President Vladimir Putin: Dear Leonid Danilovich [Kuchma], I am very glad that you have found the possibility, at this time of tense political developments within your country, to meet here at least briefly in order to exchange views on the situation taking shape in Ukraine and the prospects for finding a solution to this acute crisis.
Despite the acuteness of the situation you have managed to keep events under control and avoid letting things go too far. Fortunately, the situation has not become any worse. We are all very concerned by the signs of the split-up of the country. We need to speak frankly about this now. All your efforts to strengthen the state’s integrity have our full support and we sympathize with you during these events. We are far from indifferent to what is happening in your country. Ethnic Russians make up 17 percent of Ukraine’s population according to the official census results. I think that in reality the figure is much higher. Russian is spoken throughout Ukraine, both in the western and eastern regions. It is no exaggeration to say that every other Ukrainian family, if not more, has family and personal ties to Russia. We therefore take very seriously everything that is happening in Ukraine and have been following the events with great concern.
I want to stress again that we support all your efforts to bolster the country and bring it through this crisis, and I want to assure you that Russia will always stand by Ukraine and will provide support and assistance for every effort made to stabilise the situation in the country. You were right in saying how we lived for so many years as a single family. We here in Russia do not make a difference between southern, northern, western or eastern Ukraine. For us, Ukraine is a united and independent country.
We very much hope that no matter how high political passions run within the country, all sides involved will stay within the bounds of the Ukrainian laws and constitution. Any violation of the constitution could be enough to split the country apart. We therefore wish you the utmost success in settling the problems that have arisen and we are ready to work together with you, within the limits you find acceptable, to take part in bringing about a settlement.
Leonid Kuchma: Thank you. We do indeed have some time to exchange opinions on the processes that are currently taking place in Ukraine. It would be surprising if Russia stood aside, because (I do not want to repeat what you said) I simply want to add quite plainly that without the direct involvement of Russia, regulating this crisis, to regulate it without Ukraine losing face, is probably impossible. I am grateful that Boris Gryzlov – a person with considerable authority — has represented the Russian Federation and parliamentarians, most importantly Russia, twice at the round table meetings. I do not want to be misunderstood, but the Ukraine that existed before the elections no longer exists. There are absolutely polar opinions from the two sides, we have divided Ukraine, and one of the sides is trying to ignore the opinion of the other side. This attempt is being made by force, without thinking about the consequences, above all the economic consequences, because a revolutionary process begins with these economic consequences.
We have seen this negative aspect that has already appeared in the economy in a very short time. I will not list it, because it is quite clear from the simplest things, fewer funds have come into the state budget, and there has been much less freight crossing Ukraine, and a great deal is connected with instability, so far political instability.
Vladimir Putin: This is already clear from transport flows.
Leonid Kuchma: The transport flows through the western border have decreased by four times, and this is a colossal sum of customs duties. Several ports are not entered by ships at all, and our cargos for export: metal, coal, grain and many other things remain in warehouses, and this may reach a complete deadlock. I think that the decision that we made yesterday will give us the chance to solve this conflict by a completely constitutional and legal means – I mean solving it in the political and legal field. And yesterday everyone shook each other’s hands. Firstly and most important, it was promised to raise the blockade. Because when state institutions do not work, this increases negative processes in the economy. This is clear and obvious. I think that the opposition should clearly understand this. The government is not to blame that these processes are taking place, because state institutions are not allowed to work in normal conditions. There is still hope, because a protocol, a statement, has been signed by all the important parties: by the European Union, Poland, Lithuania, members of the European Union, and the OSCE general secretary; Timoszevicz was there, the Polish Minister of foreign affairs, and of course Gryzlov.
A compromise has now been found in the legal field. Of course, I do not have a clear answer as to how events will develop further. What is happening today gives me the grounds to talk about this. And most importantly, the Supreme Court, as the highest body, must state whether there were serious violations or not, although the political decision at parliament level has virtually been passed, it does exist.
And probably, the parliament acted absolutely correctly in this situation, because we need to find paths to solutions, and not paths to bring the situation to a deadlock. We will hope that this is possible. And the process that is proposed in this statement is very simple – the decision of the Supreme Court and constitutional reform. Constitutional reform will practically make it possible to confirm the Government in accordance with the new situation, practically in a few days. That is to say, in this case the parliament and the government will take on the responsibility for the situation in the country. And the workgroup created from representatives of all the sides must develop a legal path to hold Presidential elections. Because a simple re-vote that is proposed will mean a mere plebiscite. I do not understand why many sides, including European structures, want to take this path to elect the President in this way.
Vladimir Putin: I was also surprised by this, because another re-vote may also not give any results. Then this means that it will have to be held for a third or fourth time, or for a 25th time, until one of the sides receives the necessary result.
Leonid Kuchma: I have never heard of a third round of voting in legal practice – there is usually full new elections if the elections are declared invalid. There is no other way. There may be a re-vote at individual districts.
Vladimir Putin: I can only tell you that I am grateful firstly for the high assessment of our participation in the mediatory process. I know that you agree with me – neither Russia, the European Union, nor international organisations, even the most authoritative ones, will solve the problem, of course. We must only play the role of intermediaries, but only the Ukrainian people must have the final word.
Leonid Kuchma: I completely agree with you. And there is another essential condition, that the sides that represent the people must meet the people’s desires, and not go in the opposite direction.
Vladimir Putin: And act within the Constitution.
Leonid Kuchma: And act within the Constitution and the laws of Ukraine.