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Former Soviet Dissident Shares Views on War in Ukraine


John Burger - published on 11/19/14 - updated on 06/07/17

—immediate reforms. 

Then, the country is almost ruined because Yanukovych has stolen our treasure. The army was dismantled. SBUthe security servicewas in the hands of the Russians. So we had to restore all these state functions. This was the biggest necessity, not reforms.

Of course, we all understood that it couldn’t mean that we put reforms ad calendas graecas… No, we need them, even during the war. But the problem was there were limited human resources at that time. The acting president at that time and head of the government had to deal with all these urgent needs. It’s not that they didn’t have time to think about reforms. Now the situation is different. At least I know that many reforms are planned to be adopted by the new parliament.

I don’t speak here about the quality of reforms. I have some concern here because the old elite would love to name some moment as reforms but change only something without changing the core of our problems. So we will see.

But at the same time, all our politicians understand that pressure from the nation would be very strong. Many people are nervous. “We want to see reforms, otherwise we will die. We want to see change.” I’ll guess that part of the population will be unhappy with the reforms. As always. At least at some period of time reforms will worsen our economic stage and so on. This is preparation for future development.

But still, I’m not 100% optimistic but at least I have some hope for positive development.

For me, it’s not clear what will be the behavior of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. For him, the improvement of the situation in Ukraine and positive reforms, its success, is like a death for his government. He’ll do everything possible to make reforms worse. Every day, there are some provocations, some small attempts to… for example, yesterday, I was in Kiev and the whole railway station was evacuated after a phoned-in bomb threat. So the police cleared the space. This is irratational, it creates a sense that there is no order, there is something dangerous. But there’s a purpose. In many citiesKharkiv, Kiev, Lvivthere  are small provocations that destroy the atmosphere of positive development.

You know it’s coming from Putin?

I’m absolutely sure. I know the logic of this office. I have a long experience of this.

So, a year after the beginning of the Euromaidan, which became a call for a greater life of dignity, have things gotten better?

So far we’ve had only two attempts to make reforms, in education and in lustration. In education, we are very happy with that. It gives much more space for positive development. Of course, every reform is costly, and this education reform is costly as well. So there will be the next problem: will this reform be implemented as soon as possible? At least we have legal space for these reforms now granted, and we will work for further reforms for universities. 

I’m not so sure about lustration. It seems to me that it is partial or maybe it would be wrongly implemented. We will see.

What we need is decentralization of our systems, management of the country. We need tax reform to make our small and medium-sized business more successful. There’s a big list of what we have to do almost immediately.

How are the relationships among the Churches in the wake of Euromaida?

We have very good experience of the Maidan. There was a brotherhood, especially among people on the Maidan. We had common prayersChristian, Jewish rabbis, Muslim mullahs. There was a feeling of unity of the country because the human dignity is a core concept in every religion. It was very helpful to unite people around that. There is also an optimistic vision of the future in different segments. For example, I gave some lectures at two big fora, for the Jewish community of all Ukraine, held in Lviv, and the Protestant forum I just came from in Kiev. Three times I had the floor. Both meetings were just excellent, with many energetic, bright people, with an optimistic vision, because everybody is concerned about Russia, and our future development. No one can deny the danger of the invasion, but people are not just sitting and just waiting and crying. They are very energetic. I was very amazed when I spoke to people of different Protestant churches. They knew that I am Greek Catholic and represent the Ukrainian Catholic University, but their attitude was absolutely positive. Everyone spoke about their experience of Maidan.

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