Here are published some excerpts from the interview by Artem Dehtiarenko with Andrei Illarionov, the ex-counselor of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin (in 2000-2005). The interview contains many facts that can be used in case of trial of Putin’s regimen. Among other things it contains reasons of start of the undeclared war by Russia against Ukraine. Also it explains the real meaning of the Minsk agreements.
In 2014 the Kremlin intended to occupy 11 regions of Ukraine and Kiev. When this plan had broken down Moscow decided to compete for influence on Ukrainian side using "DPR"-"LPR". In the first part of the interview given to the “Apostrophe” by Andrei Illarionov, the Russian economist, the ex-counselor of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin (in 2000-2005), he told about minimal and maximum Moscow’s plans, the “Novorossiya” project, as well as why it is wrong to hope for collapse of the Russia’s economy and so on.
— What about the Minsk-2 my standpoint is that signing of this agreement was a big mistake from the Ukrainian side.
This agreement violates the UN Charter, the Helsinki Act, the Budapest Memorandum, the Agreement on the creation of Commonwealth of Independent States, bilateral treaties between Ukraine and Russia, other international documents which ensure inviolability of borders in Europe. That is to say the Minsk agreements are glaring violation of the international law developed after the Second World War and being applied for the last 70 years. Therefore, Kyiv by signing these agreements had done the aggressor’s bidding, agreed to that fact that restoring control of Ukrainian borders by Ukraine’s government would depend on some further established terms. This is a serious violation of the international law. It is sensationally that this has been backed by European allies of Ukraine, and the France’s and Germany’s leaders put their signatures to the document. However, after signing the Minsk-2 the positions of western allies of Ukraine towards the conflict in Donbas changed. First they fully backed Kiev, then their positions changed into equal responsibility of Russia and Ukraine for execution of the Minsk Agreements, and now in view of this problem they put the biggest strain on Kyiv. It turns out that Ukraine has created a trap for itself and fallen in it by itself. Insisting that the Minsk-2 is the key to peaceful settlement of the conflict it more and more falls in this trap.
— And what were the reasons for Russia to invade Donbas? Why didn’t it limit to Crimea where it needed to secure its fleet?
— The annexation of Crimea did not seem rather strong instrument to Putin to keep Ukraine in the Kremlin’s orbit. That is why it started the operation on seizure of not only Donbas but also of the whole territory of so called “Novorossiya”. It’s no coincidence that Putin in his statement on 17 April 2014, in so called “Novorossiya speech”, described the borders of that quasi-state formation which he apparently on the advice of his kum (a godfather of one’s child) Medvedchuk (Viktor Medvedchuk, a famous Ukrainian politician, - the “Apostrophe”’s note) had been planned to create in South-Eastern Ukraine. To say in other way, the purpose was to annex 8 regions of Ukraine with the population of about half the population of Ukraine. And then to create in this region a formation controlled by the Kremlin, - a so called “Ukrainian Federation”. Therefore, in a logical way it is unlikely that the rest of the country could have moved in the Western direction; Ukraine would have been sufficiently weakened in general and become fully controlled by the Kremlin.
— Nevertheless the “Novorossiya” operation had broken down.
— Yes, instead of occupation of eight regions, the aggressor got only patches of Donetsk and Luhansk regions providing that at the initial phase of the operation there had been plans to seize no less than 11 regions: except 8 regions of “Novorossiya” (Odesa, Mykolaiv, Kherson, Zaporizhzhya, Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk regions, - the “Apostrophe”’s note) Chernihiv, Sumy and Kyiv regions, including Kyiv, must have also been included therein.
— Notably, almost along the Dnieper river?
— To some extent along the state border according to the Andrusov Agreement of 1667. Among those included regions in the South to add the whole Black Sea coast up to the border with Moldova in the Transdniester region. Therefore, the Kremlin would have gotten a direct land bridge to the pro-Russian enclave in Moldova (Transdniester, - the “Apostrophe”’s note).
— It’s surprising that in fact you already predicted the Russian military aggression against Ukraine in 2013. In one of interviews you said that Vladimir Putin did not consider Ukraine as a fully valid state and wanted to take a part of its territories.
— The Kremlin had such plan indeed. And what is more it has been worked out for the long period of time. In 2014 and 2015 Moscow failed to implement this plan in full, but was able to chew away two pieces of Luhansk and Donetsk regions. It appears that the Kremlin’s big plan hadn’t been implemented, that is why Russia started to execute the “little plan”, so to say a minimum program.
— What does this program consist of?
— The maximum program was targeted at capture of at least half the territory of Ukraine. It proposed to divide the rest of the Ukraine’s territory (do you remember the ideas pronounced by Zhirinovskyi?) among the neighboring countries: Zakarpattia – to Hungary, Bukovyna – to Romania, Halychyna and Volyn – to Poland. And this “big plan” had failed. That is why the Kremlin started to implement a smaller-scale idea.
This idea was that by using two stubs in the East of Ukraine the Kremlin would have not released Kyiv from the trap it had fallen in, and would have not let Ukraine to conduct independent foreign policy including policy toward integration into western geopolitical and geoeconomic space.
These stubs by themselves, military actions in Donbas, as well as diplomatic activity with one of its elements is the Minsk-2, - these are only few instruments which the Kremlin uses to implement the second variant in order to establish control over Ukraine.
— Isn’t it what Barack Obama meant addressing Congress? I mean his slip of the tongue when he called Ukraine a Russia’s “client-state”.
— Many experts stated that it had been an inadvertence or a mistake made by speechwriters. Obama said that Russia propped up Syria and Ukraine – its client-states slipping away from its orbit. Let’s leave aside Syria and talk about Ukraine. On the face of it this statement appears an apparent discrepancy with the reality. But on second thought it is not unlikely that he told the truth. Russia really provides aid. However, this aid is provided not to entire Ukraine but only to some of its parts and individuals. It’s needless to say that those include Crimea and so called DPR and LPR. Among other things it is worth to draw attention to the change in top 100 of the richest men of Ukraine. In 2015 the journal “Novoye vremya” published the renewed rating showing that all top ten persons from this list had become poorer. Except for one person, Petro Poroshenko, the President of Ukraine, whose personal wealth taking into consideration conditions of severe economic crisis in Ukraine (decline by 12%) had increased up to 20% expressed in dollars. The Journal reports that the major reason of such growth is the income of President Poroshenko from confectionary business apparently including his factory in Russian city of Lipetsk. So, the statement made by Obama on the Russia’s aid provided to some Ukrainians seems to be reasonable.
— Back on the topic of the Minsk Agreements, it is interesting to find out your opinion concerning implementation prospects thereof. For example, Boris Gryzlov, a newly appointed representative of Russia to the talks, has come to Kyiv recently and conducted consultations with the Ukrainian government. Doesn’t it mean that the war in Donbas will end in the near future?
— Talks now being held within the Minsk-2 do not enable to make any clear predictions. However, Boris Gryzlov’s arrival in Kyiv let us give clear estimation. Despite that fact that Gryzlov is under European and American sanctions he was able to come to Ukraine violating those restrictions. Moreover, Russian government aircraft arrival and its landing in Kyiv have also violated Ukrainian sanctions which prohibit direct flights between the two countries. Talks in the territory of Ukraine between Gryzlov and Ukrainian actors including President Poroshenko are the serious violation of the sanction regime (it is worth to remark that the SBU (the Security Service of Ukraine) told to the “Apostrophe” that it hadn’t taken actions towards prohibition of Boris Gryzlov’s entry into Ukraine, - the “Apostrophe”’s note). By doing so Poroshenko has demonstrated to the whole world that Ukraine under his rule was not a part of the international legal framework of Europe and the USA, but was a part of that international legal framework where Russia is a major element. Regardless of content and agreements reached (or not) at these talks the mere fact of such arrival means that Ukraine has entered into the legal framework determined by the Kremlin but not by the West. Thus, the so called Obama’s “slip of the tongue” appears not to be a slip of the tongue.
— If so called DPR and LPR are the part of Moscow’s plan on keeping Kyiv in its orbit does it mean the Kremlin is interested in execution of the Minsk Agreements?
— Of course. It’s unlike that there is any other issue which Putin has highlighted so frequently and in detail for the last year. He repeats constantly that he wouldn’t have signed the Minsk-2 if this wasn’t in his interests.
— But what about the provisions of the Minsk Agreements stating the establishment of control over the border by Kyiv and withdrawal of Russian troops from Donbas? Will the Kremlin agree to this?
— It could be that. Moreover, despite that fact that some Ukrainian and Western experts say Putin will never give the control over the state border to Ukraine, however I doubt in accuracy of these estimates. I do not exclude that the head of the Kremlin will execute his part of the Minsk-2 in the case of execution by the Ukrainian government of all the responsibilities specified in addendum to the Minsk agreements.
In that case domestic and foreign policies of Ukraine may heavily fall under the control of separatists who officially are located at Donetsk and Luhansk, but actually are ruled by Moscow.
So, if Putin will obtain legal instruments to be used for control of Ukraine’s government policy-making I do not exclude the possibility that he can turn over control of the border to the Ukrainian government. Because in this case he would extend his sphere of control beyond the two stubs in Donbas further to Ukraine.
— Nevertheless, Kyiv doesn’t want to implement the political part of the Minsk Agreements while attacks in Donbas continue. Then why do gunmen continue to attack?
— Because fire in Donbas along with the Minsk-2, bribery of Ukrainian politicians, economic sanctions are one of the many instruments to put pressure on Ukrainian authorities. The Kremlin administration and personally Putin are great professionals in simultaneous use of even more than one instruments towards a victim in order to achieve a desired result.
— So is it possible to restore peace in Donbas?
— Yes, if Ukraine surrenders. But this peace would be a peace in the Kremlin interpretation. Because after the political control over Ukraine is achieved the actions would be taken to overwhelm and crash the pro-Ukrainian establishment opposing Russian aggression in Ukraine.
— If we take into account the idea that Russia is sponsoring so called DPR and LPR as you stated earlier then can we talk about any figures in this case?
— It is possible to make the following estimation. Take the estimation of the aid to Crimea (about one billion U.S. dollars was allocated from the Russian budget for maintenance of the peninsula, - the “Apostrophe”’s note) nowadays inhabited by nearly 2,4 million people and to apply this estimation to the territory of the occupied regions in Donbas (approximately 3 million people). Therefore, the amount of financial aid allocated to these regions must be similar to the amount of money allocated to Crimea. However, taking into account the extent of destruction and destabilization of life, as well as financing of military bands located in Donbas, this amount could be higher than “Crimean” one.
— And what about the Kremlin’s plan on establishing control over Ukraine by Russia by seizing eight regions in South-Eastern Ukraine and following formation of so called “Novorossiya”. Will the Kremlin get back to this plan later?
— It’s not the key issue for today. Now the primary focus is the DPR and LPR projects which enable through the Minsk-2 to establish control over the whole Ukraine.
— That means the Kremlin doesn’t consider geographical separation of parts of Ukraine anymore?
— In the current situation when there is a possibility to establish control over the whole Ukraine due to the Minsk-2, why to restrict yourself to only one half of it? Donetsk and Luhansk have never been nor is now the desired objectives of the Kremlin. Putin needed the whole Ukraine and now it has become possible. For example, the control over the administration of Yanukovych had been much more important than the control over one or several regions of Ukraine.
— Having said “the administration of Yanukovych” wasn’t it a slip of the tongue?
- I meant that control over the administration of Yanukovych conducted by the Kremlin during the four years preceding the Revolution of Dignity. This was the time of significant opportunity for the Kremlin which indeed was used to the maximum extent possible.
This was also used for signing the Kharkiv Accords (an agreement concluded in 2010 between Russia and Ukraine on continuation of Russian lease on the Black Sea Fleet in Crimea in exchange for discounted gas, - the “Apostrophe”’s note), in order to dissociate law enforcement agencies in Ukraine, bribe many Ukrainian politicians and establish a control over Ukrainian media. This was the ideal situation despite that fact that the Kremlin didn’t directly occupy any of Ukrainian regions. Thereupon the revolution happened during which people who at least convinced by words that they hadn’t wanted to stay under the Kremlin’s influence took over the government.
— Do you think the Kremlin intends to bring Viktor Yanukovych back? Or is he really already a “political corpse” as many experts say?
— Yanukovych is still one of the aces in the hole that can be used by the Kremlin at some point. If there would be a good opportunity to use him, it would be done.
— As you previously said the plan on capture of Ukraine was worked out for a long period of time. Could there have been an attempt of the capture if it had not been for the revolution?
— There were a few attempts to implement this plan (namely, on annexation of Crimea, - the “Apostrophe”’s note). First attempt was in the time of the Orange Revolution at the end of 2004 and in early 2005. However poor arrangements of this operation pushed the Kremlin to postpone it. Then this plan was intended to be performed in 2010 during the presidential election in Ukraine – providing that Yulia Tymoshenko would have won more voices than Viktor Yanukovych. In that case there would have been an opportunity to use a myth about assumption of power in Kyiv by “Judeo-Banderites” and “fascists” in order to protect Crimeans against them. Due to that fact that Yanukovych won the election there was nothing for it but to postpone the annexation plan again. Next attempt was planned to be implemented during the presidential election of 2015. Only in that case if Yanukovych didn’t win more than a half of votes a new Maidan would begin in Kyiv. This would have resulted in implementation of Moscow’s plan under the guise of the “Judeo-Banderite threat”. However, a Maidan had begun earlier when it wasn’t expected either in Kyiv or in Moscow. That is why Putin had to revise his plans and to make the annexation in 2014.
— What are the Kremlin’s plans towards the peninsula? Among other things some say that nuclear weapon may be placed in Crimea.
— I do not exclude that this might be already done.
— Even so?
— Why not?
— You mean Moscow could sneak nuclear weapons to Crimea?
— This is not a problem. Of course, formal approval is not mandatory. But from a technical and an infrastructure viewpoint nothing can impede placement of nuclear weapons on the territory of the peninsula by Russian authorities and the General Staff. Moreover, even if there are no any nuclear weapons Moscow can intentionally make such statements in order to bear pressure upon Ukraine and the West as well as to put them off from potential attempts to return Crimea under Kyiv’s control through the use of force.
— Does it mean Ukraine shouldn’t expect Crimea to get back soon?
— Soon or not – it’s not known. But there can’t be any other answer to the annexation. To be honest I wonder why the Ukrainian authorities starting from February 2014 were so shy and unpretending in their statements and actions aimed at getting Crimea back to Ukraine. Nowadays nothing has changed.
Should Kyiv had taken a principal stance in February-March 2014 stating the peninsula belongs to Ukraine, Crimea would have still belonged to Ukraine instead of being in Russian hands. Namely Kyiv’s renunciation of resistance resulted in transition of the peninsula to the aggressor’s hands.
— That means that the current energy and goods blockade of Crimea are the right steps to get Crimea back?
— It is not the steps to get Crimea back. It is an emotional assessment of the annexation made and an economic reaction to it.
— What does Kyiv have to do to accelerate return of the peninsula? Can we say about any specific dates?
— Fixing and preserving specific horizon periods are rather rare occasions in politics. Of course objectives must be made but not likely the specific dates. What Kyiv really should have done starting from March 2014 is that any statement on international issues made by Ukrainian officials including statements made in different forums should have contained clear and unyielding messages about Crimea as a Ukrainian territory. That is the first. The second: no international agreement with the participation of Russia and Ukraine could be signed without mentioning Crimea as a part of Ukraine.
As you already know the Geneva Accord of 17 April 2014 (statement on the pre-requisites aimed at settlement of the situation in Ukraine signed by Acting Foreign Minister of Ukraine Andrii Deshchytsia, the Head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia Sergei Lavrov, the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the EU foreign policy Chief Catherine Ashton, - the “Apostrophe”’s note), and the Minsk-1 and the Minsk-2 were signed by Kyiv with making no any mention of that fact that Crimea belonged to Ukraine as well as with no mention of the peninsula at all.
The full text of the interview is published in the “Apostrophe” of 27 January 2016, http://goo.gl/Y4G4oX and http://goo.gl/wU5JpU