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No Separatism, Ukrainians Tell RFE/RL

(Washington–December 6, 2004) Prominent Ukrainian politicians, writers and academics interviewed by RFE/RL all agree that Ukraine will not be torn apart by separatist forces in the continuing election crisis. Participants in an RFE/RL talk show linking four Ukrainian cities on December 3 emphasized that the issue of separatism was artificially exaggerated for political motives.

The panelists spoke by telephone on RFE/RL’s new weekly Ukrainian Service “Dialogue” program, part of its flagship Evening Liberty Live broadcast. The first “Dialogue” aired Friday, December 3, on the topic “Ukraine’s East-West Divide — Real or Artificial?” The show linked prominent guests in Kyiv and Lviv in western Ukraine with Simferopol in Crimea and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. The show was moderated from Prague by Ukrainian Service broadcaster Zinoviy Friss, who also translated into English the following excerpts.

Member of the Donetsk Regional Council Andriy Bondarchuk, speaking from Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine, dismissed the idea of a break-up: “There is no split in Ukraine at all. There is no separatism. It can’t be. .. The regional elite is not planning to go anywhere, because they say that separatism is cretinism.” Bondarchuk said the sentiment in Donbas “is not separatism, it is regional patriotism,” and that special educational and information-sharing programs are needed to deepen understanding between the regions. “We should study and exchange our experience here at home from and in different regions of Ukraine. It is very important”, he said.

Deputy Speaker of the Crimean parliament Vasyl Kyselyov, also leader of the ‘Party Of Regions’, joined the RFE/RL discussion from Symferopil, Crimea, traditionally a pro-Russian area of Ukraine. He also said unambiguously that “Ukraine should be united, indivisible and we must stop any talks about that (separatism)”. Kyselyov acknowledged that state autonomy is a longstanding issue for Crimean Tatars but said clearly that “a split is not a real issue at this time,” and that “we have the will to sit down around the table and decide all questions…and put an end to this topic (separatism).” He also paid tribute to President Kuchma, saying “During ten years of his presidency he did not inflict damage. We should thank him for what he has done.” During the RFE/RL roundtable, Kyselyov also criticized Ukrainian parliamentarians for simplifying complicated issues with “Russophobe statements.”

Vice Chancellor of Lviv State University Mariya Zubrytska said: “There is no split in the country, no division of Ukraine. It is an artificial idea. For sure now, Donetsk will stretch its hands to Lviv, and Lviv – to Donetsk. We have received messages from our colleagues: from the rector of Luhansk and Kharkiv national universities. Academic councils of these colleges have unequivocally condemned the separatist statements made in Severodonetsk.”

Member of the national parliament in Kyiv and well known author Ivan Drach listed famous dissidents, poets and literati from eastern Ukraine and said it was imperative in the three weeks before the new vote “to resolve differences between the east and west of Ukraine.” he said: All people have to feel, that we are one people. Recently we, unfortunately, did little for this purpose. Now we should renew this grandiose work in full force”.

The audio (RealAudio and Windows Media formats) and transcript of the 3 December “Evening Liberty” roundtable (in Ukrainian) may be found on the Ukrainian Service’s website.