The West is advancing its plans and geopolitical interests by playing the Ukraine card to the detriment of Russia's interests, but these bad actors disregarded quite a few factors, the chair of the Russian Upper House Valentina Matvienko told RT.
RT: Ms. Matvienko, you spent your younger years in Ukraine, and your surname also seems to have a Ukrainian origin. You know the region very well, too, so I would really love to hear your opinion on the recent events in Kiev. Were they caused by internal or external reasons?
VM: I'm Russian. Matvienko is my husband's family name. But it doesn't matter. I do love Ukraine a lot.
RT: You lived there?
VM: I lived there as a child. And I think every Russian now feels very deeply about what's happening now. If we look at how many relatives and friends Russians have in Ukraine and Ukrainians have in Russia, it becomes crystal clear that we are genetically interconnected. We are one nation; we share one Orthodox Christian faith and a long common history. We come from the same cradle.
Why civilians started a peaceful protest is easy to understand. The people were angered by the low living standards and high unemployment, including youth unemployment. Over 3 million Ukrainians are known to be working in Russia, and still more have jobs in other countries. Their discontent was understandable. But that discontent was manipulated by armed nationalists to take the power into their own hands. These are the internal reasons. As to the external reasons, the US is now clearly trying to achieve its geopolitical goals by playing the Ukraine card. We know of the first attempt it took during the Orange Revolution, when in violation of international law, the third round of the elections was announced to get into power the president they supported. This put Ukraine under Yushchenko ten years behind in terms of economy. That made the people so angry that, at the next election, Yushchenko made it to barely 10% of the votes. That’s how Ukrainians made it clear what they thought of such a policy.
In 2008, the US said it was ready for Ukraine's accession to NATO. This was in line with attempts to draw Ukraine into the EU and NATO as soon as possible, imposing a certain path on Ukraine while disregarding Ukrainians' own opinion. No one asked the people. But the people felt very differently about it! That's why Victoria Nuland said they had spent 5 billion dollars to promote democracy in Ukraine.
RT: Just how acceptable is it to spend such enormous funds on democracy in a foreign country and to speak publicly about it?
VM: This is called meddling in another country's domestic affairs, which runs counter to international law. And we can see what this "democracy" ended up in, with radical nationalists setting the tune in Ukraine and preaching a Nazi ideology under slogans like "Ukraine for Ukrainians only". They don't even realize what a potentially explosive situation they’ve been creating. There are millions of Russians and other ethnicities there. Ukraine is a multiethnic state. So repealing the law on language caused a lot of outrage in the Russian-speaking regions in the east of the country - and that doesn't boil down to Russian speakers only. Annulling the law against Nazi propaganda was just as bad, even unthinkable. In fact, Yanukovych did hand in his power, like the opposition asked him to.
RT: You mean the 21st February agreement?
VM: Before that, he annulled the laws that did not sit well with the opposition, dismissed the Prime Minister and offered that post to Yatsenyuk, signed the agreement of February 21 and pulled the police out of Kiev. He never gave any orders to use force. We could see that clearly. Unfortunately neither the Western nor the Ukrainian media have shown any of this to their audiences, breaking the people's right to free information. They never showed the Berkut units who stood up for the constitutional order of the country without using any weapons, bravely resisting the gunfire, the Molotov cocktails, the stones hurled at them. Yanukovych fulfilled all the obligations. That's why it's fair, like President Putin said, to ask: Why stage an anti-constitutional coup? Why take power by force? Why didn't they choose the path of peace and democracy? What happened was a breach of every democratic rule there is. Disbanding the constitutional court and bringing criminal charges against its judges is totally unprecedented in world history - not to mention the violent seizure of public buildings and deposing a legitimate government, as well as the vehement Russophobic propaganda targeting Russia, their own neighbor...
RT: I can't help agreeing with you here: we've seen a lot of bad press from Ukraine, so to say.
VM: It should be objective, rather than good or bad.
RT: But unfortunately it's bad press.
VM: There is no unbiased coverage whatsoever! Instead, we can hear hysterical claims that Russia has allegedly declared a war on Ukraine! But that's not true.
RT: This takes us to my next question. Propaganda is one thing, but high-level contacts are another. Why does the West blame Russia for "dividing" Ukraine? What is their reasoning? Anything apart from servicemen in civvies in Crimean streets?
VM: Those who orchestrated the coup in Ukraine are bad conductors. They disregarded quite a few factors. First, Ukraine is no third-class country. It is a large European country of 45 million people. Ukraine's eastern, central, southern regions view the situation differently from its western part. The intimidation and terror in Ukraine, the media hype and the ban to speak Russian brought the population of Eastern Ukraine to the streets. They said they won't recognize the government, which is illegitimate, and they disagree with where it is taking the country. But their voices remained unheard. This was followed by groundless claims that Russia is allegedly stoking the situation. That's not true! It's enough to attend one of the peaceful protests in eastern and southern Ukraine, where Russians were so scared the gunmen and militants might interfere with their peaceful life, that they asked Russia to protect them. "We're so tired of all the revolutions, chaos and anarchy," that's what they said as they addressed Russia. We tried to stand by for quite some time. So no one can accuse us of meddling into Ukraine's domestic affairs.
RT: Do you think that we stood by for too long?
VM: I guess we should have spoken up earlier. But we did our diplomatic best in line with international law as a civilized nation. But now Russia cannot tell millions of Russians in Ukraine that it doesn't care or won't offer any protection. The time has come. The Russian President, for his part, can see hundreds of thousands rallying across Russia and saying, "We must protect the Russians, and we cannot leave them to their own devices!" We felt that genocide was looming and the ban on the Russian language would be soon followed by the slogan "Ukraine for Ukrainians" brought to life. That would mean lots of refugees coming to Russia. We don't want this to happen! We would like all ethnicities, including Russians, to co-exist peacefully in Ukraine.
So when Crimeans learnt that the militants were about to come to Crimea and start another Maidan-like massacre right next to the Russian Black Sea Fleet, which has been based there for 220 years under an international agreement - do you think we should have waited for the first drop of blood to fall?
That's why the President asked us for help. The developments were so rapid and unpredictable that we decided to give him the right to send troops as the last resort in an emergency.
RT: When the MPs authorized Putin to use military force, it had a bombshell effect.
VM: Our consent...
RT: Ms. Matvienko, while it's clear that war won't be starting any time soon, what do you think should happen to spur Russian troops to cross the border into Ukraine?
VM: Our consent to deploy troops if needed sent a clear message to all the hotheads in Ukraine to stop in their tracks and sober down, to consider the opinion of the eastern regions and remember Ukraine is a multiethnic country, to embark on a constitutional path and abide by the February 21 agreement, which suggested a step-by-step action plan and a snap presidential election. Why didn't they do it? Why didn't they set themselves apart from the radicals, disarm the militants and show to Ukraine that the current government IS taking action? They should have included representatives of the southern and eastern regions into the cabinet as well, to make their voices heard. But they didn't do any of that! Instead, they chose to take the path of threats and violence.
I am entirely convinced, however, that no troops will be sent. I hope that there are many more sensible people than radicals in Ukraine. Everyone understands the possible consequences. A war between Ukrainians and Russians is plain unimaginable – we are two brotherly nations.
RT: So that declaration was merely a political move?
VM: It was a warning that Russia won't leave millions of Russians alone in trouble in case of genocide.
RT: Speaking of the future, how do you think the Crimeans will vote at their referendum: in favor of the Constitution that gives them broader autonomy or in favor of joining Russia?
VM: I've already told you why the Crimeans were so frightened by the ongoing crisis and why they pushed the legitimate Crimean government into asking President Putin for help and protection. It was the Crimeans who scheduled the referendum for March 16, not the Russians. There are no Russian troops in Crimea. We've got our Black Sea Fleet under enhanced guard just in case there is a conflict - which I hope will never happen.
Crimeans have a right to self-determination. Even in the Soviet era, Crimea had a broad autonomy. The 1992 Constitution gave Crimea lots of powers. However, over time they shrank to zero and Crimea was stripped of all the autonomous rights. Now Crimeans are told how many Russian schools they should have and there is a ban on using the Russian language! That's what made them go for one of the two options: either to go back to the 1992 Constitution with a broader autonomy, or to join Russia. That is an absolutely legal action in line with international practice - just like the Scottish independence referendum, just like it was in Kosovo and so on. Only the Crimeans have the right to decide. So let us not speculate. I've got my own thoughts on this, but I'd like to stay away from predictions. And may their idea of their own future come true.
The present Ukrainian government has already spoken of its intention to enter the EU and NATO, but they should have asked their own people first! They should hold a referendum and ask the people that question, so that they could express their own opinion. But the authorities won't do it because they're afraid most people will not support this abrupt swing to the West, as it will be no good for the Ukrainian people. Those who stirred the chaos in Ukraine understand that Ukrainians are not to be cut off from Russia. They made up the Ukrainians' mind without even asking them. So let's wait for the Crimeans' decision. Then we'll be able to build our own policy.
RT: If the Crimeans vote to join Russia at the referendum on Sunday, it will usher in a new Cold War, according to influential political analyst Dmitry Trenin. I disagree. I think the Cold War never ended. How would you comment on this?
VM: Political analysts can say what they please. The Cold War, which lasted for forty years, saw the conflict of two political, social and military systems. Fortunately, that Cold War is over. But judging by the Western press, many politicians in the West have kept the Cold War mentality. Russia is accused of every imaginable sin. There is absolutely no objective information to be heard. The country has changed; it has a completely different political form of governance. But they choose to ignore this. I am strongly opposed to any wars, including cold wars. Russia will do its best to avert such a scenario. And I hope that the US and Europe understand what consequences there may be, should anyone attempt to start a new Cold War. We all must put every effort into avoiding it.
RT: You mean that the Cold War will be over once its last soldier is dead? One of them is Zbigniew Brzezinski, by the way.
VM: He must be very happy now to see his scripts being staged!
RT: Certainly. So according to the so-called Brzezinski plan, the fire that started in Kiev will soon reach Russia. Would you agree that the events in Kiev are a testing ground for what is to happen in Russia?
VM: One thing is clear: the West is advancing its own plans and geopolitical interests by playing the Ukraine card to the detriment of Russia's interests. Imagine having NATO troops in Ukraine at our border running over 2,000 km! This is unacceptable. Besides, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the USSR we got all the guarantees that NATO would never move any closer to Russia's borders.
RT: And what has happened ever since?
VM: And now these guarantees have proved to be worthless. Look, a whole of three European governments promised security to Yanukovych and the implementation of these agreements.
RT: And what has happened to him?
VM: Look what has happened to him and to those guarantees! There is only so much hypocrisy you can have, sorry. There are legal and political solutions to these problems. And we have been looking for a political solution to the Ukrainian crisis from the very beginning.
RT: Ms. Matvienko, sadly, we're running out of time. Thank you very much for this interview. I wish you all the best.
VM: My pleasure.