow and removal from power either by protestors or military or anyone else.

The time has come for him to make the right solutions: acknowledge that he ruined his own legitimacy and now it is time to resign. It is he, who created this reality, no one else.

The West should apply pressure on him and on people around him so that he and his entourage understand that violation of human rights, use of force against protestors have consequences. If we do not make this, the situation will only worsen.

–          What is waiting for him?

–          I still think the best option for him is to resign with the ability to run for the next term at new elections if he would like so. Let voters make decision if they want him to be the President again. However, we cannot pretend nothing happened. This cannot wait until the next March, the next presidential elections.

–          Should the opposition give him any guarantees?

–          This is possibly would be unpopular idea among supporters of the opposition, if it would do so. Still, I would be inclined to say it (opposition) has to give them (guarantees).

–          Which guarantees?

–          For example, that before the new presidential elections there will be no investigations of Yanukovych’s activities, and that independent investigators have to ascertain if there any causes for such investigations. The crucial issue today is to stop use of violence. If we achieve this, he must have such guarantees if he agrees to resign.

–          The Party of Regions responds to all claims of the Western leaders that in Europe and America police would act the same way in case of similar unrests.

–          It is impossible to compare democracy in the United States and Ukraine. Our democracy was built for a long time, we have independent courts, we have separation of power, checks and balances system, we have strong civil society, strong media. Ukraine have some of that.

I think civil society impressively manifested itself for the last couple of years. Journalists as you and others also acted impressively despite presence of real threats. However, the Verkhovna Rada is not independent, the government uses judicial system. Until there is no separation of power in Ukraine, the courts are not independent, our countries cannot be compared.

–          Ukrainian authorities also say there is the same legislation in America as the Party of Regions adopted. For instance, criminal responsibility for slander.

–          Slander is not a criminal offence in our country. This is a civic cause resolved in a court, and the one may be sentenced with a compensation. Second, adoption of the laws of January 16 was made in an absolutely undemocratic way, not transparently, with one voting. They did it stupidly indeed.

Why Yanukovych took this action? I think they wanted to use this law to start attacking the protestors. Even though it would be much better to leave them alone. Since demonstrations lose their momentum if they face no natural counteractions. However, this legislation added fuel to the fire.

Of course, the protestors should not use force but they also have to defend when bombarded. We should not compare violation used by small minority of the protestors with the level of violation from the side of authorities who bear much more responsibility.

–          What will be the next step of the USA regarding Ukraine?

–          The USA announces the first round of visa sanctions, we do not know against whom exactly. Even the number of people in this list was not disclosed. I hope, the USA will announce one more round of visa sanctions, but what is more important – freeing assets, imposing financial sanctions. I know some steps in this direction have been made, this has been worked on. I hope they will be announced soon, although it should have been already done. I have been worked in the government for eight years and know these things take more time than some people would like.

–          In times of your work in the government of Bush-young was there any experience of imposing sunctions?

Yes, concerning Belarus. Ukraine is not Belarus, but unfortunately becomes closer and closer to it. Yanukovych behaves more and more like Lukashenko. Lukashenko, if you remember, was imposed by sanctions not only from the side of the USA but also from the European Union.

–          How do you launch this sanction policy?

–          Ideally, the USA and the EU work together. America should take the leading role, because the EU consists of 28 governments. It is difficult to find agreement in this collective union, while the USA has only one government and it is much easier to find accord. After the USA does this, it is much easier for the EU to follow.

–          How much time does it take to impose sanctions?

–          In Belarus it started after presidential; elections in March 2006, financial and visa sanction came into force in June. Therefore, it takes a couple of months. However, it should not take as much time in case of Ukraine, at least I hope so.

–          How do you think, Yanukovych is afraid of sanctions?

–          I do not know if Yanukovych is afraid of sanctions. Nevertheless, I think people around Yanukovych are afraid of sanctions.

–          Whom do you mean?

–          I mean some of oligarchs. Such as Akhmetov, Firtash, Kolomoisky, Yanukovych’s sons, and this list may be continued up to Yanukovych himself. Therefore, we should amplify the pressure by influencing thoughts of these people.

–           The aim has to be uprising of oligarchs against the President?

–          I think we should try to expel people from Yanukovych’s circle, force them to understand that the time has come to make the most important decision in their lives: at whose side they want to be? We can help them to take such decision by making them understand that consequences for the events, which are happening now in Ukraine are inevitable.

–          How do you assess the work of opposition these days?

–          They are in a difficult situation. The question of how strongly do they control the protestors is still open. I think some of them behaved bravely – remember Klytschko stayng between protestors and police. The key for the opposition is consolidation – they have to show they are an alternative to Yanukovych, who proved to be full of decisiveness to stay in power by any cost. I hope, he understands he is staying on a wrong way.

Source: Ukrainska Pravda

Interview By Serhiy Leschenko

Translated by Tatyana Polyvana

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