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The elections in Donestk and Lugansk could lead to the resumption of civil war, says Professor Ivan Katchanovski

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ANTON WORONCZUK, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Anton Woronczuk in Baltimore. And here to continue our conversation about the Ukrainian parliamentary elections is Ivan Katchanovsky.

Some of the other, the major issues that are facing Ukraine right now are economic. The country has mostly suffered a significant decline in standard of living in about the two decades since its independence from the U.S.S.R. The currency has seen great collapse in its value, and the economy is expected to shrink through the next year. What are the economic policies that the new parliament is putting forth?

IVAN KATCHANOVSKI, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA: I think the economic policies which are suggested and proposed by the new parliament or that would likely be adopted by the new parliament simply, in my opinion, would be basically continuation of the old policies, because Prime Minister Yatsenyuk and many members of his government are likely to stay in their positions, or maybe they might change their titles, but they will still basically influence economic policy of the new government.

And then this policy actually, I think, is responsible for kind of economic crisis which take place now in Ukraine, because these policies are very–how to say?–very populist policies. Ukrainians were promised by the government a lot of benefits. They were promised by politicians [inaud.] corruption, of corruption, widespread corruption, and ability to [incompr.] in members of European Union. Membership in the European Union was also promised [incompr.] to European countries. And economic growth was considered to be, again, [incompr.] result of a pro-European orientation and joining association agreement with the European Union. But actually, likely this was [inaud.] [strategy (?)] in order to win popular support, because actually their policies, which were implemented, just gave opposite results. Now we have declining industrial output. We also have a decline in [incompr.] in other sectors of the economy. We have a major crisis in the East, which actually–because Donbas is area which was one of the major centers of industrial production and economic areas, very developed economic areas in Ukraine and one of the major areas of Ukraine investment, and now we have a currency, basically, Ukrainianian currency, devaluated against the dollar and other currencies, like euro. And Ukraine also faces not only declining production in terms of major sectors of the economy, but also crisis in–energy crisis. So, actually, it’s not [second level (?)] [was that (?)] Ukraine would have sufficient energy resources actually to be able to just basically heat houses and apartments for people and for use by industry during winter because of this conflict with Russia.

WORONCZUK: The other major political issue right now in Ukraine is also the ongoing rebellions taken place, mostly centered in the regions of Donetsk or the cities of Donetsk and Lugansk. The elections are set to take place in these rebel-controlled areas on November 2. And what do you expect the outcome to be?

KATCHANOVSKI: It seems that most important outcomes of the elections would not be actually who wins elections or which political force would win elections. I think it’s very likely that these elections would be won by separatists or their representatives. Even so, they also like–like the current elections in Ukraine, there are also kind of issues with kind of whether they’re not democratic or whether they were free and fair, to a large extent, because of kind of politics also taking place in this region. But I think the major result of these elections, if they’re going to take place, would be a recognition of these elections and the results by the national government.

The Russian government basically said they’re going to recognize such elections, and they supported such elections taking place.

In Donbas, the Ukrainian government said that basically such elections, if they would be held without agreement with the Ukrainian government, actually would escalate the conflict, and they can actually lead again to a resumption of a war, a civil war in this region. So these, again, [incompr.] are very important in this area of Donbas. And Donbas did not participate in elections which took place on Sunday.

Even so, there were certain regions which were controlled by the Ukrainian forces in Donbas, and they participated in the elections on Sunday. There was real low turnout in this voter participation [arrayed (?)] in this part of Donbas. And in these regions, the Opposition Bloc basically [form by divisions (?)] [incompr.] and activists won basically the biggest support.

And this is–I think, would be still a major problem for Ukraine. Simply elections in Donbas are not going solve issue. They would not lead to international recognition of these regions. But they already have de facto independence. And if Russia would recognize such election results, this means that basically Ukraine de facto would be again a country which suffered a de facto breakup. Even so, still, de jure it would be a united country. But we de facto control over large parts of Donbas by separatists, who do not recognize the authority of the Ukrainian government. And if Russia recognizes the same, so basically you would have similar situation which currently is in Moldova or in Georgia, which means basically de facto breakup of country.

WORONCZUK: So this conflict, though, that’s taken place in these eastern regions of Ukraine has also led to the creation of about a million displaced Ukrainians. About half a million have fled to Russia, and hundreds of thousands remain displaced within Ukraine. Is there any policy that the parliament is putting forth to deal with this issue, this crisis?

KATCHANOVSKI: Since still it’s again–and I think they consider some legislation to deal with these issues, and they’re mostly focused on Ukrainians for internally displaced people within Ukraine. They promise a lot of support in terms of finding them housing, in terms of providing money and other resources for people who move from Donbas to other regions of Ukraine. But actually, if you look into practical actual implementation of these measures, they already basically [kind of mean that (?)] most displaced people in Ukraine receive very limited support, and they have a variety of problems in terms of finding housing in the new places, in new regions to which they move, also issues with their job, with their jobs, trying to find jobs, and also issues about their political differences in terms of perceptions of them in the western, for example, regions of Ukraine.

I think one of the issues which may be very important is that actually the government, the current government of Ukraine said that they basically would try to introduce [registration (?)] or a kind of even academics who supported separatists or who had not moved to other regions of Ukraine. So there are actually basically certain repressions against certain even academics, even professors and so on, who stayed in these regions, or some of them, kind of, because they actually tried to move universities, to other areas of Ukraine. And the same [incompr.] recognition is issue of administration. I see a lot of people who move from the Donbas to other regions of Ukraine that have a problem with finding a job. They’re finding jobs, permanent jobs, because of this law regarding their [situation (?)], which I think could be applied very broadly and can be used basically against such displaced people for political reasons.

WORONCZUK: Okay. Ivan Katchanovski, thank you so much for joining us.

KATCHANOVSKI: Okay. Thank you.

WORONCZUK: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


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Ivan Katchanovski teaches at the School of Political Studies and the
Department of Communication at the University of Ottawa in Canada
He received his Ph.D. from the School of Policy, Government, and
International Affairs at George Mason University. He previously held
research and teaching positions at Harvard University, the State
University of New York at Potsdam, and the University of Toronto.