A conversation with Ruslan Kotsaba
The resistance to or criticism of the new government of Ukraine here in Western Europe is often directly linked to the “pro-Russian” position. How “pro-Russian” are you?
“I’m not pro-Russian, not pro-American, not pro-European; I’m pro-Ukrainian. I am a patriot of Ukraine, and I know very well that all this fuss about geopolitics around Ukraine is a competition that has been going on for over 100 years, maybe even more. This is a geopolitical competition between the American and Russian empires. And this is happening before the eyes of a confused Europe that really suffers as a result of this confrontation between Russia and America.
If the civil war were to relocate to Kiev, the refugees would not go to America; some might go to Russia, but most of them would move to Europe. Our refugees would not rely on the welfare state there; they would work for a low wage, and we have qualified workers. In that sense, they will not positively influence the competition for labor in Europe.
That means, I’m pro-Ukrainian, I always say that explicitly. I also believe that geography cannot be changed. Poroshenko is not eternal, Putin is not eternal, and Russia has always been our neighbor. Even though some predict that the Empire will fall. I was recently in Russia, drove with a taxi driver. I saw the curbs of the sidewalks lined with granite. I said to the driver, another year of sanctions and they will gild them. That said, Russia is definitely a geopolitical competitor, not that it has won; but it has become stronger.”
That means you support cooperation with all countries?
“Yes, of course, if it is in the interests of Ukraine. At present it is in the interests of Ukraine that the EU, the United States, and Russia settle at the negotiating table and decide on the fate of Ukraine, because unfortunately, Ukraine is not a subject of geopolitics; unfortunately, Ukraine is its object. And that’s why Poroshenko should do whatever he’s told. There has to be an amicable solution.”
What solutions do you propose to the conflict in the eastern part of Ukraine?
“First, the mutual exchange of all prisoners. Second, the implementation of all Minsk agreements. I understand that they are imperfect, but they were signed. That is a legal precedent, no longer a matter of honor. If you call yourself responsible, then you have to keep your word. And now, they say that they did not plan to fulfill the conditions from the beginning; this is like kindergarten. A politician cannot be comparable to kindergarten. I think that all arrangements from Minsk have to be carried out. There, all points are clearly recorded in order of priority. I support local elections. Yes, maybe “masked” elements will come to power, but they will have a mandate of trust. The people behind the barricades, as well as those on the other side, want peace. That means there will be some kind of accountability.”
Do you define yourself as a Ukrainian?
100%. Not only that, I am a Ukrainian patriot. I come from a family that was already Ukrainian when there was no Ukraine. In the Soviet era, under Stalin, my grandmother was taken to a concentration camp under article 58 (‘treason against the fatherland’, note of the translator). I was a member of the Ukrainian Helsinki group, which was an anti-Soviet underground organization. I am for Ukraine, I am against Russia and America, against the European Union, who all come to us with their unscrupulous advice.
How do Ukrainians react to you?
That differs. In connection with the fact that in Ukraine (as I put it) there is a civil war, or put more sophisticatedly, a civil confrontation that shows signs of armed conflict in the industrial part of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. Given the fact that we have a civil confrontation, it even reaches within families; the wife is for one thing, the husband for the other, the daughter … all are at odds with each other. The way they treat me depends on what propaganda they are subject to (and the propaganda is either pro-Russian or pro-American). In fact, I am now popular among those people who want the war to end and are patriots of Ukraine. That is, those people who know that another year of war will destroy the state. I’m also popular with the “knitting people” because I’ve always been for peace. I am a pacifist. You see, this whole split is just artificial. The main point is that you see that Ukraine is “going under” and that you are either ready to do something or pack your bags. I am a patriot of Ukraine, I love Ukraine, and I want a normal state for my children. I do not want to be a fertilizer for another state.
Are there any citizens of Ukraine who you consider a traitor?
Yes of course. Part of the zombie people who believe that war can achieve political victories. The war has brought no one victory, the political victory. Political problems are solved politically. This story proves it. You can overwhelm a people with war, destroy them. And then what?
How do you react to be perceived this way by your fellow countrymen?
They are simply products of propaganda. They are unhappy people. When I talk to them personally, I can convince them. But this is difficult because I am blacklisted, banished, and have no access to those who speak badly about me except on the News One channel and my own social network, which is not visited by those who speak badly about me. Just look at the example when almost all the media reported on how “right-wing” Bik attacked Kotsaba (Oleksii Bik, right-wing so-called war hero, had attacked and beaten Kotsaba on December 12 on the main shopping street in Kiev in broad daylight during his interviewing; note by the translator).
However, only two media outlets, “Gromadsk Radio” and “Correspondent”, called me to get my point of view. From all others came nothing. This shows that we have no journalism. There is only “prostituted media”. Because if you reveal a conflict issue, at least two points of view should be discussed, better three, with the third perspective from an expert. But if they add to it by hitting you with such tasteful headlines as ‘War Hero beats up Pro-Russian journalist’, or ‘Anti-Ukrainian Journalist or Blogger’…then it is already clear, you do not even have to read the content. And all this despite the fact that I was the only journalist in the time of independent Ukraine banned from working in the Parliament.