Sidelined Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is guilty of treachery in using “brutal force” in the attempt to crush opposition to his rule, according Sergiy Korsunsky, Kyiv’s envoy to Ankara.
“Yanukovych betrayed his people,” Korsunsky told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview conducted Feb. 26. The ambassador said people had the right to protest and that the demonstrations started peacefully in Kyiv’s Independence Maidan (Square) in November 2013 before the government decided to use force to disperse the people. “It was very brutal use of force,” Korsunsky said.
Why did the crowds pour onto streets
We had been negotiating for an association agreement and the agreement for a free trade zone with the European Union for years. Finally, when everything was ready, unexpectedly for society on Nov. 21 former President Yanukovych announced that we were not going to sign. People started peaceful protests against that.
- Was it a decision made upon Russian pressure?
We have no reason to believe that [it was due to] Russian pressure. The explanation that was given to us was that an agreement on a free trade zone is not good enough because it would demand an enormous amount of money to adjust our standards to EU legislation.
But, for 23 years of our independence, EU integration has been the main task of our foreign policy. For reasons unclear, without any consultation with civil society, without any reasonable explanation, we decided not to sign. That was unacceptable.
In the first two months in Maidan, protestors stayed there peacefully with the purpose of demonstrating against the government that we cannot just agree so easily with anything the government decides to do, and that the voice of the people must be heard. Neither the president nor the government used this opportunity to end the protests, reach a consensus with society or explain to the people what happened.
Then, it was very early in the morning, only 300 students were there. They were beaten very heavily by special forces. That resulted in hundreds of thousands of people coming the next day to show their outrage against this brutal use of force. The escalation day after day resulted in serious fights; it was like a civil war on Feb. 20, when, we don’t know who made the order to use real bullets, to use snipers and to use machine guns brutally without any justification.
- Was Maidan a battle between Russia and the West?
That suggestion means Ukrainians don’t exist and means there is no will of the Ukrainian people. It was a fight between the past and the future of Ukraine. It was a fight between corrupt governments and open, fair government. My relatives are businessmen; they will tell you the stories of how it was almost impossible to operate during the time of the Yanukovych regime; the corruption was unbelievable. Talk to Turkish truck drivers. Every truck had to pay; now it should be cleaned.
Physically, they did not find the golden toilet in Yanukovych’s house, but it’s a symbol now. In Kyiv they removed the Lenin monument and they put a painted golden toilet in place of this monument.
Communism, this corrupt Soviet system which transformed itself into an oligarchical system after the Soviet Union - its symbol is a golden toilet.
But in his residence they did find a whole piece of bread made from gold. The former president betrayed his people, his own party and his team. In one night, he left.
- How do you assess Turkey’s position on the turmoil in Ukraine?
I believe that Turkey was absolutely correct in its attitude toward Ukraine; it was very balanced. But now is the moment that Turkey should be visible. We expect Turkey to contribute to an EU financial assistance package for Ukraine. What we are talking about is credit and government guarantees for Turkish investments. Turkey can especially assist the Crimean Tatars and Crimea as a whole.
- Do you see any similarity with the Gezi Park protests in Turkey?
As an ambassador, I am not in a position to judge the Turkish government’s actions inside Turkey. I believe that anywhere in the world, it doesn’t matter whether it’s Thailand, Ukraine, Turkey or the United States, I think this is a wrong way to resolve problems. If demonstrations are peaceful, the government should first try to exhaust all possibilities to explain to the people what it wants to do.