An Interview With Leading Ukrainian Presidential Candidate Petro Poroshenko

Opinions about events beyond our borders.
April 25 2014 9:01 AM

“This Is a Fight for Ukrainian Freedom”

An interview with leading Ukrainian presidential candidate Petro Poroshenko.

(Continued from Page 1)

And you are going to win?

We have a chance now to win in the first round.

What percent do you need to win in the first round?

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Fifty percent. Now I have 48 percent. Next to me is Yulia [Tymoshenko], and she has almost 14 percent.

You and she fought after the Orange Revolution. Some think that this fighting was responsible for the lack of results.

Now we should learn this lesson. The unity of the democratic forces should be a top priority.

You played an important part in the Maidan.

Yes. You know why we won? Because we were united. There was no difference between the rich and poor people. No difference between people from the west and from the east. There was no dispute between the leaders of the Maidan. We can win only when we are united. Otherwise, Viktor Yanukovych would still be here.

You were a part of the past.

On the 20th of February, we had a new country.

How did you decide to join the Maidan?

From the time I was elected to parliament, I was not voting for the government. I was sure it did not have a chance to survive. From the beginning, I was one of the organizers of the Maidan. My television channel—Channel 5—played a tremendously important role. We gave the opportunity to the journalists to tell the truth. ...
On the 11th of December, when we had [U.S. Assistant Secretary of State] Victoria Nuland and [EU diplomat] Catherine Ashton in Kiev, during the night they started to storm the Maidan. I put my car in front of the riot police. At that time, Channel 5 started to broadcast, there were just 2,000 people on the Maidan. But during the night, people went by foot—7, 8, 9, 10 kilometers—understanding this is a fight for Ukrainian freedom and democracy. In four hours, almost 30,000 people were there. This is a different county, a different people. We cannot betray their expectations.

So as president, you would still have a relationship with Russia?

Absolutely. Because without a direct dialogue with Russia, it will be impossible to create security.

Who will be on your team if you are elected?

It would be an absolutely new way of employing the people. More than 500 people graduated from Yale, Harvard, Oxford from Ukraine.

Are these people already working for you?

Some. Some would be employed immediately after the election. ... It will be an open procedure of a headhunter, as in a corporate position. [I’m looking for] Western-style thinking, a completely new approach to the functioning of the state. We have a Soviet-style state bureaucratic machine.

Who will have the power? The prime minister or you?

We will be together. The country will have a balance of power, but power should be decentralized.

The Russians want to see Ukraine federalized.

Forget about that. No chance. That would be Crimea No. 2.

Would you give autonomy to the regions?

We would give financial autonomy—what language to speak, what monuments to build. That is what people need.

Would the governors be elected locally?

An elected local council would elect an executive committee [to appoint the governors]. Not appoint them in Kiev by the prime minister or the president as today. Only defense, military, security, and police would be controlled from the center.

If you are elected, when do you take office?

Immediately. I will do my best to try to unite the country. To invite people from the south and east to the government. This is exactly what people need—to participate in the government of their country.

Lally Weymouth is a senior associate editor of the Washington Post.