Tomorrow is a new day?
Kiev has a wonderful aura. There is a smell of coffee in the outdoor air. It would be great to take a walk, but the evening on the 14th was a working one. Having been accommodated at the hotel "Rusi", which is not far from Kreshchatik, we have had a thorough discussion with experts in different areas: Andrey Didenko, Jaroslav Dovgopol and Natalia Belitser. We and they are interested in what are the relations between Chisinau and Tiraspol, where the media feel freer, how the economy works. We particularly wanted to find out how is the Moldovan-Transnistrian problem perceived in Kiev. The conversation was lively, sometimes - polemical.
In the morning on the 15th of October we went to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, where an old acquaintance was already expecting us - a former employee of the Embassy of Ukraine in the Republic of Moldova, Marco Shevchenko. Now, his place of work is the Political and Security Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
And here the conversation was not very formal either. Yes, everybody agreed that official political dialogue is not going well, but the work of expert groups is developing rapidly. And this is natural, since in times when the settlement of the main issues is stalling, the tactics of small steps is most effective. For example, an indicator of a pragmatic approach to problems by Chisinau and Tiraspol is the re-launch of Chisinau-Odessa train. It will be nice if we can reach agreement in the field of telephone communication.
M. Shevchenko reminded that the Special Representative of Ukraine on the Transnistrian settlement, Ihor Kharchenko, has started his work. Soon, according to the plan, he will visit Chisinau and Tiraspol. At the same time, the diplomat expressed his confidence in the positive solution of the Palanca issue, causing recent disputes between Ukraine and Moldova.
Most importantly, said M. Shevchenko, is that all the agreements reached earlier should be implemented.
With regard to Ukrainian proposals put forward earlier, some of them have already been implemented. For example, the 2005 proposals did not address the specific model of settlement between the parties to the conflict, because adding meaningful content should be precisely a matter of the parties. But instead a mechanism to achieve mutually acceptable solutions was proposed. This fits into the main goal of Ukraine - the settlement of the conflict on the river Nistru, said M. Shevchenko.
Former minister’s position
Former Foreign Minister of Ukraine Borys Tarasyuk today presides over a parliamentary committee. Having introduced his colleagues to us, including Gennady Druzenko, Tarasyuk mentioned that the committee monitors legislation in the Verkhovna Rada. He recalled that, while still a deputy minister in March 1992, he went to the field of conflict between Moldova and Transnistria. Mr. Tarasyuk was one of those who worked on the plan put forward by President Viktor Yushchenko in 2005, as well as one of the initiators of EUBAM at the border. Today he heads an opposition political party - the People's Rukh of Ukraine. On a voluntary basis, that is to say, without a salary, he is the director of the Institute of Euro-Atlantic cooperation.
According to the diplomat, having the rank of ambassador, the current Kyiv authorities often try to present the achievements of the previous five years as their own. Meanwhile, in particular, previous developments make it possible to continue the work towards visa-free regime between Ukraine and EU countries. The presentation of an action plan on the issue is expected by November 22nd.
Speaking of the situation on the Nistru, Tarasyuk expressed the opinion that it can not prevent Ukraine's European integration aspirations. But the fact is that Ukraine has a responsible role of mediator and guarantor in the Transnistrian settlement. And its actions in this regard received no criticism from the European Union.
At the same time, he noted that Kiev does not recognize the independence of the TMR, but respects the sovereignty of Moldova “over its entire territory”. Viktor Yushchenko’s Plan “for a settlement through democracy” – “this is my vision as well”, the ex-minister stressed once again. At the same time, he reminded that the first President of Ukraine Leonid Kravchuk proposed to make use of the Crimean experience for the settlement of the conflict on the Nistru; in our case it comes down to the synthesis of an autonomy for Transnistria and the right to secession in case of Republic of Moldova’s unification with Romania.
Tarasyuk believes that Ukraine should firmly defend its national interests. Thus, the EU wants to get access to the large Ukrainian market, but at the same time it tries to establish ridiculous quotas for his country. Concurrently, he is critical of the idea of Ukraine's accession to the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, as these states are not members of the World Trade Organization. President Viktor Yanukovych, according to the ex-minister’s opinion, made unjustified concessions to the Russian part of the issue of Black Sea Fleet. However, stationing of Russian Black Sea Fleet has no immediate impact on Ukraine's relations with NATO and the EU.
Speaking about the delicate issue of opening Ukrainian Consulate (or consulates) in Transnistrian cities, Tarasyuk reminded that in accordance with international law, there needs to be the consent of Moldova. However, consular visiting mission is still running on a-hoc basis.
He regretted that Moldova does not fulfill its obligations under the Palanca and Novo-Dniestrovk issues. Until that fulfillment becomes a fact, bilateral Moldovan-Ukrainian relations will be overshadowed. After Moldova fulfills its obligations it will be possible to talk about a strategic partnership between the two countries.
In conclusion, Tarasyuk described as "strange" the bilateral Russian-German consultations on the Transnistrian settlement. They erode the “5+2” format, said the diplomat and politician.
On solidarity and not only
From the Ukrainian media, TV “Channel 5” was memorable. The guys working there are young, creative, and cheerful. From talking with them, we heard that journalistic solidarity in Ukraine in not an empty phrase. When one of the deputies of the Verkhovna Rada “hit” on “Channel 5”, fellow colleagues were supported by “Inter” despite the fact that it was standing on a different position.
But there is also, alas, pressure on the media. Journalists oppose this with a “Stop Censorship!” campaign. How do they put pressure on the media? They mainly do it by the means of the owner. Method tested.
The Channel itself is subsidized, and at the same time is the most quoted. It gives news and analytics; its format does not imply an abundance of advertising and entertainment. Those who watched it in the “Sheriff” package, they knows: news – at every hour. Journalists do not judge events or people in the news. Basically, there are 50 journalists and 25 editors employed.
Accreditation of journalists within power institutions is quite free in Ukraine: usually accreditation does not take more than two days.
Non-Governmental Organization UNITER-PACT, where we arrived in the evening on the 15th, declares its goal the support for the NGO sector. “Union for reforms” - is its motto. Assistance to NGOs comes in the form of grants, equipment, recommendations.
But both here and in other places we had to hear that the former MSSR – objectively is not a priority for the Ukrainian foreign policy, and society in the country. Today Ukraine has a lot of its own concerns, and the country is trying to cope with them. At the same time, as we could understand, our matters are of interest to such Ukrainian structures as the Pylyp Orlyk Institute, Institute of Political Studies and the Institute of Europe. And yet, our problems should be solved first of all by ourselves.
While Ukraine is concentrated, as it sounds, primarily on three “pillars”: the economy, democracy and local governance. Although, as far as democracy is concerned, different socio-political forces assess the current stage of the country’s development in different ways. Supporters of the current government talk of undoubted successes, but their critics say that there is a rollback to the authoritarian model of governance. Ukrainians themselves should sort out who is right.
On the way home
Kiev-Odessa highway is good – you do not drive you fly! But how can you fly on an empty stomach? Our minibus ingested gasoline at the pump, whereas we were eager for something “tasty”. If you, our enlightened reader, happen to repeat our way, you will surely pay attention to the network of roadside restaurants owned by the famous Ukrainian singer Mihail Poplavsky. They are comfortable, with a national flavor - like “Carp’s Hata”. Or with some gags - such as the “Cultural oligarch”. We stopped by the latter one. In the hall - clumsy paintings, old radio, on the wall - a violin and a saxophone (as the joke goes, it was only “the drum of Stradivari” that was missing). In general it was kitsch. Its visitors like it. Food was plentiful and tasty. And the drinks were the favorite of M. Paplauski - mead and horseradish tasting vodka (hrenovuha).
We are sinners, we fell into temptation. And here the master himself came in. Almost everybody recognized him thanks to the "Fist Channel” National TV of Ukraine, where the artist is often present, many of us watch it. In a black suit, white shirt and black dotted tie, the owner of the establishment passed by all the tables and talked with visitors. The conversation was not formal. Where he felt interest (our table showed full interest), Mihailo Mihailovich told in detail about cooking recipes, that he does not consume alcohol, but 100 grams of good vodka “to disinfect the body” is a sacred thing. For each person, he found some separate detail in the conversation. We have taken away in our hearts good feelings for him and good spirits, and in our hands - a bottle of nice, as it turned out, vodka with a portrait of the singer and his mother.
The trip was a success. Even if you, dear readers, do not have any business in Kiev, you should still go to the Ukrainian capital just to breathe the Kreshchatik air and walk under the autumn Kyiv chestnuts. And also visit the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra. We assure you – it is worth it!