- When it comes to our two states, both Ukrainian and Serbian government continued the negotiations with the EU. I believe that the relationship between EU towards Ukraine and Serbia remain the same no matter the Brexit - started his talk with Telegraf the ambassador of Ukraine in Serbia Oleksandr Aleksandrovych about the recent referendum in Great Britain and the way it could impact our two countries.
- On one side, we are sorry that the British people voted to leave the European Union. Be believe that the will cause damage to the European and British economy as well. This event and the reaction of European leaders regarding the referendum shows that the EU is not like Soviet Union. If you want to leave it, you can. I believe it will really lower the feeling of skepticism, because they will see, loving or hating EU, that the sudden decisions are not good for the peace and safety of Europe.
Ukraine will celebrate 25 years of independence soon. After the EuroMaidan and next to the constant fights on the east of the country, there are efforts to go forward and solve problems that could be the obstacle towards European Union.
New prime minister of Ukraine Volodymyr Groysman recently answered to root out corruption in your state and charged Russia for it, actually that they are to blame for most of the problems. In what way did he think that and is it fair to pass the blame to other country, and not to search for the offenders in "your own yard"?
- Prime minister Groysman, president and other politicians of Ukraine talk about that subject. which is in the top of the agenda. The truth is, in the first 22-23 years of our new independence, political and economical system in Ukraine was very corrupted. Also within individuals. Ukraine, us, we carry very big load of responsibilities and guild for that problem. But, when the prime minister Grosjman mentioned Russia, he is right in a sense about the Russian government and political system in Russia, as well in the time of Soviet Union, has always been corrupted. This is the background of the problem we have with Russia in geopolitics, Europe and the whole world. It is not about NATO, but the values, human rights and the rule of rights. Russia has part of the responsibility for corruption in Ukraine because it actively encouraged it, allowed it and spurred it. However, i do not cast away our responsibility in the whole process. Different from the Orange revolution, after Majdan revolution the politicians in Ukraine realized that if they want to keep corruption "live" it would cause revolt among the people. So we have to fight against the corruption. If we talk about the political system, the corruption in the past was manifested by rigid elections. In the past three years we had presidential elections, parliamentarian and local elections. All international institutions confirmed they were free and fair elections. It was our first step in fighting corruption. Second step is reforming three main pillars of so called legal corruption, corruption in the government. Those are police, prosecutor's office, and courts. It is very hard when there is corruption for decades, you can not change that over night. We started with the police, fired all the members of the police force and started with the "open tender". Around 75-80% of the police are new people. For the first time in our history, people are not afraid of the police when they see them on the street and according to surveys, people trust the police forces. After the police, we continued the reforms in prosecutor's office. We have new state prosecutor, and the previous two deputies are under investigation for corruption. Hundreds of local prosecutors were dismissed and new people came to their place. Also in the court system we are conducting reforms to increase the independence of court and secure that the new judges are not corrupted.
According to the data of Ukrainian association of fire arms owners, the number of illegal weapons is around 4.5 -5 million. It could be said that the black market is flourishing, and there is a mention about the dangers for the rest of the Europe, especially after the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels. A month ago, on the Ukrainian border with Poland, a French man was arrested who, allegedly, planed number of attacks in France just before and during the European championship in football, and in the moment of arrest 125 kilos of explosives was found in his possession?
- Luckily, there were no information nor accusations of Ukraine or their citizens that the weapons from Ukraine had any role in the terrorist attacks. From our European partners we heard no concern on this matter. Of course, there is a potential threat. Main source of threat is great number of weapons in the occupied east Ukraine. If we count the heavy artillery, around 500 Russian tanks is in the east part of our country, around 100 armored vehicles, 800 artillery systems and millions of hand arms. Of course, there is a possibility of smuggling the fire arms easily. On the line of the separatists and the Ukrainian military, we tend to have strong control and the police and army often arrest the people that try to smuggle anything. That smuggling line goes both ways, towards the rest of the Ukrainian territory and back to Russia, which creates problems for Moscow. Arrested French man is under investigation of our and French authorities and he is questioned if he tried to smuggle the weapons or use it in terrorist attacks in France. Recently in Harkov, Ukrainian special services arrested members of the Islamic state from the Tajikistan. At least they claimed to be the members of the ISIS. To put it short, as soon as the Russian army goes out of the east Ukraine, the sooner will our territory be safe and there won't be any illegal weapons.
Nadiya Savchenko has been finally released from the Russian prison, even thou it appeared it won't happen and it all happened in the last moment. There has been more exchanges between the prisoners of Ukraine and Russia. Does that mean there has been an improvement in relationship and cooperation with Russia?
- There is no great improvement with Russia. The exchange of prisoners is part of the Minsk agreement and it took lot of time to free Nadiya. She was in prison for almost two year, first in jail and then in Russian prison. Recently we managed to exchange two more citizens of Ukraine, Soloshenko and Afanasiev. Lots of them is still in Russian prisons, we don't even know the precise number. That's a terrorists' tactics, capturing of innocent people and then offering exchange for their soldiers. It often happens that we give tens of terrorists for one or two of our men. We worry about our citizens and do everything we can to save their lives. Also, lots of Tatars from Crimea were arrested and brought to Russian prissons. The ones who managed to escape testified at international agencies about the terrible tortures they were subjected to.
Ukraine has non permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council for six months now. How much did you do so far and what are your goals and activities in the Security Council?
- We focused on several things. Our priority are peaceful activities and increase of safety of the peaceful forces members. Second part of the initiative is stopping the abuse of force of the members of the peaceful forces. We committed lots of attention, and we still give lots of attention, to the problem of nuclear disarming and stopping its increase. Regarding that we greeted the agreement with Iran and we continue to judge the aggressive behavior of North Korea. That is our priority in accordance with Budapest Memorandum, with which the guaranty of safety was given when Ukraine joined the Agreement of not spreading of nuclear weapons in 1994. We gave all of our nuclear weapons. One of the signed countries, Russia, is violating our territorial integrity. Third priority is resolution about conflicts. We are very active supervising the relationships between Belgrade and Pristina, the Brussels agreement. During the two meetings of the Security Council we emphasized the need for both sides to fulfill their obligations, we especially strive for forming of the community of Serbian municipalities in Kosovo. That has not happened yet unfortunately. Our forth priority is electing new general secretary of the UN. The last and most important to us, we continue to ask questions about Crimea and the situation in east Ukraine.
You have been the ambassador of Ukraine in Belgrade for over a year now. What are the relationships between Serbia and Ukraine and did anything change since you have been placed in the seat?
- In the relationship with Serbian government there has been no major changes. I give my best to develop bilateral terms. Of course, there has been small push back due to the elections in Serbia and forming an government. In the meantime, i dedicated special attention to other kinds of cooperation, first of all my business contacts. Secondly, i tried to reach the ordinary people via media or chatting with students. I held few lectures and meetings with Serbian students. Of course, i talk with people in the market or on the street in Serbian. My opinion about Serbian people has not changed. As i said before, we have similar mentality, we are kind to strangers and we hang out between us. What i noticed is that people communicate, they are not individuals like in western societies. If they have a problem, they talk about it. What i admire is the street safety and police should be praised for that. I see that people in Serbia feel something bad is happening around them, not only in Europe but also with Russia. The terms between Ukrainian and Russian conflict has been changed. A year ago they told me that we and Russia are one nation, why do we fight against one another... Now i hear that Ukraine and Serbia were victims of geopolitical rivalry between Russia and the USA. There came the change of thinking. What disturbed me was the Ipsos survey, a few months ago, conducted among younger populations. Most of the Serbs wants to study, work and live in western Europe or the States, and in the same time they want the same type of government as it is in Russia and there should be Russian military base in Serbia. The conclusion of a lady that questioned the public was that, according to results, all the young want to go to Germany and allow Russians to live in the Serbian territory. The most frightening is that they are all young people. About other stuff, i enjoy your nature. I visited many parts of Serbia and there is one romantic conclusion - i love the sky in Serbia. I don't know why, maybe cold an hot winds collide here. Often, almost every day i see some pretty picture in the sky.
Direct flight has been established between Belgrade and Kiev?
- I have been on the first flight, 16th Jun. Flights will go sex times in one week. On the other side, i welcomed the move of "Air Serbia". After 18 years of not having the flight between our two countries. On the other side, all the flights will go till the end of September and i personally encourage the business people and tourists to use this advantage, because the higher the demand, the higher the chance the flight will stay for the future. We will see how it goes. In the first flights, all the seats were taken.
What the people from Serbia can see when they come to Ukraine and what tradition would you single out?
- There is a project "100 tourist pearls of Ukraine". You can see in the internet presentation beautiful photos of nature and architecture in Ukraine. We will have a week of Ukrainian culture at the end of August, in the time when we celebrate 25 years of independence. There will be an exhibition on the Kalemegdan with photos. It is very hard to single out only one special place. Some of them are protected under UNESCO. We celebrate in Ukraine an interesting holiday on 7th July, Ivanjdan. On that day, people believe the Sun is at its peak, in the center. There are three traditions people respect on that day. Mostly younger people go to the woods to find the fern flowers, on Ukrainian "paporot". Every botanists will tell you that ferns do not have flowers. But there is an old belief that the couple who finds the red fern flower will have luck and will get married. Also, young people make camp fires and jump over it, dance around it. And if they jump high enough and do not set fire to their clothes, they will have luck. Girls make wreaths and throw them into the river. Young man should get them from the river. It is a tradition in every part of Ukraine.
There are lots of connection between Serbia and Ukraine, and many don't know that our people are so intertwined?
- First of all we should remember that the Ukraine is the arch homeland of Serbs. Serbian historian, Ljubivoje Cerovic, published the book "Serbs in Ukraine". The book starts about the great migration from the territory of modern Ukraine towards Balkan. Somewhere 2-5 century B.C. There are menitons about many Slavic tribes going from the territory of Ukraine to the different parts of Balkans, including Serbia. So we are distant kin. He writes that 7-8 different tribes went to Vojvodina, Raska, Slavonia... We have a history together. When you listen to Ukrainian songs and see our dance, you will notice that we are very similar. Also, there were migrations in the 17th and 18th century when people from Serbia migrated to Ukraine. Actually, to the Poltavska region, over the north and west Ukraine. We have lots of topographic names that show new history of Ukraine and Serbia. Few dozen villages and cities in Ukraine have their names consisted of Serbia in it. As do some of the old topographic names that are almost identical in Serbian and in Ukrainian language. People from Serbia in Ukraine can visit Karpats, Labob, any part of western Ukraine because of our history when we were under the Austo-Hungarian empire. Also, in the central and east Ukraine of he wants to follow the direction of Serb migration in the 18th century. Of course, they can always go to Kiev with direct flight, sit on the boat in Dnjepar and go down to Odesa on the coast of Black sea. It takes few days. Serbs can expect a warm welcome, because we are kind as much as you are here.
(Telegraf.co.uk / Natasa Ivanovski)