It is quite challenging to do an interview about Ukraine that tackles the latest turn of events, since not a day goes by without new meetings and reports about the heated geopolitical battle between the East and the West. While we were interviewing the Ukrainian Ambassador to Macedonia, Yuri Goncharuk, news about the pullback of the Russian Army had come in. As to Macedonia’s standpoint on Crimea, the Ambassador briefly said Macedonia had recognised Ukraine’s territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty. But Macedonia’s further stance, he says, depends on the country itself.
Are you in touch with the Russian Ambassador to Macedonia?
-You are not the first to ask me. I haven’t seen him in a while. We used to meet at diplomatic events, which I rarely attended even before the events.
EU expects Macedonia, Serbia and all candidate-countries to take a stance on Ukraine. But, as Mr Aleksandar Vucic said, when elephants fight, it's the grass that suffers. What’s your position?
-If the statement refers to the Russian elephant, it can make trouble for every European country regardless of the stand this or any other country takes. The world is interconnected, and Europe even more so. The EU and the candidate-countries decide how their ties would develop. So-called ‘small countries’ only seemingly don’t influence the international relations. Otherwise why would anyone raise this question?
Do you agree with US President Obama’s comment that “analogies drawn by the Kremlin between the situation in Crimea and Kosovo made absolutely no sense”?
-I fully agree with President Obama. I would only add that since Ukraine declared independence, Crimea has had a unique status of an autonomous republic within the unitary republic of Ukraine and no demands, except on matters regarding local taxes, ownership issues and the partial modernisation of the budget.
In the latest wiretapping leak, Yulia Tymoshenko appears to say ‘nuclear weapons should be used to kill Russians’. Do you think Tymoshenko’s return to politics is wise?
-In Ukraine there is a saying “All that glitters is not gold”. So, it’s not worth paying attention to this recoding which has disputed validity.
Tymoshenko said she plans to run for president of Ukraine in May elections.
- Ms Tymoshenko has never left politics, which means she never returned either. There was simply a period during which her involvement in politics was limited. I cannot comment Tymoshenko’s and her program’s chances. She publicly reiterated that she would not run for president. The Macedonian journalists asked me the same thing and I confirmed her statement, but I always left room for options. They are politicians, their viewpoints change.
Are you afraid that Russia might send troops to occupy other Russian-speaking areas of Ukraine?
-I am afraid, just like any other person that’s guided by common sense. But unfortunately, regardless of the efforts by some countries and the international organisations, the danger of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is only increasing.
It is in everybody’s interest to stop the bloodbaths and halt these dangerous developments. One cannot hesitate and only care for himself and his wellbeing. Has history not taught us anything?
What could Ukraine’s new leadership offer to Crimea inhabitants?
-The Ukrainian government is prepared to grant Crimea maximum authority in the context of autonomy.
European Union leaders made a commitment to cut their dependence on Russian gas at a summit meeting. Do you think that there is any immediate risk of the Kremlin turning off the taps? The more dramatic scenario is a total gas war.
-EU’s commitments to cut gas consumption are commendable. I don’t see anything unusual, excluding the timing of this decision. Europe has already survived an oil embargo by the Arab countries. This prompted development and introduction of energy efficient technologies in many areas. In my opinion, Russia is the least interested party in an overlap of the gas valves. We must also not forget that the import of Russian gas will not be completely halted.
The tensions between Russia and the EU over the Ukraine turmoil and Crimea’s independence have jeopardized the South Stream Project. What would be the fate of the project?
-Ukraine does not support the construction of the South Stream and the reasons are known. The project’s destiny lies in the hands of Russia. Its future is beholden solely to Russia.